Taiwan criticizes China over Pfizer vaccine deal, Wuhan lab theory irritates Beijing


Tensions between Taiwan and Beijing erupted on Wednesday when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen accused China of blocking a deal Taipei was negotiating with Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech to supply the island with COVID-19 vaccines.

Taiwan, which is grappling with a recent spike in new infections after experiencing months of zero cases, has orders pending for millions of doses of AstraZeneca AZN vaccine,

and Moderna Inc. MRNA,
+ 2.91%
but has so far received around 700,000 doses and has only successfully vaccinated around 1% of its nearly 24 million population, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Taiwan only hinted that Beijing was blocking it. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and actively tries to prevent it from forming relations with international partners.

President Tsai said her government had dealt “smoothly” with orders with AstraZeneca and Moderna, in comments at a meeting of the ruling Progressive Democratic Party.

“As for BioNTech BNTX in Germany,
+ 2.18%,
we were on the verge of completing the contract with the original German factory, but thanks to the intervention of China, there was so far no way to complete it, ”she said. declared.

The heightened tensions come as China accuses the United States of peddling “conspiracy and disinformation theories” about the origins of the pandemic, which began in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.

A theory that the virus escaped from a Wuhan lab resurfaced this week after the Wall Street Journal reported that three lab workers were hospitalized in November 2019 after suffering from COVID-like symptoms, citing American intelligence.

See: US steps up calls for independent investigation into origin of COVID-19

Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said he was “disrespectful” of the World Health Organization which carried out a mission to Wuhan without conclusive conclusions, AFP reported.

The WHO said on Wednesday that the B.1.617 variant, which first appeared in India and more infectious than the original virus, has now been detected in at least 53 countries. In its latest weekly epidemiological update, the agency said new cases and deaths have continued to decline over the past week, but remain stubbornly high at 4.1 million new cases and 84,000 new deaths.

The declines were most pronounced in Europe, followed by Southeast Asia, while the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Africa and Western Pacific regions remained stable from the previous week.

Source: World Health Organization

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracking shows that 39.5% of the population is now fully vaccinated, while 49.5% is partially vaccinated.

Of adults 18 years and older, 50% are fully immunized.

CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said vaccinated Americans can look forward to a relaxed Memorial Day weekend, but warned unvaccinated people remain at risk.

“If you are vaccinated you are protected and you can enjoy your Memorial Day”, t. Walensky told reporters during a White House briefing. “If you are not vaccinated, our advice has not changed for you, you are still at risk of infection. You should always mask yourself and take other precautions. “

A word from the experts: Rick Bright wants to eliminate this virus – but it will take better COVID-19 vaccines, distributed to 70% of the world’s population

In other news:

• Former chief assistant to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that the government had “failed” the British people and “failed disastrously” in handling the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported. Dominic Cummings launched a meteoric attack on the government he once served, telling lawmakers some ministers and officials had gone on vacation as the virus headed for the UK in February 2020. He said the government “ was not operating on a war footing on this issue in February. in any way, shape or form. A lot of people were literally skiing. He added that when the public needed it most, “the government failed” and people “died needlessly” as a result. The UK has the fifth highest death toll in the world and the highest in Europe with nearly 128,000 dead.

See also: UK government feared bond market collapse following COVID-19 lockdown, says Cummings

• A major Japanese newspaper has called for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled due to the country’s worsening COVID-19 crisis, Voice of America reported. An editorial printed in the Wednesday edition of The Asahi Shimbun called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to calmly assess the current circumstances and cancel the Olympics, even though he is one of the main sponsors. Public sentiment against hosting the Olympics has grown amid an outbreak of new infections that has engulfed hospitals across the country. Tokyo and other parts of Japan are under a state of emergency which expires on May 31, but will likely be extended until June.

Startups, governments, and nonprofits are battling to create so-called “vaccine passports,” or digital health passes designed to help people travel and get around safely in public. The WSJ explains what it would take to build a global digital health pass system. Illustration: Zoë Soriano

• France will impose a mandatory 10-day quarantine period on travelers arriving from the UK, amid concerns over the spread of variant B.1.617 in the country, the Guardian reported. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the government will announce shortly when the quarantine will take effect. France is currently forcing travelers from 16 countries, including Brazil, India, Argentina and Turkey, to self-isolate for 10 days.

• The European Union could seek billions of euros in penalties from AstraZeneca for its failure to deliver tens of millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it pledged to provide, The New York Times reported. At the first hearing in a trade bloc lawsuit against AstraZeneca, lawyers representing the European Union told judges in a Brussels courtroom that he was seeking a fine of € 10 (about $ 12) per dose per day. been delayed. Failure to deliver the promised doses is largely blamed for the sluggishness of the EU’s vaccination program, which is getting back on track after weeks of delay.

• The European Medicines Agency is expected to announce on Friday whether it will grant emergency use authorization for Pfizer PFE,
-BioNTech vaccine for 12-15 year olds, AFP reported. The United States Food and Drug Administration has already cleared Pfizer for children ages 12 to 15.

Latest statements

The global tally of coronavirus-transmitted diseases topped 167.9 million on Wednesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll topped 3.48 million.

The United States continues to dominate the world in the total number of cases with 33.16 million and deaths with 590,995, although cases, hospitalizations and deaths are declining as more and more Americans are vaccinate.

India is second in the world with 27 million cases and third with 311,388 deaths, although those numbers are vastly underestimated given the lack of testing.

Brazil is third in cases with 16.1 million and second in deaths with 452,031 cases. Mexico is fourth in deaths with 221,960 and 2.4 million cases.

China, where the virus was first discovered at the end of 2019, has recorded 102,906 confirmed cases and 4,846 deaths, according to its official figures, which are widely considered massively underreported.

There was no economic release on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,
+ 0.18%
and S&P 500 SPX,
+ 0.24%
were slightly higher.

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