While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 1

People walk on a shopping street decorated for Christmas in central Barcelona, on Nov 30, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WHO worried Covid-19 'amnesia' will lead to another pandemic

The World Health Organisation's top emergency expert said on Monday that the world risked future pandemics if it suffered "amnesia" and did not learn from the current coronavirus crisis.

"I have seen the amnesia that seems to descend upon the world after a traumatic event, and that's understandable," Mike Ryan told a briefing in Geneva.

"But if we do this again like we did after Sars, like we did after H5N1, like we did after H1N1 pandemic, if we continue to ignore the realities of what emerging and dangerous pathogens can do to our civilisation, then we are likely to experience the same or worse again within our lifetimes," he said.

Ryan also took a swipe at developed nations, saying that northern countries had been running healthcare systems "like low-cost airlines" and that the world was paying for that now.


Vaccines within reach as US braces for post-Thanksgiving coronavirus surge

After a Thanksgiving weekend when the number of people travelling through US airports reached its highest since mid-March, a top government official said on Monday some Americans could begin receiving coronavirus vaccinations before Christmas.

US Health Secretary Alex Azar said Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine could be authorized and shipped within days of a Dec 10 meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration tasked with reviewing trial data and recommending whether it warrants approval.

A vaccine from Moderna could follow a week later, he said, after the company announced on Monday it would apply for US and European emergency authorisation.


Biden names top economic team to focus on recovery from Covid-19 pandemic

US President-elect Joe Biden named several women to his top economic policy team on Monday, including former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary nominee, setting the stage for diversity and a focus on recovery from the pandemic.

The advisers, several of whom would need to be approved by the US Senate, come from liberal research organisations and worked in previous Democratic administrations.

Their aim will be to set policies that can help people and businesses recover from the damage done by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 266,000 people in the United States and cost millions of jobs.


Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon skyrockets to 12-year high under Bolsonaro

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest surged to a 12-year high in 2020, official government data showed on Monday, with destruction soaring since President Jair Bolsonaro took office and weakened environmental enforcement.

In 2020, destruction of the world's largest rainforest rose 9.5% from a year earlier to 11,088 sq km, according to data from Brazil's national space research agency Inpe, seven times the size of London.

That means Brazil will miss its own target, established under a 2009 climate change law, for reducing deforestation to roughly 3,900 sq km.


Philippines extends partial coronavirus curbs in Manila to end of year

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said that partial coronavirus restrictions will remain in the capital region until the end of the year, with the government urging Filipinos to limit Christmas gatherings to prevent a post-holiday surge in Covid-19 cases.

People must still wear masks and face shields and observe social distancing in Metro Manila as well as in Duterte's home town, Davao, and six other areas for the whole of December, while less stringent restrictions will be enforced for the rest of the country.

In a late-night televised address, Duterte reminded Filipinos of the danger of ignoring safety protocols, citing what he said was a third wave of infections in Europe and the United States.


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