December 17th, 2020
Brazil’s Ministry of Health has authorized the purchase of 45 million doses of the vaccine against the novel coronavirus produced by Sinovac and São Paulo’s Butantan Institute. A new report has accused the Chinese government of forcing thousands of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities to work in the country’s cotton fields. The German government has announced its intention of starting a countrywide vaccination campaign against COVID-19 by December 27th. Meanwhile, two different studies, one held in Germany and another in the US state of Kansas, have shown that wearing masks has a considerable effect in the reduction of spreading the novel coronavirus, especially among elderly people. Finally, French government officials have announced that president Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and will remain in isolation for at least seven days.
Take a look at our highlights.
Brazilian Health Ministry to purchase 45 million Coronavac doses this week
The Brazilian federal government has announced it will purchase 45 million doses of the Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine Coronavac, which will be incorporated into the country’s National Immunization Program. The deal was made during a meeting held between the Ministry of Health and state governors this Wednesday. A letter of intent will now be sent to the Butantan Institute, in São Paulo, responsible for producing the immunizing agent along with Sinovac laboratory in Brazil, and the first doses are expected to be delivered by March 2021. The episode is the latest chapter in the public quarrel between president Jair Bolsonaro and São Paulo governor João Doria, who had announced he would provide Coronavac vaccines to the state population before the federal government had any immunizing plan ready.
Thousands of Uyghurs forced to work in China’s cotton fields
China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Tibetans to pick cotton in fields in the Xinjiang province, according to a new report issued by a non-partisan organization, Center for Global Policy (CGP). Around 85 percent of the Asian country’s raw cotton supply and 20 percent of the world’s comes from the region. Swedish multinational H&M severed all relations with their local supplier due to the accusations of forced labor. According to the CGP report, there is “strong evidence that the production of the majority of Xinjiang’s cotton involves a coercive, state-run program targeting ethnic minority groups.” At least 570 thousand people from three Uyghur regions have been mobilized for forced labor in cotton fields in 2018, according to one of the authors of the study, but the number of individuals mobilized could exceed these figures by hundreds of thousands.
Germany wants to begin vaccinating against COVID by December 27th
The German government is planning on starting its vaccination campaign against the novel coronavirus on December 27th, according to local health authorities. The immunization campaign will begin in all of the country’s retirement homes. Germany has registered 952 deaths due to COVID-19 within the last 24 hours, causing the government to implement new restriction measures in order to prevent the spread of infections, such as closing non-essential commercial establishments and schools. During the past seven days, the country has registered 179.8 deaths caused by new infections per 100 thousand inhabitants, a significant increase since last week’s figures of 149 per 100 thousand.
Mask wearing slowed down COVID-19 spread in Germany and the US
A recent study conducted in Germany has indicated that the use of protective devices such as masks may lead to a significant decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases. The study compared 401 municipal districts which made it mandatory to wear masks at a specific period of time; researchers have detected that in these places a 45-percent drop in the number of new infections was registered 20 days after the measure was adopted, with figures varying from 15 to 75 percent between different regions. The highest infection rate was registered among people above 60 years of age. A similar situation was registered in the state of Kansas, in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued in late November a study which showed counties that chose to force their populations to wear masks registered a significant drop in the number of cases.
French president tests positive for COVID-19
The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Thursday, according to a statement issued by the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the country’s head of the executive. Macron will now remain in isolation for at least seven days, and, during this period, will conduct his working routine remotely. France’s prime minister, Jean Castex, will also work from isolation, due to his recent proximity with the president. 42-year-old Macron is not known to suffer from any medical problems, but the health of French presidents is traditionally a closely guarded secret, and the local media quickly began to speculate on his actual health condition.