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ECB meets as Delta variant threatens global economy

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By Gistflash News

July 22, 2021

European Central Bank chief, Christine Lagarde, is expected to spell out details on Thursday of the ECB’s new monetary strategy after this week’s meeting.

This was overshadowed by concerns of the rise in new coronavirus cases around the world.

Analysts expected the ECB to leave its benchmark interest rates on hold at record lows amid signs of financial market volatility triggered by worries that the highly infectious Delta variant could destabilise economic recovery.

In his last meeting before the summer break, the ECB may also shed light on whether any adjustments were needed to its 1.85-trillion-euro (2.2-trillion-dollar) pandemic emergency scheme.

Originally introduced in March 2020 as the pandemic engulfed 19-member eurozone, the Frankfurt-based ECB’s Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) was aimed at shoring up the currency bloc’s economy as well as heading off the threat of falling inflation.

Analysts were not expecting Lagarde to signal any early moves by the ECB to begin winding back the PEPP, which was currently set to run until March 2022.

They had already circled the ECB’s September meeting as the likely date when the bank might begin outlining moves to reduce the PEPP.

A key part of the ECB monetary review announced this month by Lagarde was for the bank to adopt a fractionally higher 2-per-cent annual inflation goal.

The current target stands at below but close to 2 per cent.

However, according to official data released last week, annual inflation in the 19-member eurozone edged lower from 2 per cent in May to 1.9 per cent June just short of the ECB’s new target.

The ECB’s economic forecasts as set out in its latest staff projections released in June also see the inflation rate coming in at 1.9 per cent this year.

In addition, markets would be watching Lagarde’s press conference for details on how the bank planned to align the higher inflation target with interest rates.

The ECB’s benchmark refinancing rate has been on hold at a historic low of zero since March 2016.

dpa/NAN

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Sudan stresses importance of reaching binding agreement on Nile Dam

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By Gistflash News

July 29, 2021

Sudan’s Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Yasir Abbas, on Wednesday reiterated the importance of reaching a tripartite binding agreement regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Abbas underscored the importance of reaching the agreement at a news conference in the capital, Khartoum.

“Sudan will benefit from the GERD in terms of generating electricity and reducing silt and floods, but only on the condition that there is a binding tripartite agreement,” the minister said.

He called for a different negotiating method, saying “Sudan is not ready to enter into talks with Ethiopia in the same previous way because it means buying time.

“An agreement on exchange of information with Ethiopia regarding the GERD must be set, so that Sudan’s Al-Rusaires Dam can be operated safely.”

On July 19, the Ethiopian government announced that it had completed the second filling of the GERD and that it planned to start electricity production from the dam within months.

Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia have been in talks for years over the technical and legal issues related to the filling and operation of the GERD.

Sudan proposed a mediation quartet of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the African Union regarding the GERD issue, while Ethiopia rejected this proposal.

Ethiopia, which started building the GERD in 2011, expects to produce more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity from the dam project, while Egypt and Sudan, downstream Nile Basin countries that rely on the river for its freshwater, are concerned that the dam might affect their share of the water resources.

Xinhua/NAN

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England to open borders to vaccinated U.S., EU citizens soon – Reports

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By Gistflash News

July 28, 2021

England is expected to open its borders to allow U.S. and European Union (EU) travellers who are fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to enter without the need to quarantine, according to reports.

The plans, which would be a boost to the aviation and tourism sectors, were expected to be discussed by ministers on Wednesday, The Guardian and The Times reported.

The Guardian added that conversations were also expected between Whitehall officials and the devolved administrations on whether the change would apply to England only, or all four nations of the UK.

The changes were expected as soon as next week, while countries outside the EU and U.S. could be allowed inbound quarantine-free travel at a later date, The Times added.

It comes after aviation firms claimed a trial has demonstrated the UK can safely exempt fully vaccinated U.S. and EU visitors from self-isolation.

In the Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said their 10-day pilot scheme proved the vaccination status of travellers can be efficiently and accurately checked away from the border.

Around 250 fully vaccinated passengers on selected flights from New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Athens earlier this month presented their credentials using paper or digital formats before boarding the plane.

Some 99 per cent of their documents was verified as authentic, with just two passengers’ credentials rejected.

In one case there was a discrepancy between the name on the vaccine card and the name on the passport, while another involved someone who had been fully vaccinated less than 14 days before travel.

The Department for Transport has committed to a formal review of its rules for arriving travellers before Sunday.

Since July 19, people arriving in the UK from amber list locations, such as the U.S., have had to have received both doses of a vaccine in the UK to avoid the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days.

The rules excluded those who had been inoculated elsewhere in the world.

BA chief executive Sean Doyle said the trial provides “the evidence the Government needs’’ to allow fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries to enter the UK without self-isolating.

He went on: “The UK needs to safely reopen its borders as soon as possible to ensure loved ones can reunite, business can thrive and global Britain is able to take advantage of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme.’’

His counterpart at Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, warned that continuing the UK’s “overly cautious approach’’ towards international travel would harm the economic recovery from the virus crisis and put half a million jobs at risk.

He claimed the trial shows airlines would ensure easing of the amber rules was implemented smoothly at pace.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said: “The vaccine has been a miracle of science, and these trials have shown that we can allow fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and U.S. to visit the UK without quarantine.

“There is now no reason to delay with rolling out the solution from July 31.’’

NAN

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70% of adults in EU have received at least one vaccine

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By Gistflash News

July 27, 2021

Seventy per cent of adults in the European Union(EU) had been jabbed at least once against COVID-19, the European Commission announced on Tuesday.

“These figures put Europe among the world leaders,’’ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

About 57 per cent of adults had been fully vaccinated, she said.

Numbers differ widely across the bloc, however.

In Romania, for example, only just above 30 per cent of the adult population had been jabbed once.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had said.

Denmark, by contrast, had fully inoculated 60 per cent, and almost 84 per cent of the population had received one shot so far.

In spite of improved vaccination rates in the EU, von der Leyen urged the countries and citizens not to let their guard down against the virus.

“The Delta variant is very dangerous,’’ she said, calling on everyone who had the opportunity to get vaccinated.

In recent weeks, the spread of the Delta variant more contagious than previous variants has led to a surge of infections in countries around the globe.

dpa/NAN

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