Tag Archives: Legislative

Germany’s Scholz calls for a national approach to fighting COVID-19 | Instant News


BERLIN, April 9 (Reuters) – Germany should expand its infection protection laws to allow for a unified national approach to fighting COVID-19 across the country, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Friday.

Scholz, who is also the vice-chancellor, noted that curfew rules vary between states in Germany, adding: “It makes sense to set this uniformly for all of Germany, because then there will be clarity and transparency”.

“In this sense, it is a necessary and tangible step forward if we expand the infection (protection) laws to include the regulations for these cases appropriately.”

Reporting by Paul Carrel Editing by Caroline Copley

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Brazil detected the first case of the South African variant as deaths from COVID-19 surged | Instant News


RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil has recorded the first confirmed case of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus found in South Africa, a new red flag for a country already ravaged by the world’s highest daily death toll triggered by a widespread local variant.

FILE PHOTO: Members of the Emergency Mobile Care Service (SAMU) team transport a patient, who has tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), to a hospital in Bauru, Sao Paulo state, Brazil March 25, 2021. REUTERS / Leonardo Benassatto

Last week, scientists at the Butantan Biomedical Institute said the case, identified in a woman in the state of Sao Paulo, may be a new local variant. Further analysis confirmed it to be the first known local case of a variant widely circulating in South Africa and elsewhere.

Scientists fear clashes between the South African variant and the already rampant Brazilian variant, known as P.1, are both more contagious and possibly deadlier than the original version of the coronavirus and have led to an accelerated spike in COVID-19.

“This could be a big duel,” said Maria Carolina Sabbaga, one of the Butantan coordinators to study the new variant. “I think P.1 has taken over. I’m not sure if South Africa will overtake P.1, let’s see. “

The South African variant appears to reduce protection from current vaccines in clinical trials and in vitro studies.

Brazil is in the midst of a brutal wave of COVID-19, setting record deaths every week. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported a one-day record of 4,195 deaths.

The outbreak in South America’s largest country may overtake the United States to become the world’s deadliest, some medical experts estimate.

José Patané, a Butantan researcher, said the South African variant most likely arrived in Brazil after traveling through Europe towards the end of 2020.

The first local diagnosis, a woman in her 30s in the city of Sorocaba, not traveling abroad or having contact with someone who did, suggests local community transmission, the researchers said in a study published on Sunday as a preprint on the medRxiv server (bit.ly/3dIXEl1).

ROLLOUT SLOW VACCINE

It is likely that a surge in the South African variant could further complicate the slow rollout of a Brazilian vaccine.

Brazil’s COVID-19 immunization program is built around vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and China Sinovac Biotech Ltd, which have been shown to be effective against Brazilian variants in preliminary studies, according to officials.

Research described at a press conference on Wednesday showed Sinovac injections were 50% effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19 in a study of nearly 68,000 healthcare workers in Manaus, where the P.1 strain first emerged as the main variant. The results of the interim analysis are expected to be published in the coming days.

In a South African clinical trial, the South African variant reduced the efficacy of AstraZeneca injections to only 10.4%.

Immunizations have been slow to pick up in Brazil after the government withdrew last year in obtaining vaccines, as other countries race to secure supplies.

President Jair Bolsonaro has changed his tone about vaccines, touting hitherto underestimated injections. But the former captain of the right-wing army continues to oppose social distancing and mask requirements that health experts say are essential to curbing transmission of the virus.

Under pressure from business leaders desperate to vaccinate their workforce and reopen operations, the lower house of Congress has adopted controversial legislation to allow the purchase of vaccines from the private sector.

A version of the bill, which was first passed on Tuesday, would allow businesses to obtain a vaccine to inject their employees with as long as they donate the same amount of injections to the public health system. Under current rules, businesses can only do so after the country has a fully vaccinated risk group outlined in the national immunization plan.

Proposed amendments to the new law are still awaiting a decision by the lower house before the bill is submitted to the Senate.

