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India: a Belated Mobilization Begins

Apr. 30 (EIRNS)–Friday was yet another new record with over 386,000 official new cases. New Delhi hospitals are beyond capacity and patients are sharing beds and using the floors of corridors. In the next two weeks, 1,200 more intensive care beds are to be added, but New Delhi has about 24,000 new cases/day with approximately 3,600/day needing hospitalization. The Army Chief, M. M. Naravane, opened the military hospitals and invited those in distress to approach a military base. One military hospital with 500 beds was opened, and three hours later was all filled up.

Also on Friday, two planeloads of equipment arrived from Russia, including 20 oxygen concentrators, 75 ventilators, 150 bedside monitors and 22 tons of medicine. The first U.S. shipment arrived with some oxygen cylinders, N95masks, and rapid antigen tests. Bangladesh provided 10,000 vials of anti-virals and 30,000 PPE kits. On Saturday, the German Air Force will arrive with supplies, and Taiwan is delivering 150 concentrators this weekend. Finally, Friday also saw China’s head, Xi Jinping, call India’s Prime Minister Modi, offering condolences and expressing willingness to strengthen cooperation with India. Global Times reports that China has sent 26,000 ventilators and oxygenators, 15,000 patient monitors and about 3,800 tons of medicine to India so far this month.

Putin Speaks With Modi, As Planeloads of Russian Aid Begin

April 28 (EIRNS)—President Vladimir Putin personally informed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today that Russia will send equipment urgently-needed to care for Indians infected with COVID-19 to India, starting with flights today by the Russian Emergencies Ministry delivering over 22 tons of equipment, including 20 oxygen production units, 75 lung ventilators, 150 medical monitors and 200,000 packs of medicine. The two leaders spoke by telephone, with Putin assuring Modi of his support in this difficult period, and Modi “warmly thank[ing] the President of Russia for the assistance provided, which is largely high-tech and is in great demand in the country,” the Kremlin reported. They also discussed that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has also now been registered in India, and both are satisfied that the Russian Direct Investment Fund had reached an agreement with Indian companies to produce 850 million doses of Sputnik V, production of which is to begin in May.

Mexican, Russian Foreign Ministers Sign Far-Reaching Agreements In Moscow Meeting

April 28 (EIRNS)—In a ceremony today at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and his counterpart Sergey Lavrov signed a series of comprehensive agreements, not only relating to Mexico’s plan to produce the Sputnik V vaccine at its state-run Birmex lab, but also to far-reaching cooperation in a number of fields, including economics and trade, aerospace, culture and science and technology. As both ministers stressed, the relationship between the two countries is growing stronger. At their joint press conference, Lavrov reported, “we have decided to intensify our political contacts,” including signing a plan for Ministerial Consultations spanning 2021-2024. Ebrard underscored, according to a communique from Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, that Mexico and Russia are “entering a phase in our relationship which is very close, and the pandemic has opened the door for us to broaden and deepen that relationship.” Lavrov pointed out that Presidents Putin and López Obrador speak by phone “regularly,” and hope to meet in person once the epidemiological situation permits. The official communique is published on Mexico’s government website. 

Mexico is the only country in North America which has approved emergency use authorization for Sputnik V and one million Mexicans have already been vaccinated with it. The plan agreed to now is that Mexico’s state-run Birmex laboratories will do the final bottling and packaging of Sputnik V, beginning in May or June. Aside from meeting with Lavrov today, Ebrard also held meetings with officials of the Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF—Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) and with the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which produces the vaccine. The daily Economista reported Ebrard’s remarks that Birmex is already working with the RDIF to arrange for “filling and bottling in Mexico,” and then down the road, perhaps there can be “full production (combined) of Sputnik V, or Sputnik No. 2, or `Sputnik Light.’” Sputnik Light is a one-dose vaccine in which Mexico is particularly interested, as its use would help accelerate its national vaccination program and avoid some of the logistical problems associated with a two-dose vaccine.

