Hundreds of ‘Zombie Mink’ Resurfacing from Mass Graves

Denmark’s government said on Friday it wants to dig up mink that were culled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after hundreds resurfaced from mass graves.Denmark ordered all farmed mink to be culled early this month after finding that 12 people had been infected by a mutated strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, which passed from humans to mink and back to humans.The decision led to 17 million animals being destroyed and to the resignation last week of Food and Agriculture Minister Morgens Jensen, after it was determined that the order was illegal.Dead mink were tipped into trenches at a military area in western Denmark and covered with 2 meters of soil. But hundreds have begun resurfacing, pushed out of the ground by what authorities say is gas from their decomposition. Newspapers have referred to them as the “zombie mink.”Jensen’s replacement, Rasmus Prehn, said on Friday he supported the idea of digging up the animals and incinerating them. He said he had asked the environmental protection agency to investigate whether it could be done, and parliament would be briefed on the issue on Monday.The macabre burial sites, guarded 24 hours a day to keep people and animals away, have drawn complaints from area residents about possible health risks.Authorities say there is no risk of the graves spreading the coronavirus, but locals worry about the risk of contaminating drinking water and a bathing lake less than 200 meters away.

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WHO Scientist Calls for More Vaccine Data

The World Health Organization’s top vaccine expert says the agency needs to evaluate coronavirus vaccines and their immune responses based on more than just a press release.Kate O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunization, vaccines and biologicals, said at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday that it was still not clear if vaccines against COVID-19 were able to reduce people’s ability to spread the virus.”It’s really important that we actually start to get more information about what the vaccines do, not just for preventing disease, but for actually preventing the acquisition of the virus,” O’Brien said.British drugmaker AstraZeneca said Thursday that it was cooperating with government regulators in investigating a manufacturing error in an experimental COVID-19 vaccine.A test tube labeled with the vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken, Sept. 9, 2020.The pharmaceutical company and Oxford University have admitted that a lower dose of the vaccine performed better than a full dose, according to a spokesman who spoke after AstraZeneca’s CEO said a further global trial was likely.The statement came as the company prepared to provide a temporary supply of the drug ahead of its plans to distribute 4 million doses of the vaccine by the year’s end.The England-based pharmaceutical company said earlier this week that its vaccine was 70% effective overall, but there were differences between two dosing regimens. One was 90% effective. The other was 62%.Vials with a sticker reading, “COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only” and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo, Oct. 31, 2020.Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have also announced initial results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were nearly 95% effective.Meanwhile, in the United States, where the number of coronavirus cases neared 13 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the pandemic kept crowds small at stores across the country on Black Friday. Many stores were relying on online shopping and curbside pickup options for sales.The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals across the United States reached 90,000 on Friday after nearly doubling in the last month, according to the Reuters news agency. The hospitalizations came after weeks of rising infection rates in the United States and have increased worries that Thanksgiving gatherings this week with family and friends would lead to even more infections and hospitalizations.  Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 16, 2020.In Ireland, the government said it would allow shops, restaurants and gyms to reopen next week after the latest round of shutdowns. Prime Minister Micheal Martin said travel would be permitted between counties in the week preceding Christmas.”We now have the opportunity to enjoy a different but special Christmas,” he said in a televised address.Officials in France said the rate of new coronavirus infections slowed again Friday, as the country prepared to allow for the reopening Saturday of stores selling nonessential goods.Italy is also seeing a gradual decline in hospitalizations from the coronavirus, leading the government to announce that it would ease restrictions in five regions from Sunday, including the populous Lombardy region.The number of coronavirus infections in Germany topped 1 million on Friday. The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 22,806 cases overnight, bringing the country’s total since the start of the outbreak to more than 1 million.Iran on Friday announced that its government offices would operate only with essential staff because of a surge in coronavirus cases. Officials reported a record number of new cases on Friday — 14,051 — bringing the country’s total to more than 922,000.People queue at a supermarket after the South Australian state government announced a six-day lockdown because of a Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in Adelaide on Nov. 18, 2020.In other developments, Australia’s second-largest state, Victoria, has recorded no new coronavirus infections or deaths in the past 28 days, health officials said Friday.The state did not have any active cases after the last COVID-19 patient was discharged from the hospital Monday. While Victoria has achieved the 28-day benchmark, widely accepted by health experts as eliminating the virus from the community, cases of coronavirus infections have been detected in other parts of the country.In Latin America, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday that he would refuse a coronavirus vaccine, the most recent of his vaccine-skeptic statements.    ”I’m telling you, I’m not going to take it. It’s my right,” he said in remarks aired over several social media platforms.Brazil, with more than 6.2 million cases of COVID-19, is behind only the United States and India, and at more than 171,000 deaths, it is behind only the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.

