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The Latest: France starts vaccine shots but public is wary – The Record (New Westminster)

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PARIS — France started its first coronavirus vaccinations Sunday at a nursing home northeast of Paris, in one of the country’s poorest regions, as part of a Europe-wide vaccination rollout.

“An intense moment, carrying so much hope,” tweeted the head of the Paris region public health service, Aurelien Rousseau.

A 78-year-old woman identified only by her first name, Mauricette, was given France’s first vaccine shot in the town of Sevran. Later in the day, vaccinations will be given at the Champmaillot home in Dijon.

Polls suggest that people in France are a bit skeptical of the new vaccines, so France’s government has been cautious in its messaging and is not making the vaccines obligatory. The government hopes to be able to vaccinate up to 27 million of its 67 million people by summer.

France has reported over 62,570 lives lost in the pandemic. Nearly a third died in nursing homes, so the government decided to give the vaccine to the elderly first, as well as at-risk medical workers.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— EU launches huge vaccine rollout, bringing hope to the continent’s nearly 450 million people

— Unemployment benefits expire for millions in the U.S. as Trump rages over COVID-19 relief plan.

— COVID-19 has engulfed prisons in Belarus that are packed with people in custody for demonstrating against the nation’s authoritarian president.

— War and instability are posing huge challenges to virus vaccination plans in poor nations

— Thailand says two new coronavirus clusters appear linked to a outbreak among migrant workers

— A Black doctor who died battling COVID-19 complained of racist medical care; her Indiana hospital system is promising a “full external review.”

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — European Union nations kicked off a co-ordinated effort Sunday to give COVID-19 vaccinations to the most vulnerable among the bloc’s nearly 450 million people, marking a moment of hope in the continent’s battle against the worst public health crisis in a century.

Health care workers, the elderly and leading politicians got some of the first shots across the 27-nation bloc to reassure the public that the vaccinations are safe and represent the best chance to emerge from the pandemic.

“It didn’t hurt at all,” said Mihaela Anghel, a nurse at the Matei Bals Institute in Bucharest who was the first person to get the vaccine in Romania. “Open your eyes and take the vaccine.”

In Rome, five doctors and nurses wearing white scrubs sat in a semi-circle at the Spallanzani infectious diseases hospital to receive their doses.

“The message is one of hope, trust and an invitation to share this choice,” said one of the recipients, Dr. Maria Rosaria Capobianchi, who heads the virology laboratory at Spallanzani and was part of the team that isolated the virus in early February. “There is no reason to be concerned.”

Altogether, the EU’s 27 nations have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet lapsed overnight as President Donald Trump refused to signed an end-of-year COVID relief and spending bill that had been considered a done deal before his sudden objections.

The fate of the bipartisan package remained in limbo Sunday as Trump continued to demand larger COVID relief checks and complained about “pork” spending. Without the widespread funding provided by the massive measure, a government shutdown would occur when money runs out at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s a chess game and we are pawns,” said Lanetris Haines, a self-employed single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, who stood to lose her $129 weekly jobless benefit unless Trump signed the package into law or succeeded in his improbable quest for changes.

Washington has been reeling since Trump turned on the deal after it had won sweeping approval in both houses of Congress and after the White House had assured Republican leaders that Trump would support it.

Instead, he assailed the bill’s plan to provide $600 COVID relief checks to most Americans — insisting it should be $2,000. House Republicans swiftly rejected that idea during a rare Christmas Eve session. But Trump has not been swayed in spite of the nation being in the grip of a pandemic.

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WARSAW, Poland — A nurse at the main coronavirus hospital in Warsaw has gotten the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first person to be vaccinated in Poland as part of a European Union rollout on Sunday.

Alicja Jakubowska, the head nurse at the Interior Ministry hospital in Warsaw, got a shot, followed by doctors and other health workers. Vaccinations in dozens of other hospitals were scheduled to begin across the country on Sunday.

“This is a historic moment for me,” Jakubowska said. “The hospital management chose me. A nurse is the first to be vaccinated, a nod to hard-working nurses and midwives.”

Jakubowska said getting the shot is is an important step “in the return to normality.” Afterwards, she said it did not hurt at all.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — A 81-year-old care home resident on Sunday became the first person to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Croatia.