Other agreements included a commitment to resume, perhaps by June, meetings of the Intergovernmental Russian-Mexican Joint Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and Maritime Navigation. They also signed an agreement on aerospace cooperation, for the peaceful exploration of outer space, and on establishing in Mexico City a Russian Center of Science and Culture. Lavrov and Ebrard discussed plans to ensure that a large Mexican business delegation attends the June summit of the St. Petersburg Forum, and they stressed that their governments agreed on a global agenda which includes respect for the UN-centered international order, respect for international law and multilateralism, reject interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, and reject coups as a means to effect regime change. The official report on the meeting is here

The Four Days when Countries Woke Up to India’s Fight against COVID-19

The Four Days when Countries Woke Up to India’s Fight against COVID-19

Apr. 26 (EIRNS)–On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, announced that China was in touch with India about emergency oxygen and other supplies. By Sunday, 800 oxygen concentrators were sent, and 10,000 more were to come within a week. (It was only months ago that China and India exchanged fire at their border, with all the consequent inflamed comments.) And over the next few days, China’s English language Global Times has made much of the lack of help from India’s erstwhile ally, the United States.

Saudi Arabia rapidly mobilized 80 metric tons of liquid oxygen. Both the UAE and Singapore are working out high-capacity oxygen-carrying tankers. Russia is sending planes with aid this week, including oxygen generators and concentrators, along with therapeutics. On Saturday, Pakistan committed for ventilators, PPE and digital x-ray machines. The UK, on Sunday, sent oxygen concentrators and ventilators On Sunday, France and Germany promised oxygen in days. On Monday, Australia joined in. The EU executive announced that they are “already coordinating with EU countries that are ready to provide urgently needed oxygen and medicine rapidly” — though it is not clear what the EU executive might mean by “rapidly.”

On Sunday afternoon, President Biden did tweet that “we are determined to help India…” in tandem with National Security Director Jake Sullivan’s announcement that the long-requested removal of the ban on raw materials (such as specialized filters, cell culture media and bioreactor bags) would be lifted and that PPE would be sent. There was no word on the tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — sitting in storage, unused, and not even approved for use in the United States.

Pandemic Gains Upper Hand in India; Biden Looks the Other Way

Pandemic Gains the Upper Hand in India; Biden Looks the Other Way

April 25 (EIRNS) – India has reported over 300,000 new COVID infections per day for the last four days – a world record. That means that {one million} people are getting infected every three days in this nation of 1.3 billion. Chinese medical authorities are estimating that the daily rate could rise to 500,000 by June, and that the real numbers are likely much higher than recorded as many homeless people infected with the virus have not been included. The country now has recorded a total of 16.6 million cases, including 189,544 deaths. Worse still, the new strain reportedly directly attacks the lungs and typically causes significant damage before it is even detected.

While much of the international media remains focused on the sheer horror of the collapse of the Indian health system, the deadly lack of oxygen, and the open-air improvised crematoria, the true scandal is that the United States, and other western nations, are not only standing by, but have actually turned their backs on India and are – so far – refusing to send desperately needed vaccines and other medical supplies to India.

Delhi medical and government authorities have been pleading with the US to supply it with Astra Zeneca jabs that have been stockpiled by the Biden administration, as well as the raw materials needed to manufacture COVID vaccines in India. India’s former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal told Sputnik: “The attitude of the Joe Biden administration is very self-centered and selfish. India has been very generous in exporting and donating vaccines to other countries during the COVID pandemic,” said Sibal, who was previously a deputy chief of India’s Embassy in the US.

“The US, on the other hand, wants to create a stockpile to buffer itself against the next wave. Millions are being affected in India due to the virus and the US is effectively ignoring the plight of Indians”, complained Sibal. “The US is sitting on 350 million doses of COVID vaccine which India could use urgently”, he stated.

The raw materials required to manufacture COVID vaccines include bio-reactor bags, cell culture media, and filters, among others. The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing facility, this week tweeted out an appeal to President Biden urging him to lift the ban on the export of raw materials. The SII claims that its vaccine production has been cut by almost 50 percent due to a shortage of raw materials.

