Tag Archives: AP Top News – L-TWC Region

New Zealand requires virus testing for visitors | Instant News

NEW DELHI (AP) – India has started delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to several cities, four days before the national inoculation campaign.

The shipment of the first vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India left the Indian city of Pune on Tuesday. Vaccines are launched from the Serum Institute of India facilities in temperature-controlled trucks to the city’s airports from where they are loaded onto private airlines for distribution across the country.

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri called vaccine deliveries an “important mission”.

From Saturday, India will begin a massive effort to inject some 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. That effort would then shift to inoculating some 270 million people who are over 50 or have secondary health conditions that increase the risk of dying from COVID-19.

The first delivery of the vaccine contains the COVISHIELD vaccine made by the Serum Institute and developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

Indian drug regulators have also approved the emergency use of a homemade vaccine, COVAXIN Bharat Biotech. Medical groups and others have raised concerns about the approved drug with little evidence of its effectiveness. It remains unclear when and where COVAXIN will be distributed.

India has the second most number of COVID-19 infections in the world, after the US Since the pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 10.4 million cases and more than 150,000 deaths.

Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

– The tiny Pacific nation of Micronesia has reported its first case of coronavirus after a crew member arriving on board tested positive. In his address to the nation, President David Panuelo said many people had heard “alarming news” but that cases had been resolved at the border. Panuelo said one of the government’s crew members, Chief Mailo, tested positive after the ship returned from the Philippines after more than a year of drydock repairs. He said the crew had been isolated on board, that all other crew members remained on board, and that the ship was being monitored daily by law enforcement. Micronesia, home to 100,000 people, is among the few countries that have avoided the virus completely.

– New Zealand will soon require travelers from most countries to show a negative coronavirus test before they depart for New Zealand. Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand was in a fortunate position to eradicate the spread of the virus in communities but was not taking it for granted. The new rules will require travelers to test negative within 72 hours of departure. The rules will apply to travelers from the US and UK starting Friday and most other countries soon thereafter. Tourists from Australia and several Pacific countries will be exempted. In addition to the test requirements, New Zealand will continue to place new arrivals in a mandatory two-week quarantine at the border.

– Indonesia has received raw materials to start making 15 million doses of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine. The material will be stored at cold temperatures before being sent to state-owned PT Bio Farma in Bandung, West Java, which Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikit says will be processed within one month. The Indonesian Food and Drug Authority gave emergency approval for the Sinovac vaccine on Monday. The first two batches of the vaccine, produced entirely by the Chinese company, will be distributed starting this week. “The government is bringing in this third batch to increase the number of vaccines that will be distributed to the public,” said the Head of the COVID-19 Task Force Doni Monardo. Indonesia has recorded 836,000 cases and 24,000 deaths due to COVID-19.

Malaysia’s king approved a coronavirus emergency that would suspend parliament and halt any bids to call early elections in a political reprieve for contested Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Muhyiddin assured residents in his televised address that the state of emergency “is not a military coup and a curfew will not be imposed.” He said his civilian government would remain in charge during the emergency, which would last until August 1 or earlier depending on the situation. The emergency declaration came as a surprise just a day after Muhyiddin announced Kuala Lumpur, the administrative capital and five states would return to closure to contain the spread of the virus. Malaysia’s virus cases have risen from more than 15,000 three months ago to 138,224, including 555 deaths.

– The lockdown has been extended and a major political conference has been postponed in a province next to Beijing which is the site of China’s most serious COVID-19 outbreak recently. Residents of the city of Gu’an in southern Beijing have been ordered to stay at home for seven days starting Tuesday. Hebei has also postponed meetings of the provincial People’s Congress and its advisory bodies which are usually held in February. The Hebei provincial health commission on Tuesday reported 40 new confirmed cases, all but one in the provincial capital Shijiazhuang where transportation links have been cut off and residents are being asked to stay at home.

– A three-day lockdown on Australia’s third most populous city ended on Tuesday even though authorities found a second case of the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain. The lockdown for Brisbane began on Friday evening in an attempt to prevent the spread of the variant by the community. It came after cleaners at a Brisbane hotel for tourists who were quarantined were infected. Queensland state’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said on Tuesday that the cleaning partner had also tested positive. Despite the easing of restrictions, masks will remain mandatory in indoor settings and on public transport until January 22.

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The US consulate was the turning point in the dispute over Western Sahara | Instant News

DAKHLA, Western Sahara (AP) – Trawlers fill Dakhla port in the bustling Western Sahara, where fish scales gleam from workers’ arms as they roll up nets and buyers scream bids in the spacious auction warehouse. Nearby, the turquoise waters are wide, the Atlantic coast is almost empty, and visitors sip tea at roadside cafes.

The United States plans to set foot in this idyllic setting.

