Tag Archives: science & technology

UPDATE 3-China increases focus on food security in key policy documents | Instant News

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BEIJING, Feb 22 (Reuters) – China will put more pressure on its region to increase grain yields and increase support for its domestic seed industry as it strengthens its focus on food security in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, a major policy document released late. Sunday shows.

The annual rural policy blueprint, known as “No. 1 document ”, placing more emphasis on food security than in previous years, calls on all provinces to increase grain yields during the 2021-2025 period.

Beijing, which has long prioritized food security for its 1.4 billion people, has strengthened its focus on the issue since the pandemic hit major food exporting countries last year and raised concerns about the stability of food supplies.

“The uncertainty and instability of the external situation has increased significantly. Regarding the safety of the grain, we shouldn’t take it lightly for a second, ”Tang Renjian, the agriculture minister, said at a press conference on Monday, noting that China’s population is still increasing.

The document published by the State Council, China’s cabinet, noted that the communist party committee will also assume responsibility for food safety, in addition to local governments.

China will build a “national food security industrial belt”, he added, a plan also outlined during a major economic policy meeting in December.

The belt aims to connect all of the country’s main grain regions, officials said at the time.

The document also reaffirms new priorities for the seed sector, seen as key to food security, urging the faster implementation of major scientific projects in breeding. It urges “industrial applications of biological breeding,” to use a term that includes, among other things, genetically modified crops.

It also calls for stronger protection of intellectual property rights in breeding, and support for leading seed companies to establish commercial breeding systems.

“It is important to select a group of excellent companies to provide priority support,” Zhang Taolin, deputy agriculture minister, said at the briefing.

Shares of seed companies including Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co., Shandong Denghai Seed and Winall Hi-tech Seed Co. all gained about 4% on Monday.

China will also stabilize soybean production and develop vegetable oil crops including rapeseed and peanuts, he said, amid tight global vegetable oil supplies, and will diversify imports of its agricultural products.

He also called for building a modern animal husbandry system and protecting the production capacity of pigs.

Despite recent concerns about a spike in disease during winter, Tang said Monday that China’s herd of pigs will recover to 2017 levels in June, reaching numbers not seen since the African swine fever outbreak.

However, he said the country needed to find ways to make the herd more stable and prevent farmers from slaughtering pigs when prices fell.

Reporting by Hallie Gu, Dominique Patton, Judy Hua and Yew Lun Tian; Edited by Richard Pullin and Jacqueline Wong


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In the midst of a new strain, vaccinations have stopped, Brazil has passed 10 million cases of COVID-19 | Instant News

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil surpassed 10 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday as a new variant found in the Amazon threatens to further damage a country where inoculations have been halted in many cities due to a lack of vaccines.

FILE PHOTO: A health worker from the Manaus Indigenous Special Sanitation District prepares a dose of the Sinovac CoronaVac Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine in the village of Sao Jose on the tribal land of Rio Urubu on the banks of the Urubu river in Itacoatiara, Amazonas State, Brazil, 13 February 2021. Image taken February 13, 2021. REUTERS / Bruno Kelly / Photo Files

Epidemiologists warned the recent carnival holiday could see a further increase in infections, which came after Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations saw cases spike.

The drop in the infection rate from September to October led some to think the worst was over, but the country has set new weekly records for new cases and deaths this year.

As of Thursday, the Health Ministry had counted 10,030,626 total infections, including 51,879 cases in the past 24 hours.

The pandemic has killed 243,457 people in Brazil, the worst death toll outside the United States. Ministry data shows 1,367 additional deaths since the last update on Wednesday.

“Despite the size of this number, it may still be way below the true figure due to a lack of testing,” said Alexandre Naime Barbosa, head of epidemiology at Sao Paulo State University.

President Jair Bolsonaro has consistently played down the severity of the pandemic, urging Brazilians to return to work and saying he will not be vaccinated.

