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Ukrainians back Poroshenko to find way out of crisis

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Ukrainians back Poroshenko to find way out of crisis | Thaiger

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Ukrainians back Poroshenko to find way out of crisis
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate manufacturer, claimed the Ukrainian presidency with an emphatic election victory on Sunday, taking on a fraught mission to quell pro-Russian rebels and steer his fragile nation closer to the West.

A veteran survivor of Ukraine’s feuding political class who threw his weight and money behind the revolt that brought down his Moscow-backed predecessor three months ago, the burly 48-year-old won 55 percent in exit polls on a first-round ballot marred by the reality that millions were unable to vote in the troubled eastern regions.

Results will not be announced until Monday but runner-up Yulia Tymoshenko, on 13 percent, made clear she would concede, sparing the country a tense three weeks until a runoff round.

Poroshenko, known as the “Chocolate King”, has no time to lose to make good on pledges to end “war” with separatists in the Russian-speaking east, negotiate a stable new relationship with Moscow and rescue an economy sapped by months of chaos and 23 years of post-Soviet mismanagement and chronic corruption.

The size of his victory reflects in part Ukrainians rallying behind the front-runner in the hope of ending a political vacuum that Russian President Vladimir Putin has exploited to annex the Crimea peninsula and offer solidarity, and maybe more, to rebels in the east who want to break with Kiev and accept Russian rule.

“He has taken a heavy burden on his shoulders,” said Larisa, a schoolteacher who was among crowds watching the results on Kiev’s Independence Square, where pro-Western “EuroMaidan” protests ended in February in bloodshed that prompted President Viktor Yanukovich to flee to Russia. “I just want all of this to be over,” she added. “I think that’s what everybody wants.”

In the eastern Donbass coalfield, where militants ensured polling stations were closed to some 10 percent of the national electorate, rebels scoffed at the “fascist junta” and announced a plan to “cleanse” their “people’s republic” of “enemy troops”. A minister in Kiev said in turn its forces would renew their “anti-terrorist operation” after a truce during the polling.

More than 20 people were killed in the region last week.

EAST-WEST CONUNDRUM

Claiming a popular mandate for a resumption of efforts to bind the nation of 45 million into association with the European Union – a drive that triggered the whole crisis six months ago – Poroshenko said he was ready to negotiate with Putin and called Russia a vital partner. He insisted Crimea must be returned.

Yet it remains unclear how the tycoon can square the circle of turning firmly westward as long as Russia, Ukraine’s major market and vital energy supplier, seems determined to maintain a hold over the second most populous ex-Soviet republic, occupying a vast swathe of the borderlands between East and West.

Nor is it clear that Poroshenko has new answers to resolving the uprising in the industrial east, given the weakness of his forces and the threat of Russian military intervention – a threat that has raised fears of a new Cold War, or worse, and has been met by only tentative U.S. and EU economic sanctions.

Declaring that his first trip would be to the Donbass – though quite when is unclear given that it may take some time to be formally sworn in – Poroshenko said he was ready to negotiate with anyone, and to offer the kind of regional autonomy, Russian language rights and budgetary powers that many want in the east.

“To people who have taken up arms but are not using them, we are ready to give amnesty,” he told a news conference at which he fielded questions in a fluent mix of Ukrainian, Russian and English. “As for those who are killing, they are terrorists and no country in the world conducts negotiations with terrorists.”

Poroshenko can be sure of a welcome from the European Union and United States – President Barack Obama hailed the election as a step toward restoring Ukrainian unity. But although Putin told an international audience at the weekend that he was ready to work with a new Ukrainian administration, Russia may use the gaps in the election in the east to question its legitimacy.

A senior member of Putin’s party, deputy parliamentary speaker Sergei Neverov, gave a taste of that when he wrote on Facebook: “It is hard to recognise the legitimacy of elections when tanks and artillery are wiping out civilians and a third of the population is driven to the polling stations at gunpoint.”

He ridiculed Western leaders for endorsing the vote.

In a statement, Obama did not preempt the results by naming Poroshenko but he praised Ukrainians for turning out to vote despite the threats. He called the election “another important step forward in the efforts of the Ukrainian government to unify the country and reach out to all of its citizens to ensure their concerns are addressed and aspirations met”.

It was Yanukovich’s last-minute decision to shun a proffered free trade and economic support package from the EU in November that sparked the protests that led to his downfall. Moscow had threatened to bar Ukrainian imports and cut off gas supplies if Yanukovich, whose power base was in the east, signed the deal.

EXPERIENCED HAND

Poroshenko is hardly a new face in Ukrainian politics, having served in a cabinet under Yanukovich and also under previous governments led by Yanukovich’s foes. This breadth of experience has given him a reputation as a pragmatist capable of bridging Ukraine’s divide between supporters and foes of Moscow.

A former national security council chief, foreign minister and trade minister, he was a strong backer of the protests that toppled Yanukovich and is thus acceptable to many in the “Maidan” movement who have kept their tented camp in the capital to keep pressure on the new leaders to honour their promises.

Constitutional changes since Yanukovich’s fall will leave Poroshenko with less power than his predecessor. He will share duties with Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and parliament.

Poroshenko, who has worked closely with the liberal Yatseniuk in recent months, said there should be a parliamentary election before the end of the year – though he also said that it should not take place before conflict in the east was over.

Poroshenko and former prime minister Tymoshenko traded accusations of corruption when both were in government following the “Orange Revolution” of 2004-05 that thwarted Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency. But many voters saw him as less culpable than many in Ukraine of enriching himself illegally.

Where many “oligarchs” across the former Soviet Union took control of huge, formerly state-owned assets in the 1990s, many credit Poroshenko with building his Roshen confectionery empire himself. His other interests include a major TV news channel.

“He’s a serious person who built up his business himself,” said Olga Netreba, 54, a civil servant in the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk who said she had voted for him. “He knows economics and I think he didn’t steal his money but earned it.

“I expect that with him Ukraine will be in Europe, that we will finally start getting towards Europe, so that living standards rise and Ukraine never returns to dictatorship.”

Many people in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, home to close to 15 percent of the population, said they were

— 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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