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Overshadowed by COVID, EU Summit Ends in Brussels

Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, was the latest official to prematurely leave the EU summit in Brussels due to coronavirus fears, as the bloc's meeting wrapped Friday.
She said it was a “precautionary measure,” the AP reported.
Her departure come a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left because a staffer tested positive.
Previously, the EU’s top diplomat and Josep Borrell and the commissioner for humanitarian aid, Janez Lenarcic, self-quarantined after they reportedly came into contact with people who tested positive.
The high-profile departures come against a backdrop of what many are calling a second wave of the virus roiling the continent.
On Thursday, EU leaders signed a statement calling for more cooperation among EU member states and the European Commission, including better contact tracing and testing strategies, according to Euronews.
The resurging virus also has led to the cancelation of a Nov. 16 EU meeting to discuss China policy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.
The so-called “summit of gloom,” had hoped to tackle a series of thorny issues, from the bloc’s future trading relationship with post-Brexit Britain to an ambitious climate action plan to reduce carbon emissions and achieve “climate neutrality” by 2050.
Talks with Britain stalled Thursday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying Friday he would pursue a no-deal Brexit if the EU did not change its stance.
“Unless there’s a fundamental change of approach, we’re going to go to the Australia solution, and we should do it with great confidence,” Johnson said, according to Reuters, after talks failed ahead of his self-imposed Oct. 15 deadline.
The “Australia solution” basically means the two parties would trade without a formal deal.
According to the AP, the EU says Britain wants to keep the benefits of EU membership without following the bloc’s rules. Britain says it’s puzzled it can’t get a quick free trade deal like the one made a few years ago between the EU and Canada.
On climate change, EU leaders failed to reach an agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and instead said they’d “return to the issue” in December, Reuters reported.
The EU proposed to cut emissions by 55% by 2030 as long as the target applied collectively to the whole EU and did not require all countries to meet the objective.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as the United States, China, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Germany. Love to Travel and report daily on destinations reopening with a focus on Domestic travel within Europe, North America and the Caribbean. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu. Love to follow the English Premier League , the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga.

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Coronavirus

WHO Reports Record 3 Million New COVID-19 Cases in a Week

The World Health Organization says a record 2.8 million new COVID-19 cases have been reported globally over the past seven days ending Tuesday, including 40,000 new deaths.

The U.N. health agency says Europe accounts for the greatest proportion of reported new cases for the second consecutive week with more than 1.3 million, an increase of 33% compared to the previous week. The region accounted for nearly half of the new COVID-19 cases during the seven-day period.

The figures also show that cases are also increasing in the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean and African regions, while declines continue to be reported in Southeast Asia. The Western Pacific region also showed a slight decline in new cases and deaths over the seven-day period.

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WHO said the countries reporting the highest number of cases over the past week are India, the United States, France, Brazil and Britain — the same countries as the previous three weeks.

The virus has even affected operations at the U.N.’s main headquarters in New York. General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir canceled all in-person meetings Tuesday after five staffers with Niger’s mission to the world body tested positive for COVID-19.

The United States has posted a record 502,828 new COVID-19 cases over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, an average of more than 70,000 new cases. The previous record of 481,519 new cases was just recorded for the week ending October 24.

White House coronavirus task force member Admiral Brett Giroir said Wednesday on NBC’s "Today" show that the surge in the U.S. is not just due to more testing, contradicting President Donald Trump’s assertion that more testing has revealed more cases.

FILE - Adm. Brett Giroir, director of the U.S. coronavirus diagnostic testing, testifies at a Senate committee hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 30, 2020.
FILE – Adm. Brett Giroir, director of the U.S. coronavirus diagnostic testing, testifies at a Senate committee hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 30, 2020.

Giroir, who Trump put in charge of testing, said the proof of the increase in infections is more hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths throughout the United States. The U.S. leads the world with more than 8.7 million total COVID-19 cases, including nearly 226,700 deaths, according to Hopkins statistics.

Giroir said the U.S. has reached “another critical point” in the response to the coronavirus crisis and urged people to wear masks, wash hands and engage in social distancing. He also said a safe and effective vaccine is “around the corner.”

The U.S. Midwest has experienced a high number of new COVID-19 cases, including in the state of Illinois, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker has imposed a new round of restrictions, particularly in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city. The governor on Tuesday announced a ban on all indoor service in bars and restaurants beginning Friday at midnight.

Farther west of Chicago, Mayor Michael Hancock of Denver, Colorado, has ordered restaurants and other businesses to limit the number of patrons from 50% to 25%, as the state capital posted a one-day record of 327 new coronavirus cases on Sunday.

A long line of motorists wait at a drive-in COVID-19 testing site Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Federal Heights, Colo. Denver will…
A long line of motorists wait at a drive-in COVID-19 testing site in Federal Heights, Colo., Oct. 27, 2020.

Among the new U.S. cases is Justin Turner of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, who was pulled from Tuesday’s World Series game against the Tampa Bay Rays after officials learned he had tested positive for the disease.

Turner was pulled late in the game before the Dodgers defeated the Rays 3 to 1 to win the league’s season-ending championship.

In the effort to develop a new coronavirus vaccine, U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer said its large, late-stage trial of its experimental vaccine it is developing with Germany's BioNTech has not reached a key milestone, making it unlikely that it will be released before the upcoming November 3 U.S. presidential election.

