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Covid-19: Western Australia contact tracing system ramps up

Western Australia's contact tracing capabilities are being tested for the first time after a hotel quarantine security guard returned a positive Covid-19 result, sparking a five-day shutdown of the state's most populous regions. People wait in line to be tested for Covid-19 at Royal Perth Hospital on Sunday. Photo: AFP As of 6pm local time on Sunday, Perth, the Peel region and the South West region went into a five-day lockdown, with people in those areas required to stay at home. While the announcement came as a shock to the public, the state's contact tracing team had swung into action hours earlier, tracking down the security guard's movements. Results from genomic testing are not expected until later today or tomorrow, but authorities have flagged the man could have the UK strain of the virus as he was on a hotel floor where a positive case was under quarantine. The UK strain is known to be far more contagious than the original. Mass testing of people living in the same area has been underway, along with those from known exposure sites. Queues formed yesterday around city clinics, with Royal Perth staying open until 10pm on Sunday to cope with the influx. Authorities focus on six-day period The man in his twenties worked at a quarantine hotel in the Perth CBD on Tuesday 26 January and Wednesday 27January , at which stage he is believed to have contracted the virus. On Thursday, 28 January, he developed symptoms and called in sick to work before being tested. WA previously required hotel quarantine workers to be tested once every seven days, but that was recently upgraded to once a day. The patient had tested negative for the virus on 15 January, 17 January, and 23 January. Because he returned negative test results prior to those shifts, contact tracers are focusing on a six-day period of his movements from January 25 to 30. A list of places he had been to over that time was released on Sunday, and authorities have warned that list may grow over the coming days. Housemates quarantined The security guard lives in a unit in the Maylands area in inner-city Perth with three other housemates. They have all been contacted, tested and placed under 14-day quarantine at a state-run facility. WA Health Minister Roger Cook yesterday said the three close contacts had tested negative for the virus, however, that was expected to change. "I should note that, pleasingly, the gentleman's housemates at this point in time have returned a negative result, so that's a sign that we have really got on top of this very early on," Cook said on Sunday. "But it is a serious incident. "He's been out there in the community potentially infectious during some or all of that period." While at this stage authorities believe the three housemates are unlikely to have been infectious while out in the community, contact tracers will likely be working to determine their movements over recent days as well. Security guard worked second job, but authorities say not while infectious The hotel quarantine security guard worked a second job as a driver for a rideshare company. WA Premier Mark McGowan on Sunday stressed he was not believed to have worked that job while infectious. "The advice I have is that he has not worked a second job since he contracted the virus," McGowan said. "We don't know how the security guard contracted the virus in the hotel. "You've seen this everywhere all over the world, this virus is insidious, it's highly transmissible. "Sometimes we don't even know if any mistakes or any breaches of protocol took place - we'll find that out, but it is very difficult to control." The Premier was quizzed as to why lessons had not been learned from Victoria, where the hotel quarantine inquiry revealed security guards working other jobs was a serious flaw in its system. "Working up the protocols around second jobs for security or cleaners or those sorts of things is difficult, because policing it and making sure people don't do a second job is hard," he said. "But that's the work that has been going on now for a considerable period of time. "It's not easy and all the states have struggled with this." AMA says warnings were ignored Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller said it was disappointing to hear the news of the community transmission but praised the government's immediate response. "We're about to find out whether WA can handle tracking and tracing this, it's great that they're moving fast," he said. "We commend the government for being open about the circumstances surrounding it. "The next steps now are to get this tracked and traced and under control." But Dr Miller said the AMA's advice to upgrade the state's quarantine system had been ignored. "The specific things that we have called for is that these be dedicated quarantine facilities not used for other reasons, that there be proper airborne protection for people who work there," he said. "That's one of the ways that this virus spreads," Dr Miller said. "The other thing is that we want proper testing of the people who work there, and we want the people who work there to not be working other jobs. "We've ended up in this situation, which is going to cause a lot of disruption to people although we remain optimistic at this stage that we'll be able to bring it under control." Daily testing of hotel quarantine workers now underway Hotel quarantine workers in WA have, for the last week or so, been undertaking daily tests for Covid-19. Dr Miller said that in managing the current situation, it was imperative the government's testing capabilities were able to keep up with the demand. "It's strange to me that we're only testing until 10:00pm," he said. "I would have thought that we want to get onto this variant within 24 hours, and that we would just go all night. "Hopefully, they know what they're doing in terms of the number of people, the projections for the testing, and they will get it all done in the next 24, 48 hours [for] the potential contacts, because that's how quickly, unfortunately, you have to track this down." - ABC
