New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate countries across the world — the latest count is over 1.64 crore cases and more than 6.52 lakh deaths.
Two Asian pharmaceutical companies have signed the deal to produce the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University. US President Donald Trump falsely claims that most of the country is now virus free. Meanwhile, Russian intelligence is spreading disinformation about the pandemic.
ThePrint brings you the most important global stories on the coronavirus pandemic and why they matter.
Two Asian pharma companies will determine global supply of Oxford vaccine
An Indian and a South Korean pharmaceutical company are all set to become the key global players in the production and distribution of the coronavirus vaccine being developed at Oxford University, reports the Nikkei Asian Review.
“Serum Institute of India and South Korea’s SK Bioscience have reached an agreement to produce a vaccine developed by Oxford University and British pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca,” notes the report.
“The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is said to be among the forerunners in the inoculation development race, along with one developed by China’s CanSino Biologics and another by Germany’s BioNTech and U.S.-based Pfizer,” the report adds.
“On the assumption that the vaccine will eventually prove effective and safe, the developers aim to have an annual production capacity of over 2 billion doses. To ramp up capacity and build a global supply chain of the vaccine, AstraZeneca and the Asian companies have signed contracts to be production partners,” it further notes.
Also read: Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNtech & Moderna — how the 3 potential Covid vaccines stack up
Moderna pitches vaccine at $50-60 per course
The US biotechnology firm, Moderna — the country’s frontrunner in the Covid-19 vaccine race — has pitched its coronavirus vaccine at $50 to $60 per course according to people familiar with the talks between the company and potential buyers, reports the Financial Times. This price is believed to be higher than that of other vaccine makers.
The US government has put close to $1 billion in Moderna’s vaccine research, and the vaccine is the first one in the US to enter clinical trials. Moderna’s shares have soared 325 per cent as its vaccine showed signs of effectiveness in early trials.
“The price Moderna is seeking is not likely to be final. In a range of about $50 to $60 for a course that is, $25-$30 per dose it appears to be higher than that agreed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech last week in a pre-order deal with the US government at $19.50 per dose,” notes the report.
Trump promotes HCQ and claims “America is coronavirus free”
After staying away from the topic for a while, the US President Donald Trump has yet again defended promoting hydroxychloroquine as an anti-Covid-19 drug, although there is lack of evidence to suggest so, reports The New York Times.
He also said that now large parts of the US are coronavirus free but most fact-checkers denied the claim.
“Mr. Trump continued to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine, which several major studies have concluded is not effective in treating the virus,” notes the report.
“He (also) claimed that ‘you can look at large portions of our country — it’s corona-free,’ even as federal officials distributed a new report finding that 21 states had outbreaks so severe that they were in the ‘red zone.’ Twenty-eight states were in the ‘yellow zone,’ and only one state, Vermont, was in the ‘green zone’,” adds the report.
Also read: Masks made from Banana-tree species could be the answer to cutting Covid plastic waste
Europe fears a second wave
As European countries ease lockdowns and travel restrictions, coronavirus cases are going up in some places and public health officials fear the possibility of a second Covid-19 wave as they think citizens may be getting too complacent, reports the Financial Times.
“The increase is marked in countries such as Spain, while eastern Europe and the Balkans, which were largely spared the worst of the early pandemic, are seeing a steep increase in recorded cases. Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, warned of a looming “second wave” of Covid-19 across Europe on Tuesday, while the head of Germany’s public health authority said people “have let our guard down,” notes the report.
Countries are taking action. While the UK has mandated a two-week quarantine for travellers arriving from Spain, France and Germany have ordered mandatory testing for people coming in from “high-risk countries”.
Russian intelligence spreads disinformation about the pandemic
New declassified intelligence reports in the US indicate that Russian intelligence agencies are spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, reports The New York Times.
“Russian military intelligence, known as the G.R.U., has used its ties with a Russian government information center, InfoRos, and other websites to push out English-language disinformation and propaganda about the pandemic, such as amplifying false Chinese arguments that the virus was created by the United States military and articles that said Russia’s medical assistance could bring a new détente with Washington,” says the report.
“The fake social media accounts and bots used by the Internet Research Agency and other Russia-backed groups to amplify false articles have proved relatively easy to stamp out. But it is far more difficult to stop the dissemination of such articles that appear on websites that seem legitimate, according to outside experts,” it adds.
Also read: Hong Kong’s Covid crisis shows how little can be done without making a bad situation worse
Downsized Hajj pilgrimage resumes in Saudi
A drastically downsized version of the Hajj pilgrimage has begun in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, reports The Guardian.
“This year attendance is being limited to 10,000 people (as opposed to an average of 2.5 m) already residing in the kingdom as the authorities seek to control Covid-19. The disease has already infected more than 270,000 people in Saudi Arabia, placing it in the top 20 worst-affected countries,” says the report.
Pilgrims are supposed to maintain social distancing, wear masks, and those making the pilgrimage would be subject to quarantine and temperature checks.
Facing global backlash, China tries to woo ASEAN countries
Blamed for its poor handing of the initial coronavirus outbreak, China is facing unprecedented global backlash. In an effort to respond to that, Beijing has taken a series of initiatives to try and woo ASEAN countries, reports the South China Morning Post.
“China has been scrambling to shore up relations with its Southeast Asian neighbours in recent weeks, with pledges of broad Covid-19 recovery aid and economic cooperation specifically targeted at Washington-friendly countries in a bid to prevent them jumping on the US bandwagon,” notes the report.
“Shortly after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed China over its expansive claims to the South China Sea two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Wang Yi moved to placate Vietnam and the Philippines – the most vocal of the rival claimants in the maritime dispute – while President Xi Jinping spoke to leaders in Thailand and Singapore by phone,” it adds.
Also read: Sydney declared Covid hotspot, Queensland bans visitors from the Australian city
Protect rainforest to prevent the next pandemic
An opinion piece in The Guardian by Peter Daszak, President of the NGO EcoHealth Alliance, argues that we may be entering an era of pandemics and the only way to stop that would require protecting the rainforests across the world.
“Most pandemics begin in the emerging disease hotspots of the world; the edges of forests in regions such as west Africa, the Amazon basin and south-east Asia. Tropical rainforests are home to a rich diversity of wildlife, which in turn carry an array of viruses,” Daszak argues.
“A great acceleration of human activity has dramatically altered our planet’s landscapes, oceans and atmosphere, transforming as much as half of the world’s tropical forest into agriculture and human settlements. About one-third of emerging diseases are the product of these rapid changes in land use, as people are pushed into contact with wildlife they would once have rarely encountered,” he add.
What else we are reading:
US coronavirus surge to dominate Federal Reserve meeting: Financial Times
The Pandemic Is Putting Marriage Even Further Out of Reach: The Atlantic
The Board-Game Series for the Age of the Coronavirus: New Yorker