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W.H.O: COVID variants will now be renamed to avoid “stigmatizing”

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Boss of World Health concerned


The World Health Organization has said it will rename COVID-19 variants to avoid stigmatization of countries where new strains of the virus are first reported.

The new system applies to variant of concerns – the most troubling of which four are in circulation.

“While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting,” the WHO says in a statement.

The new names:

The four coronavirus variants considered of concern by the United Nations agency and known generally by the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India

Under a new system revealed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Kent variant will now be known as Alpha, the Indian variant as Delta, and the South African variant as Beta.

Their scientific names – B.1.1.7, B.1.617.2 and B.1.351 – had been considered too complicated to remember, but there were also concerns about referring to them by the locations where they were discovered.

Critics have warned the current format can stigmatise countries where variants are first found.

Some have warned the rise in coverage of the so-called Indian variant as it becomes more widespread could fuel racism against Indian people.

In 2020, due to the fact that COVID-19 originated in China, experts say it led to an increase in hate crimes against Asian people.

Former US president Donald Trump was condemned for regularly referring to coronavirus as the “China virus”, among other such labels.

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Global Politics

China challenges Australia anti-dumping measures at WTO

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China has challenged Australia’s anti-dumping measures at the World Trade Organisation.

The anti-dumping measures affect Chinese exports of train components, wind turbines, and stainless steel sinks.

China hopes Australia can adopt concrete measures so that bilateral trade can return to a normal track, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters at a news conference.

More to come.

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Global Politics

Why Singaporeans may have to learn to live with COVID-19

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Singapore is drawing up a road map to transit to a “new normal”, where COVID-19 is likely endemic.

Singapore’s government believes COVID-19 may never go away.

But ministers leading the city-state’s pandemic response say the good news is that it is possible to live normally with the virus in our midst.

Three key ministers have written an opinion piece in The Straits Times, outlining what they believe life will look like in a “new-normal” where COVID-19 is still around but can be controlled through mass vaccination.

The ministers, who lead the city-state’s pandemic task force, say they hope COVID-19 will become like influenza.

They haver pointed out that people carry on with their daily activities during the flu season, take simple precautions or get an annual flu jab.

The ministers want to work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19.

“We can’t eradicate it, but we can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza, hand, foot and mouth disease, or chickenpox, and get on with our lives.”

Rapid mass vaccination will be key

The ministers say “we are on track” to have two-thirds of the population vaccinated with at least their first dose by early July.

The next vaccine milestone will be to have at least two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated by National Day on August 9, supply permitting.

The ministers say they are working to bring forward the delivery of vaccines and to speed up the process.

The new-normal

It’s hoped that in the future, when someone gets COVID in Singapore, the response can be very different from now.

And instead of monitoring Covid-19 infection numbers every day, the focus will be on the outcomes, such as how many people are getting sick.

The government says in this new-normal, large gatherings can resume, businesses will have certainty that their operations will not be disrupted, and vaccinated travellers can be exempted from quarantine

But the ministers added a note of caution:

“The battle against Covid-19 will continue to be fraught with uncertainty.”

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Global Politics

Europe’s big plan to tackle “nightmare” cyber-attacks

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The EU will soon build a Joint Cyber Unit to tackle large scale cyber-attacks

Recent ransomware attacks on critical services in Ireland and on the Colonial pipeline in the US have promoted the move to take cybercrime more seriously.

The EU says cyber-attacks are a national security threat, with reported incidents in Europe rising to almost 1,000 last year.

A dedicated team of multi-national cyber-experts will be deployed to European countries during serious attacks.

A Commission spokesman said that “advanced and coordinated responses in the field of cybersecurity have become increasingly necessary, as cyberattacks grow in number, scale, and consequences, impacting heavily our security”.

Under the Commission’s proposals, it would “tackle the rising number of serious cyber incidents impacting public services, as well as the life of businesses and citizens across the European Union”.

EU vice-president said last month’s hack on US fuel supplies was ‘the “nightmare scenario that we have to prepare against”.

The attack sent major disruptions to the United States fuel supply, with gas stations running out of supply and being forced to shut down.

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