Top officials attended as Branka Anicic received the vaccine before cameras. She says it felt great to be the first in Croatia to receive the vaccine and urged others to do the same.

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic says the vaccines first will go to those who are the most vulnerable and exposed to the virus. He expressed hope most people will agree to vaccination.

Croatian media have reported that many among Croatia’s 4.2 million people remain skeptical regarding the vaccines, even among doctors. Authorities have launched a campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated.

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MADRID— Two women, a 96-year-old resident and a worker at a nursing home, became the first Spaniards to receive the coronavirus vaccine on Sunday morning.

The Los Olmos nursing home is located in Guadalajara near the distribution hub that vaccine maker Pfizer has in central Spain 70 kilometres (43 miles) northeast of Madrid.

“Let’s see if we can all behave and make this virus go away,” said Araceli Hidalgo, the elderly resident, after receiving her injection.

“I am proud (to receive the vaccine),” said Mónica Tapias, the 48-year-old worker. “What we want is for as many people as possible to get vaccinated. We have lost some residents here to COVID, and that has been very sad. Let’s see if this can finally finish with this.”

Army trucks escorted by police cars left the company warehouse before sunrise to distribute loads of the vaccine to all the regions of mainland Spain. Military airplanes or helicopters flew crates of doses to Spain’s Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, and its north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Spain plans to receive over 4.5 million doses of the vaccine over the next three months, enough it says to immunize just over 2.2 million people.

Nearly 50,000 people have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in Spain. Many more are estimated to have died before a test could confirm the infection.

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PRAGUE — Prime Minister Andrej Babis has kicked off the coronavirus vaccination in the Czech Republic.

Babis became the first Czech to receive a shot of the vaccine in Prague’s military hospital during the Czech public television’s live broadcast on Sunday morning.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Babis told reporters before a ceremonious start of the vaccination program. “Everything’s fine,” he added after getting a shot.

World War II veteran, the 95-year-old Emilie Repikova, sitting next to the prime minister, was the second.

The medical personnel in four hospitals in Prague and two in the second largest city of Brno will get vaccinated by the first batch of almost 10,000 vaccines by Germany’s BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer in three days. The second batch of 19,500 vaccines expected to arrive next week will be distributed in all regions across the country.

The Czech Republic had 670,599 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 11,044 deaths.

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SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has decided not to immediately enforce its toughest distancing rules in the greater Seoul area despite a surge in fresh infections.

The Seoul area, which has been the heart of a recent viral resurgence, is currently under the second highest distancing rules. There have been calls for raising the restrictions to the highest level as the current curbs haven’t showed much significant effects. But the government was reluctant to do so because of worries about the economy.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Sunday the government will maintain the current level restrictions in the Seoul area until Jan. 3 and that it’ll see how the outbreak develops this week before determining whether to adjust the curbs. He says the third highest level of distancing rules imposed in other regions will also remain in place until Jan 3.

Kwon says South Korea has logged an average of 999 new cases each day last week, 690 of them in the Seoul area.

Earlier Sunday, South Korea reported 970 new cases, bringing the total to 56,872, with 808 deaths.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Persian Gulf state of Oman has launched its COVID-19 inoculation campaign, with the sultanate’s health minister receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

State-run media reported that the first batch of 15,600 doses was flown in industrial freezers to Muscat International Airport last week to vaccinate a priority group of older adults, health care workers and those with underlying health conditions starting on Sunday.

Another 28,000 doses of the vaccine by American drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are expected to arrive next month.

Oman says it aims to vaccinate 60% of its roughly 5 million people.

The virus outbreak in Oman has infected over 128,000 people and killed more than 1,400.

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TOKYO — Japan is barring entry of all non-resident foreign nationals as a precaution against a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant that has spread across Britain.

The Foreign Ministry says the entry ban will start Monday and last through Jan. 31.

Last week, Japan banned non-resident foreigners coming from Britain and South Africa after confirming the new variant in seven people over the last two days — five from Britain who tested positive at airports and two others in Tokyo.

Japan is also suspending the exemption of a 14-day quarantine for Japanese nationals and resident foreigners that began in November. The entrants now must carry proof of a negative test 72 hours prior to departure and self-isolate for two weeks after arrival.

