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Covid Beta variant: South African variant may evade vaccine efficiency warn experts

Professor John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) spoke to BBC’s Radio 4 Today and said: “The Beta variant has remained a threat throughout.

“It is probably less infectious than the Delta variant that is spreading here in the UK at the moment. Where it has an advantage is that it is able to escape the immune response to a better extent.”

He continued: “As the population here becomes more and more immune, the conditions are right then for the Beta variant to get an advantage, so I can understand the concern.

“Of the variants that are out there and are known about, that one has always been a threat to us. There is some good evidence from South Africa that it can evade the immune response generated by the AstraZeneca vaccine more efficiently.”

READ MORE: ‘Pathetic’ Macron torn apart over ‘inapplicable’ Covid vaccine plan

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This post originally posted here Daily Express :: Health
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TUES: Experts Warn Of Waning Water Supplies, Branson Flight Sparks Optimism In New Mexico, + More

  

New Mexico Lawmakers Warned About Shrinking Water SuppliesBy Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Some of New Mexico top climate and water experts warned state lawmakers Tuesday that the effects of the current drought on water supplies have been worsened by climate change, specifically an ongoing, long-term warming trend.

They told members of a legislative committee during a meeting that the drought is a harbinger of still drier conditions to come as temperatures continue to climb.

“We’re seeing in New Mexico as bad a situation with regard to water supply as anywhere in the West, if not worse,” said Rolf Schmidt-Petersen, director of the Interstate Stream Commission, noting that drought persists across the state and reservoirs remain empty despite the start of summer rains.

Schmidt-Petersen shared slides that showed conditions getting drier and drier over the last 20 years. He described the conditions this year as the most severe drought in two decades of dryness.

Retired professor David Gutzler issued a plea to the legislators, asking that they take New Mexico’s long-term water challenge seriously and provide cities, farmers and other users with guidance and ground rules for managing shrinking supplies.

Some of the discussion focused on developing a statewide system for building partnerships among local districts so water can be shared when shortages arise. Such arrangements already are in place in some parts of New Mexico, including Jemez and Zia pueblos and nearby acequias, which are traditional irrigation systems that deliver water to farmers. Officials say the agreements have been working well.

Southern New Mexico Highway Reopens After Mudslide, FloodingAssociated Press

Crews have cleared debris from flooding and a mudslide that closed a 7-mile stretch of U.S. 70 across San Augustine Pass east of Las Cruces for 24 hours, officials said Tuesday.

The flooding and slide occurred Sunday night and the highway was reopened Monday night after crews cleared all four lanes of mud, rocks and trees, the state Department of Transportation said.

Crews on Tuesday continued to remove remaining debris and to reopen on-off ramps for an entrance into White Sands Missile range, the department said.

U.S. 70 is a major travel route across southern New Mexico.

New Mexico Eyes Higher Plant Limit For Marijuana ProducersSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico regulatory agency hopes to avoid a possible shortage by raising the number of marijuana plants that licensed producers could produce.

The Cannabis Control Division of the state Regulation and Licensing Department last week raised the previously planned per-grower limit of 4,500 plants to 8,000, and producers also would be able to apply for incremental increases of 500 with a total cap of 10,000, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The change responds to concerns that the 4,500-plant limit would lead to a supply shortage, especially among patients in the state’s medical marijuana program.

New Mexico’s legalization of possession and growth of small amounts of recreational marijuana took effect June 29, and the legal market for recreational marijuana is expected to launch in early 2022.

The department has scheduled an Aug. 6 hearing on the program’s revised draft rules.

The department has until Sept. 1 to finalize the rules for producers. Draft rules for manufacturing, testing and selling cannabis products have yet to be released.

Navajo Nation Reports 6 New COVID-19 Cases, But No DeathsAssociated Press, Santa Fe New Mexican

The Navajo Nation on Tuesday reported six new COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths.

The figures released by the Navajo Department of Health brought the total number of cases on the vast reservation to 31,107 since the pandemic began. The death toll remains at 1,361.

The Navajo Nation recently relaxed restrictions to allow visitors to travel on the reservation and visit popular attractions like Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley.

The reservation is the country’s largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

While cases are down, Navajo leaders are urging residents to continue wearing masks and get vaccinated.

“As of today, we have 11 confirmed cases of the Delta variant on the Navajo Nation along with several other variants,” tribal President Jonathan Nez said in a statement Tuesday. “Our contact tracers are doing their best to mitigate and isolate those cases to prevent any further spread.”

New Mexico reported 116 new cases today and one additional death, a woman in her 60s in Otero County. That brings the total number of deaths in the state related to COVID-19 to 4,359 since the pandemic began.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported hospitalizations continue to inch upward with 83 people in New Mexico hospitals. Sixty-three percent of eligible residents have been fully vaccinated and nearly 72% have at least one shot.

