America News

Dr. Fauci to lead U.S. delegation at WHO meetings as Biden plans to reverse Trump withdrawal

Dr. Anthony Fauci is scheduled to give remarks on Thursday as the United States' head delegate for the WHO's annual executive board meetings.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine found to be effective against Covid variant discovered in UK

The variant, known as B.1.1.7., has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with more efficient and rapid transmission.

World on the brink of 'catastrophic moral failure' due to unfair vaccine rollouts, WHO chief says

The WHO called on wealthier countries that had pre-ordered millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines, such as the U.S., U.K. and Europe, to share a portion of those vaccines with COVAX.

5 things to know before the stock market opens Wednesday

Dow futures rose Wednesday ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as the next president.

New map shows where China's latest virus cases are clustered

More than half a year since Covid-19 stalled its spread within mainland China, new cases have emerged in and around the capital city of Beijing.

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Europe News

What you need to know about Germany's new mask rules for public transport and shops

Germany is introducing new rules for the types of mask you can wear while travelling on public transport or shopping. Here's what it means for you.

What Germany's new working from home rules mean for you

On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state premiers called on companies to allow working from home whenever possible.

Merkel looks forward to 'new chapter' with Biden

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday congratulated new US President Joe Biden, saying she looked forward to a "new chapter" in German-US relations.

'Season a write-off': French ski lifts to stay closed, government announces

Ski lifts in France will not open on February 1st and the whole of the winter sports season will likely be a write-off, the French government said on Wednesday.

'Buon lavoro': Italian prime minister congratulates US President Biden

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday said Italy "stands ready to face the challenges of our common international agenda together with the United States."

Europe News is brought to you by TheLocal

BBC World News

Biden inauguration: New president sworn in amid Trump snub

Joe Biden's inauguration as 46th US president marks a new chapter after Donald Trump's term.

Biden gets to work on reversing Trump policies with executive orders

The new president starts dismantling his predecessor's legacy by signing a raft of executive orders.

Amanda Gorman: Inauguration poet calls for 'unity and togetherness'

The 22-year-old from LA is the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration.

Biden inauguration: Amanda Gorman's poem The Hill We Climb in full

Amanda Gorman's powerful reading of her poem was one of the memorable moments at Joe Biden's inauguration.

President Joe Biden inauguration speech: 'Democracy has prevailed'

Joe Biden makes his inaugural address as the 46th president of the United States.

Joe Biden inauguration: 46th US president takes oath of office

The new president is sworn into office by Chief Justice John G Roberts.

Kamala Harris sworn in as vice-president

Kamala Harris is sworn in as US's first female, Black and south Asian vice-president.

Madrid explosion leaves three dead

At least three people have died in a suspected gas blast that destroyed four floors of a building.

Kamala Harris becomes first female, first black and first Asian-American VP

Kamala Harris makes history as she is sworn in as US vice-president.

Tunisia youths warned over riots amid Covid curfew

Protests continued for a fifth night over high unemployment and an economic crisis.

BBC World News is brought to you by BBC

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Case Tracker

Provided by Johns Hopkins University this COVID-19 Global Case Tracker Dashboard shows you the most up-to-date information about the global spread of the new corona virus.

About the 2019-20 Coronavirus Pandemic

The 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The outbreak started in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and recognized it as a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of end March 2020, more than a million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 200 countries and territories, resulting in approximately 64,000 deaths. More than 250,000 people have recovered.

The virus is mainly spread during close contact, and by small droplets produced during coughing, sneezing, or talking. These small droplets may also be produced during breathing, but rapidly fall to the ground or surfaces and are not generally spread through the air over large distances. People may also catch COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. The virus can survive on surfaces up to 72 hours. It is most contagious during the first 3 days after symptom onset, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear and in later stages of the disease. The time between exposure and symptom onset is typically around five days, but may range from 2 to 14 days. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The pandemic has led to severe global socioeconomic disruption, the postponement or cancellation of sporting, religious, and cultural events, and widespread fears of supply shortages resulting in panic buying. Schools and universities have closed either on a nationwide or local basis in more than 160 countries, affecting approximately 97 percent of the world's student population.

