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WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 2 November 2020

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  • WHO has been following closely the situation with Typhoon Goni in the Philippines. This is the strongest storm of 2020 and WHO will work with the government to ensure emergency medical care is reaching those that need it. 
  • I have been identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. I am well and without symptoms but will self quarantine in the coming days, in line with WHO protocols.  
  • Over the weekend we saw that while many countries have brought COVID-19 under control, cases in some countries in Europe and North America continue to spike.  
  • In some countries, we’re seeing cases go up exponentially and hospitals reach capacity, which poses a risk to patients and health workers alike.  
  • We need countries to again invest in the basics so that measures can be lifted safely and governments can hopefully avoid having to take these measures again.  

———

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

I want to start by saying that WHO has been following closely the situation with Typhoon Goni in the Philippines.

This is the strongest storm of 2020 and WHO will work with the government to ensure emergency medical care is reaching those that need it.

Our thoughts are with all those affected.

===

I have been identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

I am well and without symptoms but will self quarantine in the coming days, in line with WHO protocols.

At this time, it is critically important that we all comply with health guidance.

This is how we will break chains of transmission, suppress the virus, and protect health systems.

===

Over the weekend we saw that while many countries have brought COVID-19 under control, cases in some countries in Europe and North America continue to spike.

This is another critical moment for action.

Another critical moment for leaders to step up.

And another critical moment for people to come together for a common purpose.

Seize the opportunity, it’s not too late.

We all have a role to play in suppressing transmission and we have seen across the world that it’s possible.

We have released videos featuring multiple countries demonstrating their comprehensive responses to COVID-19.

This includes New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Italy and Spain.

And today, a new video was released that highlighted Mongolia’s success in responding to COVID-19.

Mongolia has so far had no deaths or local transmission.

And what Mongolia and all these stories show is that there are shared lessons that we can all learn from.

And we all have a role to play in suppressing transmission.

In some countries, we’re seeing cases go up exponentially and hospitals reach capacity, which poses a risk to patients and health workers alike.

This is leaving health workers with difficult decisions to make on how to prioritise care for those that are sick.

To understand more about how hospitals can prepare and cope with COVID-19, I am pleased to be joined by three health specialists.

First, I would like to introduce you to Professor YaeJean Kim who is joining us from the Republic of Korea to reflect on their experience tackling COVID-19.

Professor, you have the floor.

===

Thank you, Professor YaeJean, I know it’s late where you are so especially grateful for your time.

I would now like to hand over to the Professor Mervyn Mer of University of Wits, South Africa. Professor Mer is also Director of intensive care at Charlotte Maxeke in Johannesburg.

Sir, the floor is yours Professor Mer.

===

Thank you Professor Mer, for sharing your lessons from South Africa’s COVID-19 response, Ubuntu.

Finally, I would like to introduce you to Dr. Marta Lado, from Spain.

Dr. Lado was the Chief Medical Officer for Partners in Health in Sierra Leone and the senior clinical lead in the intensive care unit for COVID-19 at ‘34 military hospital’ in Freetown.

===

Thank you, Dr Lado. We’re pleased that you have recently joined WHO and will be using your experience from Sierra Leone to drive our work on clinical case-management. Muchos Gracias

That caps three amazing stories and there are many lessons from the Republic of Korea, South Africa and Sierra Leone that can help other countries suppress the virus, save lives and protect health workers and hospitals.

It really reinforces that while some countries are putting in place measures to ease the pressure on the health system, there is also now an opportunity to build stronger systems.

Ensuring quality testing, tracing and treatment measures are implemented are all key.

And we need countries to again invest in the basics so that measures can be lifted safely and governments can hopefully avoid having to take these measures again.

On a macro level, this also reflects why a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach to sustainable global preparedness is so important.

Health systems and preparedness are not only an investment in the future, they are the foundation of our response today.

Public health is more than medicine and science, and it is bigger than any individual.

And there is hope that if we invest in health systems, health workers and share tools through the ACT-Accelerator, we can bring this virus under control and go forward, together, to tackle other challenges of our time.

We have to keep going and whether I’m at home or in the office, WHO will keep working to drive forward science, solutions and solidarity.

I thank you.

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Russia rebukes Facebook for blocking some media posts – National Post

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MOSCOW — Russia accused Facebook on Monday of violating citizens’ rights by blocking some media outlets’ content in the latest standoff between a government and Big Tech.

Communications watchdog Roskomnadzor at the weekend threatened Facebook with a minimum 1 million rouble ($13,433) fine and demanded it restore access to content posted by TASS news agency, RBC business daily and Vzglyad newspaper.

It said Facebook blocked posts pertaining to Russia’s detention of alleged supporters of a Ukrainian far-right group.

“I think this is unacceptable. It violates our national legislation,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament and a member of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia ruling party.