US Ambassador to Morocco David T. Fischer took part in Sunday’s ceremony in Dakhla, the first official move to open a consulate, marking a turning point for the disputed and closely watched territory in North Africa.

The US move recognizes Moroccan authority over the land – in return for Morocco normalizing relations with Israel.

Fischer joined the top State Department official for the region, David Schenker. The two diplomats wore white Moroccan robes.

“Our trip today to Dakhla is another milestone in the more than 200 years of friendship between the Kingdom of Morocco and the United States,” he was quoted as saying on the Twitter account of the US Embassy in Morocco.

While this shift in US foreign policy frustrates Sahrawi natives who have sought Western Saharan independence for decades, others see new opportunities for trade and tourism that will provide a welcome boost for the region and sunbathing coastal cities like Dakhla.

Addressing the meeting, the US ambassador said opening a consulate was a plus for the United States, enabling it to “take further advantage of Morocco’s strategic position as a trading hub in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.” The investment and development projects will benefit the region, he added.

A portrait of Moroccan King Mohammed VI, waving from behind his sunglasses, hangs on the archway greeting those arriving in Dakhla. The king’s face is juxtaposed on a map that includes Western Sahara as an integral part of Morocco.

Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975, sparking a 16-year war and then a 30-year diplomatic and military stalemate between Morocco and the Polisario Front, an organization seeking independence for Western Sahara based and supported by Algeria. A long-running territorial dispute has limited Western Sahara’s relationship with the outside world.

Khatat Yanja, head of Dakhla’s regional council, looks forward to the arrival of the US which opens its city to new markets and entices more tourists to enjoy the beach, local merchandise and stunning sunsets. He expressed hope for US investment in tourism, renewable energy, agriculture and especially fisheries.

“We appreciate such an attitude,” Yanja said of a future consulate. “This will open a new chapter in terms of investing in the region, through hiring people and creating more resources. It will also open more doors for international trade. “

The main fishing port is the lifeline for the local economy, employing 70% of Dakhla’s workforce. Thousands of vessels carry 500,000 tonnes of fish per year, for export worth 2.2 billion dirhams ($ 249 million) annually, according to port director Bintaleb Elhassan.

Under flocks of honking gulls, fishermen haul sardines and mackerel to sheds where catches are auctioned off neatly lined trays. At a nearby processing factory, rows of women, including migrants from around Africa, clean and sort the fish.

Morocco closely monitors the region. On a recent visit to Dakhla, authorities closely monitored an Associated Press reporter, both visitors and residents were frequent.

US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker visited Dakhla and the largest city of Western Sahara, Laayoune, on Saturday. He and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita are expected to unveil a temporary diplomatic post on Sunday.

While the consulate is not expected to open for another six to 12 months, Schenker’s trip is a way for the US to cement its commitment to Western Sahara before President Donald Trump leaves office.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is helping broker the normalization deal between Morocco and Israel announced last month, part of a historic series that won major Arab aid from Washington in exchange.

Trump said the goal of the Western Sahara consulate is “to promote economic and trade opportunities in the region,” which is roughly the size of Colorado and is believed to have substantial offshore oil reserves and mineral resources.

Polisario Front Representative at the United Nations, Sidi Omar, on Saturday appealed to US President-elect Joe Biden’s upcoming administration to overturn Trump’s decision.

“The US cannot support the role of the United Nations in resolving the West Sahara conflict and supporting Moroccan sovereignty,” tweeted Omar.

The Western Saharan economy is run by Morocco, which has built up most of the region’s infrastructure and encouraged Moroccans to settle there. But the United Nations and most world governments do not recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the land, limiting Morocco’s ability to export its resources and complicating trade deals.

For many in Dakhla, at least those who are allowed to speak to visiting journalists, local concerns appear to be more important than geopolitical ones. Locals commute to work, sell oranges, shop for jewelery, enjoy local specialties at roadside cafes and play with their dogs on the quiet beaches.

The US’s recognition of Western Sahara as Morocco has drawn criticism from the United Nations and American allies. Africa observers say it could destabilize the wider region, which is already battling an Islamic insurgency and the migrant trafficking.

The move angered the Sahrawis, who want a referendum on the future of the region, and neighboring Algeria, which hosts Sahrawi refugees and supports Polisario. Schenker has also visited Algeria in recent days.

The US will join a small but growing number of countries with consulates in the region, the latter representing Gambia.

“The Gambia feels gratitude for Moroccan support, including Morocco in building a new building for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gambia. Apart from that, Morocco continues to provide educational grants for Gambian students, “Consul General Ousmane Badjie told The AP in his office, where a photo of the Moroccan king also hangs.

Sahrawi activists held protests in several Spanish and French cities over the US move, but Washington did not directly respond to their concerns when the State Department officially notified Congress on December 24 of its plans to open a consulate.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said only that the United States “will continue to support political negotiations to resolve the issue between Morocco and Polisario within the framework of the Moroccan autonomy plan.”


