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Kazakhstan launches QazVac, its own COVID-19 vaccine

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Kazakhstan has joined the select number of countries that have produced and made available their own COVID-19 vaccine, as President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev tweeted on Friday (23 April) that the first batch of QazVac vaccine had been despatched to several regions of the country, writes Georgi Gotev.

“Vaccine production will be increased to make it available to all citizens. Kazakhstan has become one of the few states that have created their own vaccine. I thank the scientists and all the specialists who participated in its development,” the president said.

Last October, it was Tokayev who gave instructions about the development of the country’s own vaccine.

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The arrival of QazVac is a strong indication of the Central Asian country’s scientific and industrial potential. Apart from Cuba, all the other countries that have developed COVID-19 vaccines, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and India, have significantly larger economies and population sizes.

The QazVac (QazCovid-in) vaccine is a product of the Research Institute for Biological Safety, according to the prime minister’s press service.

Deputy Prime Minister Yeraly Tugzhanov, who took part in the shipment of the first batch of QazVac in the Zhambyl region, was quoted as saying that the creation of the vaccine allowed Kazakhstan to become one of the few countries in the world that had developed their own anti-coronavirus vaccines, proving the strong potential of domestic science.

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The first 50,000 doses of QazVac vaccine will be distributed among pharmacy hubs and delivered to all regions of the country. Vaccination with QazVac is expected to kick off on 26 April.

The next batch – another 50,000 doses – will be produced in May. Reportedly, the plans are to step up production of the vaccine to reach 500-600,000 doses per month in the future.

Earlier, the Director General of the Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems, Kunsulu Zakarya, said Kazakhstan’s vaccine had 100% efficacy in the first stage of clinical trials and 96% efficacy in the second stage of clinical trials.

It can be stored at temperatures of between 2 and 8°C, making it easier to transport and store for up to one year in a freezer.

Kazakhstan has a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases, possibly as the result of stringent measures. On Friday, the number of cases totalled 300,733, with 3,512 deaths, while some 257,278 people have recovered.

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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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