Japan is struggling with surging cases since November. It has confirmed a total of 217,312 cases including 3,213 deaths, up 3,700 from the previous 24-hour period. Tokyo alone reported 949 cases, setting a new record, despite calls by experts for people to spend a “quiet” holiday season.

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TORONTO — Officials in Canada’s most populous province have confirmed the first two known Canadian cases of of a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

The province’s associate chief medical officer says that the cases are a couple from Durham Region, just east of Toronto, with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.

The new variant is believed to spread more easily and faster than the original version of the disease but is not believed to be more deadly.

The provincial government said in a news release that is no evidence to suggest that the vaccines approved by Health Canada will be any less effective against the new variant.

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ST. LOUIS — Missouri set a new record for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Christmas Day as the pandemic surges.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that there were 2,862 patients hospitalized statewide, eclipsing the previous record of 2,851 on Nov. 18.

Meanwhile, the seven-day average for new cases is 2,213 each day.

“It is here, it is spread in the community, and we’ve got to make sure that that spread slows,” said St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern. “Our fates are in our own hands, and really, it’s not difficult to wear that mask.”

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SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico will begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to 15,000 people who work or live at long-term care facilities, state officials announced Saturday.

Beginning Sunday, the CVS and Walgreens pharmacy chains and Vida Pharmacy in Albuquerque will administer doses of the Moderna vaccine at nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state, officials said.

“Sunday marks a monumental day in our fight with this deadly pandemic. It signifies a step towards protecting our seniors and securing their safety,” said Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, cabinet secretary of the Aging and Long-Term Services Department.

The statement noted that people receiving vaccinations will need two doses from the same manufacturer administered several weeks apart.

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has topped 80 million.

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University reported the mark Saturday morning after 472,000 cases were recorded Christmas Day. The number of deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic across the globe stands at 1.75 million.

The U.S. is by far the leader among nations in cases of coronavirus illness, reporting nearly 18.8 million Saturday. India follows with 10.2 million; Brazil has counted 7.45 million. There have been more than 330,000 deaths in the U.S., 190,000 in Brazil and 147,000 in India.

There have likely been many more cases of the coronavirus that have not been counted for a variety of reasons, including under-reporting, asymptomatic infections and lack of co-operation with contact tracers.

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PHOENIX — Arizona has reported more than 5,000 additional known COVID-19 cases for the 10th straight day, as the surge put a pandemic-high number of virus patients in intensive care beds across the state.

The state Department of Health Services reported 6,106 additional known cases and 15 more deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 493,041 cases and 8,424 deaths.

Arizona has the third-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the United States over the past week, behind California and Tennessee.

The Associated Press

























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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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Vaccines donated by the United States and China

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Both the United States and China have pledged large donations of COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. Washington has promised 80 million doses, three-quarters of which will be delivered via the international vaccine initiative COVAX, in what has been seen as an effort to counter China’s widening vaccine diplomacy. It began deliveries last week.

China had shipped vaccines to 66 countries in the form of aid, according to state news agency Xinhua. Beijing has not disclosed an overall figure for its donations but Reuters calculations based on publicly available data show at least 16.57 million doses have been delivered. China has also pledged to supply 10 million doses to COVAX.

VACCINES DONATED BY U.S. (plan for the first 25 mln):

Regional partners and priority recipients

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Including Canada, Mexico, 1 mln to S.Korea in June

South Korea, West Bank and

Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo,

Haiti, Georgia, Egypt,

Jordan, India, Iraq, Yemen,

United Nations

TOTAL 6 mln 1 mln

Allocations through COVAX

South and Central America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Brazil, Argentina, Colombia,

Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador,

Paraguay, Bolivia,

Guatemala, El Salvador,

Honduras, Panama, Haiti,

Dominican Republic and other

Caribbean Community

(CARICOM) countries

TOTAL 6 mln

Asia

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

India, Nepal, Bangladesh,

Pakistan, Sri Lanka,

Afghanistan, Maldives,

Malaysia, Philippines,

Vietnam, Indonesia,

Thailand, Laos, Papua New

Guinea, Taiwan, and the

Pacific Islands

TOTAL 7 mln

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

To be selected in

coordination with the

African Union

TOTAL 5 mln

VACCINES DONATED BY CHINA (source – Reuters calculations and official data):