Matthew Lee in Washington, and Angela Charlton in Paris, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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India approved AstraZeneca and a locally made COVID-19 vaccine | Instant News

NEW DELHI (AP) – India approved two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a massive inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second most populous country.

The country’s drug regulator provides emergency authorization for a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and UK-based drug maker AstraZeneca, and another developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech.

General Dr Drugs Supervisory Venugopal G. Somani said that the two vaccines will be given in two doses. He said the decision to approve the vaccine was made after a “careful examination” by the Central Drug Standards Control Organization, India’s pharmaceutical regulator.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the vaccine agreement as “a decisive turning point to strengthen a vibrant fight.”

“It will make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been approved for emergency use were made in India!” Modi tweeted.

AstraZeneca has contracted with the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, to manufacture 1 billion doses of its vaccine for developing countries, including India. On Wednesday, Britain became the first country to approve the shooting.

But questions have been raised by health experts over the vaccine being developed by Bharat Biotech. They point out that clinical trials have only started recently, making it nearly impossible for the company to analyze and transmit data showing that its injections are effective in preventing disease caused by the coronavirus.

India has confirmed more than 10.3 million cases of the virus, second only to the US, although its infection rate has fallen significantly from its mid-September peak. It has also reported more than 149,000 deaths.

The country’s initial immunization plan aims to vaccinate 300 million people – health workers, frontline staff including the police, and those deemed vulnerable by age or other illness – by August 2021. For effective distribution, more than 20,000 health workers have been trained so far to managing vaccines, said the Ministry of Health.

But the plan poses a big challenge. India has one of the largest immunization programs in the world, but it is not aimed at adults, and vaccine coverage remains uneven. However, none of the approved vaccines required a very cold storage facility as some other vaccines do. Instead they can be stored in the refrigerator, making it more country-worthy.

Although the Serum Institute of India does not have a written agreement with the Indian government, its chief executive, Adar Poonawalla, said India would be “given priority” and would receive most of its supply of around 50 million doses.

Some research results for the Oxford-AstraZeneca injection of nearly 24,000 people in the UK, Brazil and South Africa show that the vaccine is safe and about 70% effective. It is not as good as some of the other vaccine candidates, and there is also concern about how well the vaccine will protect older people.

Another vaccine, known as COVAXIN, was developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with a government agency and is based on an inactive form of the coronavirus. Initial clinical studies show that the vaccine has no serious side effects and produces antibodies for COVID-19. But late clinical trials began in mid-November. The second injection was given 28 days after the first injection, and the immune response emerged two weeks later.

That time frame means that it is unlikely the company will submit data showing that the injections are effective in preventing infection from the virus, said Dr. Gagandeep Kang, infectious disease specialist at Christian Medical College in Vellore.

All India’s Drug Action Network, the public health watchdog, issued a statement demanding greater transparency.

Somani, the regulator, said that “the vaccine has been found to be safe,” but declined to say whether any efficacy data were being shared.

The Health Ministry said in a statement that permission was granted for Bharat Biotech’s shot for limited use in the “public interest as a precautionary measure that abounds in clinical trial modes, especially in the context of infection by mutant strains.”

But Kang said the claim that the vaccine could help fight a mutant variant of the virus is “hypothetical” and without any evidence.

Indian regulators are still considering approval for other vaccines, including those made by Pfizer.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is fully responsible for all content.

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The Quiet New Year provides some breathing space after the UK-EU Brexit split | Instant News

LONDON (AP) – A constant trickle of trucks rolled off ferries and trains on both sides of the English Channel on Friday, a quiet New Year’s Day after a seismic overnight shift in relations between the European Union and Britain.

The busy freight route between southeast Britain and northwestern France is at the forefront of change now that Britain has completely abandoned the embrace of the 27-nation bloc, the final stage of Brexit.

“For most trucks, they won’t even notice the difference,” said John Keefe, a spokesman for Eurotunnel, which transports vehicles under the Channel. “There’s always a risk that if this happens at a busy time then we could run into some difficulties, but this happened overnight on bank holidays and long weekends.”

Britain leaves the European bloc’s vast single market for people, goods and services at 11 p.m. London time on New Year’s Eve, in the single biggest economic change the country has experienced since World War II. The new UK-EU trade deal will carry restrictions and bureaucracy, but for British Brexit supporters, it will mean reclaiming national independence from the EU and its network of rules.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it “an extraordinary moment for this country.”

“We have freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it,” he said in a New Year’s video message.

Historic moments passed quietly, with Britain’s lockdown on coronavirus limiting mass gatherings to celebrating or mourning. Brexit, which has dominated public debate in Britain for years, was even removed from the front pages of several newspapers by news of a massive vaccination attempt against COVID-19.