US Says Order Coming This Week On Border Asylum RestrictionsBy Jake Bleiberg and Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue an order this week about how migrant children are treated under a public health order that has prevented people from seeking asylum at the nation’s borders, a Justice Department attorney said Tuesday.

The comment by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Stoltz at a court hearing in Fort Worth, Texas, comes as the Biden administration faces pressure from pro-immigration allies to lift the last major Trump-era restrictions on asylum at the border.

Stoltz told a federal judge that the CDC will release “a new order on the subject of the children” by the end of the week. It will revise a Biden administration policy announced in February that exempts children crossing alone from the ban on asylum.

Stoltz did not offer additional details on the changes during a hearing on a lawsuit that Texas brought to compel enforcement of the public health order that former President Donald Trump’s administration used to quickly expel people from the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government attorney said the CDC order this week will largely render Texas’ arguments moot. He did not elaborate, and CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency had “nothing more to add right now.”

The CDC, in a three-paragraph order signed by its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, on Feb. 11, exempted unaccompanied children from being expelled to Mexico until “a forthcoming public health reassessment,” which has yet to be published. Texas argues in its lawsuit that the administration’s justification was insufficient.

Higher COVID-19 vaccination rates have brought increasing pressure on the Biden administration to lift the public health order that was always intended as a temporary measure during the pandemic. While the administration has exempted unaccompanied children, some families and nearly all adults traveling alone are expelled from the United States — often to Mexico within two hours — without a chance to seek asylum.

The Associated Press reported last year that then-Vice President Mike Pence directed the CDC to use emergency powers to effectively seal America’s borders, overruling agency scientists who said there was no evidence the action would slow COVID-19.

Lifting the ban could encourage more people to come to the border to seek asylum at a time when the U.S. is under mounting strain. The U.N. refugee agency reported last month that the U.S. was once again the top destination for asylum-seekers in 2020, with about 250,000 new claims filed, more than twice as high as second-place Germany.

Texas, which has the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings, is seeking a court order forcing the federal government to cease what state Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz called “de facto non-enforcement” of the asylum ban. Reitz argued that the Biden administration’s posture “threatens the health and safety of all Texans.”

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman, a Trump appointee, questioned Stoltz about the timing of the new order and asked that the government inform him as soon as it is issued. Pittman did not rule on the request for an injunction but said he will put out a decision “as quickly as I can.”

Richard Branson’s Flight Sparks New Optimism In New Mexico – By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

With Virgin Galactic making its highest profile test flight to date with boss Richard Branson aboard, it’s only a matter of time before paying customers get their chance and New Mexico realizes a dream that has been decades in the making. 

Former Gov. Bill Richardson is among those who have been watching the progress of the space tourism company, ever since he and his team recruited the British billionaire to New Mexico. The two shook hands on a promise — Branson would build the world’s first commercial spaceline for tourists, and New Mexico would build the spaceport. 

To naysayers who thought it was a boondoggle and a waste of taxpayer money, Richardson said: “You were dead wrong. You have to have a vision for the future, and it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be great.”

The two-term governor was among those who were elated to see Branson and his crewmates rocket to the edge of space on Sunday. About 500 guests — including celebrities, Virgin Galactic customers, politicians and a group of students — watched from just outside the terminal at Spaceport America, while others across New Mexico held watch parties and people around the world tuned in to a livestream.

Rick Homans, the state economic development secretary who led early negotiations with Virgin Galactic, was among those in attendance. He acknowledged it has been a long and difficult road that started with many unknowns for both the state and the space tourism company.

Was it worth it? Undoubtedly, he said.

“Look around here,” he said Sunday. “The attention of the entire globe is on Spaceport America now and on the industry that could grow here. And I think where we are right now is at the very beginning of something so much bigger, and so that investment is going to pay off in the decades to come.”

Residents of Truth or Consequences, an eclectic desert community about 30 miles away, are excited to be on the map again. The city first gained notary in 1950 when it agreed to change its name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences as part of a publicity stunt put on by a radio show of the same name.

Still, many residents are tempering their optimism as the space tourism venture has taken nearly two decades to get off the ground and it’s unclear how often Virgin Galactic will be flying paying customers to the edge of space and whether any spending related to those brief up-and-down trips will trickle down to shopkeepers and other businesses in town. 

They also questioned how many space fans and other spectators would be drawn to the area since security is high at the spaceport and guided tours are considered pricy by some.

