Chile Approves Emergency Use of Second Coronavirus Vaccine

Chile is getting a new weapon to help in its fight against the spread of the coronavirus.Health regulators approved the emergency use of the CoronaVac vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.Heriberto Garcia, director of Chile’s Public Health Institute, said very encouraging data from late-stage trials and the Health Institute’s independent investigations suggested CoronaVac was a “safe and effective vaccine to fight the pandemic.”Chile paid $3.5 million to host a clinical trial of the Sinovac vaccine and has ordered 60 million doses of the vaccine, according to Reuters.Garcia said Sinovac will arrive in Chile at the end of the month. Chile has already inoculated more than 29,000 people with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which arrived in the country late last month.Leaders of Chile’s Public Health Institute are also weighing approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for emergency use and have already signed a deal to purchase 14.4 million doses.So far, Chile has confirmed more than 677,000 COVID infections and 17,573 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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Zimbabwe Foreign Minister Dies of COVID-19

Zimbabwe is mourning the death of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo.The government said the country’s top diplomat died Wednesday after contracting COVID-19.Moyo gained international notoriety as an army general, becoming the spokesperson of the 2017 coup that ousted longtime President Robert Mugabe, who was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa.Moyo is the third cabinet minister to succumb to COVID-19 in the past six months.Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Ellen Gwaradzimba died last week, and Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri died of the disease in July.The 61-year-old Moyo was reportedly getting weekly treatment for a kidney ailment at the time of his death.COVID-19 infections and deaths are on the rise in Zimbabwe, with more than 16,000 new infections and 505 deaths in the past month, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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As Schools Reopen in Nigeria, Experts Urge Caution

Nigerian authorities reopened schools across the country Monday despite a jump in confirmed cases of COVID-19.  But while millions of students are excited to return to class, health authorities are urging caution.  Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja.  Videographer: Emeka Gibson.   
  

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Bangladesh Expects to Start Rohingya Repatriation to Myanmar in June

Bangladesh officials say they expect to begin a third effort to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in June.The target date – seen as premature by many Rohingya – emerged from this week’s talks between the two countries under Chinese mediation.“We proposed beginning the repatriation by March. But Myanmar said that for some logistical reasons they would need some more time,” said Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, who led the Bangladeshi side in the tripartite meeting Tuesday.“Following our meeting, it appears, we would be able to begin the repatriation by June,” Momen told reporters in Dhaka.Bangladesh Relocates 2nd Group of Rohingya Refugees Officials say more than 1,800 Rohingyas arrived at Bhasan Char aboard several ships, a day after leaving overcrowded, squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar districtMyanmar’s deputy minister for international cooperation U Hau Do Suan and China’s vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui represented their respective countries in the 90-minute virtual meeting.But many Rohingya in the sprawling refugee camps around Cox’s Bazar say they are unwilling to return to Myanmar before a series of long-standing demands are met.“Myanmar has to guarantee to return the full citizenship rights to all Rohingya — this is our main demand,” said Jan Mohammad, a Rohingya refugee who fled to Bangladesh in 2017 and lives in the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.“We all want to return to our native villages in Rakhine. Violent crimes were committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine that led to our exodus from Myanmar. All perpetrators have to be held accountable for their crimes, he told VOA. “And, there must be a neutral international security force to ensure our safety in Rakhine.”HRW: 200 Homes Burned in Rakhine, MyanmarRakhine faces another mass destruction of homes amid refugee crisis He added, “I am sure no Rohingya will be ready to go back to Rakhine if Myanmar does not care to fulfill our demands.”Subjected to ethnic violence in Myanmar, minority Rohingya Muslims have for decades escaped persecution and economic hardship in Myanmar by fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, where more than 1.2 million of the refugees now live, mostly in congested shanty colonies.After some 750,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh following a brutal military-led campaign in Rakhine in 2017, international pressure forced Myanmar to agree that it would take back the Rohingya refugees.But efforts at repatriation failed in 2018 and 2019, when the Rohingya refused to return home, saying they still felt unsafe in Rakhine, and that Myanmar had not assured them of full citizenship rights.China subsequently offered to help the two countries find a solution, beginning with a tripartite meeting in New York in January 2020. Tuesday’s meeting was a continuation of that effort.Bangladesh has repeatedly said the congested country is overburdened with Rohingya refugees. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, said some weeks ago that “there is no other alternative” to the Rohingya crisis except repatriation.At Tuesday’s meeting, Bangladesh proposed that representatives from the international community, including the United Nations, be present in Rakhine to oversee the repatriation. China and Myanmar reportedly welcomed the proposal, but no concrete decision was taken.  Bangladesh also proposed that the populations of whole villages in Rakhine be returned together, which could make them feel safer. Myanmar officials said they would like to begin with 42,000 Rohingya, whose identities have already been verified from a list of 840,000 refugees previously provided by Bangladesh.Bangladesh also proposed that Myanmar send a delegation to Cox’s Bazar to interact with Rohingya refugee community leaders and try to persuade them to return. Foreign Secretary AK Abdul Momen said his nation is doing its best to begin the repatriation as soon as possible.“We could not succeed to begin the repatriation on two attempts in the past. But we have learned some lessons in the process. We are trying our best to be successful this time,” he said.The foreign secretary noted that 90,000 Rohingya children have been born in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in the past three years.“The Rohingya population is growing in Bangladesh. The growth of the population will give rise to new complications. For us there is no alternative to begin the repatriation on a fast track,” the foreign secretary said.“We have put our heart and soul into this process to begin the repatriation as soon as possible.”

