UN chief warns of long road ahead after vaccines

UN chief warns of long road ahead after vaccines
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the UNGA's special session to discuss the response to COVID-19 on Dec. 3,2020, at UN headquarters, in New York. (AP)
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Updated 03 December 2020

UN chief warns of long road ahead after vaccines

UN chief warns of long road ahead after vaccines
  • “Extreme poverty is rising; the threat of famine looms. We face the biggest global recession in eight decades,” Guterres said
  • He said Covid-19 had exacerbated other long-term challenges including inequality and climate change

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that the world could be fighting the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic for decades to come even if vaccines are quickly approved.
Opening a special UN summit on the virus, being held virtually as a safety precaution, Guterres hailed the quick scientific progress but cautioned that vaccination was not a panacea for the ills affecting the planet.
“Let’s not fool ourselves. A vaccine cannot undo damage that will stretch across years, even decades to come,” Guterres said.
“Extreme poverty is rising; the threat of famine looms. We face the biggest global recession in eight decades.”
He said Covid-19 — which has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally — had exacerbated other long-term challenges including inequality and climate change.
Leaders or senior officials from more than 100 countries will take part in the summit through short, pre-recorded speeches, but diplomats do not expect the virtual two-day gathering to lead immediately to major decisions.
Guterres reiterated his call that vaccines be considered a “global public good” that are shared around the world.
He appealed for contributions to fill a $4.3 billion shortfall in financing over the next two months.
More than 180 countries have joined Covax, a global collaboration working with manufacturers to distribute vaccines equitably.
The major exceptions are the United States, which has been at the forefront of research and where outgoing President Donald Trump wants to vaccinate Americans first, and Russia, which has unveiled its own vaccine but met skepticism.
Casting blame for Covid’s heavy death toll in the United States, Trump has moved to withdraw from the World Health Organization, saying it was beholden to China in the early stages of the crisis.
Guterres strongly defended the UN body’s performance and said that its recommendations “should have been the basis for a coordinated global response.”
“In some situations, there was a rejection of facts and an ignorance of the guidance. And when countries go in their own direction, the virus goes in every direction,” the UN chief said.


Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try
A view of Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit, with a rocket underneath the wing of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner, during test launch of its high-altitude launch system for satellites from Mojave, California, U.S. January 17, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 January 2021

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try
  • The rocket’s upper stage coasted for a period, reignited to circularize the orbit and then deployed the nine CubeSats

LOS ANGELES: Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reached space on Sunday, eight months after the first demonstration flight of its air-launched rocket system failed, the company said.
A 70-foot-long (21.34-meter-long) LauncherOne rocket was released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft off the coast of Southern California, ignited moments later and soared toward space.
The two-stage rocket carried a cluster of very small satellites known as CubeSats developed and built as part of a NASA educational program involving US universities.
The launch occurred after the Boeing 747-400 took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles and flew out over the Pacific Ocean to a drop point beyond the Channel Islands.
“According to telemetry, LauncherOne has reached orbit!” Virgin Orbit tweeted later. “Everyone on the team who is not in mission control right now is going absolutely bonkers.”
The rocket’s upper stage coasted for a period, reignited to circularize the orbit and then deployed the nine CubeSats.
The flight developments were announced on social media. The launch was not publicly livestreamed.
Virgin Orbit, based in Long Beach, California, is part of a wave of companies targeting the launch market for increasingly capable small satellites, which may range in sizes comparable to a toaster on up to a home refrigerator.
Competitor Rocket Lab, also headquartered in Long Beach, has deployed 96 payloads in 17 launches of its Electron rocket from a site in New Zealand. Another of its rockets was nearing launch Sunday.
Virgin Orbit touts the flexibility of its capability to begin its missions by using airports around the globe.
Virgin Orbit attempted its first demonstration launch in May 2020.
The rocket was released and ignited but only briefly flew under power before it stopped thrusting. The lost payload was only a test satellite.
The company later said an investigation determined there was a breach in a high-pressure line carrying cryogenic liquid oxygen to the first-stage combustion chamber.
Virgin Orbit is separate from Virgin Galactic, the company founded by Branson to carry passengers on suborbital hops in which they will experience the sensations and sights of spaceflight.
Virgin Galactic expects to begin commercial operations this year in southern New Mexico.