Others have mixed feelings about having paid extra taxes to help bankroll the spaceport, saying their community is still in dire need of infrastructure improvements, namely a better drinking water system. There’s also a lack of housing for residents, much less adequate accommodations for tourists. 

“Our tax dollars are paying for the roads to go out there and everything so it would be nice if we could actually benefit from that,” said Patty Lane, who helps run a gift shop in the town of roughly 5,900 people. “We’re a small community. We need that.”

Lane said it’s clear that developing a viable commercial spaceline has become a competition, and she’s hopeful that will drive more innovation and more aerospace companies to consider moving to the state. Only then, with more private investment, can the industry really take off in New Mexico, she said.

Top state officials are looking for the same thing. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said the next step will be a push to get Virgin Galactic to relocate its manufacturing operations to New Mexico as more rocket planes will be needed for the future.

While Sunday’s flight helped to promote Virgin Galactic, state officials said it also gave millions of people around the world a look at New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham claimed there are potentially billions of dollars at stake as the space industry grows — from science and technology investments to tourism spending.

“We absolutely want more companies identifying New Mexico as their corporate headquarters,” she said, adding that the space industry could help to stabilize the state’s economy. 

That’s a battle many governors have faced in states where the oil and gas industry is a key economic driver and makes up a significant source of revenue for education and other government programs. Richardson said one of his objectives during his term was to create another industry, and that’s why he went after Branson and Virgin Galactic.

LaRene Miller was busy Monday getting visitors to sign the guest book at the T or C visitor center, where a wing of the building is dedicated to Spaceport America. About half of the 15 visitors over the last day included those who were passing through town to see the spaceport or catch a glimpse of Branson’s flight.

One group bought souvenirs. Another woman asked about the drive to the site.

They all had either watched the launch via the livestream or stepped outside to see the contrails.

Jeffre Dukatt, who runs a T-shirt shop in Truth or Consequences, is among the many residents who have been waiting years for the promise of the spaceport. 

“I got to see it in real life,” he said, describing his view from town of the ascending rocket plane. “It was like the moon walk to me.”

With two test flights remaining, Dukatt and others are hopeful they won’t have to wait as long for the next step.

New Mexico Sees 301 New COVID Cases Over The Weekend KUNM News

New Mexico health officials Monday reported 301 additional COVID-19 cases since Saturday, and four additional deaths. 

The three-day total included just under 100 cases in Bernalillo County, far and away the highest in the state, with the next highest case count in neighboring Sandoval County, which saw 33.  

State officials say 77 people are now hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state. That’s up from 62 hospitalizations reported last Monday.

Navajo Nation Reports 4 New COVID-19 Cases, But No Deaths – Associated Press

The Navajo Nation reported four new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, but no additional deaths.

The figures released by the Navajo Department of Health bring the total number of cases on the reservation to 31,100 since the pandemic began. The death toll remains at 1,361.

Tribal health officials on Sunday reported two new COVID-19 cases and three deaths.

The Navajo Nation recently relaxed restrictions to allow visitors to travel on the reservation and visit popular attractions like Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley. 

The reservation is the country’s largest at 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

While cases are down, Navajo leaders are urging residents to continue wearing masks and get vaccinated.

“The Delta variant continues to spread across the country, mainly among people who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19,” said tribal President Jonathan Nez. “Please continue to wear a mask in public and continue to pray for our people.”

US Drilling Approvals Increase Despite Biden Climate PledgeBy Matthew Brown, Associated Press

Approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. public lands are on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was president, underscoring President Joe Biden’s reluctance to more forcefully curb petroleum production in the face of industry and Republican resistance.

The Interior Department approved about 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands in the first six months of the year, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. That includes more than 2,100 drilling approvals since Biden took office January 20.

New Mexico and Wyoming had the largest number of approvals. Montana, Colorado and Utah had hundreds each.

Biden campaigned last year on pledges to end new drilling on federal lands  to rein in climate-changing emissions. His pick to oversee those lands, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, adamantly opposed drilling on federal lands while in Congress and co-sponsored the liberal Green New Deal.

But the steps taken by the administration to date on fossil fuels are more modest, including a temporary suspension on new oil and gas leases on federal lands that a judge blocked last month, blocked petroleum sales in  the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and cancellation of the Keystone XL oil pipeline  from Canada.

Because vast fossil fuel reserves already are under lease, those actions did nothing to slow drilling on public lands and waters that account for about a quarter of U.S. oil production.

Further complicating Biden’s climate agenda is a recent rise in gasoline prices to $ 3 a gallon or more in many parts of the country. Any attempt to limit petroleum production could push gasoline prices even higher and risk souring economic recovery from the pandemic.

“He’s walking the tightrope,” said energy industry analyst Parker Fawcett with S&P Global Platts, noting that Keystone and ANWR came without huge political costs because they were aimed at future projects.