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Pakistan Announces Successful Test of Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile  

Pakistan said Wednesday that it had successfully test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the Arabian Sea, aimed at “revalidating” the weapon’s operational and technical parameters.The Shaheen III surface-to-surface missile, which the country first fired in 2015, can carry nuclear and conventional warheads up to 2,750 kilometers.The range, analysts said, enables the liquid-fueled, multistage rocket to reach targets anywhere in neighboring India, Pakistan’s archrival, and in parts of the Middle East.The military said its top commanders, including the head of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) that oversees Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, witnessed Wednesday’s “successful flight test, with its impact point in the Arabian Sea.” It shared no further details.Pakistani officials said the test was part of Islamabad’s resolve to maintain a “policy of credible minimum deterrence,” stressing the “posture is India-centric.”Regional tensionsThe two nuclear-armed South Asian nations have fought three wars and several limited conflicts since gaining independence from Britain in1947.Bilateral tensions have deteriorated in recent years over disputed Kashmir, which both New Delhi and Islamabad claim in full and has sparked most of the wars.Bid for attention?Wednesday’s missile test by Pakistan came hours before President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The move, critics said, could be an attempt by Islamabad to draw the attention of the incoming U.S. administration to the heightened tensions in South Asia.Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Tuesday that his government intended to convey to the Biden administration that Islamabad was seeking regional peace to promote economic prosperity.“We wanted a good, healthy relationship with India. Unfortunately, the present [Indian] regime has by their actions vitiated the climate,” Qureshi told a virtual seminar organized to discuss Pakistan-U.S. ties.“What we want to tell them [the U.S.] is that we are for peace. We never shy away from engagement, from dialogue, but the environment that is being created [by India] is not very healthy,” Qureshi said.New Delhi alleges Islamabad is backing militant groups operating in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir and plotting terrorist attacks in India.Pakistan rejects the charges as an attempt by India to divert international attention from “atrocities” security forces are allegedly inflicting on Kashmiris in the Indian-ruled part of the divided region.    

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UN Reports 43 Dead After Migrant Ship Sinks Off Libyan Coast

Two United Nations agencies say that 43 African migrants died when a ship they were on capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya.
 
In a joint statement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) say the vessel overturned in rough seas after its engine quit a few hours after leaving the city of Zawya early Tuesday.
 
The agencies say a “partner on the ground,” the International Rescue Committee, reports 10 survivors were rescued by coastal security and brought to shore. The survivors say all the passengers were men from West African countries.
 
The agencies say they gave the survivors emergency assistance, including food, water and medical screenings, before they were released from the port.  
The agencies say this is the first such accident of 2021, following a year in which hundreds of people lost their lives attempting to cross the central Mediterranean. They say the actual number of people who died crossing the sea during 2020 could be much higher, due to their limited ability to monitor migration routes.  
War-ravaged Libya is a major route for Africa and Middle Eastern migrants seeking to reach Europe. The U.N. agencies called for reactivating state-led search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and for a halt to returning migrants to “unsafe ports.”
 

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