Source: Wikipedia (April 5, 2020)

Please find below further updates from The World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO Information Notice for IVD Users 2021/01

Product type: All in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDs) for detection of SARS-CoV-2

Date: 18 January 2021                                                                   

WHO-identifier: 2021/01, version 1  

Target audience: Laboratory professionals and users of IVDs.  

Purpose of this notice: To request that IVD users monitor mutations of SARS-CoV-2 and their impact on diagnosis. 

Description of the problem: 

Following the detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants containing mutations, including SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01, and SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2, WHO reminds users of IVDs to monitor detection rates for SARS-CoV-2 at their site.  

IVD users should routinely review test results to detect unexpected increases or decreases in test results, including positivity rate, target detection rate, invalid or unreturnable result rate, etc. These variations may be early indicators of impact on the safety, quality or performance of the IVD products. Certain mutations may increase the risk of delayed diagnosis (due to inconclusive or invalid results), and misdiagnosis. 

Manufacturers of IVDs listed by WHO (through Emergency Use Listing) must proactively scan literature and other sources for any documented mutations that might impact the safety, quality or performance of their product. This should be incorporated as part of their post-market surveillance plan and will be supplemented by feedback reported by IVD users in the form of unexpected results, as well as other product problems and adverse events. All gathered information must be reviewed in a timely fashion, using risk management principles to determine any necessary actions. 

Advice on action to be taken by IVD users:  

IVD users should notify the IVD manufacturer in the following circumstances: 

  1. Increased discrepancies in cycle threshold (Ct) values between different gene targets. 

  1. Failure to detect specific gene targets, including those containing gene sequences that coincide with documented mutations.  

  1. Misdiagnosis (for example, false negative).  

See WHO website for reporting form for IVD users to give feedback to manufacturers  

https://www.who.int/health-topics/substandard-and-falsified-medical-products/safety-info-medical-devices-in-vitro-diagnostics  

Contact person for further information: 

Anita SANDS, Regulation and Prequalification, World Health Organization,  
e-mail: rapidalert@who.int 

Reference: 

Guidance for post-market surveillance and market surveillance of medical devices, including in vitro diagnostics. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.  

 

 

Statement to the 148th Executive Board by the Chair of the Review Committee on the Functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) during the COVID-19 Response

Honorable Chair, Excellencies, Director-General, Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you once again for the opportunity to provide you with an update on the work of the Review Committee on the Functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) during COVID-19.

As you know, this Committee was convened by the Director-General on 8 September 2020, in line with World Health Assembly Resolution WHA73.1. The Committee is composed of experts with a wide range of expertise and with adequate gender and geographical representation. I have the honour to be the Chair of this Committee and am ably supported by our Vice-Chair, Professor Lucille Blumberg of South Africa and our Rapporteur, Professor Preben Aavitsland, from Norway.

Our mandate is to review the functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) during the COVID-19 response and the status of implementation of the relevant recommendations of previous IHR Review Committees and to make technical recommendations to the Director-General, including any potential amendments.

We convened for 16 closed meetings so far, and we continue to work through three sub-groups: preparedness, alert, and response. I take this opportunity to reiterate my thanks to our three subgroup leads. We also convened 5 open meetings, when we provided updates on our work and listened to the submissions and questions raised by Member States, international agencies and non-governmental organizations in official relation to WHO. These open meetings continue to be attended by numerous designated representatives.

I reported on our progress to the 73rd World Health Assembly on 9 November 2020. And I continue to interact regularly with the Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and the Chair of the Independent Oversight Advisory Committee.