“Those easy wins don’t necessarily have huge impacts on the market today,” Fawcett said. “He is definitely backing off taking drastic action that would rock the market. … What you’re going to see is U.S. oil production is going to continue to rebound.”

Haaland has sought to tamp down Republican concern over potential constraints on the industry. She said during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing last month that there was no “plan right now for a permanent ban.”

“Gas and oil production will continue well into the future and we believe that is the reality of our economy and the world we’re living in,” Haaland told Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn.

Interior officials declined further comment on permits issued under Biden.

Under former President Donald Trump, a staunch industry supporter, the Interior Department reduced the time it takes to review drilling applications from a year or more in some cases, to just a few months.

Companies rushed to  lock in drilling rights before the new administration. And in December, Trump’s last full month in office, agency officials approved more than 800 permits — far more than any prior month during his presidency.

The pace dropped when Biden first took office, under a temporary order that elevated permit reviews to senior administration officials. Approvals have since rebounded to a level that exceeds monthly numbers seen through most of Trump’s presidency.

The data obtained by AP from a government database is subject to change because of delays in transmitting data from Interior field offices to headquarters.

If the recent trends continue, the Interior Department could issue close to 6,000 permits by the end of the year. The last time so many were issued was fiscal year 2008, amid an oil boom driven by crude prices that reached an all-time high of $ 140 per barrel that June.

Decisions on about 4,700 drilling applications remained pending as of June 1, which means approvals are likely to continue at a heavy pace as officials work through a backlog left over from the Trump administration, said Fawcett, the industry analyst.

Environmentalists who share the administration’s goals on climate have expressed growing frustration as prospects for a ban on drilling fade. They contend the administration could take executive action that would stop further permits but has caved to Republican pressure.

“Every indication is they have no plans of actually fulfilling their campaign promise,” said Mitch Jones, policy director for the environmental group Food & Water Watch. “The result of that will be continued and increasing development of fossil fuels on public lands, which means more climate change.”

Economists and other experts have been skeptical about how much impact a permit ban would have. Companies simply could shift onto private and state lands and keep drilling, said University of Chicago deputy dean Ryan Kellogg.

The administration’s defenders say it’s being pragmatic in the face of a Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans and questions over whether the government could legally stop drilling on leases already sold to companies.

That’s meant forgoing a drilling ban in hopes of getting bipartisan support for a huge infrastructure package that includes clean energy incentives and other measures to address global warming.

“It’s the long game. … You’ve got to appease some of those oil and gas state senators,” said Jim Lyons, who was deputy assistant Interior secretary under Barack Obama and is now an environmental consultant. “It means jobs back home for thousands of workers. You can’t just pull the plug overnight.”

Las Cruces Area In Clean-Up Mode Day After Powerful StormsAssociated Press

Residents in Las Cruces were picking up the pieces Monday, a day after a powerful storm left a trail of toppled trees, washed out roads and downed power lines.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports crews around the city are hauling away massive trees and other debris.

The Sunday storm originated in the Roswell and Clovis areas but then picked up steam over the Sacramento Mountains, according to the National Weather Service. The result was a massive storm system that brought powerful winds and rain. It walloped Las Cruces sometime after 7 p.m. before moving on to Texas.

Winds around southern New Mexico, from Las Cruces to Santa Teresa, were as high as 80-90 miles per hour.

The weather has also led the New Mexico Department of Transportation to shut down US 70 at San Augustin Pass. The stretch from NASA Road to the entrance of White Sands Missile Range is expected to stay closed most of the day.

It wasn’t just rain and wind wreaking havoc in places. A dust storm also hit east of Lordsburg Sunday night, causing a pile-up on I-10. Hail was reported south of Cloudcroft, Alamogordo and in west El Paso.

 

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This post originally posted here usnews

Biden to warn US companies of risks of operating in Hong Kong

The Biden administration will this week warn US companies of the increasing risks of operating in Hong Kong as China asserts greater control over the financial hub.

According to three people familiar with the message, those threats include the Chinese government’s ability to gain access to data that foreign companies store in Hong Kong and a new law that allows Beijing to impose sanctions against anyone that enables foreign penalties to be implemented against Chinese groups and officials.

President Joe Biden is planning to issue the warning and impose more sanctions this week in response to Beijing’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and the genocide the US has accused Beijing of committing against Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

On Tuesday, the US will update a warning that the Trump administration issued on Xinjiang last year, according to five people familiar with the decision. The business advisory will stress the legal risks that US companies face unless they ensure that their supply chains are not implicated in forced labour in Xinjiang.

The decision was driven partly by the view that companies were not taking the issue seriously enough.

