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Ukraine sees ‘understanding’ with Russia on peace moves

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Ukraine sees ‘understanding’ with Russia on peace moves
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Ukraine said on Monday it had reached a “mutual understanding” with Moscow on parts of a plan proposed by President Petro Poroshenko for ending violence in the east of the country.

Kiev gave no details and Russia did not comment directly but two days of talks, following a brief encounter in France last week that broke the ice between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, have given momentum to peace moves.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement released in Berlin that there was “some faint light at the end of the tunnel” in the Ukraine conflict for the first time in months.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement in Kiev that Russian and Ukrainian representatives had met three times in the past two days to discuss Poroshenko’s plan to end an insurrection by pro-Russian separatists in the east.

“As a result of the work, the sides reached a mutual understanding on key stages of the implementation of the plan and on a list of priorities which will contribute to a de-escalation of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine,” it said.

The talks are being mediated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Vienna-based security and human rights watchdog, but almost no details of Poroshenko’s plan or the talks have been made public.

It was not even clear who took part in Monday’s meetings, although the Ukrainian leader was present at Sunday’s talks and said that the violence must end this week.

“Each day when people die, when Ukraine pays such a high price, is inadmissible for me,” his office quoted him as saying.

Poroshenko, who was sworn in on Saturday, has called for daily meetings of the “contact group” and the Foreign Ministry said the talks would continue.

EBB IN FIGHTING

Scores of people have been killed since April in east Ukraine, including separatists and government forces, and Russian speakers there are suspicious of Poroshenko and the new, pro-Western government in Kiev.

But fighting has ebbed in the past few days, despite renewed shelling of rebels in the city of Slaviansk, and Russia and Ukraine signalled last week they hoped to resolve a dispute over the price Kiev pays for Russian gas and its gas debts.

Failure to secure a deal, though, would fuel tension again because Moscow has threatened to turn off the taps on Tuesday if there was no agreement at the latest meeting in Brussels.

As the EU gets about a third of its gas imports from Russia, almost half of it via Ukraine, its member states could also suffer from supply disruptions.

In Finland, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the government in Ukraine and the EU had to work more constructively to end the crisis in Ukraine, but also expressed some hope.

“I believe that the newly-chosen Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s contacts (with Western leaders) can lead to violence being stopped and internal dialogue beginning,” he told a news conference with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja.

Putin and Poroshenko had 15 minutes of talks during a World War Two anniversary event in France last week, their first meeting since the crisis flared in February after the overthrow of Ukraine’s Moscow-leaning president, Viktor Yanukovich.

Yanukovich fled to Russia, which annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine a month later, deepening Moscow’s worst standoff with the West since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Poroshenko has set course towards Europe since being elected president on May 25, and stepped up a military operation to take back buildings seized by the separatists in towns and cities in mainly Russian-speaking east Ukraine.

Germany’s Steinmeier, who will meet Lavrov and the Polish foreign minister in St Petersburg on Tuesday, said he would “sound out how the positive momentum of recent days can be used to make the process of de-escalation irreversible”.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs

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Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs | Thaiger
Stock photo of Pfizer vaccine via Flickr

The CEO for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines says it is likely that people will need a 3rd dose of the vaccine and to receive it annually. Albert Bourla, told CNBC, that the booster, or 3rd dose, will be needed less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a 3rd dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.”

Bourla’s comment echoes that of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO when he stated in February, that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots. Both statements reflect the fact that since the vaccine is new, and testing periods are shorter than most vaccines in the past, researchers are still unclear about how long the vaccine will protect against the virus.

Pfizer says that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against the coronavirus and more than 95% effective against severe diseases up to 6 months after the 2nd dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at 6 months.

Just yesterday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer, David Kessler, noted that new Covid variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment. We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

Late last month, the National Institute of Health started testing a new Covid vaccine from Moderna in addition to the one it already has, designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa. The variant is similar to that of the UK one that has recently made landfall in Thailand.

Recent findings, by The Lancet, however, have stated that the UK variant, known as B117, has a higher reproductive rate than other strains, and it’s more transmissible. However, it refuted earlier reports that the strain is more severe. Meanwhile, Thailand’s health minister is confirming his commitment to making AstraZeneca the nation’s chosen vaccine.

SOURCE: CNBC

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Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

Maya Taylor

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Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Denmark has announced that it is abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first European country to do so, amid concerns about very rare but serious blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine has run into problems in several countries, with its use either temporarily suspended or restricted to older age groups.

When concerns first arose over the vaccine’s rare side-effects, Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend its use. In Thailand, use of the vaccine was suspended last month, before officials judged it safe to proceed, with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul going on to confirm it would become the Kingdom’s primary Covid-19 vaccine.

Both the European drugs regulator and the World Health Organisation are standing by the jab, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. However, health officials in Denmark have now decided to ditch it for good.

“Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Denmark has reported 2 cases of thrombosis (blood clotting) linked to administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which proved fatal. The blood clot incidents arose after 140,000 people had received the jab. The Bangkok Post reports that 8% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated and 17% have received their first dose.

The country plans to continue its rollout using the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Officials say they are confident that the availability of other jabs, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 is relatively under control in Denmark, means the country’s mass inoculation can continue without issue.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has released a statement acknowledging the decision taken by Danish health authorities.

“We recognise and respect the decision taken by the Danish Health Authority. Implementation and rollout of the vaccine programme is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions. We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”

SOURCE: Euro News | Bangkok Post

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