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#Kazakhstan is increasing its #biosafety capacity

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Since March 16, Kazakhstan has been living in a state of emergency. Tough quarantine measures have been introduced in the country, public transport has been suspended, most organizations and institutions have switched to a remote mode of operation, streets and residential facilities being disinfected, while COVID-positive patients receive medical care.

The state of emergency was introduced to prevent the spread of the dangerous virus in Kazakhstan. We have largely succeeded in this. The pandemic is not growing exponentially: today the number of cases does not exceed 4,000 people per population of 18 million of Kazakhstan.

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In addition to quarantine, the entire healthcare system in Kazakhstan is currently working on the development of tools to counteract the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. An important element of this work is the development of a domestic test system and the formation of a batch of reagent kits for the detection of COVID-19 coronavirus by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

The Central Reference Laboratory (CRL), a branch of the National Center for Biotechnology in Almaty, jointly with the units of the National Scientific Center for Especially Dangerous Infections named after M. Aykimbayev began development of such test systems for the detection of the COVID-19 coronavirus in order to further equip subordinate institutions of the Ministry of Healthcare and create a strategic reserve in case of infection spread throughout the country.

There are a number of benefits resulting from the fact that this development is domestic: the availability of technical and consulting support, adaptation of the kits to the equipment available at the departments of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the provision of some other types of support from the developers. Thus, thanks to its own laboratory, Kazakhstan was able to develop and implement national tests.

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This Central Reference Laboratory (СRL) did not appear out of thin air, and the Kazakh Scientific Center for Quarantine and Zoonotic Infections named after M. Aykimbayev, which in Soviet times was created as the Almaty Anti-Plague Station, has been the basis (technical and personnel) for its creation.

It is well known that natural environmental factors affect the spread and functioning of natural foci of infections that cause human disease. Due to geological and climatic features (desert and mountainous terrain), there were and are natural foci of plague, cholera and other infectious diseases in a significant part of the territory of Kazakhstan.

In this regard, Kazakhstan needs a CRL-level laboratory to effectively counter current threats to biological safety. The construction of the CRL was started in April 2010 and completed in September 2017. It was constructed within the framework of the Executive Agreement on the Elimination of the Infrastructure of Weapons of Mass Destruction, signed by the Governments of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the United States of America on August 23, 2005.

The laboratory was built and equipped at the expense of US funds as part of a joint threat reduction program. The program is being implemented by the Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense and aimed at strengthening the non-proliferation regime of weapons of mass destruction in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and several other CIS countries.

Upon completion of the construction, the CRL was transferred by the Americans to full control of Kazakhstan. From January 1, 2020, the Laboratory has been fully funded from the budget of Kazakhstan. Today, the Central Reference Laboratory (CRL) is an international advanced research center of the third level of biological protection. The laboratory belongs to Kazakhstan and is not American. The main goal is to preserve the collection of pathogens and viruses.

The Kazakhstan’s collection of pathogens and viruses has been collected for years (one of the largest in the world). Storing these collections needs special conditions with security requirements ensured. The old building of the laboratory built during the Soviet times did not meet the requirements in terms of design and equipment. The new building resolved all these issues. It has separate laboratories, provides ventilation, the air goes through multiple filtration; all procedures are in accordance with international standards.

The laboratory's tasks include strengthening diagnostic and research capabilities for the development and implementation of state policy in epidemiological and epizootological monitoring. Special engineering and technical personnel was trained and prepared for the maintenance of the laboratory. The staff of the CRL includes Kazakhstani specialists from subordinate organizations of three ministries: healthcare, science and education, and agriculture.

Since the CRL was established in collaboration with the United States, various speculations appear from time to time on several Russian media about the biological weapons allegedly being created at the CRL, as well as artificial coronavirus strains of the COVID-19 type, which was spread in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

In a recent official statement, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said that this is untrue due to the lack of such capabilities at the CRL. Information published in some media sources that Kazakhstani laboratory is allegedly creating a biological weapon aimed at defeating representatives of Slavic ethnic groups and peoples is a conspiracy fiction.

Controlling the epidemiological situation of infectious diseases is a matter of international importance. In this regard, the CRL in Kazakhstan is a guarantee that various infections that are especially dangerous for humans are being carefully studied and reliably contained through timely measures taken by Kazakhstani scientists. The example of the current COVID-19 pandemic proves this.

 

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Commission approves €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support cattle farmers affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support farmers active in the cattle-breeding sector affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure aims at mitigating the liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing and at addressing part of the losses they incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Latvian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The Commission found that the scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework.

In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is 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 scheme 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.64541 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in the Region of the Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. It follows another Portuguese scheme to support the passenger transport sector in Azores that the Commission approved on 4 June 2021 (SA.63010). Under the new scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to collective passenger transport companies of all sizes active in the Azores. The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing and to address losses incurred over 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.

The Commission found that the Portuguese scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is 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 of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure 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.64599 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission authorizes French aid scheme of €3 billion to support, through loans and equity investments, companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic

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The European Commission has cleared, under EU state aid rules, France's plans to set up a € 3 billion fund that will invest through debt instruments and equity and hybrid instruments in companies affected by the pandemic. The measure was authorized under the Temporary State Aid Framework. The scheme will be implemented through a fund, titled 'Transition Fund for Businesses Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic', with a budget of € 3bn.

Under this scheme, support will take the form of (i) subordinated or participating loans; and (ii) recapitalization measures, in particular hybrid capital instruments and non-voting preferred shares. The measure is open to companies established in France and present in all sectors (except the financial sector), which were viable before the coronavirus pandemic and which have demonstrated the long-term viability of their economic model. Between 50 and 100 companies are expected to benefit from this scheme. The Commission considered that the measures complied with the conditions set out in the temporary framework.

The Commission concluded that the measure was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of France, in accordance with Article 107 (3) (b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the temporary supervision. On this basis, the Commission authorized these schemes under EU state aid rules.

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Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (pictured), competition policy, said: “This €3bn recapitalization scheme will allow France to support companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic by facilitating their access funding in these difficult times. We continue to work closely with member states to find practical solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while respecting EU regulations.”

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