Here is a round-up of the top developments around the world today.
1. WHO recommends Eli Lilly, GSK-Vir’s drugs, widening Covid-19 treatment pool
A World Health Organisation (WHO) panel recommended use of two drugs by Eli Lilly, and GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology for Covid-19 patients, adding treatment options as the fast-spreading Omicron variant renders many ineffective. WHO data shows Omicron, which is evading protection provided by many vaccines and therapies, has been identified in 149 countries.
The panel on Thursday strongly recommended Lilly’s baricitinib, sold under brand name Olumiant, for patients with severe Covid-19 in combination with corticosteroids, while conditionally endorsed GSK-Vir’s antibody therapy for non-severe patients at the highest risk of hospitalisation. So far, GSK-Vir’s monoclonal antibody therapy is the only one that has shown effectiveness against Omicron in lab tests, while similar treatments from Eli Lilly and Co and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals offered lower protection in such tests
2. Pakistan passes controversial finance bill
Pakistan’s National Assembly Thursday passed the controversial Finance (Supplementary) Bill, also called the “mini-budget” despite stiff resistance by the opposition parties. The bill aimed to raise more taxes and duties and to empower the central bank were tabled on December 30 by the government to fulfill a key condition by the International Monetary Fund to approve $1 billion under the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility.
The opposition claimed that additional taxes would hurt the already burdened masses while the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021, which was also passed along with the finance bill, would make the central bank stronger than the government and operate at its own will.
3. Last year was the world’s sixth-warmest on record, say US scientists
Last year ranked as the sixth-warmest year on record, causing extreme weather events around the world and adding to evidence that the globe is in a long-term warming trend, according to an analysis released on Thursday by two US government agencies. The data compiled by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA also revealed that the last eight years were the eight hottest and the last decade was the warmest since record-keeping began in 1880, officials said.
The warming in 2021 occurred despite the presence of La Nina in the eastern Pacific Ocean, a cooling trend that generally lowers global temperatures. Last year’s extreme heat wave in the US Pacific Northwest, intense rains from Hurricane Ida and flooding in Germany and China were linked to global warming, the agencies said.
4. UK’s Prince Andrew loses royal and military links
Prince Andrew had his military links and royal patronages removed on Thursday and will no longer be known as “His Royal Highness”, Buckingham Palace said, as the son of Queen Elizabeth fights a US lawsuit in which he is accused of sex abuse.
Andrew, 61, the Duke of York, was forced to step down from public duties in 2019 because of his connections to convicted US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and after a disastrous BBC TV interview which the prince had hoped would clear his name. Thursday’s move by the royal family means he will now lose all his royal connections.
5. Blinken says US working on Havana Syndrome after diplomats’ illnesses in Paris, Geneva
The United States still does not know what the illness known as Havana Syndrome is or who is responsible for it, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview on Thursday after more American diplomats were reported ill in Paris and Geneva. Blinken said the entire federal government is working to get to the bottom of the illness, which has afflicted about 200 US diplomats, officials and family members overseas.
“To date, we don’t know exactly what’s happened and we don’t know exactly who is responsible,” Blinken said in an interview with MSNBC. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported additional illnesses among officials serving in US diplomatic missions in Paris and Geneva, where the United States and Russia held security talks on Monday over Moscow’s troop buildup near the Ukraine border.