“The point of the advisory is to stress [that] if you do not exit these supply chains you run a risk of violating US law,” said an official who did not want to be named. “We want to make clear to the business community . . . that they need to be aware of reputational, economic and legal risk of their involvement with entities involved in human rights abuses.”

While Biden is intensifying the Trump administration’s focus on Xinjiang, the move will mark the first time a US administration has issued a business advisory in relation to Hong Kong.

A person familiar with the matter said there had been dissent within the administration, with some officials concerned that the warning would discourage US companies from operating in a critical financial centre. But more hawkish officials argued successfully that companies needed to grasp the nature of the risk of doing so.

In a separate event, Biden may impose more sanctions against Chinese officials in Hong Kong, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The warning will mention recent events such as the forced closure of Apple Daily, the pro-democracy tabloid owned by Jimmy Lai.

Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, criticised the planned US moves as “typical double standards and political manipulation”.

“Hong Kong’s Basic Law clearly protects foreign investors’ rights and interests,” he told a press conference on Tuesday, referring to the territory’s mini-constitution. He added that any attempt by Washington to “use Xinjiang as a leverage” was “doomed to fail”.

Last week, the US commerce department added 14 Chinese companies to its export blacklist, accusing the companies of involvement in human rights abuses and surveillance in Xinjiang. Beijing denounced the move as an “unreasonable suppression” and vowed to respond with “necessary measures”.

The White House is also considering a policy that would allow Hong Kong citizens in the US to remain after their visas expire if they face potential political persecution in Hong Kong. But that policy is being debated and is not expected to be part of the package of actions to be announced this week.

The warning will reverberate in the sizeable US business community in Hong Kong. The American Chamber of Commerce in the city has more than 1,200 members and 282 US companies based their regional headquarters there in 2020.

US companies have been unnerved about the passage of a national security law a year ago, partly because it would allow Beijing to access data stored on servers in Hong Kong. More recently, companies have become alarmed by the possibility that China could apply the counter-sanctions law, which allows for the seizure of assets, in Hong Kong.

While a decision on whether to provide asylum to Hong Kong citizens in the US had not been finalised, any such development would anger Beijing, which is hostile to foreign governments such as the UK and Canada offering shelter to those escaping political persecution.

Beijing has not prevented Hong Kong residents from taking up the British National (Overseas) visa programme, but it has made it harder for those who do so to redeem their retirement savings.

The White House and state department declined to comment on the imminent actions on Hong Kong.

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo and Primrose Riordan on Twitter

FDA to Warn J&J Vaccine Can Increase Guillain-Barré Risk: Media

Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s  Coronavirus Resource Center.

People receiving the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could be at increased risk for developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce as early as tomorrow, according to multiple media reports.

While the FDA is projected to add the new warning to the labeling for the vaccine, the agency still calculates the benefit of vaccination with the J&J product continues to outweigh the risk. Benefits include protection against the Delta variant and serious COVID-19 outcomes.

More than 100 cases of Guillain-Barré reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a federal program for reporting vaccine issues, spurred the FDA to act.

Men and people older than 50 appear to be at highest risk, according to reports of a July 12 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement. The CDC also revealed that most cases occur about 2 weeks following immunization.

Guillain-Barré syndrome often causes muscle weakness and sometimes temporary paralysis. Most people who develop the rare syndrome recover.

Such was not the case for a 57-year-old man, The New York Times reported Monday. He had a history of both a heart attack and stroke in the previous 4 years and died in April after vaccination with the J&J vaccine and developing Guillain-Barré.

The new warning comes in the wake of a number of setbacks for the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. On April 13, the FDA and CDC both recommended a 10-day pause on administration of the J&J vaccine after reports of rare blood clot events emerged. In mid-June the FDA requested that Johnson and Johnson discard millions of vaccine doses produced at a manufacturing facility in Baltimore.

The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are not affected by the new FDA warning.

The Biden administration is expected to make a formal announcement of the new warning for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as early as Tuesday, the Times reports.

Damian McNamara is a staff journalist based in Miami. He covers a wide range of medical specialties, including infectious diseases, gastroenterology, and critical care. Follow Damian on Twitter:  @MedReporter.

For more news, follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn

New Zealand panic as children fall ill in high numbers – experts warn of ‘immunity debt’

Patrick Vallance warns coronavirus deaths will still rise

Hospitals across the country have been flooded with babies with a potentially-deadly respiratory virus. Wellington has recorded 46 children hospitalised with respiratory illnesses including respiratory syncytial virus – also known as RSV.

RSV is a common respiratory illness and in adults only produces very mild symptoms but for young children, it can make them extremely ill or even be fatal.

