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China and the Initial Response to Covid-19

A must watch documentary, even if you know the basic history: Frontline‘s “China’s Covid Secrets“. From CRS, a timeline: Late December: Hospitals in Wuhan, China, identify cases of pneumonia of unknown origin. December 30: The Wuhan Municipal…

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A must watch documentary, even if you know the basic history: Frontline‘s “China’s Covid Secrets“.

From CRS, a timeline:

  • Late December: Hospitals in Wuhan, China, identify cases of pneumonia of unknown origin.
  • December 30: The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issues “urgent notices” to city hospitals about cases of atypical pneumonia linked to the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The notices leak online. | Wuhan medical workers, including ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, trade messages about the cases in online chat groups.
  • December 31: A machine translation of a Chinese media report about the outbreak is posted to ProMED, a U.S.-based open-access platform for early intelligence about infectious disease outbreaks. WHO headquarters in Geneva sees the ProMED post and instructs the WHO China Country Office to request verification of the outbreak from China’s government. | The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issues its first public statement on the outbreak, saying it has identified 27 cases.
  • January 1: Wuhan authorities shut down the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
  • January 3: Dr. Li Wenliang is reprimanded by local Wuhan police for spreading allegedly false statements about the outbreak online. | Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) Director-General Gao Fu tells U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) Director Robert Redfield about a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan.
  • January 4: In its first public statement on the outbreak, WHO tweets, “China has reported to WHO a cluster of pneumonia cases—with no deaths—in Wuhan, Hubei Province.”
  • January 6: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar II and U.S. CDC Director Redfield offer to send U.S. CDC experts to China. | U.S. CDC issues a “Watch Level 1 Alert” for Wuhan and advises travelers to Wuhan to avoid animals, animal markets, and animal products.
  • January 11: A team led by Prof. Yong-zhen Zhang of Fudan University in Shanghai posts the genetic sequence of the virus on an open-access platform, sharing it with the world. | China CDC and two other Chinese teams subsequently also post genetic sequences of the virus on an open-access platform. | China shares the virus’ genomic sequence with WHO.
  • January 12: Dr. Li Wenliang is hospitalized with symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
  • January 20: China confirms person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus and infections among medical workers.
  • January 21: U.S. CDC announces the first novel coronavirus case in the United States, in a patient who returned from Wuhan on January 15, 2020.
  • January 23: Wuhan suspends public transportation and bars residents from leaving the city.

Relatedly, the the DNI has released an unclassified summary of its investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 / Covid-19.

 

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Commodities

Saudi Arabia Signals Backing For Russia In OPEC+

Saudi Arabia Signals Backing For Russia In OPEC+

Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times,

Saudi Arabia has signaled its support for Russia as…

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Saudi Arabia Signals Backing For Russia In OPEC+

Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times,

Saudi Arabia has signaled its support for Russia as a continued member of the OPEC+ oil cartel, which comes amid ongoing Western pressure to sanction and isolate Moscow over the Ukraine invasion.

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told the Financial Times in an interview published on May 22 that he sees Russia as an integral part of the OPEC+ group of oil producers, adding that politics should be kept out of the alliance.

He said Saudi Arabia hopes “to work an agreement with OPEC+ … which includes Russia,” referring to a new crude production deal. Oil pumping quotas under the current OPEC+ agreement struck in 2020 are set to expire in several months.

While the United States banned oil imports from Russia in March, member states of the European Union remain divided on phasing out Russian crude imports.

OPEC and its allies are unwinding record output cuts put in place during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, although they have rebuffed Western pressure to raise output at a faster pace as energy consumers grapple with the highest oil prices in years.

Oil prices surged above $130 per barrel in March over concerns of disrupted supplies from Russia, although they have since eased.

Brent crude futures rose by 22 cents to $112.77 a barrel by midafternoon on May 23, while the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell 49 cents to $109.79.

High crude prices have translated into pain at the pump for drivers. The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the United States spiked 33 cents over the past two weeks to $4.71 per gallon, according to the Lundberg Survey, while JPMorgan analysts expect prices to climb above $6 a gallon by the end of the summer.

In his interview with the Financial Times, Prince Abdulaziz blamed soaring gasoline prices on taxes and a lack of global refining capacity.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said that the Russia–Ukraine conflict has injected greater volatility into oil markets.

“Sanctions on Russia and other independent corporate actions contributed to falling oil production in Russia and continue to create significant market uncertainties about the potential for further oil supply disruptions,” EIA said in the outlook, noting that Russia sanctions came against a backdrop of persistent upward oil price pressures and low oil inventories.

Global oil inventory levels in April in developed countries stood at 2.63 billion barrels, up marginally from February, when they fell to their lowest level since April 2014, EIA said.

“Because oil inventories are currently low, we expect downward oil price pressures will be limited and market conditions will exist for significant price volatility,” EIA noted.

The agency predicts Brent will average $103 per barrel in the second half of 2022, before falling to $97 per barrel in 2023.

In its most recent monthly report, OPEC cut its forecast for growth in world oil demand in 2022, citing the impact of the Ukraine war, surging inflation, and pandemic curbs in China.

Tyler Durden Tue, 05/24/2022 - 05:00

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International

Pandas wants to give Latin American businesses buying power in Asia

Pandas connects Latin America’s small businesses directly with Asian manufacturers to reduce logistical problems and high fees often imposed by importers…

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Access to global supply chains can be difficult for small businesses in Latin America, but companies like Meru, which raised funding in March to source and import goods between Mexico and China, and now more recently Pandas, are tapping into overseas relationships and technology to make this easier.