To date, the best the Biden administration has been able to do is send empty words to India: “Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific Covid-19 outbreak,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken tweeted. “We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health care heroes.”

Putin Warns: West Gone Too Far, Do Not Cross Red Lines – Rather Let’s Work Together Development

Putin Warns West It Has Gone Too Far: Do Not Cross Our Red Lines, But Let’s Work Together on Mutual Development

April 21 (EIRNS)—International media, for once, did not censor the “bottom line” of the grave warning delivered to those in the West who treat Russia as an adversary by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual Address to the Federal Assembly today. For our readers to take in the full weight of Putin’s warning and contrasted approach offered, a much fuller extract of the foreign policy part of his speech is provided here:

“The meaning and purpose of Russia’s policy in the international arena—I will just say a few words about this to conclude my address—is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens, for the stable development of our country. Russia certainly has its own interests we defend and will continue to defend within the framework of international law, as all other states do. And if someone refuses to understand this obvious thing or does not want to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone with us, Russia will always find a way to defend its stance.

“At the same time, unfortunately, everyone in the world seems to be used to the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions and to certain actors’ brutal attempts to impose their will on others by force. But today, this practice is degenerating into something even more dangerous—I am referring to the recently exposed direct interference in Belarus in an attempt to orchestrate a coup d’état and assassinate the President of that country. At the same time, it is typical that even such flagrant actions have not been condemned by the so-called collective West. Nobody seemed to notice. Everyone pretends nothing is happening.

“But listen, you can think whatever you like of, say, Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych or [Nicolas] Maduro in Venezuela. I repeat, you can like or dislike them, including Yanukovych who almost got killed, too, and removed from power via an armed coup. You can have your own opinion of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s policy. But the practice of staging coups d’état and planning political assassinations, including those of high-ranking officials—well, this goes too far. This is beyond any limits.

“Suffice it to mention the admission made by the detained participants in the conspiracy about a planned siege of Minsk, including plans to block the city infrastructure and communications, and a complete shutdown of the entire power system in the capital of Belarus! This actually means they were preparing a massive cyberattack. What else could it be? You know, you cannot just do it all with one switch.

“Clearly, there is a reason why our Western colleagues have been stubbornly rejecting Russia’s numerous proposals to establish an international dialogue on information and cyber security. We have come up with these proposals many times. They avoid even discussing this matter.

“What if there had been a real attempt at a coup d’état in Belarus? After all, this was the ultimate goal. How many people would have been hurt? What would have become of Belarus? Nobody is thinking about this.

“Just as no one was thinking about the future of Ukraine during the coup in that country.

“All the while, unfriendly moves towards Russia have also continued unabated. Some countries have taken up an unseemly routine where they pick on Russia for any reason, most often, for no reason at all. It is some kind of new sport of who shouts the loudest.

“In this regard, we behave in an extremely restrained manner, I would even say, modestly, and I am saying this without irony. Often, we prefer not to respond at all, not just to unfriendly moves, but even to outright rudeness. We want to maintain good relations with everyone who participates in the international dialogue. But we see what is happening in real life. As I said, every now and then they are picking on Russia, for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis are running around them like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan—everything is like in Kipling’s book—howling along in order to make their sovereign happy. Kipling was a great writer.

“We really want to maintain good relations with all those engaged in international communication, including, by the way, those with whom we have not been getting along lately, to put it mildly. We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn or even blow up these bridges, they must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough.

“Those behind provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret what they have done in a way they have not regretted anything for a long time.

“At the same time, I just have to make it clear, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence, and certainty in our cause, as well as common sense, when making a decision of any kind. But I hope that no one will think about crossing the ‘red line’ with regard to Russia. We ourselves will determine in each specific case where it will be drawn.”

