May 05, 2023
W.H.O. Ends Covid World Health Emergency Designation
The World Health Organization announced on Friday that it was ending the emergency it declared for Covid-19 more than three years ago, a milestone in the fitful emergence from a pandemic that has killed millions of people around the world and upended daily life in previously unimaginable ways. “It is with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency,” said the W.H.O. director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. But W.H.O. officials warned that the decision to lift the emergency does not signal an end to the pandemic, and cautioned countries not take this as reason to dismantle Covid response systems. Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the W.H.O. technical lead on Covid, said the organization wanted to be as clear as possible knowing that people would wonder how to think about the pandemic going forward. “The emergency phase is over, but Covid is not,” she said. Indeed, in practical terms, the decision to end the emergency changes little. Many countries have already ended their own states of emergency for Covid, and have moved away from almost all public health restrictions implemented to control the virus. The United States will lift its Covid emergency on May 11. But the lifting of the W.H.O. designation — officially called a “public health emergency of international concern” — is a significant moment in the evolving human relationship with the novel Coronavirus. Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, who led India’s Public Health Foundation through the pandemic, said the decision to lift the emergency was appropriate, because of the high levels globally of immunity to Covid, induced by vaccination or infection, or both. “It no longer possesses the same level of danger,” he said, adding that Covid “has achieved a level of equilibrium, a certain type of coexistence with the human host.” Dr. Reddy said the end of the emergency status should also be appreciated as a moment of human achievement and a “celebration of science.” “It’s important to recognize that what made the virus change its character is not only evolutionary biology,” he said, “but also the fact that we have induced it to actually become less virulent, by vaccination, by masks, by a number of public health measures.” Globally, there have been , including 6,921,614 deaths, reported to the W.H.O. as of May 3. But these figures are a vast undercount of the pandemic’s true toll. “We know the true toll is several times higher, at least 20 million,” Dr. Tedros said. A year ago the W.H.O. said that , a figure that laid bare how vastly countries had undercounted victims. In Egypt, excess deaths were roughly 12 times as great as the official Covid toll; in Pakistan, the figure was eight times as high. Developing nations bore the brunt of the devastation, with nearly eight million more people than expected dying in lower-middle-income nations by the end of 2021. “Covid-19 has been so much more than a health crisis: it has caused severe social upheaval,” said Dr. Tedros, describing crippled economies, closed borders, shuttered schools and millions of people suffering in isolation. “Covid-19 exposed and exacerbated political fault-lines within and between nations,” he said. “It has eroded trust between people, governments and institutions fueled by a torrent of myths and misinformation. It has laid bare the searing inequalities of our world, with the poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest hit and the last to receive access to vaccines and other tools.” The W.H.O. leaders who addressed the media about the ending of the emergency described the moment as an emotional one. “It didn’t have to be this way,” Dr. Van Kerkhove said. “We can’t forget the images of the hospital ICUs filled to capacity, the images of medical gloves filled with warm water holding the hands of our loved ones who died, with health care workers who ensured that they didn’t die alone. We can’t forget the fire pyres or the mass graves that were dug.” Covid, she noted, continues to spread: The W.H.O. recorded , and more than 17,000 deaths, from April 3 to 30, the most recent numbers available. As many countries have reduced their testing for Covid, these numbers also probably represent a significant undercount. The W.H.O.’s emergency declaration was a crucial piece of guidance when it was made on Jan. 30, 2020, when just 213 people were known to have died of the virus. It signaled to the world that this new virus posed a threat outside of China, where it emerged, and gave countries critical buttressing to impose potentially unpopular or disruptive public health measures. The virus that jumped into humans in late 2019 proved to be an unpredictable adversary, mutating swiftly and significantly in ways that allowed it to resurge and devastate countries just as they thought the worst was past. A brutal wave of the Delta variant ravaged India just weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi bragged about how well the country had done in its Covid response. The Omicron variant, while less virulent, spread with a deceptive ease that made it in 2022, and a major killer in many other countries. The first large-scale vaccinations began on Dec. 8, 2020, less than a year after the first case of the disease was reported to the W.H.O., an extraordinary triumph of science. But the collaborative process of vaccine development was followed by a grim period of hoarding and nationalism; a full year later, when people in industrialized countries were receiving second and third doses of the vaccine, had been vaccinated. Dr. Githinji Gitahi, executive director of Amref Health Africa, said it was time to lift the emergency. “The danger of keeping it forever is diluting the tool — you need it to retain its force,” he said. The declaration helped to mobilize resources for Africa, he said, but did nothing to counter the bleak experience of what he called “vaccine injustice.” Amref continues to work on supporting vaccination in 35 African countries; continentwide, coverage now stands at 52 percent. The pandemic also has a positive legacy, Dr. Gitahi said, because it spurred the highest level of cooperation ever seen among African countries, including the creation of an African Union task force to coordinate procurement of vaccines. The Covid response has led to increased capacity and investment in many African countries in areas such as genomic sequencing and disease surveillance. The W.H.O. decision was not welcomed by all health experts. Dr. Margareth Dalcolmo, a respiratory physician and member of Brazil’s National Academy of Medicine who was one of that country’s most prominent experts guiding the public through Covid, said it was too soon to lift the emergency, given that there are still urgent tasks such as research into Covid variants and development of multivalent vaccines. The designation of global public health emergency also creates leverage for lower-income nations to access treatments and support, she said. On May 3, the W.H.O. issued , which it said was intended to guide countries on how to manage Covid over the next two years as they transition from emergency response to long-term Covid prevention and control. Opening the Geneva meeting where W.H.O. experts decided to end the emergency, Dr. Tedros told the committee that for each of the past 10 weeks, the number of weekly reported Covid deaths had been the lowest since March 2020. As a consequence, life has returned to normal in most countries and health systems are rebuilding, he said. “At the same time, some critical uncertainties about the evolution of the virus persist, which make it difficult to predict future transmission dynamics or seasonality,” he said. “Surveillance and genetic sequencing have declined significantly around the world, making it more difficult to track known variants and detect new ones.” And access to lifesaving Covid treatments continues to be sharply unequal globally, he said. Dr. Dalcolmo said the lifting of the global emergency should be viewed not as a milestone, but as a warning. “Take this as an alert, a time to start being prepared for the next pandemic,” she said, “because we know respiratory viruses are going to increase.”
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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