In Pandas’ case, the company is doing something similar to Meru, but starting in Colombia, connecting small businesses directly with Asian manufacturers, so that they can reduce the high fees often imposed by half a dozen importers and intermediaries as well as logistical problems that all businesses are facing right now where inventory is now taking many more months to arrive than during pre-pandemic times.

Co-founders Rio Xin and Marcos Esterli started Pandas just three months ago to provide Asian-origin inventory to micro-businesses in Latin America. Their collective background includes careers at McKinsey and Treinta for Esterli, and McKinsey, with more than seven years spent in China, for Xin, where he told TechCrunch he developed a strong network in the region.

“The main issue that we’ve seen is people who don’t understand the Chinese language or how Chinese manufacturers work and then you add in the logistical problems,” Xin added. “We are able to bridge the breach, while at the same time having our team in China to overcome all these logistics problems.”

Pandas B2B marketplace. Image Credits: Pandas

Here’s how it works: Businesses order products via the Pandas marketplace, touting lower pricing, in which the business can make purchases in a few clicks. Pandas takes it from there, offering one-day-delivery and customer support.

Esterli explained that people in Latin America have been using smartphones for their personal finances and other tasks, but that has not translated as quickly to the business side.

“A lot of customers told us Alibaba was something they wanted to use, but that it was very complicated to figure out,” he added. “We wanted to build an easy solution that was super intuitive because business owners don’t have that time to spend.”

Initially providing basic electronics products — think headphones, accessories and cables — and with a new round of funding, $5.8 million pre-seed, Pandas will move into categories like textiles and home accessories. The company touts the pre-seed investment as “the largest pre-seed financial in Spanish-speaking LatAm to date.”

Third Kind Venture Capital led the round and was joined by Acequia Capital, Picus Capital, Tekton Ventures, Partech, Liquid2 Ventures, Clocktower Technology Ventures, Gaingels and a host of individual investors, including Tul’s Juan Carlos Narvaez, Jose Jair Bonilla from Chiper, Treinta’s Man Hei and Lluís Cañadell, Pablo Viguera from Belvo, Nowports’ Alfonso de los Rios, Sujay Tyle from Merama and Ironhack’s Gonzalo Manrique.

So far in its young journey, the company is growing 100% month over month and has amassed a supplier network of about 300 out of 5,000 in China, Xin said.

In addition to moving into those new inventory categories, the new capital will enable Pandas to scale its operations, technology and product development and make new hires.

Xin expects to be in most of the main markets across Latin America in the next three years. In the meantime, new features coming down the pipeline in the next 12 months include a suite of fintech and analytics tools like financing.

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Government

Monkeypox cases are rising. Should we be worried?

The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan
The post Monkeypox cases are…

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The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan Africa, with cases rising above the 100-mark a few days ago and the UK top of the table with 56 as of yesterday.

Top of the list of concerns is how the virus – which does not spread easily between humans and requires skin-to-skin contact – is spreading so quickly in so many countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia where the disease is not endemic.

There is speculation that monkeypox may be being spread between sexual partners, even though it is not normally considered a sexually-transmitted infection. Thankfully, there have been no deaths reported so far, although the WHO notes monkeypox has a fatality rate of between 3% and 6%.

While health authorities are on alert, the WHO said it thinks the outbreak can be contained and that the overall risk to the population remains low. It also stressed there is no evidence that a viral mutation is responsible for the unusual pattern of infections.

Monkeypox is considered less likely to mutate quickly because it is a DNA virus rather than an RNA virus like influenza or COVID-19.

Several countries including Belgium and the UK are already advising a three-week quarantine period for anyone who contracts the virus and their close contacts.

The increasing case numbers in the current monkeypox outbreak are certainly concerning,” commented Dr Charlotte Hammer, an expert in emerging infectious diseases based at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“It is very unusual to see community transmission in Europe – previous monkeypox cases have been in returning travellers with limited ongoing spread. However, based on the number of cases that were already discovered across Europe and the UK in the previous days, it is not unexpected that additional cases are now being and will be found, especially with the contact tracing that is now happening.”

Vaccines and drugs are available

Meanwhile, attention is now being turned to other measures to control the outbreak, including the use of vaccines against smallpox – a related virus – in a ‘ring vaccination’ approach designed to control the spread among contacts.

Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme can provide around 85% protection against monkeypox, according to the WHO, which notes that one newer vaccine – Bavarian Nordic’s Jyneos – has been approved by the FDA for prevention against both viruses.

There’s also a licensed antiviral drug for monkeypox. SIGA Technologies’ oral drug Tpoxx (tecovirimat) is approved for smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox in Europe, and in the US and Canada for smallpox, although it can be used off-label for the other disease. The US FDA also approved a new intravenous form of the drug last week.

The WHO says there is no need for widespread vaccination, as other control measures like isolation of patients should be enough to curb the spread and in any case supplies of vaccines are limited.

Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to but milder than smallpox, typically beginning with fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion. It is transmitted to people from various wild animals, such as rodents and primates, and is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks.

In 2003, the US experienced an outbreak of monkeypox, which was the first time human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is making some Jyneos vaccine reserves available for close contact inoculations, including healthcare workers tending to patients.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said yesterday it had identified 36 additional cases of monkeypox in England, and that vaccination of high-risk contacts of cases is already underway.

“A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging these men to be alert to the symptoms,” said the agency’s chief medical advisor Dr Susan Hopkins.

“Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service if they have any symptoms.”

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