With the new Brazilian strain – originating from the jungle city of Manaus – experts fear things could get worse.

A new strain, thought to be more contagious, has been reported in six Brazilian states including Rio de Janeiro, where its spread could put more pressure on creaky healthcare.

In Manaus, a wave of infections has weighed on the hospital. At one point in January, the intensive care ward there was so full that many patients were flown to other states, health authorities said. Doctors report sharing oxygen between patients, alternating every 10 minutes.

“We believe it (the variant) is one of the factors responsible for the explosion in the cases,” said Felipe Naveca, virologist at Amazonia’s Fiocruz institute.

The soaring number of cases is alarming because of Brazil’s slow vaccination program.

Several major cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, have stopped immunizations after running out of doses.

Despite pledging to vaccinate the entire population of around 210 million by the end of the year, the Ministry of Health has so far provided the state with just 11.8 million doses.

That’s well below the 104.2 million doses needed to immunize against the highest-risk group in Brazil, using a vaccine that requires two injections per person.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello pledged to provide 11.3 million more doses by the end of the month, including 2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine whose delivery has not been confirmed by India, where the vaccine was produced.

“It’s hard to see this tragic situation improving at the end of the year,” said Naime.

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Written by Stephen Eisenhammer; Edited by Sonya Hepinstall


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The Swiss-EU treaty dispute is becoming real as a shortage of medical devices draws near | Instant News

* Seamless medical equipment trade may end from 26 May

* Switzerland’s small market triggers concern over thousands of products

* Scramble for the treaty threatens Switzerland’s access to EU research funding

ZURICH, February 18 (Reuters) – Switzerland’s years of stalemate with the European Union over a stalled bilateral agreement could have an immediate real-world impact by fueling a shortage of medical devices that are now being trafficked seamlessly across borders.

Switzerland’s refusal to support the agreement – which would ensure non-member Switzerland adopts EU single market rules – could cripple the medical device trade when the industry standard collective recognition agreement (MRA) for them expires in May.

The clashes signaled erosion creeping from the uncomfortable relationship between Switzerland and the EU, its biggest trading partner which has lost Britain a member, as the network of bilateral economic agreements that froze over time becomes increasingly obsolete.

Swiss scientists fear the dispute could hinder their access to the 96 billion euro ($ 116 billion) European Union’s Horizon research program now being drafted.

The standoff could also disrupt medical supplies to the EU which is struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly half of Switzerland’s exports of medical devices used in things such as surgical procedures are sent to the EU, while Switzerland imports more than $ 3 billion worth of these items annually from the EU.

The two sides have clashed before over the draft agreement, which Bern has rejected since 2018 until open points are clarified about state aid, EU citizens’ access to Swiss social benefits, and unilateral Swiss rules protecting high wages.

Playing a political ball, Brussels in 2019 refused to recognize Swiss exchange trading rules that are on par with EU standards, sparking revenge.

But disrupting the trade in devices like respirators to treat COVID-19 patients would be an entirely different matter.

“We are very concerned about the supply chain,” said Beat Egli, vice president of the Swiss association Medtech which represents a sector that employs 63,000 people.


Barring a swift deal to stop the clock, the current open market medical device trade ends when the EU switches to a new authorization regime on May 26.

Swiss manufacturers face an additional fee of around 100 million Swiss francs ($ 112 million) and a recurring fee of 75 million a year if they have to switch to an official EU representative, Swiss Medtech said.

But the bigger problem is that importing the EU’s essential products into a country of only 8.6 million people may not be worth the bureaucratic complexity of serving the Swiss market.

A Swiss Medtech survey in November found up to a quarter of all imported medical equipment – about 75,000 – could fall by the wayside, but it’s unclear for months which will disappear as suppliers and importers sort out the systems.

Even something as simple as replacement respirator parts can wreck a supply chain.

