In response to the global crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, community volunteers, local civil society groups, and major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined forces to demand a 12-point plan from world leaders.
Ahead of the World Health Assembly and as governments consider key steps towards recovery, the group is calling for a joined up plan to fight the crisis and build a just recovery that tackles the interlinked challenges of providing universal healthcare, reducing inequalities and guaranteeing human rights; alongside the critical need to re-think our economies in response to the parallel crises of climate change and biodiversity.
An unprecedented coalition of over 400 organisations working on human rights and sustainable development in every continent have come together including Action for Sustainable Development, CIVICUS, Femnet, Forus, GCAP, Global Citizen, HelpAge International, Oxfam, Restless Development, Save The Children, Women Deliver and many more regional networks, voluntary groups and local activists.
It comes as the impact of the crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable groups is becoming increasingly evident. Recent analysis shows that the COVID-19 crisis risks pushing half a billion people into poverty. The UN has estimated that the pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering acute hunger, pushing it to more than a quarter of a billion by the end of 2020 and there are predictions of very high numbers of more cases of domestic violence around the world this year as a result of pandemic restrictions.
The statement comes ahead of a joint ‘Day of Solidarity’ to highlight community action around the world on Friday, 22 May 2020.
In a joint statement, the groups have said: “We are strongly committed to ensuring that civil society organisations and volunteers play a critical role in supporting community action and ensuring that those who are most often marginalised are not left behind through this challenging time… but we expect world leaders to ensure key measures are addressed to build a fairer future.”
GCAP Global Co-Chairwoman Rebecca Malay said: “Now is the best time to come together to change the system that created these multiple crises. Only with the people can governments achieve the change we need.”
GCAP Global Co-Chairman Riccardo Moro said: “This global pandemic shows how connected we are, but at the same time how weak we are in responding together. Competition among nations and irresponsible delegitimization of multilateral institutions, combined with neoliberal policies that have systematically shrunk resources and public roles, have harmed our capacity to respond to this crisis. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the most vulnerable are paying the highest price and inequalities, already unacceptable, are increasing. We need strong political initiatives to provide health care and social protection for all. We need robust policies to support a fair recovery in the framework of climate justice, focusing on social inclusion and reduction of inequalities. We call for debt cancellation and daring financial policies. We condemn all forms of discrimination, racism, and lack of human rights. We support the UN Secretary General’s call for immediate ceasefires globally. We call for a true and committed and effective global solidarity.”
HelpAge International CEO Justin Derbyshire said: “COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on older people and those with disabilities and underlying health conditions, who also face serious social and economic consequences from the pandemic. It highlights the importance of a whole-of-society approach to deliver well-resourced health and social protection systems that respond to all ages. This is an urgent healthcare emergency that shines a glaring light on the underlying fragility and inequalities of our societies and the critical need for stronger, more resilient and equitable systems, as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.”
CIVICUS Secretary General Lysa John said: “Inequalities have exacerbated the challenges facing many populations during this global pandemic, it is essential that any stimulus and rescue packages must include commitments and measures to ensure universal health and social care, gender equality and a global commitment to universal social protection. At the same time, it is critical that as part of the recovery, every country meets their obligations under the Paris Agreement; putting us firmly on the path to net zero, with global heating limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve the above, meaningful partnerships with Civil Society are vital. We urge decision makers to involve Civil Society in policy responses and create enabling conditions for our participation.”
African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) Executive Director Memory Kachambwa said: “Women play an outsized role in the COVID-19 response. They constitute 70% of the world’s health care workforce and recognizing that they are workers who are on the frontlines of responding to this health emergency, they must be adequately, appropriately and properly protected and supported to cope with the multiple impacts. At the same time, women’s traditional role as caregivers for sick family members is putting more women and girls at greater risk of infection and increasing the burden of care work. Women particularly from the Global South are engaged in informal work, with poor social security and are among the most affected during this pandemic.