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Thousands join Navalny protests across Russia

Thousands of Russians have been taking part in unauthorised protests to demand the release of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. (File photo) Protesters marching in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in downtown Moscow last month. Photo: AFP More than 4000 people have been detained, a monitoring group says. In Moscow police closed metro stations and blocked off the city centre. Navalny was jailed on his return to Russia after recovering from an attempt to kill him with a nerve agent. He blames the security services for the attack but the Kremlin denies this. The opposition figure had only just arrived from Berlin, where he spent months recovering from the near-fatal incident. Russian authorities say Navalny was supposed to report to police regularly because of a suspended sentence for embezzlement. Navalny has denounced his detention as "blatantly illegal", saying the authorities had allowed him to travel to Berlin for treatment for the Novichok poisoning, which happened in Russia last August. Navalny has blamed state security agents under Putin's orders for the attempt on his life and investigative journalists have named Russian FSB agents suspected of the poisoning. But the Kremlin denies involvement and disputes the conclusion, by Western weapons experts, that Novichok was used. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied reports he is the owner of a vast palace on the Black Sea, as alleged by Navalny in a video that has gone viral in Russia and has been watched more than 100 million times. What's the latest? In Moscow the BBC's Sarah Rainsford says protesters played cat-and-mouse with police, getting up close to officers before retreating to safety. Police snatch squads pulled some protesters through the lines of riot shields. Footage showed a stream of people being escorted on to buses by riot police. Protesters then attempted to reach the Matrosskaya Tishina prison where Navalny is being held. Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was among those detained at Sunday's protest, Navalny's team said. Police say the protests are illegal and Russian authorities have warned that the demonstrations could spread the coronavirus. A 40-year-old protester in Moscow told Reuters: "I understand that I live in a totally lawless state. In a police state, with no independent courts. In a country ruled by corruption. I would like to live differently," she said. In St Petersburg, Putin's home city, a crowd gathered in a central square and chanted: "Down with the Tsar." Rallies in support of Navalny also took place in eastern Russia. In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, at least 2000 people marched through the city chanting "Freedom" and "Putin is a thief". In Yakutsk, where temperatures fell to -40C, a protester named Ivan said it was the first rally he had attended. "I am tired of the despotism and lawlessness of the authorities. No questions have been answered. I want clarity, openness, and change. This is what made me come here," he said. Further rallies saw about 1000 people demonstrate in Omsk, also in Siberia, and about 7000 people protest in Yekaterinburg in the Ural region, according to local media reports. The OVD-Info monitoring group said police had detained more than 4000 people at protests in 85 cities across the country. They included 1167 held in Moscow and 862 in St Petersburg. Later on Sunday, Navalny's Moscow campaign headquarters announced the end of the day's protests and called on supporters to attend a rally on 2 February at a Moscow court where a ruling will be made on Navalny's detention. A number of close associates of Navalny have been detained since last week and others, including his brother and Pussy Riot activist Maria Alyokhina, have been put under house arrest. The chief editor of a Russian website specialising in human rights, Sergei Smirnov, was also arrested outside his home on Saturday. News of his detention, apparently over allegations he participated in last week's protests, has been condemned by other journalists. In Moscow, police have reportedly been struggling to find space in jail for supporters of the opposition leader. - BBC
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Donald Trump parts ways with impeachment lawyers: sources

