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INDIA – A new and even more worrisome variant of Covid-19

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India has lost control of the virus. Covid-19 is beginning to rise to alarming proportions with a new variant. Over the past seven days, 250,000 infections have been recorded every day in the country. The day of Wednesday, April 21, 2021 broke the records of daily infections since 300,000 positive cases were counted. This remarkable spike in the number of cases in the country could be due to the new “Indian variant”.

India is now going through difficult times with this health crisis that is difficult to control. After several months of calm, the country is experiencing a worrying daily contamination rate. The appearance of a new variant called B.1.617 could be the cause. First detected in October 2020 in Nagpur, central India, it is described by medical experts as a “double mutant”. Patrick Berche, microbiologist and member of the Academy of Medicine, explains that the complexity of this variant is that it is the junction of several other variants already detected in Brazil, South Africa or the United States. According to him it is a mutant that has mutations that are found in a Californian variant, on the one hand, and another mutation on the same variant that is found in the Brazilian and south-African and would be more contagious and less accessible to vaccine protection. 

Still according to him, the “Indian variant” would be more virulent and even more contagious. It is responsible for more than 55% of cases of contamination in the state of Maharashtra, in central-western India. In the rest of the country, it is the cause of 10% of Covid-19 positive cases. What is special about this virus is that it quickly reaches young people with a higher risk of lethality. This is what explains the anxiety of Indian doctors especially since so far, no study allows to master the contours of this variant.  

The French doctor always specifies that vaccination campaigns must be accelerated because if the virus continues to circulate, there will inevitably be variants. The other major difficulty is that when studying the characteristics of one variant, another one appears with its specificities. “What is very disturbing is that the faster the virus multiplies, the more likely it is that mutants will appear. We will not control this pandemic if we do not vaccinate third world countries that cannot afford the vaccines. We really need a global vision, a global vision to fight this virus. There will always be the possibility of a variant coming by plane, for example, seeding Europe or the United States,‘ adds Patrick Berchel.

It should be noted that beyond the Indian territory, the new variant named B.1.617 is also present in England, Germany, Canada and Singapore, according to information from Public Health France.

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ASIA

CHINA – Chinese Navy “Friendly Visit” to Nigeria

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Three Chinese navy ships stopped Sunday for five days in the waters of Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, during a rare visit to the Gulf of Guinea, it was learned on Monday from the Nigerian and Chinese authorities.

“This is a friendly visit” to “improve diplomacy” between China and Nigeria, Nigerian navy spokesman Rear Admiral Ayo-Vaughan told AFP on Monday.

One of the ships docked on Sunday in the port of Apapa de Lagos, where a ceremony was held. The Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, said that this “visit was a major event in recent years”. This event ‘demonstrates a high level of trust’ between the two countries, which will ‘strengthen’ the links between the two navies, especially in terms of ‘joint resolution of regional security issues,’ he added, quoted in a statement published on the embassy’s website.

The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches over 5,700 kilometres between Senegal and Angola, is a crucial maritime route bordering countries rich in hydrocarbons and has been the new black mark of global piracy for several years, even though piracy has recently taken its toll. China has very close economic and financial ties with Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. It has invested heavily in infrastructure, such as the new deep-water port of Lekki, on the outskirts of Lagos.

In terms of security cooperation, Nigeria, in the grip of a serious insecurity between piracy and jihadi conflict in the northeast, is mainly turned towards the United States, one of its main suppliers of military equipment. Last year, American defence officials expressed concern about China’s plans for a military base on the Atlantic coast of West Africa.

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ASIA

BURMA: Calls for civil disobedience multiply on social networks

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Two days after the coup d’état in Burma, calls for disobedience are multiplying on social networks, especially on Facebook. People are showing the first signs of resistance and are calling for the restoration of the rule of law.

On Monday, the military seized power in Burma. They then declared a state of emergency for one year and placed Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint under house arrest. But already, the first signs of resistance are showing in the population even if the fear of reprisals remains strong in the country. The population received the order to knock on pots, every evening at 8 pm, on the balconies and the front of houses in protest against the presence of the army.

A group called «the civil disobedience movement» was launched on Facebook and had nearly 150,000 followers on Wednesday morning. “Shame on the army,” “the military are thieves,” it says. Doctors and health professionals have announced that they will refuse any work, except in the event of a medical emergency. “We will obey only our democratically elected government,” they wrote in a joint statement.
Members of the medical staff of the Yangon General Hospital also gathered in front of the institution, saluting with three fingers, a gesture of resistance already adopted by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong or Thailand.

The UN Security Council met urgently behind closed doors on Tuesday, but failed to agree on a common text. To be adopted, this joint declaration requires the support of China, which exercises a veto as a permanent member of the Security Council. However, Beijing remains Burma’s main support to the United Nations. Negotiations are ongoing, according to a diplomat who requested anonymity.

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ASIA

BURMA: Army seizes power, Aung San Suu Kyi arrested

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The Burmese army carried out a coup early Monday and declared a state of emergency for a year and placed its generals in key posts. The head of the civilian government, Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested, along with the President of the Republic, Win Myint.

The army seized power in Burma on Monday, February 1, 2021. It arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and the President of the Republic, Win Myint, and declared a state of emergency for one year . “We heard that they were being held in Naypyidaw,” the country’s capital, said NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt, who believes several other officials were also arrested. The army then seized the town hall of Yangon, the economic capital of the country, and access to its international airport was blocked by the military.

In a letter circulated on social networks by his party, Aung San Suu Kyi declares that “the army is putting the country back under military dictatorship” and calls on the population to “not accept” this military putsh.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was quick to respond. He “strongly condemned” the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi. With “the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military”, “these developments are a blow to democratic reforms in Burma”, he lamented.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, also condemned in a tweet the putsh and called for the release of the detainees. “I strongly condemn the coup d’état in Burma and call on the military to release all those who were illegally detained in raids across the country. The outcome of the elections must be respected and the democratic process must be restored, ”he wrote.

A shower of condemnations followed this coup. France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Japan, among others, strongly condemned a blow to democracy and called for the release of the arrested political authorities. Russia is not yet ready to comment on the current state of affairs, saying it is too early to make an assessment.

Other countries like Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have been careful not to interfere in Burma’s internal affairs.

Others like Bangladesh instead call on both sides to preserve peace and stability in the country.

The party of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991, much criticized internationally for its handling of the Rohingya Muslim crisis but still adored by a majority of the population, won a landslide victory in November. It was the second general election since 2011, when the junta that ruled the country for half a century was dissolved. Elections contested by the Burmese army, which had promised to restore democracy in the country.

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