Bolsonaro will meet with a group of business leaders including BTG Pactual founder Andre Esteves and Banco Bradesco chairman Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi on Wednesday evening, local media reported, with a personal vaccine dosing plan among the items on the agenda.

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Analysis: With new laws, Brazil is working to increase payments to protect nature | Instant News


SAO PAULO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Brazilian lawmakers have paved the way for the creation of a national system to pay farmers, local communities and others to protect natural systems that provide key environmental services such as water and carbon storage.

A bill was first approved in January by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, although he vetoed key points that would ensure transparency and governance, such as the establishment of regulatory bodies and payrolls.

After the provisions were reinstated, legislators last week backed the bill in a vote bringing together green-minded and agribusiness-friendly congressmen to lay the groundwork for a national policy for Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).

The country can now set up a market that compensates those managing efforts to protect nature and the climate, in line with the global goals set by the Paris Agreement.

PES policies will include offsetting the resulting carbon losses by conserving carbon-rich forests and other ecosystems.

However, there are questions about Brazil’s commitment to Paris’s goal of curbing global warming after it submitted an updated climate action plan to the United Nations in December that was criticized by climate experts as weaker than ever.

In a statement, WWF Brazil said the new plan would “allow for significantly more emissions by 2025 and 2030” than Brazil’s previous submission under the 2015 Paris accord.

Nor does it include a firm commitment to reducing deforestation, whereas the original “nationally determined contribution” promises to end illegal deforestation by 2030.

Bolsonaro has historically called for developing the Amazon, and last year’s deforestation spiked to a 12-year high, with an area equal to seven times the size of London destroyed.

Brazil has also blocked UN negotiations on new rules to regulate carbon markets, maintaining a system that would allow “double counting” of emission reductions.

The 2020 climate plan says Brazil hopes to receive international financial transfers to fund its conservation strategy – which will allow for more ambitious efforts.

More broadly, the resources for PES schemes are expected to come mainly from private companies, international investors, and wealthy donor governments.

COSMETIC TEST

The PES concept is not new and has been used in Brazil on an ad hoc basis, as well as in other countries in America, including Costa Rica – which has been running the project since the 1990s – Colombia, Mexico and the United States.

For example, Brazilian cosmetics company Natura & Co is partnering with the Reca reforestation project, which consists of rural producers from the states of Rondônia, Acre and Amazonas.

They are paid to supply products such as cupuaçu fruit, acai berry and medicinal crabs, while conserving the forest area.

In 2017, Reca received its first payment to conserve 5,000 hectares (12,355 hectares) of forest, and in 2018, these payments became annualized.

Money can go to individual producers or to a collective fund managed by Reca, depending on emission reductions being audited by an independent company.

The aim is to reduce deforestation to zero by 2038 in areas where Reca producers operate.

Pedro Soares, climate change manager at the Amazon Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development (Idesam) who works on the Reca project, warns that Brazil’s weak enforcement of environmental laws is an obstacle.

“Increased deforestation in the Amazon in recent years seriously jeopardizes Brazil’s ability to produce results under the Paris Agreement and the carbon market,” he said. “We’re really burning up investment.”

But Joaquim Leite, Amazon and secretary of environmental services at the Ministry of Environment, said Brazil could become a major player in PES, taking advantage of international financing under the Paris Agreement.

PES was launched in Brazil in 2005, when the Water Conservation project, managed and funded by the local government in Extrema, in the state of Minas Gerais, started paying for forest conservation in areas with natural springs.

This area is a water producer, which is supplied to the metropolitan area of ​​São Paulo.

Until now, however, without national laws governing such initiatives, they varied across the country.

LAND RIGHTS KEY

Erika de Paula, coordinator of the ecosystem services group at the Brazil Coalition for Climate, Forests and Agriculture, said the new bill sets clear goals and guidelines.

“From now on, states and cities no longer need to enact laws to pass remuneration for environmental services,” he said.

The new law says indigenous peoples, traditional communities and farming families should be the priority groups for PES projects.