The company said fewer than 32 COVID-19 infections among its 44,000 volunteers have occurred, a necessary benchmark to determine whether the drug is safe and effective.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Coronavirus

Indonesia’s Pandemic Response: A Law to Create Millions of Jobs

A landmark law passed this month in Indonesia will open the populous, impoverished country to labor-intensive industry like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors despite a hit to worker rights, people on the ground say.

The 905-page Omnibus Bill on Job Creation bill will give millions of young people chances to work, including in formal jobs that can be hard to find because older Indonesian laws discouraged foreign investors from setting up factories, analysts believe.

Indonesians are struggling to earn income during an unrelenting COVID-19 outbreak that prompted shutdowns from April. The nation with nearly 400,000 infections reported a sharp drop in retail sales from April through August and a fall in exports over the three months ending in September.

“With this new law, it is expected that the investment would come not only to the Indonesian economy, but also come to the labor-intensive part, and by getting more investment in that area it is expected that more jobs will be created, and those jobs are more of the quality jobs, not only informal jobs,” said Yose Rizal Damuri, economics department head with the Center for Strategic and International Studies research organization in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s government and House of Representatives passed the bill ahead of schedule on October 5, the Jakarta Post reported. The bill aims to cut bureaucracy and make it easier for investors to create jobs, said Richard Borsuk, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies adjunct senior fellow in Singapore.

Protest against the government's proposed labor reforms in Sukabumi, West Java
Protest against the government's proposed labor reforms in Sukabumi, West Java, Oct. 7, 2020.

President Joko Widodo’s government sees this bill as part of his “legacy” to stimulate the 270 million-person country's economy, Rizal said. Minerals, oil and farming make up much of Indonesia’s $1 trillion-plus GDP today. “Labor-intensive” industry players find Indonesia too expensive now, Rizal said, explaining why that sub-sector makes up just 2% of the country’s total investment.

Foreign manufacturers of garments, shoes and textiles normally pick other low-cost Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, over the past decade because of stiff pro-labor laws, economists say. Foreign investment eventually raises the living standards, as witnessed in China and eventually Vietnam.

“It’s probably something that will be a long-term benefit, if this does go through,” said Rajiv Biswas, senior regional economist with IHS Markit, a London-based analysis firm.

“It creates a better environment for foreign multinationals to hire, because from the perspective of foreign multinationals, it’s very restrictive labor laws there,” Biswas said. “They’re worried about hiring because it’s very hard to reduce the workforce later on.”

Foreign investors will consider the law a “step in the right” direction for making Indonesia friendlier, forecast Song Seng Wun, an economist in the private banking unit of Malaysian bank CIMB.

“This Omnibus Bill is part of something that Jokowi [was] looking to see how they can help sort of improve the investment landscape to make it a little bit more attractive in Indonesia, just to make sure Indonesia doesn’t get pushed down the investible list of countries,” Song said, using the Indonesian president’s nickname.

But the law sparked staunch opposition. Some governors have asked Widodo to revoke the law and other people protested in the streets over three days, sometimes violently, Borsuk’s study says.

The law effectively eliminates the power of labor unions, said Paramita Supamijoto, an international relations lecturer at Bina Nusantara University in greater Jakarta.

The October bill would roll back legal support for fair wages, safe working conditions and excessive overtime, U.S.-headquartered human rights advocacy group Amnesty International said in a statement in August. It called the bill’s preparation process “opaque.”

Severance pay for laid-off workers will also slip, Damuri said.

For workers, the law means that “whatever you do, your life will be determined by your employers,” Supamijoto said.

But the law could stoke enough investment to stop people from migrating overseas in search of work, she said. “Under our current president’s administration, they prefer to invite the investors rather than sending workers abroad, so it’s better to invite you to come here to spend money, to invest your money, then to help us to build the infrastructure,” she said.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Iran Parliament Speaker Contracts Virus as Deaths Surge

Iran's parliament speaker said that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, joining a growing list of infected Iranian officials as the country again shattered its single-day death record with 415 new fatalities reported Wednesday.
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf tweeted that he received the news after one of his colleagues tested positive for the virus. He said he would continue to carry out his duties from self-quarantine. Earlier this month, he was on state TV visiting a coronavirus ward in one of capital's overwhelmed hospitals to show support.
"I decided to appear in the hospital to see problems from a close distance," Ghalibaf told local media from the ward in Tehran. "Supervising is the main duty of parliament."
Iran has for months wrestled with the worst outbreak in the Middle East, and on Wednesday the daily death toll hit a new high for a second consecutive day. Wednesday's count pushes Iran's total death toll past 33,700 — the highest in the region. Public health officials have repeatedly stressed that the true number of deaths is likely 2.5 times higher.
The government, desperate to salvage an economy reeling from severe American sanctions, has been loath to order business closures even as infection rates reach new heights.
In a clear sign of the outbreak's scale, dozens of top officials have fallen ill. At least 30 lawmakers have tested positive in recent months, according to local media, and a senior adviser to the country's supreme leader has died. Earlier this month, the head of the country's atomic energy organization and the vice president in charge of budget and planning both contracted the virus.
Iran's former parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, tested positive for the virus in April and returned to work after convalescing for three weeks. Ghalibaf took over his post in early June.
As infections surge, filling the country's hospitals and driving up its death toll, Iran's parliament has continued to hold regular sessions. Lawmakers wear masks but tend not to practice social distancing. When President Hassan Rouhani decided to skip a parliamentary vote this fall out of concern for his health, he faced intense backlash from hard-line lawmakers who demanded he attend regardless.
The timing of the pandemic has proved disastrous for Iran's economy, which is buckling under U.S. sanctions re-imposed in 2018 after the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

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