On the quiet streets of London – which voted strongly to remain in the EU in the 2016 UK membership referendum – there is little enthusiasm for Brexit.

“I think this is a disaster, among the many disasters this year,” said Matt Steel, a doctor. “This is a bad deal. To be honest, I don’t see anything positive in it. “

The breakthrough comes 11 months after a political Brexit that leaves both sides in a “transition period” in which EU rights and rules continue to prevail in Britain.

The trade deal sealed on Christmas Eve after months of tense negotiations ensures that the two sides can continue to buy and sell goods without tariffs or quotas. But companies face tons of costs and new paperwork, including customs declarations and border checks.

The Ports of Dover and Eurotunnel on the English Channel braced for delays as new measures were introduced.

Vital supply routes were scrambled after France closed its border to British truckers for 48 hours over Christmas week in response to a fast-spreading virus variant identified in Britain. About 15,000 truck drivers needed emergency virus tests just to enter France, a process that has left many trapped in their trucks for days.

But the pandemic and a weekend getaway left traffic-channel traffic quiet on Fridays. Britain has also postponed full customs checks for several months so companies can adjust.

At the French port of Calais, officials said the new computer system was working properly and the truck driver had the correct paperwork.

“Brexit … is not a synonym for congestion, as we say in English, or a synonym for traffic disruption, but everyone has to do their job,” said Jean-Marc Puissesseau, president of the Port of Calais and Boulogne-Sur-Mer.

Jean Marc Thillier, director of customs for the region, warned that the border faces a “trial fire” as traffic spikes after a holiday weekend.

Brexit also brings new checks across the Irish Sea. A dozen trucks rolled off the first ferry to arrive at Dublin Harbor from Wales just before dawn, completing new customs checks without delay.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said trade would change “fundamentally”.

“We will now see 80 billion euros ($ 97 billion) of trade across the Irish Sea between the UK and Ireland disrupted by more checks and declarations, and bureaucracy and paperwork, and fees and delays.”

Hundreds of millions of individuals in the UK and the bloc are also facing changes in their daily lives, with new rules for work visas, travel insurance and pet documents.

And years of discussion and argument lie ahead, about everything from healthy competition to fish quotas, as Britain and the EU settle into their new relationship as friends, neighbors and rivals.

Brexit can also have major constitutional repercussions for the UK. Northern Ireland, which borders EU member Ireland, remains more closely tied to the bloc economy under divorce terms. So while goods will continue to flow freely across Ireland’s land borders, there will be new procedures for trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain in the long run that could pull Northern Ireland away from all of England and into Ireland.

In Scotland, which voted strongly in 2016 to stay afloat, Brexit has stepped up support for separation from Britain’s pro-independence country’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Scotland is coming back soon, Europe. Keep the lights on. “

European leaders, whose patience with Britain has run out over years of the Brexit melodrama, expressed regret over Britain’s departure, and anger at the forces driving it.

“Britain remains our neighbor but also our friend and ally,” said French President Emmanuel Macron in a New Year’s address. “The choice to leave Europe, this Brexit, is the child of European malaise and lots of lies and false promises.”


Video journalists Jo Kearney in Folkestone, England and Alex Turnbull in Calais, France contributed to this story.


Follow all AP’s stories about Brexit at https://apnews.com/Brexit

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Finland beat Germany short-handed in world juniors | Instant News

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) – Vasili Ponomaryov scored twice and Russia beat the United States 5-3 on Friday night in their opening match of their world junior hockey championship.

Ponomaryov, Zakhar Bardakov and Ilya Safonov scored in the second half to give Russia a 4-1 lead and catch up with US goalkeeper Spencer Knight. Knight conceded four goals in 12 shots before Dustin Wolf took over.

John Farinacci and Trevor Zegras scored in the third set to cut it 4-3, with Zegras making it 2:18 remaining. Yegor Chinakhov sealed it with an empty netter with 21 seconds remaining.

Cam York also scored for the United States in the Group B match.

Previously in Group A, Finland beat Germany 5-3 short-handed, and Slovakia beat Switzerland 1-0.

Losing nine players due to the coronavirus, Germany only has 14 skaters – nine forwards and five defenders. Three players can return to the tournament on Sunday and another five on Tuesday, except for more positive tests.

Me Raty, Henri Nikkanen and Topi Niemela scored one goal and one assist each for Finland, and Anton Lundell and Mikael Pyyhtia also scored. Stutzle and Florian Elias’ team scored and assisted Germany respectively, and Samuel Dube added one goal.

Slovakia win against Roman Faith with 5:43 remaining. Simon Latkoczy made 28 saves, stopping Inaki Baragano with his gloves in a late power play.

On Saturday, the United States will face Austria, Sweden will face the Czech Republic in Group B, and Canada will open its title defense against Germany in Group A.

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