Welcome to Friday, where China sees its largest COVID-19 outbreak since Wuhan, the International Space Station is (briefly) thrown out of control, and a meme-related 80s hit passes the 1-billion-views mark. Meanwhile, pan-African weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique looks at the hurdles in the way of vaccination across the continent.
• Hong Kong conviction, crowd boos China: Tong Ying-kit becomes the first person to be convicted under Hong Kong's national security law. The former waiter has been sentenced to nine years in prison for "terrorist activities and inciting secession." Meanwhile, Hong Kong police are also investigating complaints that a crowd of Olympics-viewers publicly booed China as its national anthem played, a punishable offense under Hong Kong law.
• COVID update: China has recorded its largest coronavirus outbreak since Wuhan, with almost 200 people becoming infected in the city of Nanjing. Meanwhile, India is reporting the largest increase in new COVID cases in the last three weeks. Australia is sending in the military to enforce its lockdown, and Japan is extending its state of emergency. As the Delta variant spreads, U.S. President Joe Biden also announced that federal workers will be required to either be vaccinated or follow stringent sanitary measures.
• Philippines restores key military agreement with U.S.: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reversed his promise to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which facilitates U.S. military operations in the country. Instead, the country has announced it will restore the agreement, signaling closer U.S.-Philippine relations.
• Air France/KLM suffer big loss: Airline group Air France-KLM is reporting a second-quarter net loss of almost 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion), although the group remains hopeful that "signs of recovery" are on the horizon.
• U.S. evacuates 221 Afghan interpreters: The United States has begun evacuating Afghani interpreters who assisted American armed forces out of concern that reprisal attacks will begin once U.S. and allied forces have fully exited the country at the end of August. This group of 221 people is the first of about 2,500 Afghans who are set to be relocated to the United States.
• International Space Station thrown out of control: After Russia's Nauka laboratory module accidentally fired its thrusters, the International Space Station's (ISS) position was briefly destabilized, causing an 11-minute break in communications between NASA and the ISS astronauts.
• ScarJo vs. Disney: Black Widow lead actress Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney, alleging a breach in contract. Johansson claims that Disney's decision to simultaneously release Black Widow in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service has gone against previous agreements, particularly as her salary is largely based on box office success.
"Big jackpot," reads the cover of the Ukrainian weekly news magazine Focus, reporting on the United States and Germany's agreement to allow the completion of the controversial Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will bypass Ukraine. "What can Ukraine do, and will the promised billion save us?," asks the magazine, featuring Russian president Vladimir Putin, Germany's Angela Merkel, Joe Biden and Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
The rush to reverse Africa's dismal vaccination rate
As many parts of the continent face a brutal third wave, the urgency to vaccinate is growing. But the obstacles are many, including a stubborn strain of vaccine hesitancy, journalists Claudia Lafrance and Olivier Marbot report in the weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique.
Vaccination against COVID-19 remains a challenge in Africa. The Delta variant is spreading on the continent and the third wave of the pandemic is causing fears of more sudden and concentrated arrivals of severely affected patients in hospitals. In all, 51 countries on the continent (including the Maghreb) have received roughly 70 million doses from various sources, and 18 million people are now protected by two jabs. That means that less than 2% of the African population has been vaccinated.
Complicating matters is the fact that a large part of the African population is reluctant to be vaccinated. This mistrust is even fueled by some leaders. In addition to legitimate questions, there are prejudices and conspiracy theories about alleged attempts at poisoning or even disguised sterilization. Last December, only a quarter of respondents of a survey conducted by the African Union's Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 18 countries across the continent believed that coronavirus vaccines were safe. At the same time, 79% of respondents said they would accept an injection if it was proven safe.
"Resistance to the vaccine has many sources: confusion in communication, lack of clear information, the reputation of AstraZeneca, which some European countries have suspended for a while," explains Alima's Dr. Kinda, who works with the WHO's Africa division. "So we use community networks, people who are able to explain things to people. But we also need to be transparent about the side effects of vaccines, document them and inform seriously, to reassure people."
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Guess what catchy song has just passed 1 billion views on YouTube ... No? Giving up?
We are in front of the presidential palace but a president does not live here: a traitor does.
— Samuel Pérez, a Guatemalan opposition lawmaker, said as he joined protesters in demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. Thousands of Guatemalans have been protesting after the firing of anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, who was investigating corruption cases linked to the president. The United States has also condemned this decision and suspended support from the attorney general who dismissed Sandoval.