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8 Dead After Cyclone Hits Somalia’s Puntland; Spread of Locusts Feared

A cyclone that hit parts of Somalia this week killed eight people and displaced thousands, flooded farmlands and could worsen a locust plague, an official and U.N. agencies said.The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said Thursday that Tropical Cyclone Gati made landfall in the semiautonomous Puntland region Sunday and subsided Tuesday, but moderate and light rain continued to fall.The cyclone killed eight Yemeni fishermen, Mohamed Yusuf Boli, commissioner for the coastal district of Hafun, told Reuters.”It also destroyed many boats and houses. The town is in water and in bad situation,” Boli added.In addition to the deaths, UNOCHA said the cyclone had displaced 42,000 people from their homes.”The cyclone has disrupted livelihoods by destroying fishing gear, killing livestock, and flooding agricultural land and crops,” the agency said in a report.The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said earlier this week that the cyclone could also allow immature desert locust swarms in Hargeisa and Jigjiga in Ethiopia to mature faster and lay eggs.The effect of the cyclone could also allow the swarms to move southeast to Ogaden region and lay eggs there, too, the FAO said.The insect plague hitting Somalia is part of a once-in-a-generation succession of swarms that have swept across East Africa and the Red Sea region since late 2019, driven by unusual weather patterns.

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Trump Administration Moves Ahead on Removing Bird Protections

The Trump administration moved forward Friday on removing long-standing federal protection for the nation’s birds, over objections from former federal officials and many scientists that billions more birds will likely perish as a result.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its take on the proposed rollback in the Federal Register. It’s a final step that means the change — greatly limiting federal authority to prosecute industries for practices that kill migratory birds — could be made official within 30 days.The wildlife service acknowledged in its findings that the rollback would have a negative effect on the many bird species covered by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which range from hawks and eagles to seabirds, storks, songbirds and sparrows.The move scales back federal prosecution authority for the deadly threats migratory birds face from industry — from electrocution on power lines, to wind turbines that knock them from the air, to oil field waste pits where landing birds perish in toxic water.Industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, out of roughly 7 billion birds in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recent studies.The Trump administration maintains that the act should apply only to birds killed or harmed intentionally and is putting that change into regulation. The change would “improve consistency and efficiency in enforcement,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.Judge’s rejectionThe administration has continued to push the migratory bird regulation even after a federal judge in New York in August rejected the administration’s legal rationale.Two days after news organizations announced President Donald Trump’s defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, federal officials advanced the bird treaty changes to the White House, one of the final steps before adoption.Trump was “in a frenzy to finalize his bird-killer policy,” David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, said in a statement Friday. “Reinstating this 100-year-old bedrock law must be a top conservation priority for the Biden-Harris administration” and Congress.Steve Holmer with the American Bird Conservancy said the change would accelerate bird population declines that have swept North America since the 1970s.How the 1918 treaty gets enforced has sweeping ramifications for the construction of commercial buildings, electric transmission systems and other infrastructure, said Rachel Jones, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.Jones said the changes under Trump would be needed to make sure the bird law wasn’t used in an “abusive way.” That’s a long-standing complaint from industry lawyers despite federal officials’ contention that they bring criminal charges only rarely.It’s part of a flurry of last-minute changes under the outgoing administration benefiting industry. Others would expand Arctic drilling, favor development over habitat protections for imperiled species and potentially hamstring future regulation of environmental and public health threats, among other rollbacks.

