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Increase Spending To Manage COVID-19 Pandemic & Decarbonize To Tackle Climate Emergency: UN

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The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having far-reaching economic and social consequences for the Asia-Pacific region, with strong cross-border spillover effects through trade, tourism and financial linkages, according to a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) released today.

The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2020 highlights the COVID-19 pandemic as the immediate risk to the region’s economic outlook, deepening the economic slowdown that was already underway. Although there are significant uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, the negative impacts are likely to be substantial.

As governments respond to the unprecedented health crisis and introduce economic stimulus packages, the report estimates that Asia-Pacific developing countries should increase health emergency spending by $880 million per year. The Survey also calls on Asia-Pacific countries to consider establishing a regional fund to respond to future health emergencies.

The ESCAP report suggests that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers should maintain accommodative macroeconomic policies to sustain the economic health of the region. Fiscal and monetary policies should be focused on supporting affected enterprises and households and preventing economic contagion. Fiscal spending can also play a significant role in enhancing the ability of health responders to monitor the spread of the pandemic, care for infected people and improve health emergency preparedness.

At the same time, countries should take the opportunity posed by these challenging times to rethink their economic development strategies towards a more inclusive, sustainable and planet-friendly economy. Countries in the region are not only going through a public health crisis but also a climate emergency, which is permanent and even more far-reaching and potentially more disastrous than the pandemic.

“Policymakers should not lose sight of people and the planet. When it comes to designing economic stimulus packages, social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability must be built into every decision,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. 

The ESCAP report further reveals that the decades-long high economic growth in the region has been accompanied by growing inequality of income and opportunity, and detrimental impacts on the planet, which are endangering the well-being of present and future generations. Unsustainable consumption and production patterns have substantially increased greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the vulnerability of the region to climate change. Additionally, $240 billion worth of annual subsidies continue to feed the region’s heavy dependence on fossil-fuels. 

The Survey calls for a transition towards sustainable consumption and production, with cleaner production and less material-intensive lifestyles, supported by enabling policies. This would require all stakeholders, notably Governments, businesses and consumers, to urgently align their own goals and actions with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The report urges strengthening of regional cooperation to raise the ambition to tackle climate emergency. Governments should scale up their efforts on climate-related standards, carbon pricing and implement sustainable consumption and production patterns at the regional level. 

Produced annually since 1947, the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific is one of the longest-running United Nations reports on the region’s progress. The Survey provides analyses to guide policy discussion on the current and emerging socioeconomic issues and policy challenges to support inclusive and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. 

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Coronavirus In Tibet: Limited Impact Of COVID-19 In High Altitude Regions Like Tibet?

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Scientists are now investigating the link between COVID-19 and high altitude regions like Tibet after a study published in the journal Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology suggested that there is a decrease in prevalence and impact of COVID-19 in populations living at higher altitudes. 

The study takes into consideration the COVID-19 cases in Tibet and high-altitude regions of Bolivia and Ecuador in comparison to the low lying regions. It suggested that the population in Bolivia, Ecuador and Tibet living above 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) reported significantly lower levels of confirmed infections than their lowland counterparts.

In the plateau region of Tibet, Qinghai and part of Sichuan, with a population of 9 million, there are only 134 confirmed cases which are drastically low in comparison to the number of cases in rest of China.

Ecuador is one of the worst-hit countries by COVID-19 in South America with more than 40,000 confirmed cases and over 3,000 deaths. The centre of the virus is the Pacific port of Guayaquil. There are fewer infected cases in the capital Quito, which is about the same size but is 2,800 metres above sea level.

Similarly, Bolivia has over 10,000 positive cases with over 300 deaths. The cases are concentrated in Santa Cruz which is 400 metres above sea level. It is home to about 15% of the population of the country but accounts for two-thirds of the virus cases. Whereas, in La Paz and its surrounding area, which is a highland area in Bolivia, has about 500 positive cases.

The reason explored by the study includes environmental factors including dry mountain air, high levels of UV radiation and the possibility that lower atmospheric pressure reduces the virus’s ability to linger in the air.

