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EU-China cooperation the way forward, experts agree



Xi Jinping

ROME : The European Union (EU) and China must continue to cooperate in the fields of science, research and innovation in order to tackle global issues such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, experts from industries and institutions agreed during an online panel discussion held on Wednesday.

The panel discussion, which was supported in Italy by the Italy-China Chamber of Commerce, a member of the EU-China Business Association, focused on the importance of scientific and research cooperation between the EU and China, and how this can support economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

“The cooperation dialogue process that is taking place between China and the EU will govern the future relationships between China and the EU in the areas of science and research,” said panel moderator Gwenn Sonck, executive director of the EU-China Business Association.

In the first seven months of 2020, China surpassed the United States to become the biggest trading partner of the European Union (EU), according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office.

The growth led by exports from Europe to China “is a key policy instrument that will assist Europe to recover from the economic challenges that it faces at this time,” Sonck said.

Abraham Liu, Huawei’s chief representative to the EU Institutions, also noted in the discussion that the Chinese tech giant has “23 research centers across 12 countries” in Europe, including Italy, and it has been in Europe for 20 years.

“We actively contribute to the positive development of the European economy, (and) new and innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are modernizing the EU industry,” said Liu.

“Europeans by nature are excellent software developers and that is why Huawei’s microwave research center is in Milan, our wireless research center is in Stockholm, our open innovation center is in Paris and our optical network research center is in Munich,” Liu said.

He added that “over the next five years, Huawei plans to invest 100 million euros in our AI ecosystem program in Europe.”

“Open and transparent procedures are important with regard to the global research programs because it is the most effective way to secure the strongest and the most innovative results to tackle the problems that society faces, such as climate change and the pandemic,” said Liu.

As for Bekaert, a Belgian company that specializes in steel wire transformation and coating technologies, its Vice-President for research and development (R&D) and innovation, Veerle Van Wassenhove, said: “for us it has proven essential to cooperate closely with the China team.”

Bekaert opened its first plant in China in 1993, said Yu Zhigao, senior vice president of Technology Rubber Reinforcement at Bekaert.

He added that currently, Bekaert has “220 people in the R&D department and close to 250 people in its engineering department” in China.

Van Wassenhove added that “We are grateful as Bekaert that we were able and the China team was able to have no COVID cases and recover our operations within a matter of weeks.”

“We saw during these COVID times that it was essential to be able, as a global organization, to stand on…the capabilities of China,” Van Wassenhove explained.

In addition, MEP Frances Fitzgerald, a member of the “Delegation for relations with the People’s Republic of China” at the European Parliament, said that “the lenses through which everything is being viewed at present” are COVID-19, climate change, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), digital transformation and green technologies.

“These lenses determine so much and they are interconnected — the key point about them is that they are global,” said Fitzgerald. She added that science, research, and best thinking in innovation are about “bringing the best talents of the world together” and this requires cooperation.

“We see extraordinary progress in China in terms of innovation, in engineering, in so many areas,” said Fitzgerald. “It is definitely to our mutual benefit if we can work closely together.”

Taking the search for the COVID-19 vaccine as an example, Fitzgerald said: “obviously each continent will make its own progress, but global cooperation offers us the best opportunity” to find a vaccine.

“There is a clear need for global cooperation,” she stressed, adding that the business, science, research, and innovation sectors can have a positive “bottom-up” effect in the geopolitical arena.

“What you don’t want to see are barriers to that upward movement from business, science, research, innovation,” Fitzgerald added.


Moderna Says Vaccine 100% Effective Against Severe Covid, Seeks Clearance

COVID-19 Vaccine: Moderna said it expects to have approximately 20 million doses of the vaccine, called mRNA-1273, available in the US by the end of the year.



Covid 19 Vaccine

Washington: Moderna Inc will apply for US and European emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine on Monday after full results from a late-stage study showed it was 94.1% effective with no serious safety concerns, the company said. Moderna also reported that the vaccine’s efficacy rate was consistent across age, race, ethnicity and gender demographics as well as having a 100% success rate in preventing severe cases of a disease that has killed nearly 1.5 million people.

The filing sets Moderna’s product up to be the second vaccine likely to receive US emergency use authorization this year following a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech which had a 95% efficacy rate in trials. “We believe that we have a vaccine that is very highly efficacious. We now have the data to prove it,” Moderna Chief Medical Officer Tal Zaks said.

“We expect to be playing a major part in turning around this pandemic.”

Of the 196 volunteers who contracted COVID-19 in the trial with more than 30,000 people, 185 received a placebo while 11 got the vaccine.

Moderna reported 30 severe cases — all in the placebo group — which means the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing severe cases.

“As the numbers of cases reported grows, confidence grows that this amazing protection will be maintained in a product that can be rolled out to protect the public,” said Alexander Edwards, associate professor in biomedical technology at Britain’s University of Reading.

In addition to filing its US application, Moderna said it would seek conditional approval from the European Medicines Agency, which has already begun a rolling review of its data, and would continue to talk with other regulators.

Pfizer has already applied for emergency use authorization in the United States and Europe, putting it about a week ahead of Moderna.

Moderna said it was on track to have about 20 million doses of its vaccine ready to ship in the United States by the end of 2020, enough to inoculate 10 million people.