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Lasting Coronavirus Effects Include Fatigue, Muscle Pain, Poor Balance

Being intubated and lying in bed for weeks without moving, eating or speaking has left many scarred. Here’s more from VOA’s Mariama Diallo on some lasting effects of the coronavirus, including fatigue, shortness of breath and muscle pain.

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Australian State of Victoria Records 28 Days COVID-19 Free

Australia’s second-largest state, Victoria, has recorded no new coronavirus infections or deaths in the past 28 days, health officials said Friday.The state did not have any active cases after the last COVID-19 patient was discharged from the hospital Monday.While Victoria has achieved the 28-day benchmark, widely accepted by health experts as eliminating the virus from the community, cases of the coronavirus infections have been detected in other parts of the country.Meanwhile, Britain has asked its medicines regulator on Friday to assess Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate for temporary supply, before providing it widely by the end of the year, when the pharmaceutical company expects to distribute 4 million doses.In Latin America, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday he would refuse a coronavirus vaccine, the most recent of his vaccine-skeptic statements.  “I’m telling you, I’m not going to take it. It’s my right,” he said in remarks aired over several social media platforms.Brazil, with more than 6 million cases of COVID-19, is behind only the United States and India, and at more than 170,000 deaths, it is behind only the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.Just as Bolsonaro played down the seriousness of the pandemic, he has also expressed skepticism of mask wearing. In addition, on Thursday he said it was not likely that Congress would make a coronavirus vaccine mandatory.The United States added more than 181,000 cases Thursday and registered nearly 2,300 deaths from the coronavirus. Nearly 90,500 people were hospitalized Thursday, amid worries that Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends will lead to even more infections and hospitalizations.Officials in many states have put restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus. However, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary order blocking New York state from enforcing attendance limits at houses of worship in areas that have infection spikes.In a 5-4 vote, the court sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish congregations that challenged the system put in place by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.The majority opinion pointed to limits of 10 or 25 people in houses of worship, while under the same designation grocery stores and other essential businesses can operate without capacity restrictions.Chief Justice John Roberts, the only conservative justice who did not join the majority, said in his dissent that “it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic.”Russia on Thursday reported its record one-day increase of 25,487 COVID-19 infections, pushing its total to nearly 2.2 million. Its 524 deaths during a 24-hour span were also a record for the country.In Germany, nearly 400 new deaths pushed that country’s toll to more than 15,000 since the pandemic began.The German government decided in early November to close restaurants, bars and sports facilities to combat a record rise in infections. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s states agreed late Wednesday to extend the restrictions through Dec. 20.There have been more than 60.8 million reported cases worldwide, with 1.4 million deaths.The United States has been hit the hardest, with more than 263,000 deaths, followed by Brazil with 170,000 dead, India with 135,000 dead, and Mexico at 103,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins.

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In Senegal, Entrepreneurial Cancer Survivor Looks to 3-D Printing to Aid Amputees

When a Senegalese woman lost her arm to cancer, she viewed her new reality not as a disability but a problem that needed fixing. Allison Lékogo Fernandes reports from the capital in this reported narrated by Carol Guensberg.
Camera: Allison Lékogo Fernandes              Producer: Allison Lékogo Fernandes

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Brazil President: ‘I’m Not Going to Take’ Coronavirus Vaccine

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday he would refuse a coronavirus vaccine, the most recent of his vaccine-skeptic statements.”I’m telling you, I’m not going to take it. It’s my right,” he said in remarks aired over several social media platforms.Brazil, with more than 6 million cases of COVID-19, is behind only the United States and India, and at more than 170,000 deaths, it is behind only the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.Just as Bolsonaro played down the seriousness of the pandemic, he has also expressed skepticism of mask wearing. In addition, on Thursday he said it was not likely that Congress would make a coronavirus vaccine mandatory.The United States added more than 181,000 cases Thursday and registered nearly 2,300 deaths from the coronavirus. Nearly 90,500 people were hospitalized Thursday, amid worries that Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends will lead to even more infections and hospitalizations.Officials in many states have put restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus. However, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary order blocking New York state from enforcing attendance limits at houses of worship in areas that have infection spikes.In a 5-4 vote, the court sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish congregations that challenged the system put in place by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.The majority opinion pointed to limits of 10 or 25 people in houses of worship, while under the same designation grocery stores and other essential businesses can operate without capacity restrictions.Chief Justice John Roberts, the only conservative justice who did not join the majority, said in his dissent that “it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic.”Russia on Thursday reported its record one-day increase of 25,487 COVID-19 infections, pushing its total to nearly 2.2 million. Its 524 deaths during a 24-hour span were also a record for the country.In Germany, nearly 400 new deaths pushed that country’s toll to more than 15,000 since the pandemic began.The German government decided in early November to close restaurants, bars and sports facilities to combat a record rise in infections. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s states agreed late Wednesday to extend the restrictions through Dec. 20.There have been more than 60.8 million reported cases worldwide, with 1.4 million deaths.The United States has been hit the hardest, with more than 263,000 deaths, followed by Brazil with 170,000 dead, India with 135,000 dead, and Mexico at 103,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins.

