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Nepal, Bangladesh scramble to secure COVID-19 shots as India curbs exports

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Nepal and Bangladesh are making frantic diplomatic efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccines to prop up their faltering inoculation drives as their stocks run out and supply prospects have become clouded by a prolonged Indian curb on vaccine exports.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that India was unlikely to resume major exports of COVID-19 vaccines until October at the earliest as it diverts shots for domestic use, a longer-than-expected delay set to worsen a shortage of supplies coming through the COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme, designed to help low-income countries.

Bangladesh said it urgently needed 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine to provide second doses and it had approached several countries for help, including the United States and Canada.

“Bangladesh foreign minister urged the Canadian High Commissioner to pursue with his government so that Bangladesh receives at least 2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Canada on an emergency basis,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said its diplomats were also hoping to secure 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United States, which plans to share up to 60 million doses of the vaccine.

Bangladesh has an agreement with the Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures the AstraZeneca shot, for 30 million doses, but has received only 7 million.

Bangladesh has also turned to China and Russia for supplies of China’s Sinopharm and the Russian Sputnik V vaccines after India curbed vaccine exports in April.

Bangladesh has been relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine but only 2% of its 170 million people are fully vaccinated.

‘BACK-DOOR DIPLOMACY’

Nepal, which started its vaccination drive in January with 2.35 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot provided by India and COVAX, also said it has no stocks and more than 1.55 million people were waiting for their second dose.

“People above 65 and others in risk groups who received their first shots of the Indian vaccine are waiting for their second,” Jhalak Gautam, head of the vaccine section of the Ministry of Health and Population, told Reuters.

“It’s already overdue,” he said, adding the SII had yet to deliver one million shots that Nepal bought.

The SII said on Tuesday it hoped to start supplying COVAX and delivering to other countries by the end of the year.

Nepal had asked Indian authorities for an early delivery of more shots, said Sewa Lamal, a spokesman for Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Despite their own problems, we hope India can consider emergency requirements,” she told Reuters.

India’s foreign ministry did not comment on Nepal’s request.

The head of the U.N. children’s fund, which is helping supply COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, on Monday asked G7 countries to donate supplies to COVAX as an emergency measure to address the severe shortfall caused by disruption to India’s exports.

“There’s a lot of back-door diplomacy happening to get extra doses from USA, EU and other ‘rich’ countries to make up for the backlog created by India,” a source at UNICEF told Reuters.

The source said a lot of efforts were underway to resolve the supply disruptions and it could be too early to gauge the long-term impact of India’s export curbs.

But the short-term impact of the reduced supply was already pronounced. UNICEF said this week that COVAX would deliver its 65 millionth vaccine dose this week, far behind its original target of 170 million.

 

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu, Rupam Jain in Ahmedabad, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, James Pearson in Hanoi; Writing by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Outgoing U.N. aid chief slams G7 for failing on vaccine plan

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Outgoing U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock slammed the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Monday for failing to come up with a plan to vaccinate the world against COVID-19, describing the G7 pledge to provide 1 billion doses over the next year as a “small step.”

“These sporadic, small-scale, charitable handouts from rich countries to poor countries is not a serious plan and it will not bring the pandemic to an end,” Lowcock, who steps down on Friday, told Reuters. “The G7, essentially, completely failed to show the necessary urgency.”

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada met in Cornwall, England over the weekend and also agreed to work with the private sector, the Group of 20 industrialized nations and other countries to increase the vaccine contribution over months to come.

“They took a small step – at that very, very nice resort in Cornwall – but they shouldn’t kid themselves it’s more than a small step and they have still have a lot to do,” Lowcock said.

“What the world needed from the G7 was a plan to vaccinate the world. And what we got was a plan to vaccinate about 10% of the population of low and middle income countries, maybe by a year from now or the second half of next year,” he said.

In May, the International Monetary Fund unveiled a $50 billion proposal to end the COVID-19 pandemic by vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and at least 60% by the first half of 2022.

“That is the deal of the century,” said Lowcock, adding that the G7 could also have done a lot more to provide vital supplies – such as oxygen ventilators, testing kits and protective equipment – to countries who are going to have to wait longer for vaccines.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday urged world leaders to act with more urgency, warning that if developing countries were not vaccinated quickly, the virus would continue to mutate and could become immune to inoculation.

 

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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