Asia Pacific

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Afghanistan 400,000

Bangladesh Second batch of First batch of 500,000 delivered

600,000 on May 12

Brunei 52,000 in Feb

Cambodia 1.7 mln as of April 28

Kyrgyzstan 150,000 in March

Laos 300,000 in Feb

800,000 in late March

300,000 in late April

Maldives 200,000 in early March

Mongolia 300,000 in late February

Myanmar 500,000 in early May

Nepal 800,000 in late March

1 mln in early June

Pakistan 500,000 in early Feb

250,000 in Feb

500,000 in March

Philippines 600,000 in late Feb

400,000 in late March

Sri Lanka 600,000 at end March

500,000 in late May

Thailand 500,000 in May

500,000 in June

Timor-Leste 100,000 100,000 in early June

TOTAL 11.052 million

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Angola 200,000 in late March

Algeria 200,000 200,000 in Feb

Botswana 200,000 in April

Cameroon 200,000 in April

Congo 100,000 100,000 in March

Egypt 600,000 in March

Ethiopia 300,000 in late March

Equatorial Guinea 100,000 in Feb

Guinea 200,000 in early March

Mozambique 200,000 in late Feb

Namibia 100,000 by early April

Niger 400,000 in late March

Sierra Leone 240,000 by late May

Togo 200,000 in April

Uganda 300,000

Zimbabwe 200,000 in Feb

200,000 in March

100,000 in May

TOTAL 3.74 million

South America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Bolivia 100,000 in late Feb

100,000 in late March

Venezuela 500,000 in early March

TOTAL 700,000

Europe & Middle East

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Belarus 100,000 in Feb

300,000 in May

Georgia 100,000 at end April

Iran 250,000 at end February

Iraq 50,000 in early March

Montenegro 30,000 in early March

North Macedonia 100,000 in May

Syria 150,000 in late April

TOTAL 1.08 million

 

(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo in Beijing and Cooper Inveen in Dakar; Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Coronavirus Worldwide right now

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Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus now:

Australia’s Melbourne to exit lockdown

Australia’s second largest city Melbourne will exit a hard lockdown as planned on Thursday night, Victoria state authorities said, although some restrictions on travel and gatherings would likely remain for another week.

After two weeks in a strict lockdown that forced people to remain at home except for essential business, Melbourne’s five million residents will get more freedom to step outside from 11:59 p.m. local time (1359 GMT) on Thursday.

However, people must stay within 25 km (15 miles) of their homes, officials said, in an effort to stop transmission during an upcoming long weekend. There will also be a total ban on house gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors.

Deliveries of Thai-made AstraZeneca vaccines delayed

Malaysia and Taiwan are expecting deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand to be delayed, officials said, the latest countries to report a holdup with orders from the Thai plant.

The delay comes amid concerns over AstraZeneca’s distribution plans in Southeast Asia, which depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.

Any questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Indonesia aims to speed up vaccinations

President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday he hoped Indonesia’s vaccination rollout will hit one million shots a day by July, as authorities opened up inoculations to anyone aged over 18 in Jakarta to contain increased transmission in the capital.

Health officials in the world’s fourth most populous country, which aims to vaccinate 181.5 million people by next year, are trying to speed up the rollout after facing some supply issues.

The president said he wanted vaccinations to hit a targeted 700,000 doses a day this month and then rise again.

Singapore finds Delta most prevalent among variants

Singapore has found the Delta variant of the coronavirus to be the most prevalent among local cases of variants of concern (VOCs), according to health ministry data, highlighting its level of infectiousness.

There were 449 local cases with VOCs as of May 31, of which 428 were the Delta variant first detected in India and nine of the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Singapore reported its 34th death due to COVID-19, taking its toll from the pandemic beyond the 33 casualties recorded during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.

U.S. forming expert groups on lifting travel restrictions

The Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to determine how best to safely restart travel after 15 months of pandemic restrictions, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Another U.S. official said the administration will not move quickly to lift orders that bar people from much of the world from entering the United States because of the time it will take for the groups to do their work.

The groups will be led by the White House COVID Response Team and the National Security Council and include the Centers for Disease Control and other U.S. agencies.

 

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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