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Uneven global COVID vaccine supply could have ‘deadly effect,’ Red Cross warns

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Uneven global COVID vaccine supply could have ‘deadly effect,’ Red Cross warns

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned of a “deadly and devastating effect” as wealthy nations snap up COVID-19 vaccines, and unveiled a $110 million plan to support equitable distributions.

The humanitarian organization responds to crises and represents a network of nearly 14 million volunteers worldwide. The IFRC released a statement Thursday, finding that almost 70% of vaccinations so far have been sent to the 50 richest countries in the world, with just 1% of vaccinations going to the 50 most impoverished countries, per IFRC’s own analysis.

“This is alarming because it is unfair, and because it could prolong or even worsen this terrible pandemic,” Jagan Chapagain, secretary-general of the IFRC, said in the press release. “Let me be clear: In the race to end this pandemic, we are all rowing the same boat. We cannot sacrifice those at highest risk in some countries so that those at lowest risk can be vaccinated in others.”

Health experts have said that widespread vaccination on a global scale will prevent emerging mutations and ultimately conquer the pandemic. The IFRC echoed this, saying: “The IFRC is warning that, if large pockets of the globe remain unvaccinated, the COVID-19 virus will continue to circulate and mutate. This may lead to the emergence of variants that do not respond to vaccines, allowing the virus to infect people that may have already been vaccinated.”

The new plan announced Thursday aims to help vaccination efforts for 500 million people, by delivering vaccines, boosting vaccine trust, dispelling misinformation and including isolated communities in immunization rollout.

“Our plan is about making sure that those vaccines make it out of capitals and into the arms of vulnerable, at-risk and isolated individuals and communities,” Chapagain said. 

IFRC also supports a global initiative co-led by the World Health Organization, called COVAX, which works to speed along fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to middle- and low-income countries. The WHO is aiming to roll out 2 billion vaccines from a number of manufacturers by the end of 2021.

Agreements have already been established, or are in the works, to procure millions of doses from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Serum Institute of India and Sanofi. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday spoke of plans to supply 10 million coronavirus vaccines to developing countries through COVAX as well.

Shipments are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.

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What you can’t do at New York wedding receptions amid COVID

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What you can't do at New York wedding receptions amid COVID

Bring your COVID-19 test results, a face mask and a tape measure to the next wedding reception you attend.

New York’s strict new rules for weddings and catered events, which take effect March 15, will allow up to 150 people to gather — but not too closely and only for guests with a negative coronavirus test result or completion of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Guests can only dance — masks on — with members of their own immediate party/household/family who are seated together and then only in “designated and clearly marked areas or zones that are assigned to them.”

The zones are to be at least 36 square feet and six feet apart from any other dancing areas or zones, the rules say.

And don’t even think about busting a move with someone in another zone.

Guests “cannot enter, use, or otherwise visit other dancing areas or zones,” the state says.

It’s OK for “select attendees” to join the bride and groom when they take their first dance “so long as they maintain six feet of separation from other attendees throughout the dance.”

The band can play, but only if at least 12 feet away from guests or separated by a barrier.

And guests must keep their masks on unless they are eating. They cannot eat or drink “if members of different parties/households/families are within six feet.”

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Generous tipper drops $1K at his favorite Chinatown joints

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Generous tipper drops $1K at his favorite Chinatown joints

As tips go, this is way over 20 percent!

A Mandarin-fluent foodie has filmed himself dropping $1,000 tips at five of his favorite, but struggling, take-out joints in Manhattan’s Chinatown — and the video of his startled beneficiaries trying to give him back the money is just heartwarming.

“I got five thousand dollars,” YouTuber XiaoMaNYC explains in the clip before handing out the huge tips, which he stuffs into the bright red envelopes that are traditionally exchanged as gifts for Chinese New Year.

“We’re going to be going to five different restaurants, and giving them each a nice little ‘hongbao,’” he says, referring to the envelopes by their Mandarin name as he stuffs each with ten crisp $100 bills.

“It’s actually a great time to do this because it’s Chinese New Year,” he explains of the holiday, which began Feb. 12 and ended Friday.

