Uganda to vaccinate health workers against Ebola

A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 18, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Uganda to vaccinate health workers against Ebola

  • Concerns that an undiagnosed Ebola patient may arrive at a health facility seeking treatment led to the decision to vaccinate health care workers at the highest risk of contracting the highly-infectious hemorrhagic fever, in 40 facilities near the border
  • The drug was donated free of charge to the Ugandan government by its manufacturer, Merck

KAMPALA: Uganda will begin vaccinating frontline health workers against Ebola next week as the threat increases of the deadly virus spreading from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the health minister said Friday.
An outbreak of Ebola in the DRC has claimed 180 lives so far, and with high numbers of people moving across the border “the public health risk of cross-border transmission of Ebola to Uganda was assessed to be very high,” according to minister Jane Ruth Aceng.
“Compassionate use of the Ebola vaccine for health care and frontline workers,” will begin on Monday, she told journalists.
It will be the first time the vaccine is used in a country not in the midst of an active Ebola outbreak.
The DRC’s health ministry said Thursday it had recorded 285 possible Ebola cases in the highly-restive northeastern region of North Kivu, which is home to a clutch of armed groups.
It is the tenth outbreak of Ebola in the country, then called Zaire, where the disease was first detected in 1976.
More than 25,000 people have received an experimental vaccine in the DRC since August.
Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization representative in Uganda said the vaccine — rVSV-ZEBOV — was close to 100 percent effective and carried few risks.

“There have been no major risks recorded up to now, just a normal reaction to a vaccine,” he said.
The drug targets the Zaire virus species, the most “vicious of the Ebola types,” Woldemariam said.
Concerns that an undiagnosed Ebola patient may arrive at a health facility seeking treatment led to the decision to vaccinate health care workers at the highest risk of contracting the highly-infectious hemorrhagic fever, in 40 facilities near the border.
Authorities insist vaccination will be totally voluntary and that frontline workers — who may include hospital cleaners and other auxilliary staff — would need to give “informed consent.”
“Currently 2,100 doses of the rVSV vaccine are available,” Aceng said, with plans in place to increase that to 3,000.
Although the “investigational vaccine” has not yet been licensed it was used in previous Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone and DR Congo at the recommendation of the WHO’s group of experts.
The drug was donated free of charge to the Ugandan government by its manufacturer, Merck.
In the worst Ebola epidemic to date, the disease struck the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013-15, killing more than 11,300 people.


British cabinet backs PM Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Updated 14 November 2018
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British cabinet backs PM Theresa May’s Brexit plan

  • Theresa May: The collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration
  • At the heart of May’s difficulties has been the so-called Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls between the British province and EU-member Ireland

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that cabinet had backed her Brexit plan, adding it was in the national interest but that there would be difficult days ahead.
“The collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration,” May said outside her Downing Street residence after a five-hour cabinet meeting.
“I firmly believe with my head and my heart that this is a decision in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom.” 

Her minority government means May is the weakest British leader in a generation, yet she must try to get her Brexit deal, struck after more than a year of talks with the EU, approved by parliament before leaving the bloc on March 29, 2019.
“I’m confident that this takes us significantly closer to delivering on what the British people voted for in the referendum,” May told parliament. Britons voted 52-48 percent in favor of leaving the EU in 2016.
May’s plan is an attempt to forge a balance between those who want Britain to maintain close links to the world’s biggest trading bloc while having full control over issues such as immigration and judicial oversight.
“We will take back control of our borders, our laws and our money, leave the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy, while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom,” May said of the deal.
But Brexit campaigners in May’s Conservative Party, which for three decades has been divided over Europe, said it was a surrender to the EU and they would vote it down.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up May’s government, said May had repeatedly pledged to ensure Northern Ireland was treated in the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom.
“If she decides to go against all of that, then there will be consequences,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called it a “botched deal.”
At the heart of May’s difficulties has been the so-called Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls between the British province and EU-member Ireland which could threaten the 1998 peace accord which ended 30 years of violence.
EU sources said if the bloc and Britain failed to agree a new trade deal by July 2020, they would have to take a decision on how to prevent border checks returning.
Either Britain would have to extend the transition period, possibly until the end of 2021, or enter a UK-wide customs arrangement but with Northern Ireland more closely aligned with the EU’s rules.
Treating Northern Ireland differently risks alienating the DUP who warn it could risk the integrity of the United Kingdom, while Brexit-supporting members of parliament argue it could leave Britain subject to EU rules indefinitely.
“If the media reports about the EU agreement are in any way accurate, you are not delivering the Brexit people voted for, and today you will lose the support of many Conservative MPs and millions of voters across the country,” Conservative lawmaker Peter Bone said.
Nicola Sturgeon, the head of Scotland’s pro-independence devolved government, said it would be unfair that any special trading deal which applies to Northern Ireland should not apply to Scotland after Britain leaves the European Union.
“(May’s) approach would take Scotland out of the single market — despite our 62 percent “remain” vote — but leave us competing for investment with Northern Ireland that is effectively still in it,” Sturgeon said.
Sterling, which has seesawed since reaching $1.50 just before the 2016 referendum, fell to 1.3010 on news of possible ministerial resignations after briefly jumping more than 1 percent after the deal was announced.
For the EU, reeling from successive crises over debt and immigration, the loss of Britain is the biggest blow yet to 60 years of efforts to forge European unity in the wake of two world wars.
EU leaders could meet on Nov. 25 for a summit to seal the Brexit deal if May’s cabinet approves the text, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.
The ultimate outcome for the United Kingdom remains uncertain: scenarios range from a calm divorce to rejection of May’s deal, potentially sinking her premiership and leaving the bloc with no agreement, or another referendum.
May, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the turmoil following the referendum, has staked her future on a deal which she hopes will solve the Brexit riddle: leaving the EU while preserving the closest possible ties.
EU supporters say the deal leaves Britain worse off and subject to the bloc’s rules without any say in them.
Conservative lawmakers have to factor in the implications of defeating the deal which could topple May, delay Brexit, pave the way for a national election or lead to a new referendum.
The government has yet to give details of the Brexit deal, which runs to hundreds of pages, although a statement to parliament was likely on Thursday.
Brexit will pitch the world’s fifth largest economy into the unknown and many fear it will divide the West as it grapples with the unconventional US presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.
Supporters argue that in the longer term Brexit will allow the United Kingdom to thrive and strike global trade deals.
Some business chiefs were positive about May’s deal.
“My gut feeling is we need to get behind it and we need to make this deal work. What we need is certainty,” said Juergen Maier, the UK CEO of German engineering giant Siemens.
But James Stewart, head of Brexit at accounting firm KPMG said: “Until there is broader political alignment and fewer risks, business leaders have little option but to continue to assume that the quest for a deal could yet be derailed.”