Both of the vaccines use a new technology called synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) whereas others, such as Britain’s AstraZeneca, are using more traditional methods to develop their vaccines.

AstraZeneca has announced an average efficacy rate of 70% for its shot and as much as 90% for a subgroup of trial participants who got a half dose, followed by a full dose.

But some scientists have expressed doubts about the robustness of the 90% efficacy figure for the smaller group.

Moderna’s latest efficacy result is slightly lower than an interim analysis released on Nov 16 of 94.5% effectiveness, a difference that Mr Zaks said was not statistically significant.

“At this level of effectiveness, when you just do the math of what it means for the pandemic that’s raging around us, it’s just overwhelming,” said Zaks, who said he cried when he saw the final results over the weekend.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines proved more effective than anticipated and were far superior to the 50% benchmark set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The past few weeks of positive vaccine results have ignited hopes for an end to a pandemic that has battered economies and comes as new infections and COVID-19 hospitalizations are at record levels across the United States.

Independent advisers to the FDA are scheduled to meet on December 17 to review Moderna’s trial data and make a recommendation to the FDA.

They will meet on December 10 to review Pfizer’s data. Shortly after gaining emergency use authorization, Moderna expects the vaccine to be shipped to distribution points throughout the United States by the government’s Operation Warp Speed program and McKesson Corp, a drug distributor contracted by the US government.

Its distribution is expected to be easier than Pfizer’s because while it needs to be stored in a freezer, it does not require the ultra-cold temperature needed by Pfizer’s vaccine.

Moderna said the 196 COVID-19 cases in its trial included 33 adults over 65 years old and 42 volunteers from racially diverse groups, including 29 Latinos, 6 Blacks, 4 Asian Americans and 3 multiracial participants. There was one death related to COVID-19 in the placebo group.

Azra Ghani, chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, said Monday’s details from Moderna confirmed the vaccine was highly efficient, including against severe cases. “Whilst this does not exclude some risk of severe disease after vaccination given the relatively small number of severe cases, these results suggest very high efficacy,” she said.

Zaks said the vaccine has been developed during a period of “political acrimony” and having a highly effective vaccine may go a long way toward erasing some of that distrust. “This is as black and white as an effect on a population will be. Your chances of actually being sick if you’ve been vaccinated are decreased 20-fold,” he said.

Moderna reported no new side effects since its interim analysis. Based on that analysis, the most common side effects were fatigue, injection site redness and pain, headache and body aches, which rose after the second dose and were short-lived.

Zaks said the vaccine caused significant flu-like symptoms in some participants, which, he said, “goes hand-in-hand with having such a potent vaccine.” But it has not caused any significant safety concerns so far.

Moderna plans to start a new trial to test the vaccine in adolescents before the end of the year, followed by another in even younger volunteers early in 2021.

It hopes to have the vaccine available for adolescents by September, Zaks said.

Other vaccine makers have said they are studying their vaccines in young people as well.

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Kim Jong-un holds meeting to discuss Party Congress preps




Kim Jong Un

Seoul, Nov 30 : North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a Politburo meeting to discuss plans and preparations for the upcoming eighth Party Congress slated for January 2021, state media reported on Monday.

In a report, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the enlarged meeting of the 21st Political Bureau of the seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on Sunday also “examined relevant issues for improving and strengthening the Party ideological work as required by the developing revolution, and approved the organization mechanism issue”.

The eighth Party Congress will be held in January, in which a new five-year economic development plan will be discussed and endorsed after the current five-year plan is completed this year, reports Xinhua news agency.

At the meeting, the country’s economic institutions were “harshly criticized” for “not guiding their sectors scientifically and for failing to overcome subjectivism and formalism in their work”, the KCNA report said.

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Fauci warns of ‘surge upon a surge’ in US Covid-19 cases

His warning came as more than 90,000 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized across the US, with over 18,000 in intensive care units, according to the Covid Tracking Project.




Anthony Fauci

Washington, Nov 30: Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases expert, has warned that the US might witness a “surge upon a surge” of new coronavirus cases cases in the weeks after Thanksgiving due to cold weather and travel.

“We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s just the reality,” Xinhua news agency quoted Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as saying on Sunday night in an ABC News interview.

“Having said that, we have to be careful now because there almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel.

“We understand the importance of families getting together. And it’s just something that we have to deal with that we likely will have an increase in cases, as we get into the colder weeks of the winter, and as we approach the Christmas season,” he added.

Fauci urged travellers to be safe when returning home from holiday travels, encouraging them to quarantine if possible and to get tested.

When asked if people should expect similar restrictions and recommendations for Christmas this year, the top expert replied: “I can’t see how we’re not gonna have the same thing because when you have the kind of infection that we have, it doesn’t all of a sudden turn around like that.

“So clearly in the next few weeks, we’re gonna have the same sort of thing and perhaps even two or three weeks down the line… We may see a surge upon a surge.”

Fauci added that he did not foresee “a relaxation” of the current Center for Disease Control (CDC) restrictions.

His warning came as more than 90,000 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized across the US, with over 18,000 in intensive care units, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

In its latest update on Monday, the Johns Hopkins University revealed that the US’ current caseload and death toll stood at 13,374,162 and 266,838, respectively.

The two tallies account for the world’s highest, making the US the worst-hit country.

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