“I’m just going to be going to some of my absolute favorite Chinese restaurants here in New York City,” explains the three-million-fan YouTuber — a Manhattan-based video producer whose real name is Arieh Smith.

“Not only do they provide great food to the people in the neighborhood, but they also support a lot of employees and they’re all family run,” he says. “They’re just really amazing and great people.”

One of his first stops was Spicy Village on Forsythe Street.

“They work nonstop for 12 hours a day, he said of the restaurant. “And they definitely deserve a little something.”

“We’re just hanging in there, honestly,” owner “Wendy” tells Smith, as she takes his noodles order and they chat in Mandarin about how business has been damaged by the pandemic.

Not knowing she’s on camera, she stuffs Smith’s takeout bag full of complimentary tea and holiday candies for his wife, tells him the order comes to $15, and wishes him a happy New Year.

“Oh by the way, I wanted to give you something,” he says, handing over a hongbao envelope.

“No, I don’t want that!” she insists, backing away.

When Smith finally convinces her to take it, she looks inside and immediately tries to hand it back. The two practically tussle over the money. Smith insists, “Mei yo! mei yo!” — “No, don’t worry about it!” — as she repeatedly tries to stuff the envelope back in his backpack.

“Are you sure? I really can’t accept it!” she says, nearly in tears.

“I just wanted to thank you guys, on Chinese New Year,” Smith tells her. “Just keep doing what you’re doing and making great food!”

At other takeout windows, his red envelopes get similar reactions.

“This is crazy that you would do this!” one grateful owner tells him.

“Too much, dude!” protests a street vendor, who Smith speaks to in fluent Cantonese.

“No way!” shouts another restauranteur, after handing Smith a $1.50 milk tea and getting the huge tip in return.

Smith ends the clip by urging folks to support Chinatown or their own local eateries — though he concedes with a laugh, “You don’t have to tip them $5,000. You could just show up at any of these great restaurants and buy something delicious.”

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Hawaii considering a rescue fine if hikers don’t follow signs

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Hawaii considering a rescue fine if hikers don't follow signs

Hikers who don’t follow trail signs in Hawaii could face more than just danger to their lives — they could also be required to pay for their own rescue. 

Hawaiian lawmakers are considering a bill that could require hikers to reimburse local rescue teams if they had to be saved because they left marked trails, entered clearly-marked private property or ignored signs saying a trail is closed, according to recent reports. 

SB 363 would also give those hikers additional, criminal fines for petty misdemeanor charges.

State lawmakers are also considering another bill, SB 700, which has been revised to allow local rescue teams to choose whether they have hikers reimburse them for any fees associated with their rescue. 

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, similar bills have previously been introduced in Hawaii’s House and Senate before.

This time, the bills are being considered as a way to help Hawaii’s budget, which is “straining” because of the coronavirus pandemic, the newspaper reported.

“It’s an issue that has been brought up in the past in a number of ways, especially in times when budgets are thin and resources are limited,” state Sen. Chris Lee told the Star-Advertiser. “It’s a discussion that everybody is interested in having this year.”

According to the newspaper, the state’s Fire Department opposes the bills. 

“The Honolulu Fire Department does not want to deter anyone from calling 911, thinking there is going to be a cost associated with them getting help,” HFD spokesperson Carl Otsuka told the Star-Advertiser.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Chairwoman Suzanne Case, previously supported an earlier version of SB 700 that required hikers to pay back their rescue costs in written testimony, according to the Star-Advertiser.

“The Department is in support of any strategy that will incentivize the general public to stay within authorized managed areas and already has statutory penalties for violation of laws and rules adopted specifically for going into closed areas,” Case wrote. “While these penalties are in place, absent enforcement and citations, they are clearly not a deterrent.”

The Star-Advertiser reported that Case also noted in her testimony that the DLNR would defer to counties — who are responsible for search and rescue operations — on whether they required hikers to pay for their rescue or not.

According to the Star-Advertiser, hikers frequently get into trouble on the islands and rescuing them can be a dangerous and expensive task.

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