Putin reminded his live audience and those listening that Russia already has “standing on combat duty” the advanced hypersonic and other weapons systems he had announced in March 2018 (the Avangard, Kinzhal hypersonic missiles), the anti-ship Tsirkon hypersonic missiles will follow soon, and the Sarmat super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles are scheduled to go on combat duty in late 2022, while development proceeds on the Poseidon and Burevestnik combat systems.

That reminder of reality delivered, Putin reiterated Russia’s January 2020 offer to negotiate and hold a summit of the P-5:

“As the leader in the creation of new-generation combat systems and in the development of modern nuclear forces, Russia is urging its partners once again to discuss the issues related to strategic armaments and to ensuring global stability. The subject matter and the goal of these talks could be the creation of an environment for a conflict-free coexistence based on the security equation, which would include not only the traditional strategic armaments, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but—I would like to emphasize this—all offensive and defensive systems capable of attaining strategic goals regardless of the armament.

“The five nuclear countries bear special responsibility. I hope that the initiative on a personal meeting of the heads of state of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which we proposed last year, will materialize and will be held as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.”

The way forward lies in “broad international cooperation … on the basis of mutual respect,” Putin outlined in closing his remarks on foreign relations. Thus, Russia has assisted the settlement of regional conflicts, as in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh, and participates in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. “There are new, interesting projects” in our common projects in the Eurasian Economic Union,” Putin declared, “such as the development of transport-and-logistics corridors. I am sure they will become a reliable infrastructure backbone for large-scale Eurasian partnership … [as] practical instruments for resolving national development tasks.”

Argentina To Produce Sputnik V Vaccine – 1st Ibero-American Nation To Do So

Argentina To Produce the Sputnik V Vaccine, the First Ibero-American Nation To Do So

April 21 (EIRNS)—In an April 20 press release, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, announced that its partner, Argentina’s Laboratorios Richmond, had produced a test batch of 21,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, the first Ibero-American nation to do so. Samples will be sent to Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which first developed Sputnik V, where they will undergo quality control tests, and once those are completed, Richmond will plan to gear up for mass production by June if all goes well. Quoted in the press release, RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said that Argentina was the first Ibero-American nation to approve emergency use authorization of Sputnik V, and now, thanks to technology transfer to Richmond labs from RDIF and its partners, production has begun. “The vaccine produced in Argentina can then be exported to other nations of Central and South America,” he said.

In remarks to Telam news agency, government sources cautioned that the next steps in the production process will be “complex and challenging,” explaining that “as this is a biological process, there could be some delays and difficulties until we reach optimal levels…. We’re betting on [producing] the best vaccine in the world, but in the short term, let’s be cautious.” A medium-term perspective would be “for year’s end to produce 100% of the vaccine,” the officials said.

Marcelo Figueiras, CEO of Laboratorios Richmond, stressed he is proud to have the support of the RDIF “that trusted in our scientific and technical platform to produce the Sputnik V vaccine in Argentina. We celebrate this recognition that we will reward with work, commitment and professionalism, to facilitate availability of the vaccine in the shortest possible time for Argentina and the entire Latin American region,” the daily Página 12 reported him as saying in its April 20 edition. President Alberto Fernández expressed his great pride in this achievement, expressing that “Argentina has become the first country of the region to launch the production of Sputnik V thanks to the partnership between RDIF and Laboratorios Richmond. Sputnik V is approved in more than 10 countries of Latin and Central America and production in Argentina will help facilitate deliveries to other partners in the region. It will be a great opportunity to advance in the fight against the pandemic,” not only for Argentina but for the entire region.

Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine Producers Plan Technology Transfers to Developing Countries

Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine Producers Plan Technology Transfers to Developing Countries

April 21 (EIRNS)— Zheng Zhongwei, director of the Development Center for Medical Science and Technology of China’s National Health Commission, raised the problem yesterday that some 5 billion people in the world outside China threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic have no access to vaccines, “while another 1.2 billion people in places where the epidemic is serious—including the U.S., U.K. and Europe—do have vaccines.” Zheng was addressing the session on COVID-19 at this year’s Boao Forum for Asia.