“The Swiss manufacturers are very aware that sooner or later they have to do something … but I am very concerned about the EU manufacturers. They may not know the new requirements, “said Egli of Swiss Medtech.

The lobby wants a transition period of at least 18 months to cushion the blow, but is not sure it will get that in a decision the Swiss government is preparing.

“If the MRA reforms are not adopted by May 2021, measures are being developed to mitigate the potential negative impacts,” the Federal Public Health Office said without providing any details.


The German medical sector association BVM and its allied groups have appealed for a renewal of the MRA or at least an appropriate transition period, warning that emergency, trauma and diabetes care products as well as for dialysis and chronic respiratory disease are particularly at risk.

“Especially against the backdrop of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it must be ensured that no supply bottlenecks arise with medical products and that care for high-risk patients is adequately guaranteed,” he said.

Bern has closed talks to revive the agreement, which has continued under new chief negotiators on both sides.

But Brussels, which has made it clear that Switzerland will not gain access to a new single market until the agreement is made, is clearly irritated by moves in Bern amid domestic opposition spanning the political spectrum.

The dispute has research institutes concerned ahead of talks about Swiss access to the Horizon scheme which will start in April or May. “Everyone wants to compete and take part at the highest levels of research, and if Switzerland is no longer part of Horizon’s funding program, it will be like being knocked out of the football Champions League,” said Detlef Guenther, vice president of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

“No longer participating in schemes like this would seriously damage Switzerland, our institutions and the economy.”

($ 1 = 0.8286 euros) ($ 1 = 0.8975 Swiss francs)

Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Edited by Toby Chopra


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Sinovac vaccine works on the British variant, South Africa – Brazilian Institute | Instant News

FILE PHOTO: A worker carries out a quality check at the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. REUTERS / Thomas Peter / File Photo

SERRANA, Brazil (Reuters) – The COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech is effective against British and South African variants, Brazil’s vaccine partners said on Wednesday, citing test results in a Chinese trial.

“We have tested this vaccine in China against English and South African variants, with good results,” said Dimas Covas, head of the Butantan biomedical center in Sao Paulo who is leading domestic trials of the Chinese vaccine and supplying doses to Brazilian Health. Ministry.

Covas did not provide further details on how effective the vaccine was to prove against this strain.

Butantan is also testing a vaccine, known as CoronaVac, against a Brazilian variant of the virus that emerged in the city of Manaus, he said.

“Soon we will have results and we are very confident it will work,” Covas said.

Covas was speaking at a press conference in the small town of Serrana, in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo, where Butantan on Wednesday started a mass vaccination campaign aimed at injecting the entire adult population against COVID-19 to test whether it lowers infection rates. .

Covas said he expects CoronaVac to have an advantage over other vaccines because of the technology it uses – an inactive version of the coronavirus.

The efficacy of the Chinese vaccine against Brazilian strains will be particularly important for Brazil. The government has secured 100 million doses and made the vaccine the center of an inoculation campaign.

Covas’ comments came as several cities in Brazil, including the state capitals of Rio, Salvador and Cuiaba, have suspended new vaccinations because they ran out of doses.

Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto, written by Sabrina Valle; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Aurora Ellis


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The Brazilian health regulator approved the import of additional AstraZeneca vaccines | Instant News

FILE PHOTO: A bottle labeled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine” and a sryinge seen in front of the AstraZeneca logo emblazoned in the illustration taken, 9 February 2021. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa on Friday approved a request by the biomedical institute Fiocruz to import more doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford from India’s Serum Institute, without specifying how much.

Also on Friday, Fiocruz said in a statement, without reference to Anvisa’s agreement, that it was negotiating the import of 2 million more doses from the Serum Institute, in addition to the 2 million it had approved.

Brazil, which is in the midst of the world’s second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak after the United States, has so far only allowed the AstraZeneca vaccine and other vaccines developed by China’s SinoVac for emergency use.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Written by Jake Spring and Aurora Ellis


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