Former US President Donald Trump has abruptly parted ways with the two lead lawyers working on his defense for his Senate impeachment trial, a source familiar with the situation said, leaving Trump's legal strategy in disarray. Donald Trump. Photo: AFP Butch Bowers and Deborah Barberi, two South Carolina lawyers, are no longer on Trump's team, the source said. The source described the move as a "mutual decision." Three other lawyers associated with the team, Josh Howard of North Carolina and Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris of South Carolina, also parted ways with Trump, another source said. A third source said Trump had differences with Bowers over strategy ahead of the trial. The president is still contending that he was the victim of mass election fraud in the 3 November election won by President Joe Biden. It leaves Trump's defense team in turmoil as he prepares for a trial starting on 9 February to consider an article of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives charging Trump with inciting the 6 January storming of the US Capitol by his followers. The US House clerk Cheryl Johnson delivers the article of impeachment to the Senate. Photo: AFP It was unclear who would now represent the former president at the trial. His White House lawyers at his first impeachment trial last year, Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, are not expected to be a part of the proceedings. "The Democrats' efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country," said Trump adviser Jason Miller. "In fact, 45 senators have already voted that it is unconstitutional. We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly," Miller said. Forty-five Senate Republicans backed a failed effort last Tuesday (local time) to halt Trump's impeachment trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign he will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol. - Reuters
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Covid-19 quarantine hotel worker tests positive in WA, sending state into lockdown

File photo. Photo: 123rf.com Western Australia's 10-month coronavirus free streak has ended, with a hotel quarantine security guard in Perth testing positive to Covid-19, sending much of the state into a five-day lockdown. The snap lockdown begins early this evening. "Beginning at 6pm tonight the whole Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region will be going into full lockdown," WA Premier Mark McGowan said. "This lockdown will last until 6pm on Friday." McGowan said people in the lockdown regions were required to stay home, with some exceptions. "Except for the following four reasons: shopping for essentials like groceries, medicine and necessary supplies; medical or healthcare needs, including compassionate requirements and looking after the vulnerable; exercise within their neighbourhood, but only with one other person and only for one hour per day; work where you cannot work from home or remotely," he said. Pubs, clubs, playgrounds, and gyms will close. Restaurants will be takeaway only, and there will be no visitors allowed to care homes or hospitals. Schools, which were due to be re-opened tomorrow, will remain closed for another week. Case could be variant strain McGowan said the security officer was working at the Four Points by Sheraton Perth. "When the man was working at this hotel there were four active cases of Covid-19 in hotel quarantine," Mr McGowan said. "Of those four cases we have at least three confirmed variant strains, two UK and one South African. "We are told the guard was working on the same floor as a positive UK variant case." The security guard's household members have tested negative this morning, but McGowan said he expected they would test positive in coming days. They have been placed into quarantine at a state-run facility, McGowan said. The Premier said the infected security guard had used the SafeWA contact register app to record his movements. - ABC
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NZ govt welcomes UK advances to join trans-Pacific trade deal

The United Kingdom's is expected to ask to join the CPTPP agreement tomorrow, which underlines the importance of the deal, and could assist New Zealand's free trade ambitions with them, the government says. UK international trade secretary Liz Truss is expected to approach NZ about joining the CPTPP tomorrow. Photo: Supplied/ UK Department for International Trade The CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership) is a trade agreement between 11 Pacific Rim nations, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Mexico. It covers about 13 percent of the world's income. Last year the government of the UK signalled it would try to join to to open up diverse opportunities for exporters and "help support an industrial revival in the UK". UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is expected to make the request on Monday. NZ Minister of Trade Damien O'Connor welcomed the move. "The challenges facing the global trade and economic environment have been compounded by Covid-19. In this context New Zealand sees the CPTPP objective of maintaining and growing open rules-based trade, as more important than ever," he said. "New Zealand has always supported the expansion of the CPTPP..." The CPTPP trade deal was signed by 11 Pacific Rim countries in 2018. Photo: Supplied/ MFAT Britain is New Zealand's sixth biggest trading partner, and the countries are currently in negotiations towards a free trade agreement, following the UK's exit from the European Union. "Both sides see conclusion of a