Doctors have warned New Zealand’s outbreak is likely due to children not developing immunity to other viruses suppressed by Covid lockdowns.

Epidemiologist and public health professor Michael Baker said: “What we’re seeing now is we’ve accumulated a whole lot of susceptible children that have missed out on exposure – so now they’re seeing it for the first time.”

Lockdowns in New Zealand last winter led to a 99.9 percent reduction in flu cases and a 98 percent reduction in RSV.

New Zealand panic as children hospitalised as lockdowns spark 'immunity debt' crisis

New Zealand panic as children hospitalised as lockdowns spark ‘immunity debt’ crisis (Image: WIKICC•GETTY)

New Zealand seeing rise of children hospitalised

New Zealand seeing rise of children hospitalised (Image: Getty)

But over the past five weeks, New Zealand has reported nearly 1,000 RSV cases, according to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.

Middlemore hospital in Auckland has converted a playroom into a clinical space with 11 special care baby cots.

Heath boards across Auckland and Canterbury have also postponed surgeries to divert resources into children’s wards.

According to the Guardian, some hospitals have asked children under 12 not to visit in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

READ MORE: Sturgeon lashes out at Boris ‘throwing caution to the wind’ with plans

New Zealand managed to curb Covid-19

New Zealand managed to curb Covid-19 (Image: Getty)

John Tait, chief medical officer for the Wellington area’s district health boards, said the region had 46 children hospitalised.

He confirmed two were in intensive care and the numbers were “continually changing as patients are discharged and others admitted.”

Professor Baker added: “If you get a big peak it can overwhelm your health system, or put real pressure on it, which we’re seeing with RSV.”

He added how people experience near-universal exposure to RSV as children and said most are exposed in their first year of life.

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Coronavirus cases across the world

Coronavirus cases across the world (Image: Express)

Professor Baker continued: “If you remove that exposure for a period then you will have a bigger cohort of unexposed children, and therefore – as you can see we have happening at the moment – it can sustain a much bigger outbreak when they are eventually exposed to the virus.”

New Zealand’s director-general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said he was “certainly concerned about the sharp surge in RSV cases”.

He said: “We had very little RSV last year.

“There’s some speculation that [the current outbreak] may be partly exacerbated by the fact we didn’t have any last year and so there is a bigger pool of children who are susceptible to it.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden (Image: Getty)

Back in May, a collective of French doctors wrote a study of immunity debt and said: “This positive collateral effect in the short term is welcome, as it prevents additional overload of the healthcare system.

“The lack of immune stimulation… induced an ‘immunity debt’ which could have negative consequences when the pandemic is under control and [public health intervientions] are lifted.

“The longer these periods of ‘viral or bacterial low-exposure’ are, the greater the likelihood of future epidemics.”

Australia has also experienced a surge, with hospitals in Victoria being overcrowded by unusually high rates of RSV.

New Zealand has recorded only 26 Covid-related deaths

New Zealand has recorded only 26 Covid-related deaths (Image: Getty)

New Zealand has managed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

To date, there have been 2,408 confirmed cases of the virus with just 26 deaths.

As of 25 June 2021, a total of 1,090,651 vaccine doses have been administered.

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Biden’s new Cold War with China will result in climate collapse, progressives warn

As a new Cold War takes shape between the U.S. and China, progressives fear the result will be a dramatically warming planet.

Over 40 progressive groups sent a letter to President Joe Biden and lawmakers on Wednesday urging them to prioritize cooperation with China on climate change and curb its confrontational approach over issues like Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong and forced detention of Uyghur Muslims.

It’s the latest salvo in the months-long drama between progressive Democrats who say cooperation on climate change should take precedence over competition with China, and moderates who think the administration can do both things at once. As the Biden administration solidifies its China strategy, and as anti-China legislation moves through Congress, this intra-Democratic tussle could define the U.S.-China relationship for years to come.

The progressive organizations, including the Sunrise Movement and the Union of Concerned Scientists, “call on the Biden administration and all members of Congress to eschew the dominant antagonistic approach to U.S.-China relations and instead prioritize multilateralism, diplomacy, and cooperation with China to address the existential threat that is the climate crisis,” their letter reads. “Nothing less than the future of our planet depends on ending the new Cold War between the United States and China.”

“To combat the climate crisis and build a global economy that works for everyday working people — in the U.S. and China alike — we must shift from competition to cooperation,” the groups continued.

Challenging China’s regional human rights abuses and aggressions is central to Biden’s foreign policy, while the struggle between American-style democracy and Chinese-style authoritarianism serves as his presidency’s animating idea. “It is clear, absolutely clear … that this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies,” Biden told reporters in April.