“The reason for decreased severity of the global COVID-19 outbreak at high altitude could relate to both environmental and physiological factors,” states the study.

“At sea-level, when people get coronavirus and their lungs get destroyed, it is as if they are climbing Mount Everest in just a couple of days, without oxygen,” said Gustavo Zubieta-Calleja, one of the authors of the study published in the journal Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology. But “the low rate of infection in Bolivia’s high-altitude population is remarkable and clearly does not follow the often exponential infection rates reported in many countries”, concluded the scientists.

However, experts have questioned these factors. “The virus likes people. It doesn’t care about altitude,” says Peter Chin-Hong, who studies infectious diseases at the University of California at San Francisco. “But we’re still learning so much about this disease, and this does provide us with some good clues to try and understand its progression,” he added.

According to Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic and a former president of the American College of Chest Physicians, that the trend might be related to acclimatization, the body’s ability to adjust temporarily to altitude, than to DNA.

Just three populations in the world have been found to have genetic adaptations to altitude: Himalayans, Ethiopian highlanders and Andeans. This is why the coronavirus is exploding on Peru’s Pacific coast, particularly Lima, where most residents descend from Andean ancestors, while the country’s mountain communities are thus far not greatly affected by the virus.

Andrew Luks, professor of medicine at the University of Washington, said that while the proposed link was “intriguing”, it “by no means establishes that high-altitude residence or high-altitude locations are protective against coronavirus”.

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Pakistan Seeks Bangladesh’s Help With COVID-19; Signs Pact For Importing Medicines

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With growing cases of COVID-19, Pakistan has signed a pact Bangladeshi firm to supply a generic version of remdesivir — a broad-spectrum antiviral medication that has shown to lessen the recovery time in coronavirus patients, reports the Dawn.

The drug – remdesivir, has been permitted emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and authorities in Japan and the UK to treat patients with severe signs of COVID-19.

According to a statement released by Searle Company Limited, Pakistan, the company has signed an exclusive pact with Beximco Pharmaceuticals, Bangladesh.

It’s the first firm in the world to introduce the generic variant of the drug. Our pact will provide an instant supply of the drug at an economical rate and will assist the medics to treat COVID-19 patients without any delay, said Mohammad Sajid, officials ar Searle.

Remdesivir is a direct-acting viral drug that represses viral RNA (Ribonucleic acid) synthesis. It is administrated intravenously and is approved for the treatment of hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 infection – the Dawn report says.

Searle, Sajid said, was aggressively taking the matter with the government officials of Pakistan for required approvals and was positive that in the current pandemic, the authorities would treat this matter on an urgent basis to support the drug availability.

The report acknowledges that Bangladesh has made extraordinary progress in the pharmaceutical sector in recent years. Some Bangladesh-based pharmaceutical corporations, they said, were approved by the FDA and exported their products to the US.

Remdesivir is presently undergoing clinical trials around the world. Early research indicated it can cut recovery time by about four days, but so far there has been no concrete proof that it will save more lives.

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Donald Trump Suspends Ties With WHO; Slams China For COVID-19, Hong Kong

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US President Trump has announced that he is immediately suspending American membership from the World Health Organization over its response to China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic.

China Mocks Trump, Pompeo Over Subduing Minnesota & Provoking Hong Kong Protesters

In a press briefing at the White House, Donald Trump said, “We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.”

The US President said the decision end ties with WHO was because they “failed to make” reformations. Last week, Trump sent a letter to WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressing his views on how the WHO favours Beijing and urged the health body to “commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days.”

The U.S. is WHOs biggest contributor, providing around $450 million a year, according to Trump. The level of financing the U.S. provides to WHO has been pinching Trump, who growled at the press briefing that the U.S. pays significantly more than China, but it is Beijing that benefits at WHO (with roughly about $40 million funding to the organization).

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1262577580718395393

On Hong Kong, Trump said, “China claims it is protecting national security… Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society. Beijing’s decision reverses all of that.

The US President also said he will also initiate a ban on Chinese researchers studying in the US who are recognised as possible security risks. “For years, China has conducted elicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets, of which there are many. Today I will issue a proclamation to better secure our nation’s vital university research…,” he said.

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