high quality, comprehensive and future-focussed FTA as a valuable stepping stone towards the UK joining the CPTPP," O'Connor said. The UK previously said becoming part of the Pacific Rim group would ally the UK to "a network of countries committed to free trade, and send a powerful signal to the rest of the world that the UK is prepared to champion free trade liberalisation, fight protectionism and remove barriers at every opportunity." To start the process towards joining the UK must write to the New Zealand, which is acting as the Depository for the partnership. Then member nations will discuss the request, and may form a working group to begin work on negotiations between the UK and CPTPP group. If the UK joins, the conditions would set a precedent for other countries that may want to join in the future, O'Connor said. The precursor to the CPTPP was the TPP Agreement, which was signed by then-US president Obama Barack and 11 other member nations. It was in the process of being ratified in member countries before it could be enacted, when Donald Trump came into office and withdrew the US. Instead the remaining 11 members signed the CPTPP in 2018. In 2019, the UK sent more than NZ $1.9 (£1billion) worth of exports to countries in the CPTPP. -RNZ
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'Visionary' music producer Sophie dies aged 34

Sophie, the Grammy-nominated experimental pop musician and producer, has died aged 34 following a "sudden accident" in Athens. Scottish electronic pop producer Sophie performing at the 2019 Coachella Festival, in California. Photo: AFP The Glasgow-born artist worked with the likes of Madonna and Charli XCX. The cover of the album Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides by pop producer Sophie. Photo: Supplied In a statement, Sophie's management said the musician had died in the early hours of Saturday in the Greek capital. "Sophie was a pioneer of a new sound, one of the most influential artists in the last decade," they said. A further statement from Sophie's record label Transgressive, explained how the "terrible accident" had occurred. "True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and slipped and fell," they posted online. "She will always be here with us." "The family thank everyone for their love and support and request privacy at this devastating time." Sophie was also known as a transgender icon. Transgressive management said the producer would be remembered "not only for ingenious production and creativity, but also for the message and visibility that was achieved. An icon of liberation". 'A pioneer' Sophie's innovative productions drew on pop, trance and underground dance music, mixing them with warped, disorientating waveforms to create a sound that was both instantly recognisable and highly in-demand. Madonna sought Sophie out to co-produce a 2015 single; while Charli XCX worked with the musician on her abrasive, avant-garde EP, Vroom Vroom and the hit single After The Afterparty. I’m heartbroken.Thank you Sophie Rest In Power!You will always be remembered as a true game changer, powerful presence and an incredibly original producer ! Your music and production brought me so much joy! pic.twitter.com/VZ1v9UNSb5 — Peaches (@peaches) January 30, 2021 Sophie's debut album, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides, followed in 2018, exploring questions of identity, non-conformity and reinvention, while expanding her trademark sound with longer, more explorative tracks. "Crossing boundaries of pop music and chasing transcendence, Sophie achieves the rare feat of making abstract, difficult electronic music that hits you straight in the heart," wrote the NME in a four-star review. The album was subsequently nominated for a Grammy for best dance/electronic album. Sophie, a groundbreaking producer and performer whose music distilled speed, noise, melody, clarity and catchiness into what would soon be called hyperpop, died in Athens after an accident on Saturday. She was 34. https://t.co/ThE9kljtan — New York Times Music (@nytimesmusic) January 30, 2021 French pop act Héloïse Letissier, aka Christine and the Queens led the tributes to the late star, whose full name was Sophie Xeon. Writing on Twitter, Letissier described Sophie as a "stellar producer", "a visionary", and "a pioneer". "She rebelled against the narrow, normative society by being an absolute triumph, both as an artist and as a woman" she added. London-based Japanese singer Rina Sawayama echoed those sentiments, calling Sophie an "icon". "The world and our community has lost a beautiful soul," she tweeted. Guitarist Nile Rodgers said she was an "innovative", "dynamic", and "warm" person. #RestInPower SOPHIE! You were one of the most innovative, dynamic, and warm persons I had the pleasure of working with at 2019 ⁦@southbankcentre⁩ pic.twitter.com/uzsv0EAWxx — Nile Rodgers (@nilerodgers) January 30, 2021 "Heart-breaking news", added singer Sam Smith. "The world has lost an angel. A true visionary and icon of our generation. Your light will continue to inspire so many for generations to come." After being given the Innovator gong at the Association of Independent Music (AIM) Awards in 2018, Sophie used the platform to promote trans rights. "To be truly deserving of this award involved not only changing the sound of today's music, but also ripping apart a deeply entrenched and deeply flawed patriarchal society," said the producer, while collecting the award. "Creating a more diverse, inspiring and meaningful future for us and the generations whose lives our decisions affect and help shape." -BBC