The standoff has led to frosty relations between the world’s most powerful countries with no signs of thawing any time soon.

Progressives say Biden must quickly reverse the trend or risk failing on another of his priorities: ending climate change. “His entire climate change agenda could be at risk if his anti-China campaign continues and grows,” said Erik Sperling, the executive director of Just Foreign Policy, one of the groups that signed on to the letter.

It’s not the first time progressives railed against the administration’s China approach. In May, prominent left-leaning lawmakers and 60 activist groups called on the president not to turn China into the 21st century’s Soviet Union. “We need to distinguish between justified criticisms of the Chinese government’s human rights record and a Cold War mentality that uses China as a scapegoat for our own domestic problems and demonizes Chinese Americans,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said at the time.

And last week, nearly 30 organizations pushed Speaker Nancy Pelosi to back a less confrontational version of anti-China legislation working its way through Congress.

The pressure isn’t letting up. “We need a strategic approach to China that prioritizes our national security and economic competitiveness while creating spaces for cooperation on climate change and other global issues. I would have an approach of competitive cooperation. It’s early to say on how the administration approach will develop,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a prominent Congressional progressive.

That puts Khanna and others at odds with moderate Democrats, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who argue the Chinese government’s actions must face stiff resistance from the United States. “There should be little doubt that China and the Communist Party under Xi Jinping’s brand of hyper-nationalism is unlike any challenge America has ever faced,” he said in April.

But this newest letter is another progressive shot across the bow, and they want to let the president know his China approach is dooming the world. “It’s a colossal blunder,” said Basav Sen, the climate justice policy director at the Institute for Policy Studies.

The Biden administration has long claimed it could silo its climate cooperation and geopolitical competition with China. “Obviously we have serious differences with China,” John Kerry, the president’s special envoy for climate change, told reporters in January. “Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That’s not going to happen.” As evidence, they point to China’s participation during the US-led climate summit in April where Beijing vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce coal consumption.

Progressives aren’t convinced, as they already see the broader U.S.-China spat bleeding into the climate-change effort. In June, for example, the US banned the import of solar panel material from a Chinese company over forced labor allegations.

“Cooperation with China on climate doesn’t absolve China or the U.S.on human rights,” said Karen Orenstein, director of the climate and energy program at Friends of the Earth U.S. But those issues shouldn’t impact how strongly Washington tackles the global climate change problem in tandem with Beijing, she said. “The climate emergency requires cooperation.”

Author: Alexander Ward
Read more here >>> Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

Lebanon medicine importers warn imported drugs running out

Lebanese grappling with a raft of shortages, from petrol to medication, as caretaker gov’t discusses lifting subsidies.

Lebanon’s medicine importers said they had run out of hundreds of essential drugs and warned of further shortages if the cash-strapped central bank did not unblock funds.

Lebanese are grappling with a raft of shortages, from petrol to medication, as the caretaker government discusses lifting subsidies it can no longer afford amid what the World Bank says is one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s.

The local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, but the central bank had been providing importers with dollars at the much more favourable official rate to cover a large part of the cost of imported drugs.

Medicine “imports have almost completely ground to a halt over the past month”, the association of pharmaceuticals importers said in a statement on Sunday.

“Importing companies’ stocks of hundreds of medicines to treat chronic and incurable diseases have run out,” it warned. “And hundreds more will run out through July if we cannot resume imports as soon as possible.”

The syndicate said the central bank has not released the promised dollars to pay suppliers abroad, who are owed more than $ 600m in accumulated dues since December, and importers cannot obtain new lines of credit.

Syndicate head Karim Gebara told AFP news agency some drugs to treat cardiac diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis were already out of stock.

If nothing is done “the situation will be catastrophic by the end of July”, depriving “hundreds of thousands of patients” of their medication, he warned.

On Thursday, President Michel Aoun said he, outgoing ministers and the central bank chief had agreed to “continue subsidising medication and medical supplies” selected by the health ministry according to priority.

The government resigned after a deadly port explosion on August 4 last year, but a deeply divided political class has failed since to agree on a new cabinet to lift the nation out of crisis.

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Woke row: Council officers warn replacing ‘offensive’ street names may cost taxpayers

A review was launched across the country after the Black Lives Matter protests, looking at whether street names had links to slavery and colonialism. But changing the names would force residents to alter their address information for their bills, banking and insurance cover.

According to the Telegraph, council officers in Maidenhead have said the accumulated charges for the changes could come to “several hundred pounds per household and potentially considerably more”.

The council officers were examining the expense of renaming “Blackamoor Lane”.

They warned that the local authority, funded by the taxpayer, would likely have to compensate the costs placed on residents for changing street names.

The officers at Windsor and Maidenhead council added how the residents and businesses would face a process similar to “moving to a new house or business premises”.