But large-scale farmers and ranchers can also receive payments by conserving land areas in addition to what they are obliged to protect their property.

According to Letícia Cobello, public policy adviser for the non-profit Foundation for Amazonian Sustainability, land rights need to be regulated, especially in the Amazon region, to expand PES projects.

“The large amount of land that has not been completed is an inhibiting factor for increasing investment from international cooperation,” he said, pointing to the potential for land grabbing as a deterrent.

With the implementation of the new PES policy, Cobello believes Brazil will demonstrate its commitment to protecting most of the world’s largest tropical forest.

“We will not be (environmental) protagonists, but we will arrive at the minimum scenario expected for a country with so much forest and a large population living in it,” he said.

Reporting by Jennifer Ann Thomas; edited by Megan Rowling. Please appreciate the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Thomson Reuters charity, covering the lives of people around the world who struggle to live free or fair. Visit news.trust.org/climate

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US lawmakers announce a bill to cut toxic metals in baby food | Instant News


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of US Democratic lawmakers presented legislation Thursday that would set new maximum levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food and require manufacturers to comply with them within one year.

FILE PHOTOS: Signs visible outside Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, USA, August 29, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

The bill will be formally introduced on Friday.

The Baby Food Safety Act 2021 will set the maximum levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in baby food and cereals that producers must meet within one year.

The bill requires levels to be further lowered within two years through US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, and three years through regulation. It mandates manufacturers testing the final product – not just ingredients – for toxic heavy metals and posting the results online.

Representatives for Raja Krishnamoorthi and Tony Cárdenas as well as Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tammy Duckworth will introduce him.

“For too long, the industry has been left to self-regulate baby food safety, and the results have been dire and very dangerous for our children,” said Krishnamoorthi.

Earlier this month, the FDA said it would step up baby food sampling and increase screening after the Home surveillance subcommittee of Krishnamoorthi released a report that found “dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals” in some baby foods.

The FDA, which did not comment on Thursday, had yet to commit to issuing new regulations, earlier saying it was moving forward with “a plan aimed at reducing toxic elements in food for babies and children to the lowest reasonably achievable levels. “

The FDA has declared heavy metals dangerous, especially for babies and children. The FDA in August finalized guidelines for the industry, setting an action rate of 100 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic in baby rice cereal.

The bill will limit inorganic arsenic to no more than 15 parts per billion for cereals.

The FDA says testing shows “children are not at immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements in food” and notes toxic elements are present in the environment and can enter food supplies through soil, water or air.

Baby food companies say they are working to reduce naturally occurring metal levels in food products.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Edited by Kim Coghill and Angus MacSwan

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Thousands of people rallied outside the Australian parliament as pressure mounted on the prime minister | Instant News


FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, 17 November 2020. REUTERS / Issei Kato / File Photo

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters are expected to descend on the Australian capital on Monday when the country’s parliament resumes as part of a national demonstration, increasing pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Driven by allegations of rape against Attorney General Christian Porter and former employees of the Morrison Liberal party, 43 protests are planned across the country on Monday to demand equality and justice for women.

Porter denies the accusations, which have surfaced recently, of the alleged 1988 rape.

The March4Justice rally is expected to gather several thousand people outside parliament in Canberra, the largest demonstration that organizers predict will attract about 85,000 people across the country.

The protests will spark pressure on Morrison, who will not be strengthened by two of his cabinet members when parliament resumes on Monday.

“People who are not interested in politics are involved and angry and the numbers are growing,” said Haydon Manning, a political science professor at Flinders University in South Australia. Morrison can’t let this problem continue, he just has to change the agenda.

Trying to defuse the mounting anger, Morrison said on Sunday he would meet with a delegation, although he would not attend the protest.

Allegations involving those in the Morrison administration are expected to dominate the process over the next two weeks, with Morrison also facing an exhausted front seat.

Porter and Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds – who have been criticized for not reporting the alleged rape by an unidentified former staff member – are both on sick leave.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Edited by William Mallard

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