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Bank of Canada: Vaccine Could Trigger Swift Economic Rebound

Canada’s economy could rebound faster than expected if consumer spending jumps in the wake of a successful coronavirus vaccination effort, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said Thursday.On the other hand, if the economy weakens amid a second wave of infections, Macklem indicated the central bank could, if necessary, cut already record-low interest rates.In late October, the bank said it assumed a vaccine would not be widely available until mid-2022. Since then, several manufacturers have announced potential vaccines that could be distributed starting early next year.”It is possible, especially when there is a vaccine, that households will decide to spend more than we have forecast, and if that happens the economy will rebound more quickly,” Macklem said in response to questions from the House of Commons finance committee. He described the news about vaccines as promising.In late October, the bank forecast the economy would not fully recover until sometime in 2023, a forecast Macklem repeated in his opening remarks.The path to recovery still faces risks, he said. Earlier this year, the bank slashed its key interest rate to 0.25%.”We could potentially lower the effective lower bound, even without going negative. It’s at 25 basis points. It could be a little bit lower,” Macklem said, repeating that negative interest rates would not be helpful.The U.S. Federal Reserve has a target for its key rate of 0 to 0.25%. The Reserve Bank of Australia this month cut its policy rate to 0.1%.Some other central banks also have benchmark rates that are less than 0.25%, such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of England.”We want to be very clear – Canadians can be confident that borrowing costs are going to remain very low for a long time,” Macklem said.

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Africa Braces for Second Coronavirus Wave  

As a second wave of coronavirus approaches, Africa has a plan, says the continent’s top health official.     In recent weeks, the continent has started to distribute 2.7 million rapid antigen tests. By mid-2021, health officials hope to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population with one of the several promising new vaccines.     Now, says Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s up to the continent’s leaders to try to make that happen.    “That will also require that we mobilize up to about $10 to $12 billion  including the cost of buying the vaccines and the cost of delivering the vaccines,” he told journalists on Thursday by teleconference. “So that is the 60 percent mark that we really want to achieve. And I just really want everyone on this platform and our partners to understand that as a continent that is aspiration and our goal.”    Dr. Nkengasong added that experts are working to bring more clinical trials to the continent. But, he stressed, as COVID-19 numbers rise in some countries — notably, South Africa, Kenya and Algeria — the continent’s health facilities appear to be weathering the onslaught.  FILE – John Nkengasong, Africa’s Director of the Centers for Disease Control, speaks during an interview with Reuters at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 11, 2020.“We are not seeing hospitals being overwhelmed with COVID patients,” he said. “That is clearly what the situation is. We were very encouraged that during the first wave we didn’t see that kind of overwhelming, which we were very worried and concerned with. “That doesn’t tell us that the second wave will not happen. It only tells us that we have to prepare, and prepare using the three T’s — which is the tests, the tracing and the treatment.”     As the continent approaches end-of-year holidays, Nkengasong underscored one piece of advice:    “Do not relent in wearing masks,” he said. “One message that is emerging across the visits we are conducting across the continent is that people are not masking enough. And in some settings, absolutely it seems like they are not masking at all. And that is extremely dangerous. “My worry and fear is that the sacrifices and gains that were made since the beginning of this year … those gains that were made in terms of bringing the pandemic down to where we were in October could be completely wiped out if we relent at this point.”  

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