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Warning for NZ shareholders caught up in GameStop surge

Amateur traders should be careful diving into a quickly changing 'stockmarket war' such as the GameStop phenomena, without fully researching what they're getting into, the NZ Shareholders Association says. A GameStop store in Miami, US. Photo: CC BY 2/ Phillip Pessar The US stockmarket and institutional investment firms have been reeling from a wave of interest from armchair traders, who have bid up the prices of US companies, including GameStop, Blackberry and Nokia. Association chief executive Oliver Mander says New Zealanders trading via apps like Sharesies should look before they leap. "It may feel really good to be able to sock it to all the institutional investors, but actually it's still really important for vigilant investors to know what you're buying. "Ultimately, if the price that you're paying for the shares doesn't reflect the value of the sum of the parts put together, you will lose out." The movement began when Reddit social media forum users began to highlight stocks being heavily 'shorted' by larger Wall Street hedge funds. Shorting is an investment tactic where a large investor can pay a fee to borrow shares it thinks will decrease in value, then sell them with the intention to buy them back once they are cheaper and pocket the price difference, before returning the borrowed shares to the owner. However, if the shares increase in value the firm that borrowed and sold them still have to purchase them back to return to the original owner, and will make a loss. Reddit users recognised the shorting tactic, which fuelled a swarm of amateur investment that drove the prices of the shorted stocks up - leaving the companies that had been shorting the stock exposed to potentially huge losses. $GME billboard in New York City (via Reddit) pic.twitter.com/f7EuWGSVra — Market Rebellion (@MarketRebels) January 30, 2021 Mander told RNZ that while it was tempting to follow suit, if the price of the shares was inflated to extreme levels then shareholders were likely to lose money. Previously he has advised that investors shouldn't rely solely on information from social media, but instead should have a portfolio strategy. And warned that 'gaming' the market - aiming to make short term gains in a volatile market, was essentially "gambling". NZ online investment firm Sharesies issued a warning to users on its website, due to the high interest in GameStop and other stocks. "Please, make sure you do your research before investing, and think about how these investments fit in with your long-term investing strategy. "We believe that everyone should have access to investing. [But] investing involves risk. You aren't guaranteed to make money, and you might lose the money you start with." Yesterday on Twitter, cryptocurrency firm founder Justin Sun indicated his support for the GameStop stocks and promoted his own cryptocurrency, TRON. But, Tauranga trader Sam Fisher said instead the share price spiked for Tanzanian Gold - which has the same stock market abbreviation as TRON; TRX. Fisher said traders appeared to be getting caught up in hype without being fully aware of where they're putting their money. $TRX is a cryptocurrency currently trading on @krakenfx @binance @BittrexExchange @OKCoin @HuobiGlobal not Tanzanian Gold Corp. This is #TRON lesson 101 for $TRX new community members — Justin Sun (@justinsuntron) January 29, 2021 "You could see quite clearly people jumping on the bandwagon - didn't even realise that TRX was a cryptocurrency, not a stock, and so they went to the stockmarket, typed in TRX and bought whatever it was purely out of ignorance. "What you're seeing is hype and ignorance, all together. $TRX is a cryptocurrency currently trading on @krakenfx @binance @BittrexExchange @OKCoin @HuobiGlobal not Tanzanian Gold Corp. This is #TRON lesson 101 for $TRX new community members — Justin Sun (@justinsuntron) January 29, 2021
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Health officials 'concerned' about new EU controls on Covid-19 vaccine exports

Health officials are worried new European Union controls on Covid-19 vaccine exports could mean there are not as many doses available in New Zealand. Photo: AFP The rules apply to vaccines made inside the EU - which include the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. The European Union has introduced controls on Covid-19 vaccines bound for countries outside the EU, including New Zealand and Australia. The Ministry of Health admits it is concerned about the new rules and it is urgently working to understand whether they will slow down New Zealand's pandemic response. But in a statement, it says it expects vaccine manufacturers to stick to timeframes in purchase agreements. It says the government has pre-ordered four different vaccines, so New Zealanders will still have access to a vaccine if one agreement fails. WHO criticises EU over vaccine export controls The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticised the EU's announcement of export controls on vaccines produced within the bloc, saying such measures risked prolonging the