The two top executives of China’s Sinovac and CanSinoBIO vaccine producers told the session that to address that disparity, they are “mulling” how to transfer at least some part of the technology needed for vaccine production to developing countries, Global Times reports.

CanSinoBIO CEO Yu Xuefeng said the company is considering technology transfer to some qualified countries like Mexico and Pakistan, so that countries in South America and Central Asia can get vaccines more conveniently. The company already exports semi-finished vaccine products to Brazil and Mexico, where they are packaged locally. (“Packaging” a vaccine is not like packaging tablets or capsules, but requires special technology and trained personnel.)

Sinovac Biotech CEO Yin Weidong was more decisive, announcing that his company plans “to select 10 countries for technology transfer as soon as possible” to break the bottleneck, Reuters reports. Sinovac Biotech has already supplied over 60% of the 260 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine which it has produced to countries outside China, he reported, and is producing more than 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine per day. According to Zheng, China plans now to produce over 3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year, but hopes to build up its capacity so as to produce some 5 billion doses. China is in the midst of its own vaccination program, and there have been places in the country where a vaccine shortage has meant that some people could not get their second shots in time. Zheng told Global Times yesterday that current production increases should ease the scarcity by June, so that China can provide doses to more people internationally through multilateral and bilateral measures.

`… Soaring Food Prices and Conflict’ Increases Hunger by a Third in West Africa

`Explosive Mix of Soaring Food Prices and Conflict’ Increases Hunger by a Third in West Africa

April 19 (EIRNS) — The hunger situation in Africa continues to deteriorate, as relief efforts continue to be overwhelmed with new crises, and receive little help in response to their calls. In an April 16 release under the above title, the World Food Program warned that “more than 31 million people in [western Africa] are expected to [become] food insecure and unable to feed themselves during the coming June-August lean season – the period when food is scarce before the next harvest. That number is more than 30 percent higher than last year and is the highest level in the best part of a decade.

“Food prices have increased dramatically across the region. Local staples are up by nearly 40 percent over the 5-year average, and in some areas, prices are up by more than 200 percent. This is caused in part by the economic impact of measures put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus over the past year. People’s incomes have plummeted due to reductions in trade, tourism, informal activities and remittances.”

Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, explained that, “In West Africa, conflict is already driving hunger and misery. The relentless rise in prices acts as a misery multiplier, driving millions deeper into hunger and desperation. Even when food is available, families simply cannot afford it – and soaring prices are pushing a basic meal beyond the reach of millions of poor families who were already struggling to get by. The needs are immense, and unless we can raise the funds we need we simply won’t be able to keep up. We cannot let 2021 become the year of the ration cut,” he warned. [emphasis added]

This year, almost 10 million children under 5 are acutely malnourished across the region,” the WFP says, “with the Sahel alone accounting for half of that number. This number could rise significantly alongside the projected 30 percent increase in hunger, and the high prices of nutritious foods.”

Brazil: Will the Next Coronavirus Variant Be Vaccine-Resistant?

Brazil: Will the Next Coronavirus Variant Be Vaccine-Resistant?

April 15, 2021 (EIRNS) – Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) sub-director Jarbas Barbosa warned in remarks this week that, if COVID-19 is not controlled across the world, there exists a worst-case scenario in which a new vaccine-resistant variant emerges. One of the likely places that could happen is Brazil, where the already dangerous P1 Brazilian strain, which is believed to be as much as 2.5 times more contagious than the original coronavirus and more resistant to antibodies, has wreaked havoc in the country and brought the country’s public health system to near-breakdown.

          New research conducted by Brazil’s public health institute, Fiocruz, is focusing on an even newer variant. “We believe it’s another escape mechanism the virus is creating to evade the response of antibodies,” said Felipe Naveca, one of the authors of the Fiocruz study. “This is particularly worrying because the virus is continuing to accelerate in its evolution.”

          On Tuesday, France suspended all flights to and from Brazil to try to stop the new Brazilian strains from spreading into that country.

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