In a statement, Volodin said Facebook had violated basic rights to disseminate and receive information, and legislation would be proposed to preserve Russia’s “digital sovereignty.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Like other nations, including Australia in a high-profile dispute with Facebook and India in a spat with Twitter, Russia has in recent months taken steps to regulate and curb the power of big social media companies.

Bills passed in December allow Russia to impose large fines on platforms that do not delete banned content and to restrict access to U.S. social media companies if they are deemed to discriminate against Russian media.

“They operate in our environment but at the same time they often don’t obey any Russian laws,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told RIA news agency on Monday.

($1 = 74.3400 roubles) (Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Russia rebukes Facebook for blocking some media posts – Yahoo Finance

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Bloomberg

Biggest Players in the Short-Selling Game Are Getting a Pass

(Bloomberg) — It’s in the air again, on Reddit, in Congress, in the C-suite: Hedge funds that get rich off short-selling are the enemy. The odd thing is, the biggest players in the game are getting a pass.Those would be the asset managers, pension plans and sovereign wealth funds that provide the vast majority of securities used to take bearish positions. Without the likes of BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp., the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Kuwait Investment Authority filling such an elemental role, investors such as Gabe Plotkin, whose Melvin Capital Management became a piñata for day traders in the GameStop Corp. saga, wouldn’t have shares to sell short.“Anytime we short a stock, we locate a borrow,” Plotkin said Feb. 18 at the House Financial Services Committee hearing on the GameStop short squeeze.There’s plenty to choose from. As of mid-2020, some $24 trillion of stocks and bonds were available for such borrowing, with $1.2 trillion in shares — equal to a third of all hedge-fund assets — actually out on loan, according to the International Securities Lending Association.It’s a situation that on the surface defies logic. Given the popular belief that short sellers create unjustified losses in some stocks, why would shareholders want to supply the ammunition for attacks against their investments? The explanation is fairly straight forward: By loaning out securities for a small fee plus interest, they can generate extra income that boosts returns. That’s key in an industry where fund managers are paid to beat benchmarks and especially valuable in a world of low yields.The trade-off is simple: For investors with large, diversified portfolios, a single stock plummeting under the weight of a short-selling campaign has little impact over the long run. And in the nearer term, the greater the number of aggregate bets against a stock — the so-called short interest — the higher the fee a lender can charge.In the case of GameStop, short interest was unusually high and shares on loan were generating an annualized return of 25% to 30%, Ken Griffin testified at the Feb. 18 hearing. Griffin operates a market maker, Citadel Securities, as well as Citadel, one of the world’s largest hedge funds.“Securities lending is a way for long holders to generate additional alpha,” said Nancy Allen of DataLend, which compiles data on securities financing. “Originally, it was a way to cover costs, but over the last 10 to 15 years it’s become an investment function.”Not everyone is comfortable with the inherent conflict. In December 2019, Japan’s $1.6 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund stopped lending its international stock holdings to short sellers, calling the practice inconsistent with its responsibilities as a fiduciary. At the time, the decision cost GPIF about $100 million a year in lost revenue.The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has regulated short-selling since the 1930s and polices the market for abuses such as naked shorting, which involves taking a short position without borrowing shares. Proponents of legal shorting argue that its use enhances liquidity, improves pricing and serves a critical role as a bulwark against fraud and hype.Chief executives, whose pay packages often depend on share performance, routinely decry short sellers as vultures. More recently, shorting has come under fire in the emotionally charged banter on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum. Some speculators ran up the prices of GameStop, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and other meme stocks in January to punish the hedge funds that bet against them, and they delighted when the rampant buying led to bruising losses at Melvin, Maplelane Capital and Citron Research.Many of the key actors in the GameStop frenzy testified at the Feb. 18 hearing. Plotkin was grilled by committee members over Melvin’s short position. Citadel’s Griffin and others faced broader questions about short-selling. Yet no one asked about the supply of borrowed shares and there were no witnesses called from the securities-lending industry.There’s a symbiotic relationship between hedge funds and the prime-brokerage units of Wall Street firms, much of it built on securities lending. Prime brokers act as intermediaries, sourcing stocks and bonds for borrowers who want to short them and facilitate the trades. According to DataLend, securities lending generated $2.9 billion of broker-to-broker revenue in 2020, almost the same as in 2019.Demand for short positions was already expected to drop as stock prices surged to all-time highs. Now, with the threat of retribution from the Reddit crowd, it may weaken even further. Griffin said he has “no doubt” there’ll be less short-selling as a consequence of the GameStop squeeze.“I think the whole industry will have to adapt,” Plotkin said at the hearing. “I don’t think investors like myself want to be susceptible to these types of dynamics.”This could not only threaten the dealers who broker stock lending but also the holders who supply the securities and share in the revenue. They reaped $7.7 billion globally in 2020, down from a record of almost $10 billion in 2018, according to DataLend. Lending fees increased by 4.2% on a year-over-year basis in February after the GameStop onslaught, DataLend says.While securities lending accounted for $652 million, or just 4%, of BlackRock’s revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020, there’s little cost involved and the risks are low because borrowers have to put up collateral that equals or exceeds the value of the loan. At both BlackRock and State Street Corp., the second-largest custody bank, the value of securities on loan as of Dec. 31 jumped at least 20% from a year earlier, to $352 billion and $441 billion, respectively.“Every little bit counts with indexes,” said John Rekenthaler, vice president of research at Morningstar. “You’re scraping nickels off the street, but there’s a whole lot of nickels.”Others could take a hit, too. Just as Robinhood Markets is able to offer zero-commission trades by selling its order flow to Citadel and other market makers, asset managers typically pass on some of their securities-lending revenue as a type of client rebate.“It’s very important to remember that institutional investors earn substantial returns from participating in the securities-lending market,” Citadel’s Griffin said at the GameStop hearing. “That accrues to the benefit of pension plans, of ETFs, of other pools of institutional lending that participate in the securities lending market.”(Adds data on lending fees after the short-interest chart.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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'Self-serving': UK media tabloids hit back at Meghan and Harry's interview – CNN