pandemic. The EU introduced the measure amid a row with vaccine manufacturers over delivery shortfalls. But WHO vice-head Mariangela Simao said it was a "very worrying trend". Earlier WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "vaccine nationalism" could lead to a "protracted recovery". Speaking at the Davos Agenda - a virtual version of the global summit - he said vaccine hoarding would "keep the pandemic burning and... slow global economic recovery", in addition to being a "catastrophic moral failure" that could further widen global inequality. What is the EU doing? The European Union is introducing export controls on coronavirus vaccines made in the bloc, amid a row about delivery shortfalls. The so-called transparency mechanism gives EU countries powers to deny authorisation for vaccine exports if the company making them has not honoured existing contracts with the EU. "The protection and safety of our citizens is a priority and the challenges we now face left us with no choice but to act," the European Commission said. The controls will affect some 100 countries worldwide - including the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - but many others, including poorer nations, are exempt. However, the EU has been forced to backtrack on plans to impose restrictions on the export of vaccines across the border on the island of Ireland after outcry from Dublin and London. The EU insists its controls are a temporary scheme, not an export ban. Why is this happening now? The news comes with the EU in a very public dispute with drug-maker AstraZeneca over supplies, and under growing pressure over the slow pace of vaccine distribution. Earlier on Friday the Commission made public a confidential contract with AstraZeneca, the UK-Swedish company behind the Oxford vaccine, to bolster its argument that the firm has been failing to fulfil its promises to deliver to the bloc. The contract stipulates that the pharmaceutical company would commit its "best reasonable efforts" to manufacture and distribute doses. AstraZeneca has blamed the delays on production glitches at plants in the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the late signing of contracts. Under the EU's new rule, vaccine firms will have to seek permission before supplying doses beyond the EU. Its 27 member states will be able to vet those export applications. Vaccines produced by Pfizer in Belgium are currently being exported to the UK, and the EU insists that some of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in England is destined under contract for EU citizens. The EU is also in a supply dispute with Pfizer, which is set to fall short of the contracted vaccine volume for the EU by the end of March. Pfizer says the reason for that is the urgent expansion of its facility in Puurs, Belgium. Who is exempt from the export controls? The EU is allowing some 92 exemptions from the export control regime, including: vaccine donations to Covax, the global scheme to help poorer countries; and exports to Switzerland, countries in the western Balkans, Norway and North Africa. Other Mediterranean countries such as Lebanon and Israel are also exempt. But on Saturday WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told the BBC vaccines should be given to all vulnerable groups and health workers across the globe before each country starts giving the jabs out more widely. This would mean wealthy nations, such as the UK, halting immunisations at home once priority groups had been vaccinated and instead helping with vaccinations elsewhere. "We're asking all countries in those circumstances to do that - hang on, wait for those other groups. Rather than rushing to vaccinate one country, we need to be doing the lot and we need to be doing it together," she said. So far 95 percent of all vaccinations had taken place in just 10 countries, Harris said, while only two low and middle income countries had even begun immunisation programmes. Pressure grows as nations grow impatient The BBC's Europe editor Katya Adler says some EU governments are beginning to show impatience with Brussels, which had hoped its vaccination purchasing scheme would be a beacon of European solidarity and strength. The Commission's laboured negotiating process, the tardy approval of vaccines by the EU's medical regulator and delays now in vaccine deliveries have left EU citizens demanding answers and action, Adler says. Markus Söder, the Bavarian premier and Germany's possible future chancellor, told ZDF television on Friday that it was his impression that the commission "ordered too late, and only bet on a few companies, they agreed on a price in a typically bureaucratic EU procedure and completely underestimated the fundamental importance of the situation." On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron questioned the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, describing it as "quasi-ineffective" for the over-65s. The claim was rejected by Sir John Bell, an Oxford University professor who was part of the team behind the vaccine. "I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr Macron," Sir John told BBC Radio Four's Today programme. Asked if he thought Mr Macron was trying to reduce demand for the jab, he added: "Well, if he didn't have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand." - BBC / RNZ
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