Spain to keep registry of people who refuse Covid vaccine

Police stand by the entrance of a nursing home as a box of some of the first Pfizer coronavirus vaccines arrives in Madrid. (AP)
Police stand by the entrance of a nursing home as a box of some of the first Pfizer coronavirus vaccines arrives in Madrid. (AP)
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Updated 28 December 2020

Spain to keep registry of people who refuse Covid vaccine

Spain to keep registry of people who refuse Covid vaccine
  • Health minister: “It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection”
  • Spain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries by the pandemic

MADRID: Spain will set up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated against the new coronavirus and share it with other European Union member states, although it will not be made public, Health Minister Salvador Illa said Monday.
During an interview with La Sexta television, Illa reiterated that vaccination against the virus — which as in most EU nations began in Spain over the weekend — would not be mandatory.
“What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners... of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it,” he said.
“It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection,” he added, noting that employers or members of the general public would not have access to it.
The proportion of Spaniards unwilling to take a Covid-19 vaccine has plunged to 28 percent in December from 47 percent last month, according to a poll published last month.
The survey by the state-funded CIS research institute found 40.5 percent of respondents are willing to have the jab while 16.2 percent would do so if it is shown to be “reliable.”
Spain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with the virus death toll passing the 50,000 mark on Monday, according to the health ministry.
Nearly 1.9 million people have been infected.
The government expects to have between 15 million and 20 million people out of its population of 47 million vaccinated against the virus by June.
“The way to defeat the virus is to vaccinate all of us or the more the better,” Illa said.


France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal

France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal
Updated 58 min 28 sec ago

France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal

France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal
  • Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event
  • Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism

PARIS/CANBERRA/WASHINGTON: France said on Friday it had decided to recall its ambassadors in the US and Australia for consultations after Australia struck a deal with the United States and Britain which ended a $40 billion deal to purchase French-designed submarines.
Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event.
The US State Department and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism that it had not been warned, saying he had raised the possibility in talks with the French president in June that Australia might scrap the 2016 submarine deal with a French company.
On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap the $40 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.
Le Drian described the decision as a stab in the back.
Morrison acknowledged the damage to Australia-France ties but insisted he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking on the deal.
“I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we’re faced with,” Morrison told 5aa Radio.
“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest,” he said.
Strained Australia-French ties come as the United States and its allies seek additional support in the Asia and the Pacific amid concern about the rising influence of a more assertive China.
France is about to take over the presidency of the European Union, which on Thursday released its strategy for the Indo-Pacific, pledging to seek a trade deal with Taiwan and to deploy more ships to keep sea routes open.


Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'

Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'
Updated 17 September 2021

Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'

Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'
  • "At the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport": McKenzie
  • He said he now believed it unlikely that those who died were Daesh militants or posed a direct threat to US forces

WASHINGTON: The US military said on Friday that a drone strike in Kabul last month killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children, and it apologized for what the Pentagon said was a tragic mistake.
Senior US officers had said the Aug. 29 strike that took place as foreign forces completed the last stages of their withdrawal from Afghanistan targeted a Daesh suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to Kabul airport.
"At the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport," US General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, told reporters. "Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake."
He said he now believed it unlikely that those who died were Daesh militants or posed a direct threat to US forces. The Pentagon was considering reparations for the civilians killed, McKenzie said.
Reports had emerged almost immediately that the drone strike had killed civilians including children. A spokesman for Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers, Zabihullah Mujahid, had said at the time that strike had killed seven people.


Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy

Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy
Updated 17 September 2021

Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy

Last six months have provided glimpse into catastrophic potential of climate disruption: UN deputy
  • Time for us to raise our voices further and to join forces to accelerate action: Deputy secretary-general
  • “The most affected communities are the most vulnerable and marginalised in any country”: Mohammed

LONDON: The last six months have provided a glimpse into the catastrophic potential of climate disruption, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said on Friday.

Speaking at a virtual youth dialogue on climate just weeks before UN talks on the matter, Mohammed said storms, floods, drought-induced famine, raging wildfires and heat waves brought about by climate change are causing tremendous suffering to people worldwide.

“No one is exempt. Hurricane Ida here in New York caused devastating loss of life and widespread disruption and the most affected communities are the most vulnerable and marginalised in any country,” Mohammed said. 

“So the issue of inequality is very high on everyone’s agenda. Our window of opportunity to fight the climate crisis is rapidly closing. And that’s why the secretary-general has called for three major priorities leading to COP26,” Mohammed explained. 

She said the first priority would be to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial averages.

A new report from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on the Nationally Determined Contributions of all Parties to the Paris Agreement shows that the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7 degrees of heating.

The world is on a “catastrophic pathway” toward a hotter future unless governments make more ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the UN’s secretary-general said Friday.

“This is breaking the promise made six years ago to pursue the 1.5 degree Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement. Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods,” Antonio Guterres said.