READ MORE: ‘Race and the cosmos’ University starts woke space course

Cecil Rhodes House is home to 72 households and is being changed to Park View House.

The block was identified as problematic because Cecil Rhodes was a central figure in the growth of the British Empire.

Camden Council promised to foot the bill of any costs placed on residents who need to “update their address with any organisations or on documents”.

The Council said: “The block was named in 1957 by St Pancras Borough Council, which was the local authority at the time. The original plan was to call it Grangefield and signs were made.

“However the Council made a last minute decision to call the block Cecil Rhodes House, despite objections by some councillors.”

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: UK Feed

We tried to warn you! EU tightens stranglehold as Dutch MPs BLOCK veto powers – Nexit fury

The proposal to “not exclude EU Treaty amendments in advance”, was passed by a majority of Dutch MPs on Wednesday. Announcing the parliamentary victory, MP Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma, who proposed the motion, tweeted: “Proposal accepted!

“The Netherlands will no longer stand in the way of fundamental reforms in Europe.

“Whether it concerns climate, migration, security or human rights: this is necessary.

“This open and realistic attitude suits the Netherlands.”

But the news sparked the outraged reaction of Nexit Denktank campaigners who pointed out Mr Sjoerdsma’s confusion between Europe and the EU.

They wrote: “Can someone first explain to these people the difference between the EU and Europe?

“Only 40 percent of the continent of Europe is in the EU and the four largest cities in Europe are NOT in the EU.

“They talk as if they represent the whole continent of Europe.”

Reacting to the legislation, some Dutch citizens also lashed out against Mr Sjoerdsma.

One person said: “Sad.

“We are handing over our own decision-making powers to a disorganised bunch of money-lenders and we will soon have nothing to say in our own country.”

READ MORE: Quiet, Leo! Varadkar shamed for arrogant UK outburst

But the Nexit campaigners hit back: “That argument has long since become obsolete.

“It turns out that the UK can do very well without it.

“What the Netherlands needs is a good trade agreement, not a political union in which we have to take countries like Cyprus and Romania into account.”

The Dutch Parliament also agreed to support the start of EU membership talks with Albania and thus the organisation of the first intergovernmental conference as soon as EU leaders decide.

The decision will be formally voted through the Dutch parliament today.

It followed Mark Rutte’s government’s positive report on Albania’s progress with EU accession reform and fulfilment of conditions set in March 2020 by the Council of the European Union.

The news was greeted by Prime Minister Edi Rama who said it confirmed his assessment that the Dutch had so far refused Albania on pure political grounds, due to the March 2021 general elections.

The start of talks requires the unanimous decision of all 27 EU member states. The Netherlands, whose government and parliament must both agree on EU enlargement issues, has so far blocked this phase of Albania’s progress on grounds of insufficient achievements.

The Dutch parliament has agreed with the government and European Commission assessment that Albania has met the necessary conditions for talks to start after the EU leaders summit on 24-25 June.

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

Memorial Day weekend water safety: Officials warn of boat crashes, injuries and even drownings

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Leading into Memorial Day — as always — lakes and rivers are expected to be busier. 

“Enjoying the weather, a little wake-surf, a little partying, mingling, having a good time,” one lake-goer said.

Out in Devil’s Cove on Lake Travis, dozens flooded in and out Sunday as they took advantage of the holiday weekend.

With more people on the water, those who are familiar with popular areas for boating and tubing are warning safety should always be a priority.

“You get a lot of boat traffic that’s becoming unsafe — people cutting each other off, personal water crafts getting too close to boaters,” Owner of Lake Travis Scuba, Robert Weiss said.

Weiss explained that as the lake changes, some aren’t aware of deep or more shallow areas. He said this can lead to boat-scathed surfaces, and creates a risk for drowning if people aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.

Weiss urges if you’re out drinking, you should pace yourself as drownings become a concern.

“They’re not thinking about some of the possible dangers of being out on a lake,” Weiss said.

Taking a splash into some weekend fun — crowds of thousands are also showing up to the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, officials said. They’re pleading with everyone to plan ahead before taking a float. 

“This is not a swimming pool, or a ride, or attraction,” River Operations Manager for the City of New Braunfels, Amy Niles said. “If you’re not a strong swimmer, we encourage you to find some other form of water recreation. We would like all guests to use a life jacket.”

You will catch police out patrolling Lake Travis, stopping boaters when necessary.

Something else to be mindful of, is making sure you leave your valuables behind when going out on the water. 

Weiss said he and his team have found thousands of dollars worth of expensive items this Memorial Day Weekend, including a $ 30,000 watch.

Author: Jala Washington
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin