An ambitious vision to put technology at the heart of global efforts to build back better from the pandemic has been signed by the world’s leading democracies.
Leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and EU signed a declaration containing a series of shared principles on how to tackle the global challenge of online safety, including that online firms should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritize the protection of children.
The principles, which have been shaped by the UK’s world-leading approach, say that any steps to improve online safety must support the values of open and democratic societies and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The joint ministerial declaration was signed at a virtual meeting hosted by UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden to fire the starting gun on this year’s G7 Summit. The agreements are part of the first of seven ministerial declarations due to be signed this year.
Other measures include plans to turbocharge exports by digitising the cumbersome and centuries-old paper-based system for key international trade transactions and improving the free flow of data.
In a sign of stronger cooperation to address concerns over the market power of big tech platforms, international regulators and policymakers will meet with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority in the autumn to discuss long term coordination and enforcement.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a coalition of the world’s leading democracies and technological powers, we want to forge a compelling vision of how tech should support and enhance open and democratic societies in the digital age.
“Together we have agreed a number of priorities in areas ranging from internet safety to digital competition to make sure the digital revolution is a democratic one that enhances global prosperity for all.”
The G7 Digital and Tech ministerial meeting is the culmination of ongoing discussions and negotiations around a number of priority areas and in the ministerial declaration published today, G7 member states have agreed to:
· Internet safety principles to guide work to improve online safety. G7 countries commit to protecting human rights online and agree that tech companies have a corporate responsibility for their users’ safety. This means they should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritise the protection of children. These are based on underlying principles in the UK Government’s Online Harms White Paper.
· Develop a framework for the use of electronic transferable records, to address legal barriers and coordinate domestic reforms so companies can use digital solutions for the shipment of goods and trade finance - replacing slow and outdated paper transactions.
· A consensus that a more joined-up approach to regulation and promoting competition in digital markets is needed to better serve consumers and businesses. Regulators have agreed to meet in the autumn to discuss these issues further.
· Cooperation to seize the opportunities and benefits of data free flow with trust for people, businesses and economies. The G7 will build evidence on the impacts of data localisation, promote regulatory cooperation and accelerate the development of best practice approaches for data sharing across a broader set of priority areas. These areas may include transport, science and research, education and natural disaster mitigation.
· Collaboration on how democratic governments and stakeholders can support the development of digital technical standards that online tools, services and protocols should measure up to, and which, among other things, will guide the development of a free, open and secure Internet.
For the first time the G7 also discussed the importance of promoting security and resilience in critical digital infrastructure, in particular in telecommunications, including 5G and future communications technologies. In the declaration, G7 countries commit to developing their collaboration on this throughout the year.
Building on the momentum from this G7 Digital and Technology track, the UK will also host the Future Tech Forum this September. The Forum will convene like-minded democratic partners to discuss the role of technology in supporting open societies and tackling global challenges, in collaboration with industry, academia, and other key stakeholders.
As is tradition for the host nation to highlight their culture, over the two days of the ministerial track (28 - 29 April) G7 ministers and invited guests will enjoy performances from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and National Theatre. These organizations, and over 5,000 others, have benefitted from the unprecedented £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
Coronavirus variants: Commission calls for limiting essential travel from India
The Commission calls on EU member states to take co-ordinated action to further restrict travel from India on a temporary basis, with a view to limiting the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India. This follows a proposal of the World Health Organization on 10 May 2021 to change the classification of that variant from “variant of interest” to “variant of concern”. It is important to limit to the strict minimum the categories of travellers that can travel from India for essential reasons and to subject those who may still travel from India to strict testing and quarantine arrangements.
To ensure a fully co-ordinated and efficient response to this variant and taking into account the deteriorating health situation in India, the Commission proposes that member states apply an ‘emergency brake' on non-essential travel from India. On 3 May, the Commission had proposed to add an ‘emergency brake mechanism' to the Council recommendation on restrictions to non-essential travel.
Limited exemptions for those travelling for compelling reasons, subject to strict safeguards
The restrictions should not affect those travelling for compelling reasons such as for imperative family reasons or persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons. EU citizens and long-term residents, as well as their family members, should still be able to travel to Europe.
For those travellers, the Commission calls on member states to apply additional health-related measures such as strict testing and quarantine arrangements. These measures should apply regardless of whether the travellers have been vaccinated.
Any restrictions on essential travel from India should be temporary and regularly reviewed. member states should assess their effectiveness in containing the new variant. When triggering the ‘emergency brake' mechanism to further restrict travel from a non-EU country, the member states meeting within the Council structures should review the situation together in a coordinated manner and in close co-operation with the Commission.
A temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU is currently in place from many non-EU countries, including from India, based on a recommendation agreed by the Council.
Following a proposal by the Commission, the Council agreed on 2 February 2021 additional safeguards and restrictions for international travellers into the EU, aimed at ensuring that essential travel to the EU continues safely in the context of the emergence of new coronavirus variants and the volatile health situation worldwide.
On 3 May, the Commission proposed that member states ease the current restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU to take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide while putting in place a new ‘emergency brake mechanism', to address coronavirus variants. The ‘emergency brake mechanism' is a coordination mechanism intended to limit the risk of variants of interest and variants of concern entering the EU. It allows member states to act quickly and in a coordinated manner to temporarily limit to a strict minimum all travel from a non-EU country where the epidemiological situation worsens quickly and in particular where a variant of concern or interest is detected.
Variants of interest and variants of concern are assessed as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and for the EU by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) based on key properties of the virus such as transmission, severity and ability to escape immune response.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has assessed the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India as a variant of interest and keeps this assessment under constant review. Variants of interest are variants that show increased transmissibility and severity. On 10 May 2021, the World Health Organization proposed to change the classification of the B.1.617.2 variant from “variant of interest” to “variant of concern”.
Under the current Council Recommendation on the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU, member states can temporarily limit the categories of essential travellers that can travel to the EU where the epidemiological situation worsens quickly and where a high incidence of variants of concern of the virus is detected.
The Council recommendation covers all member states (except Ireland), as well as the four non-EU states that have joined the Schengen area: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. For the purpose of the travel restriction, these countries are covered in a similar way as the member states.
The latest information on the rules applying to entry from non-EU countries as communicated by member states are available on the Re-open EU website.
Press release: Coronavirus: Commission proposes to ease restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU while addressing variants through new ‘emergency brake' mechanism, 3 May 2021
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control threat assessment brief: Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617 variants in India and situation in the EU/EEA, 11 May 2021
'I'm finally here': Greece formally opens to tourists
Greece formally opened to visitors on Saturday (15 May), kicking off a summer season it hopes will resurrect its vital tourism industry battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
After months of lockdown restrictions, Greece also opened its museums this week, including the Acropolis museum, home to renowned sculptures from Greek antiquity.
"I feel really alive and good because it has been such a hard and long year because of COVID," said Victoria Sanchez, a 22-year-old student on holiday from the Czech Republic.
"I feel again alive," she said, as she strolled near the Roman Agora in downtown Athens.
As of Saturday, foreign tourists will be allowed in Greece if they have been vaccinated or can show negative COVID-19 test results. Travel between regions, including to the islands, will also be allowed for those with negative tests or vaccinations.
"Greece is offering what people need," Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis tweeted. "Calm and care-free moments on the road towards normality."
Tourists in Athens were elated.
"I'm finally here," said Rebecca, a tourist in Athens from Florida, who declined to give her last name. "I've been waiting two years - two years with the COVID."
Greece has been rolling out vaccines to its islands and hopes to vaccinate most of them by the end of June. The government says vaccines and rapid testing, as well as warmer weather allowing outdoor activities, mean visitors can travel safely.
As the pandemic brought international travel to a halt in 2020, Greece suffered its worst year for tourism on record, with 7 million visitors compared with a record 33 million in 2019. Tourist revenues tumbled to 4 billion euros ($4.9 billion) from 18 billion euros.
This year, it is aiming for 40% of 2019 levels.
On the island of Mykonos, one flight was given a water salute upon landing. Four islands in the south Aegean, including Mykonos, received 32 international flights on Saturday from countries including Sweden, Germany and Qatar.
Corfu, in the Ionian sea, welcomed visitors from Germany and France.
"We are so happy. I'm happy to be here," said Pierre-Olivier Garcia, soon after arriving on the island.
Greeks also welcomed the lifting of lockdown measures, with scores of people leaving for the islands or holiday homes on the mainland on Saturday.
"The first weekend of freedom," Alpha TV proclaimed during a broadcast from the busy port of Piraeus.
Greece fared better than much of Europe during the first wave of the pandemic, but rising infections later in 2020 forced it to impose several lockdowns to protect its struggling health system.
A country of 11 million, it has recorded 373,881 infections and 11,322 deaths.
($1 = 0.8237 euros)
Italian study shows COVID-19 infections, deaths plummeting after jabs
COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 80% five weeks after a first dose of Pfizer (PFE.N), Moderna (MRNA.O) or AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine, according to Italian research published on Saturday (15 May).
The first such study by a European Union country on the real-world impact of its immunisation campaign was carried out by Italy's National Institute of Health (ISS) and the Ministry of Health on 13.7 million people vaccinated nationwide.
Scientists started studying data from the day Italy's vaccination campaign began, on Dec. 27 2020, until May 3 2021.
The analysis showed that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation, and death decreased progressively after the first two weeks following the initial vaccination.
"As of 35 days after the first dose, there is an 80% reduction in infections, 90% reduction in hospitalisations, and 95% reduction in deaths," the ISS said, adding that the same pattern was seen in both men and women regardless of age.
"This data confirms the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign and the need to achieve high coverage across the population quickly to end the emergency," ISS president Silvio Brusaferro said in the statement.
Among the nearly 14 million people included in the Italian study, 95% of those who had taken Pfizer and Moderna had completed the vaccine cycle, while none of those given AstraZeneca had received a second dose.
Up until now, Italy has been following the makers' recommendations, giving a second dose of Pfizer three weeks after the first, a second dose of Moderna after a four week gap and a second dose of AstraZeneca after a 12 week gap.
As of Saturday morning, some 8.3 million Italians, or 14% of the population, were completely vaccinated, while around 10 million people had received a first jab.
China5 days ago
The billion-dollar disaster - China's influence in Montenegro
coronavirus5 days ago
Recovery and Resilience Facility: Hungary submits official recovery and resilience plan
India4 days ago
Polemics in Pandemics: Big Pharma and the propaganda machinery
Disabilities5 days ago
A new ambitious EU Disability Strategy for 2021-2030
Uzbekistan5 days ago
Human rights in Uzbekistan: Achievements and tasks for the future
Defence5 days ago
Fighting terrorist content online: President von der Leyen to deliver video message at Christchurch Call summit on Friday
Kuwait4 days ago
Kuwait Ports Authority director under investigation for assault
Belgium4 days ago
Israel’s ambassador to Belgium lashes out at the Belgian government reaction, calls it ‘hypocrisy and cowardice’