Let me now turn to the substance of our work. I invite you to read our Interim Progress Report, document EB148/19. It details our preliminary findings as of December 2020, which were reached following numerous interviews, discussions and the review of a wealth of documentation.

Let me point out the most important ones:

  1. Member States and experts overwhelmingly support the IHR as a cornerstone of international public health and health security law, but several areas need improving if we are to be better prepared for the next pandemic. While we have not finalized our article-by-article assessment, there is a growing belief in the Committee that most of the necessary improvements can be achieved through more effective implementation of the existing provisions of the IHR, and do not require at this point changes to the design of the IHR.

     

  2. National IHR Focal Points need to be further empowered, including where necessary through national legislation. National Focal Points play a critical role in the timely sharing of information, but their limited authority and status often lead to delays in notification. The Committee noted that effective IHR implementation requires many functions that are not within the narrow mandate of the national IHR focal points, such as multisectoral coordination for preparedness and response and collaborative risk assessment. The absence of a dedicated national entity with sufficient authority and a clear mandate to take ownership and leadership is considered a significant limitation to effective implementation of the IHR at national and subnational levels. At country level, national IHR focal points need to be integrated in the national emergency plan as well as the national health committee or similar body.

     

  3. The possible need for an intermediate level of alert before a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is declared, is also under consideration. The previous review committee on the Ebola response recommended such an intermediate level, but this recommendation was not taken up. The 5th open meeting of the Committee on 12 January 2021 discussed issues surrounding the possible introduction of a grading system. The different views expressed by Member States and the advantages and potential disadvantages of a new system will be further studied by the Committee. It is clear, that global preparedness, alert and response actions need to start much earlier and more decisively than they did during COVID-19. But it is far from certain, that introducing an intermediate level of alert would result in such earlier action. The Committee is considering how regular global and regional risk assessments can be used better to drive earlier and more targeted response measures at all levels. The aim, the Committee feels, should be to react early and strongly enough so as to prevent the need to declare a PHEIC.

     

  4. Compliance with IHR provisions remains a challenge in several areas, from setting up core capacities to implementing travel measures during health emergencies. The Committee is mindful of the lack of teeth in the IHR. We are therefore looking at new ways to monitoring and evaluating adherence to the IHR – both in preparedness and response – and to strengthen existing tools without overburdening countries. Considering a peer-review mechanism similar to the Universal Periodic Review used by the Human Rights Council, may be useful in improving preparedness and response. For example, the Universal Periodic Review has been shown to foster intersectoral coordination and whole-of-government approaches, to encourage good practices, and to link implementation of its recommendations with other government agendas – all of which are vital to strengthening IHR implementation. It is in this context that the Director-General has proposed the Universal Health and Preparedness Review initiative which is currently being pilot tested.

     

  5. Last but far from least, political support and resources for IHR implementation remain insufficient and irregular at all levels. In this context, the Committee is awaiting further detailed information on the funding mechanisms for IHR implementation.

I would like to clearly state my conviction that we need more meaningful cooperation during and in-between health emergencies; more transparency, more regular detailed exchange of real-time data and experiences at all levels, more reliability of interaction, and greater speed in sharing data and samples. Fortunately, digital technology supporting such developments is increasingly becoming available, from data mining to find disease outbreaks early, to next generation sequencing to follow a pathogen around the globe, to virtual conferencing that makes human interaction easier.

To come to the conclusion, the deadline for our final report is the 74th World Health Assembly in May 2021. However, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic will be far from over in 4 months’ time, and therefore our findings and recommendations will not necessarily be complete. Further deliberations may be needed later.

Let me reiterate what I said in November 2020 on the occasion of the 73rd Health Assembly: The IHR are your instrument, our instrument, of international public health law. Making them work requires giving WHO the tools and the resources it needs to better prepare and protect humanity against public health risks, through an effective, coordinated, multisectoral and evidence-based public health response.


Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today and let me also thank the Director-General for the excellent support provided by the WHO Secretariat to this Review Committee.