"Past health emergencies have caused a disruption in routine health services such as access to sexual and reproductive health products and services, access to vaccines programmes, and the provision of quality maternal care—this disruption of services has grave consequences to millions of lives. We call on governments to safeguard the provision of essential health services through strong primary healthcare systems and universal healthcare systems that are inclusive of sexual and reproductive health services during and post this COVID-19 crisis. Governments must include service providers working on ending gender-based violence as essential services.”
"In summary as world leaders begin to map a way forward out of the crisis, the groups call on them to ensure the approach to recovery is guided by the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals. They insist that: “We need a major economic stimulus that underpins a new social contract between people, governments and the market, that radically reduces inequality, gender inequalities and lays the foundations for a just, equal and sustainable economy that works for all people at every stage of their lives.”
Full set of 12 points are as follows:
The UN to:
1. Connect immediate response and recovery funding directly with local groups which includes a ‘gender marker’ for women, marginalized people, community organisations and social enterprises to ensure we leave no one behind
2. Safeguard freedom of expression and support innovative approaches to digital freedom of assembly to ensure all voices are heard
3. Promote the global ceasefire and support governments to re-direct military spending to social protection
4. Call for a ban on the live wild animal trade and a halt to deforestation
In the short term ‘response’ phase, member state governments and donor agencies to:
5. Safeguard health-care workers and social care workers on the frontline by ensuring they have access to safe and decent working conditions and are resourced properly
6. Involve civil society organizations in policy and operational responses to COVID-19
7. Uphold financial and policy commitments to a human rights based approach, in particular the rights of older people, persons with disabilities and women, girls and gender diverse people
8. Implement clear social and environmental conditions on any emergency financial stimulus to companies, such as treating workers fairly and cutting carbon emissions
In the medium term ‘recovery’ phase, Member state governments and donor agencies to:
9. Drive a seismic shift towards universal healthcare, welfare payments and social protection that include essential services such as vaccine programs, sexual and reproductive health products and services for all
10. Cancel national debts to ensure sufficient finance is available to governments to ensure a just recovery
11. Adopt fairer taxation policies on those who hold the most resources in our society, alongside measures to tackle illicit financial flows to pay for these protections
12. Put in place incentives for a feminist, green industrial revolution to enable rapid scaling up of sustainable jobs
For more information, click here.
For more information, see also GCAP’s COVID-19 page.
Commission approves €40 million Italian aid measure to support coronavirus related research and development activities
The European Commission has approved a €40 million Italian aid measure to support coronavirus related research and development (R&D) by biotechnology company ReiThera S.r.l. The measure was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework.
Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €40 million Italian measure will support research into a new vaccine against the coronavirus. We continue to work closely with member states to support measures that can help us find solutions to tackle the pandemic, in line with EU rules.”
The Italian aid measure
Italy notified to the Commission under the Temporary Framework a €40 million aid measure to support coronavirus related R&D activities by ReiThera S.r.l., a medium-sized biotechnology company located in the Lazio region. The public support will take the form of a direct grant.
The aim of the measure is to support the development of a novel coronavirus vaccine, contributing to finding solutions to respond to the current health crisis. The candidate vaccine developed by ReiThera has been evaluated in preclinical studies and in a phase I clinical study that has shown that it is safe in adult and elderly people. The measure will support the setting-up and implementation of the next development step, a phase II/III study to confirm safety and demonstrate efficacy.
The Commission found that this aid measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the aid will cover less than 60% of the relevant R&D costs; and (ii) any results of the research activities will be made available to third parties in the European Economic Area at non-discriminatory market conditions through non-exclusive licences.
The Commission concluded that the Italian measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to fight the health crisis, in line with Article 107(3)(c) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.
On this basis, the Commission approved the aid measure under EU State aid rules.