“We need a 45 percent cut in emissions by 2030 to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century. Today’s report implies an increase of 16 percent in emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 levels,” he added.

Mohammed said the second priority is to ensure that developed countries meet their financial commitments.

“That is why investing $100 billion per year in developing countries and ensuring that countries in need can access resources to protect their people against the impact of climate change is key,” she said. 

Mohammed said that the climate finance report also published on Friday by the OECD shows that this goal has not been reached either.

“We still have a gap of $20 billion. And let’s make it clear, the $100 billion is a handshake of the world’s commitment to financing these transitions so we can get to the 1.5 degree world. It is not the money that is needed for climate action. That runs into the trillions,” the deputy secretary-general warned. 

The third priority is the need for a breakthrough in adaptation and resilience, “ensuring that at least 50 percent of all climate finance is directed to it,” Mohammed said.

“While some donors honour this commitment, overall we are falling short with just 20 percent of global finance currently directed to adaptation solutions.”

Mohammed said that although countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden are leading the way, “we still need to see the multilateral development banks step up significantly.”

“It’s time for us to raise our voices even further and to join forces to accelerate action,” Mohammed told the forum. 


White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week

White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week
Updated 17 September 2021

White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week

White House says US can roll out COVID boosters next week
  • In August, President Joe Biden said the government would provide boosters in the week of Sept. 20
  • Critics have said the Biden administration's booster plan is putting pressure on scientists

WASHINGTON: The United States is ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccine booster shots next week but will do so only if health regulators approve the plan, White House officials said on Friday.
In August, President Joe Biden said the government would provide boosters in the week of Sept. 20 to address waning vaccine immunity and the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“We’ve been working through the last few weeks, intensely with our partners, our governors, state, and local health officials, federal pharmacy programs, the community health centers to ensure that we are ready for next week,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zientz said at a briefing.
While some health officials, other countries and vaccine makers say boosters are needed, many experts disagree, including two top scientists at the Food and Drug Administration who are leaving the agency later this year.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters boosters will be available once the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approve the plan. Critics have said the Biden administration’s booster plan is putting pressure on scientists or getting ahead of their evaluations.
“We have always said that this initial plan would be contingent on the FDA and the CDC’s independent evaluation. We will follow that evaluation and their recommendations. We will make sure our final plan reflects it,” he said.
Murthy was among eight top US health officials including the FDA and CDC chiefs who have said boosters are necessary.
A panel of independent expert advisers to the FDA is debating whether Americans should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and was set to vote later on Friday.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet next week to discuss boosters.


US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’
Updated 17 September 2021

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’
  • Half of Afghanistan’s 18m population require humanitarian assistance

LONDON: Members of the UN Security Council have unanimously voted to extend the international organization’s assistance mission in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s sweeping takeover of the country.
At a meeting on Friday, all five permanent members and the 10 rotating members of the Security Council, opted in favor of a resolution tabled by Norway and Estonia to allow the UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan’s mandate to run for another six months, until March 17.
The resolution also called for the formation of “an inclusive and representative government,” and emphasized the importance of “the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women” in the country moving forward.
It also reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Taliban-run Afghanistan, adding that, “the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, to plan or finance terrorist acts, or to shelter and train terrorists, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any country.”
UNAMA is the UN’s main humanitarian facilitator in Afghanistan. It coordinates with other UN bodies such as the World Food Program to deliver aid in the country and employs more than 1,000 people, the majority of them Afghan nationals.
At a press conference prior to the Security Council meeting, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “We will hold the Taliban accountable not for what they say, or what they have written in these written commitments, but for their actions. The international community is unified in that position, across the board.”
On how America would deal with any Taliban actions it disagreed with given it no longer had troops in the country, the envoy added: “Our leverage remains. We are one of the largest contributors of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and that gives us tremendous leverage.”
According to the UN, 18 million people in Afghanistan are now in need of humanitarian assistance — around half of the country’s population.
During Friday’s Security Council meeting, Thomas-Greenfield again reaffirmed her country’s commitments to human rights — particularly those of women and minorities — in Afghanistan.
She described the extension of UNAMA’s mission as an “important step” that demonstrated the Security Council’s commitment to the UN’s role in “supporting the Afghan people.”
Britain’s permanent representative to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said: “On counterterrorism, we hope the Taliban will live up to the commitments they made in Doha (the capital of Qatar).”
Part of the Taliban’s agreements with the US that facilitated the withdrawal of American forces from the country was that the Taliban would no longer allow their territory to be used as a safe haven for terrorists.
Afghanistan was invaded by the US and its NATO allies in 2001 after it was found that the Taliban government was harboring Al-Qaeda operatives, including Osama bin Laden, that had been central to the deadly attacks in America that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
Echoing the US, Woodward said: “We will calibrate our approach to the Taliban according to the actions they take.”