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Meghan revealed during the sit-down conversation that life within the royal family was so isolating, lonely and lacking in support that she had experienced suicidal thoughts. She also said that individuals within the institution had raised concerns about the color of their son Archie’s skin.
Even before the interview — Meghan’s first since she and her husband announced plans to step back from senior roles in the British royal family — the UK media had been criticizing the event. The relationship between the couple and the country’s press, and particularly newspaper tabloids, has long been tumultuous.
The Daily Mail ran wall-to-wall coverage of the interview, and tried to fit all of the bombshells into a single headline this way: “Meghan claims she was suicidal when she was 5 months pregnant, Kate made HER cry and Royals refused to make Archie a prince because they were worried how ‘dark’ he would be, as Harry reveals their new baby will be a GIRL.” The website was dominated with coverage, including at least 13 articles about the interview that included photos.
The interview aired Sunday on CBS during primetime US hours, and 1 a.m. local UK time.
The tabloid’s website also included a prominent banner that read: “I WANTED TO KILL MYSELF,” and featured a clip playing on loop from the interview, which showed Meghan saying, with subtitles: “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Another article on the website ripped into the couple’s discussion during the interview about life in the United States, where they are raising chickens.
“Back to basics at their $14.5 million mansion,” read one headline.
Monday’s print edition of the Daily Mail, meanwhile, highlighted the allegations about concerns of Archie’s skin color: “MEGHAN ACCUSES PALACE OF RACISM,” the front page of Monday’s edition of the Daily Mail read. While other news outlets used images provided by Harpo Productions, Winfrey’s production company, the Daily Mail chose a closely cropped image focused on Meghan’s face.
The deluge of stories on the Daily Mail homepage follows a dismissive pre-interview banner headline earlier on Sunday, in which the outlet attempted to lambast the CBS special as “a sideshow.”
Other newspapers were also quick to weigh in on the potential fallout of the interview.
“Meghan Markle may never return to Britain after angering Royal Family with bombshell Oprah interview,” The Sun newspaper wrote, referring to Meghan’s name before marriage. It cited “insiders [who] fear she and Prince Harry could have burnt their bridges by failing to tell family members what was in the two-hour chat before it was shown.”
The publication has come up with a new nickname for Meghan amid her rift with the royal family: “Megxile.” Previously, British tabloids have labeled the couple’s decision to step away from their royal duties “Megxit,” a riff on the term used to describe the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
“Queen: Duty and family unite us,” read the front page of the Daily Express newspaper. “That’s public service for you, Harry and Meghan … NOT a self-serving TV chat with Oprah.”
Even ahead of the program, British tabloids came armed for the occasion, which was among the biggest royal interviews in decades.
On Monday, the Daily Mirror’s print edition will point to Princes “Charles & William’s ‘immense sadness'” amid “Oprah interview fallout,” Sky News reported.
Both the duke and duchess have increasingly opened up about the harsh media scrutiny they have received.
Last month, Prince Harry told late night talk show host James Corden that his experiences had prompted him to take a step back from the royal family. “We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health,” he said.
And in April of last year, Harry and Meghan said they would cut off all dealings with four of the United Kingdom’s biggest tabloid newspapers after years of strained relations. The couple has also tussled with the media in court.
In the interview with Oprah on Sunday, Meghan said that it had become painfully clear that there were double standards in how the media covered her and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife to Prince William, who is second in the line of succession to the British throne.
“I can see now what layers were at play there. And again, they really seemed to want a narrative of a hero and a villain,” said Meghan.
Coverage of the interview with Meghan and Harry was not limited to the tabloids. British morning shows and broadsheets also featured excerpts prominently on Monday.
How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.
— Brian Stelter contributed to this report.

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