The Commission has adopted a Temporary Framework to enable member states to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework, as amended on 3 April, 8 May, 29 June, 13 October 2020 and 28 January 2021, provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by member states:
(i) Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments of up to €225,000 to a company active in the primary agricultural sector, €270,000 to a company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €1.8 million to a company active in all other sectors to address its urgent liquidity needs. Member States can also give, up to the nominal value of €1.8 million per company zero-interest loans or guarantees on loans covering 100% of the risk, except in the primary agriculture sector and in the fishery and aquaculture sector, where the limits of €225,000 and €270,000 per company respectively, apply.
(ii) State guarantees for loans taken by companies to ensure banks keep providing loans to the customers who need them. These state guarantees can cover up to 90% of risk on loans to help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.
(iii) Subsidised public loans to companies (senior and subordinated debt) with favourable interest rates to companies. These loans can help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.
(iv) Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy that such aid is considered as direct aid to the banks' customers, not to the banks themselves, and gives guidance on how to ensure minimal distortion of competition between banks.
(v) Public short-term export credit insurance for all countries, without the need for the Member State in question to demonstrate that the respective country is temporarily “non-marketable”.
(vi) Support for coronavirus related research and development (R&D) to address the current health crisis in the form of direct grants, repayable advances or tax advantages. A bonus may be granted for cross-border cooperation projects between Member States.
(vii) Support for the construction and upscaling of testing facilities to develop and test products (including vaccines, ventilators and protective clothing) useful to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, up to first industrial deployment. This can take the form of direct grants, tax advantages, repayable advances and no-loss guarantees. Companies may benefit from a bonus when their investment is supported by more than one member state and when the investment is concluded within two months after the granting of the aid.
(viii) Support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the form of direct grants, tax advantages, repayable advances and no-loss guarantees. Companies may benefit from a bonus when their investment is supported by more than one member state and when the investment is concluded within two months after the granting of the aid.
(ix) Targeted support in the form of deferral of tax payments and/or suspensions of social security contributions for those sectors, regions or for types of companies that are hit the hardest by the outbreak.
(x) Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees for those companies in sectors or regions that have suffered most from the coronavirus outbreak, and would otherwise have had to lay off personnel.
(xi) Targeted recapitalisation aid to non-financial companies, if no other appropriate solution is available. Safeguards are in place to avoid undue distortions of competition in the Single Market: conditions on the necessity, appropriateness and size of intervention; conditions on the State's entry in the capital of companies and remuneration; conditions regarding the exit of the State from the capital of the companies concerned; conditions regarding governance including dividend ban and remuneration caps for senior management; prohibition of cross-subsidisation and acquisition ban and additional measures to limit competition distortions; transparency and reporting requirements.
(xii) Support for uncovered fixed costs for companies facing a decline in turnover during the eligible period of at least 30% compared to the same period of 2019 in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The support will contribute to a part of the beneficiaries' fixed costs that are not covered by their revenues, up to a maximum amount of €10 million per undertaking.
The Commission will also enable member states to convert until 31 December 2022 repayable instruments (e.g. guarantees, loans, repayable advances) granted under the Temporary Framework into other forms of aid, such as direct grants, provided the conditions of the Temporary Framework are met.
The Temporary Framework enables member states to combine all support measures with each other, except for loans and guarantees for the same loan and exceeding the thresholds foreseen by the Temporary Framework. It also enables member states to combine all support measures granted under the Temporary Framework with existing possibilities to grant de minimis to a company of up to €25,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in the primary agricultural sector, €30,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €200,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in all other sectors. At the same time, member states have to commit to avoid undue cumulation of support measures for the same companies to limit support to meet their actual needs.
Furthermore, the Temporary Framework complements the many other possibilities already available to member states to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU State aid rules. On 13 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on a co-ordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak setting out these possibilities. For example, member states can make generally applicable changes in favour of businesses (e.g. deferring taxes, or subsidising short-time work across all sectors), which fall outside state aid rules. They can also grant compensation to companies for damage suffered due to and directly caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Temporary Framework will be in place until the end of December 2021. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before this date if it needs to be extended.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.61774 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.
