Welcome to Wednesday, where a "vaccinegate" scandal shakes Peru, videos emerge of Dubai princess in "villa prison" and North Korea's first lady reappears after one year. Le Monde goes back in time to understand the proposal of an "immunity passport" for the vaccinated to be free to travel.
• COVID-19 latest: New research from Oxford Brookes University shows taking selfies with endangered gorillas in zoos are putting the animals at risk for contracting COVID. Dozens of Peruvian politicians, including former president Martin Vizcarra, are under fire for secretly getting vaccinated before anyone else. Gaza has received its first vaccine shipment after Israel approved the transfer across its border.
• Myanmar coup protests: In the biggest protest yet, citizens block roads despite an internet shutdown, while UN officials warn that the rising number of soldiers in the streets could be a sign that a violent government crackdown is imminent.
• Trump blasts McConnell: Donald Trump ripped Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him a "dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack," just days after the Senator voted to acquit the former president during the impeachment trial, but told the press that, "Trump bears moral responsibility."
• Detained princess in Dubai: The UN has announced it will question the United Arab Emirates about the detention of Princess Latifa, the daughter of the country's vice-president and ruler of Dubai. In videos released by the BBC, she has accused her father of holding her hostage in Dubai since she tried to escape the UAE in 2018.
• Japan wants meetings to look equal: The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed a new plan to make meetings more gender-inclusive. However, the five female observers cannot speak and will only be able to submit their ideas on paper afterward. This comes after the head of the Tokyo Olympics was forced to resign for saying women talk too much.
• Cyberattacks in French hospitals: Three hospital buildings near Lyon have been hit by cyberattacks, with computer systems blocked and attackers demanding payment for their release. The attack forced the suspension of surgeries and intensive care patients were relocated to other hospitals.
• Wife of Kim Jong Un reappears: After more than a year out of public view, North Korean first lady Ri Sol Ju has appeared in a photo of the couple attending a concert. South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) speculated that she has been staying at home to avoid the coronavirus.
"Lies and indignation," titles Peruvian daily El Comercio after revelations that more than 470 people, including former President Martin Vizcarra and other political figures, took advantage of their position to be secretly vaccinated before the country's campaign was launched.
The "immunity passport" debate, past and present
Talk about the use of documents proving immunity evokes a measure invented more than a century ago by French authorities, writes medical historian Joëlle M. Abi-Rache in French dailyLe Monde.
As governments strive to acquire vaccines against COVID-19 and launch vaccination campaigns in the midst of global uncertainty, a new idea seems to be gaining ground: an immunity passport. These "COVID passports," we are told, could facilitate travel and trade. They would certify that a person has received a vaccine or has been infected by proving, for example, the presence of antibodies against the new virus.
This idea is not new. It stems from the passeport sanitaire, a 19th-century French invention (not without controversy) whose purpose was quite different. The holder of the health passport was considered "immune" in the medieval sense of the word (from the Latin immunis), i.e. "free" of symptoms until proven otherwise.
It was during the 1893 International Sanitary Conference in Dresden that Adrien Proust — professor of health at the Paris Faculty of Medicine, chief physician at the Hôtel-Dieu and father of the novelist Marcel Proust — suggested that the health passport be used internationally. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had convened the conference in Dresden against a backdrop of cholera epidemics that were spreading more rapidly in Europe with the arrival of the steamboat. It was imperative to standardize international quarantine regulations against the spread of these new health threats.
There is, however, a major difference between the past and present situations: today's "passport" would be used by healthy people going to not-necessarily healthy places….
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China has overtaken the United States as the European Union's biggest trading partner for the first time, with the trade volume between the two reaching $711 billion in 2020. China's economic recovery later in the year fueled demand for EU goods, especially in the automobile and luxury industries, while its exports to the bloc benefited from strong demand for medical equipment and electronics.
I'm a hostage. I am not free.
— In videos released by BBC of detained Princess Latifa, the 35-year-old daughter of the ruler of Dubai, who had tried to escape abroad, says that her father and his regime are holding her against her will. "I'm doing this video from a bathroom, because this is the only room with a door I can lock," she says. "I'm enslaved in this jail. My life is not in my hands."