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#Coronavirus - UK says getting children back to school is a national priority

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It is a national priority for children to return to school after months away from the classroom due to the coronavirus pandemic, a junior British health minister said on Monday (10 August), write Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton.

“Sadly we have seen children from more disadvantaged backgrounds (are) more likely to fall behind during this time so it is essential that we have children back at school this autumn,” Helen Whately told Sky News.

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Whistle-blower exposes threats posed by Russia’s unverified COVID-19 vaccine

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Greetings, my name is Natalya Tupota, senior researcher at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VectorTatyana Leonidovna Tupota. I am one of the leading researchers at the Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector and I feel obliged to warn the international community about the treats posed by the COVID-19 vaccine developed by my country.

It is likely that many of you have already heard the news that Russia is the first country in the world to test vaccines against the novel coronavirus. Currently, there are three scientific institutes in Russia working on the development of the vaccine: 1) Gamalei Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology (Moscow); 2) Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Research and Development of Immune-and-Biological Products (Moscow); 3) State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector (Novosibirsk). The latter, which is also my workplace, is planning to register its vaccine on October 15th this year.

In June this year, I was unwarrantedly awarded President Vladimir Putin’s honorary accolade for my work on the vaccine EpiVacCorona. Considering my direct involvement in the development of this vaccine, I refuse to accept this award, since it is evident that the vaccine will not be ready by the designated date. Everything you may have heard about the successful tests of the vaccines developed in Russia is charlatanism by the government against the Russian people!

I have conducted numerous virological studies (including practical research of the spread of diseases in different regions of Russia and the ability of different treatments to combat these diseases) and I can declare with utmost certainty that no vaccine can be developed in such a short amount of time as set by our leaders in the Kremlin.

I want to remind everyone that in the history of mankind the fastest vaccine developed was the vaccine for mumps, which happened in the sixties and took four whole years! And now our government (along with other governments around the world) is telling us that a vaccine against a considerably more complicated disease has been developed in mere six months! This is nothing short of absurd, and I am saying this as an experienced specialist who was tasked with completing this impossible mission. I am tired of lying and servicing the regime. What is more, I am absolutely convinced that none of the scientific institutes in Russia will be able to develop an effective vaccine in the nearest 3-5 years.

First, Russia’s virology sphere is severely underfunded. The salary of a junior researcher at Vector reaches just 20,000 rubles (224 euro). This is barely enough to pay utility bills and buy the cheapest available food. And exactly because of the minuscule salaries, the industry is unable to attract new employees or keep the old ones. This has resulted in a catastrophic drop in the level of scientific research in the country since the collapse of the USSR.

Second, our research center, just like others in Russia, is gripped by rampant corruption. Ten years ago, the future of our center was uncertain due to the incompetent leadership by doctor Drozdov. Now, a decade later, nothing has really changed. Our leadership, in the person of Rinat Maksyutov, continues to squander our budget for their personal benefit, while the salaries of employees remain pathetically low. What is more, in order to receive government funding, the leadership is willing to lie about Vector’s achievements, as was the case with the development of the vaccine against Covid-19.

Third, our leadership and our scientists have been ordered to keep their mouths shut and pretend that the process of developing of the vaccine went without any incidents. Make no mistake, these too are utter lies. As I already mentioned, in June this year several employees at Vector (including myself) received honorary accolades for developing the vaccine. Even our center’s chauffeur received a medal, and his only duty is to transport our corrupt leadership to and from work. The intention behind these medals and monetary incentives was to keep us silent and show us that it is in our interests to cooperate with the regime.

It is immediately evident that Moscow’s officials care for the vaccine exclusively because of its propaganda and nationalistic significance. They are completely indifferent towards the fact that an unfinished and ineffective vaccine will lead to grave consequences if it was to be distributed among the public. Consider the following: people who receive this fabricated vaccine will cease observing protective measures and will put the entire nation at risk of a new outbreak. Even more, an untested vaccine can weaken a person’s organism, and this in conjunction with Covid-19 can lead to the individual’s death.

Considering the aforementioned, I urge everyone – people around the world and my compatriots – to distrust Moscow’s lies regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine. Do not put your life and the lives of others at risk and please continue following the prescribed safety measures, because there will not be a miracle cure to this disease any time soon.

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Commission approves €32 million Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for damage suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a PLN 142 million (approximately €32m) Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on 15 March 2020, Poland banned all international and domestic air passenger services at Polish airports. The flight restrictions were progressively lifted as of 1 June 2020, but certain travel warnings, travel bans and restrictive measures remained in place until the end of June 2020.

This resulted in high operating losses for the operators of Polish airports. Under the scheme, the Polish authorities will be able to compensate airports for the revenue losses suffered during the period between 15 March and 30 June 2020, as a result of the restrictive measures on international and domestic air passenger services implemented by Poland. The support will take the form of direct grants.

The scheme includes a claw-back mechanism, whereby any possible public support in excess of the actual damage received by the beneficiaries will have to be paid back to the Polish State. The risk of the state aid exceeding the damage is therefore excluded. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors (in the form of schemes) for the damage directly caused by restrictive measures taken in exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the  scheme notified by Poland will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the aid is in line with EU state aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.58212 once confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support Flemish airports in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support the operators of Flemish airports (Antwerp airport, Ostend airport and Kortrijk airport) in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measures were approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The measures consist in: (i) an aid scheme, under which all Flemish airport operators will receive support in the form of a direct grant; and (ii) support to the operators of Antwerp and Ostend airports in the form of payment deferrals of certain costs and fees (namely annual compensation for the use of statutory staff of the Flemish Region and concession fee for the use of the airport infrastructure due for the year 2020).

The purpose of the aid measures is to help Flemish airport operators mitigating the liquidity shortages that they have been facing due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found the measures to be in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the measures can only be granted until the end of this year; (ii) the direct grants do not exceed €800,000 per company, as provided by the Temporary Framework; and (iii) the payment deferrals will be granted by 31 December 2020, and will be due by no later than 31 December 2021 and involve minimum remuneration, in line with the Temporary Framework.

The Commission therefore concluded that the measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58299 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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