As Europe marks a year under coronavirus mitigation measures, it is clear that the battle against the pandemic is far from over . In an interview with DW's Conflict Zone , the World Health Organization's Regional Director for Europe warned against loosening safety measures. "Now we see a resurgence and we see a fast transmissibility of the mutants," Hans Kluge told host Tim Sebastian. "The people are very, very tired of the public health restrictions and I think this is the top priority as of today," Kluge said from Copenhagen, Denmark. "We're still in the midst of the pandemic, so we are laser-focused on saving lives, including a global rollout of the vaccination." The WHO has focused on the importance of a global vaccination rollout Problems plagued China mission During the interview, Kluge rejected criticism against the organization's seemingly soft approach to China, the location from which COVID-19 is widely theorized to have originated. "The World … [Read more...] about Does the WHO trust China on COVID?
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On Wednesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz quit the center-right European People's Party bloc in the European Parliament after EPP members backed rule changes that would have made it easier to kick lawmakers out. One hundred forty-eight MEPs voted in favor of, and 28 against, new rules to allow them to suspend or dismiss an entire national party delegation The EPP group is the biggest in the parliament. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats are members. Orban pulls Fidesz Orban hit out in a letter released on Wednesday, saying Fidesz was quitting before it could be ousted from the center-right alliance. "I hereby inform you that Fidesz MEPs resign their membership in the EPP group," Orban wrote to group leader Manfred Weber, claiming the changes were "clearly a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters." Watch video 04:44 Share Hungary: Orban is rebuilding Budapest Send Facebook Twitter reddit … [Read more...] about Hungary’s Orban pulls Fidesz from center-right EU alliance
Austria will be given an additional 100,000 BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine doses as part of an EU initiative to help quell an outbreak of the South African variant of the coronavirus in the western state of Tyrol. "Our goal must be to extinguish as best we can this variant, which represents a threat for us, not only in Tyrol, but in all of Austria," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference. The Alpine region of Tyrol has one of Europe's worst outbreaks of the more contagious variant, and residents require a negative test result in order to leave the province. The efficacy of the BioNTech-Pfizer jab will be studied, as research has suggested this variant may be more resistant to vaccines. A commission of international scientists, dispatched by the EU, will accompany the vaccination campaign in the Austrian district of Schwaz to evaluate its efficacy in eliminating the highly contagious variant. "Our goal is to stymie this large cluster and move towards zero infections, as … [Read more...] about Coronavirus digest: EU sends Austria extra vaccine doses
Since health authorities have begun sequencing positive COVID-19 cases more carefully — i.e., genetically examining test results — they have also found more and more mutations. Most of those mutations are insignificant. But there are a few variants that researchers and officials are concerned about, in part because they are more contagious and because existing vaccines could be less effective at protecting against them. No more freedom of movement. Some countries are trying to stem the spread of mutations by closing borders. In addition to the variants identified in Britain , South Africa , and Brazil , there are two more variants causing concern in the United States that appear to have evolved there. Rapid spread In November, researchers first noticed a mutation in New York City called B.1.526. Since then, this variant has spread rapidly in the metropolis and across the state. By mid-February, it had been detected in 12% of all samples in New York that were gene … [Read more...] about Coronavirus mutations in New York, California spark concern
Germany on Wednesday took a step towards forcing companies to take responsibility for any labor or environmental abuses in their global supply chain. A new law (Lieferkettengesetz in German) allows for hefty fines starting at several hundred thousand euros if their contractors abroad are found to breach human rights or environmental rules. The fines go up to two percent of the company's annual revenues if they exceed 400 million euros ($484 million). The companies are held responsible for every step of the way: from the raw materials to the finished product. "This law protects workers from exploitation across sprawling supply chains and protects human rights across the world," Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday, adding "In future, it will be clear that 'Made in Germany' also means respect for human rights." The SPD-run development and labor ministries initially wanted the law to also target smaller companies, but backed down in the face of strong opposition from the … [Read more...] about Germany to implement supply chain law against exploitation