More information on the Temporary Framework and other action the Commission has taken to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.
EU co-ordinating the urgent delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Moldova
A consignment of 21,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines has been delivered to Moldova from Romania to support the country's response to the pandemic. This delivery follows Moldova's request for vaccines through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, to which Romania has responded rapidly with this offer.
Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “I thank Romania for its generous and rapid offer to Moldova. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism continues to facilitate solidarity during the current pandemic. It is only through cooperation and mutual support, within the EU and also outside, that we can have an effective response to COVID-19. Supporting vaccination globally is essential for containing the COVID-19 pandemic: no country in the world will be safe until everyone is safe.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Moldova has already received a range of other offers co-ordinated through the Mechanism:
- 8 million items including surgical masks, FFP3 masks, protective suits and gloves offered by Romania;
- 55 ventilators and 405,000 items of surgical masks, protective gloves and protective suits sent by Czechia;
- almost 57,000 items of protective face shields and disinfectant liquid made available by Poland, and;
- more than 6,000 items of examination gloves, hand disinfectant and blankets offered by Austria.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has co-ordinated and co-financed the delivery of over 15 million items of assistance to 30 countries to support their COVID-19 response, be it personal protective equipment, ventilators, the reinforcement of medical staff, or, more recently, vaccines. The first vaccine delivery under the mechanism was facilitated last week, when the Netherlands sent 38,610 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, together with other vaccination tools, such as syringes and needles, to the three Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint-Maarten in response to their request for support.
In addition to the co-ordination of requests and offers made through the Mechanism, the EU also finances up to 75 % of the costs for transporting the assistance.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is one of the tools that has been instrumental in providing support to countries requesting assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. Through the Mechanism, the EU is helping coordinate and finance the delivery of medical and protective equipment and material across Europe and the world, to countries that seek assistance.
Russian scientists say Sputnik V performs well against COVID mutations
A Russian trial testing the effectiveness of revaccination with the Sputnik V shot to protect against new mutations of the coronavirus is producing strong results, researchers said on Saturday (27 February), writes Polina Ivanova.
Last month President Vladimir Putin ordered a review by March 15 of Russian-produced vaccines for their effectiveness against new variants spreading in different parts of the world.
“(A) recent study carried out by the Gamaleya Centre in Russia showed that revaccination with Sputnik V vaccine is working very well against new coronavirus mutations, including the UK and South African strains of coronavirus,” said Denis Logunov, a deputy director of the centre, which developed the Sputnik V shot.
Results of the trial are expected to be published soon, but this was the first indication of how the tests are going. No further details were available yet.
So-called viral vector shots - such as Sputnik V and a shot developed by AstraZeneca - use harmless modified viruses as vehicles, or vectors, to carry genetic information that helps the body build immunity against future infections.
The revaccination used the same Sputnik V shot, based upon the same adenovirus vectors. The trial indicated this did not impact effectiveness, Logunov said in a statement to Reuters.
Some scientists have raised the possible risk that the body also develops immunity to the vector itself, recognising it as an intruder and trying to destroy it.
But developers of Sputnik V disagreed this would pose long-term problems.
“We believe that vector-based vaccines are actually better for future revaccinations than vaccines based on other platforms,” Logunov said.
He said that the researchers found that antibodies specific to the vectors used by the shot - which could generate an anti-vector reaction and undermine the work of the shot itself - waned “as early as 56 days after vaccination”.
This conclusion was based on a trial of a vaccine against Ebola developed earlier by the Gamaleya Institute using the same approach as for the Sputnik V shot.
Vector immunity is not a new issue but has come under renewed scrutiny as companies including Johnson & Johnson anticipate regular COVID-19 vaccinations, like annual influenza shots, may be needed to combat new variants of the coronavirus.
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