Taiwan has criticized what it calls the “indifference” of the World Health Organization to the health rights of the island’s people, according to Reuters.

The WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, begins its annual meeting Monday in Geneva, but Taiwan has not been invited because it says the assembly has given into pressure from China.

“As a professional international health body, the World Health Organization should serve the health and welfare of all humanity and not capitulate to the political interests of a certain member,” Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said in a joint statement.

Taiwan is excluded from most international organizations like the WHO because of objections from China, which considers the self-governing island to be part of its territory and not an independent country. China lays claim to Taiwan despite the island’s democratically elected government. Taiwan does not recognize China’s sovereignty over the island.

This year’s theme of the virtual gathering is “Ending This Pandemic, Preventing the Next Pandemic, and Building Together a Healthier, Safer and Fairer World.”

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, in Wuhan, China were admitted to the hospital in November 2019 — a month before China confirmed its first coronavirus case. The news will likely add fuel to the theory that the virus may have escaped the laboratory.

The report is not the first to cite the possibility that China had earlier knowledge of the virus. Near the end of the Trump administration, a fact sheet released by the State Department said that “the U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

India became the third country Monday to surpass 300,00 deaths related to Covid, after the health ministry reported more than 4,000 Covid deaths in the previous 24 hours. The U.S. has recorded nearly 590,000 deaths, while Brazil is approaching 450,000. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports 3.4 million global Covid deaths.

Also Monday, India reported 222,315 new Covid cases in the past 24-hour period, a significant drop for the South Asian nation that was experiencing more than 400,000 new daily infections just a few weeks ago. However, public health officials believe that India’s toll is likely undercounted because of limited testing resources.

The Indian government said Saturday that while Covid-19 infections remain high as they spread to overburdened rural areas, the infections are stabilizing in some parts of the country.


Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images

A syringe with the Corona vaccine, AstraZeneca, being prepared for administration.

While a new variant of the virus first found in India has raised alarm around the world, a new study found Saturday that vaccines by Pfizer and AstraZeneca are effective against it after two doses.

The study by Public Health England found that Pfizer’s vaccine is 88% effective against B.1.617.2, or the Indian variant, and 93% effective against B.1.1.7, now known as the Kent variant. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is 60% effective against the Indian variant and 66% effective against the English variant.

In both cases, the effectiveness was measured two weeks after the second shot and against symptomatic disease. Both vaccines had limited effectiveness after just one dose.

The Kent variant is the dominant strain in England, but health officials fear the Indian strain may outpace it.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Monday 167 million global Covid-19 infections. The U.S. has more infections than any other country at 33 million cases. India is next with 26.7 million, while Brazil is ranked third with 16 million.

The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Voice of America.

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TNL Editor: Jon Hum (@thenewslensintl)

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