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More than 2 million rapid #Coronavirus tests ready to be deployed to Europe’s health-care system 


The 15-minute coronavirus test is now available to ease the strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on health-care systems across Europe, which comes as world leaders look for solutions to combat the disease.

Using easy-to-collect samples, the tests detect the IgM and IgG antibodies response to the coronavirus, to identify if patients have contracted COVID-19 within minutes of testing.

The technology, which has already been used in China, will improve the detection rate of patients carrying COVID-19, allowing doctors to test suspected carriers as soon as 2 days after suspected exposure.

The antibody test, which was approved for sale in European markets last week, promises to ease pressure on labs by providing rapid point-of-care diagnostics.

This will assist healthcare professionals to clinically assess patients with and without symptoms, so they can provide vital care to those most in need even quicker.

Total coronavirus cases are set to surpass 240,000 worldwide today, and having been granted CE Mark certification, the tests can be made available immediately, with manufacturing being increased to meet demand over the coming weeks.

Yesterday (19 March), British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed interest in procuring COVID-19 tests which are as “simple as a pregnancy test, which can tell whether you have had the disease and in its early days, but if it works as its proponents claim, then we will buy literally hundreds of thousands of these kits as soon as practicable.”

He continued: “Because obviously it has the potential to be a total gamechanger.”

The World Nano Foundation, through its partners, has formed a partnership with the Chinese developer of the test, to make them available across Europe.

The World Nano Foundation are offering these tests to Governments first, as they are best positioned to prioritise the application of the tests, rather than have the supply taken up indiscriminately by the market (minimum order 100,000 tests, price on application). These Rapid tests have already been used for Coronavirus in China and we now have CE Mark approval to deploy these tests in Europe immediately.

Use case examples:-
1. To relieve pressure on centralised testing methods that require laboratory machine which are already
overloaded.

2. To allow key workers forced into self-isolation due to contact to return to work if test negative.

3. To rapidly identify transmission events from contact lists of known positive patients.

For more information about the 15-minute COVID-19 tests, please contact Paul Sheedy, Co-Founder of The World Nano Foundation: [email protected]n.com





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Britain heralds end of ‘cheap labour from Europe’ with #Brexit immigration system


Britain will prioritize access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its post-Brexit points-based immigration system, the government said on Tuesday (18 February), setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labour from Europe”, writes Kylie MacLellan.

Concern over the impact of high levels of immigration from the European Union was one of the key drivers behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc and the government has said it plans to bring overall migration numbers down.

The new system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and only give visas to those who have enough points. It will come into force from Jan. 1, 2021 and will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.

“We have got a number of routes through the points-based immigration scheme that will enable people to come here with the right kind of skills that can support our country and our economy,” Interior Minister Priti Patel said.

But business groups said that many firms relied on overseas labour and cautioned there might not be enough domestic workers to tend crops, care for patients and serve food – a deficit that could undermine the world’s fifth largest economy.

EU citizens will not need a visa to enter Britain as a visitor for up to six months.

The Home Office said it would follow a recommendation made last month by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government, to lower the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants to 25,600 pounds ($33,330) a year, from 30,000 pounds.

Skilled workers will need to meet criteria including specific skills and the ability to speak English, the government said, and those applying will need to have a job offer.

There will be no specific entry route for low-skilled workers, something the government hopes will help reduce the number of migrants.

“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the government said in a policy document setting out its plans.

The MAC estimated the impact of the government’s planned salary and skills thresholds would mean around 70% of European Economic Area citizens who have arrived in Britain since 2004 would not have been eligible for a visa.

Students will be covered by the points-based system, the government said, while there will be separate initiatives for scientists, graduates, National Health Service workers and those in the agricultural sector.

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#Brexit – UK open to looser ‘Australia-style’ trade deal with EU: source


“There are only two likely outcomes in negotiation – a free trade deal like Canada or a looser arrangement like Australia – and we are happy to pursue both,” the source said.

Johnson is due to give a major speech on trade on Monday, following Britain’s departure from the EU on Friday after nearly 50 years of membership.

Previously Johnson has said his main goal is to reach a Canada-style trade deal with the EU before an 11-month transition period expires at the end of the year, after which British firms would face tariffs to sell goods to the EU.

But Johnson has also said Britain will not commit to continue following EU rules after the transition period, and Saturday’s remarks suggest he is growing less willing to make the trade-offs that many businesses want to smooth a deal.

Canada does not follow EU rules, but some EU governments are reluctant to give Britain similar leeway to diverge on labour and environmental standards, given the much greater trade volumes involved.

In some areas, such as the minimum wage, maternity leave and the elimination of single-use plastics, British standards significantly exceed EU minimums.





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A new International Strategy for #Wales


International Relations Minister Eluned Morgan has launched Wales’ first International Strategy, promoting the country as an outward-looking nation ready to work and trade with the rest of the world.

The strategy will build on Wales’ growing international reputation for sustainability and global responsibility and establish links with the Welsh diaspora on all continents.

It is being launched as the UK prepares to leave the EU and negotiate a new relationship with the European Union and trade deals with international partners around the world.

Eluned Morgan said: “A strong international presence has never been more relevant for Wales.

“Following the EU referendum in 2016 and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future relationship with Europe, Wales will pursue its place on the international stage with renewed vigour.”

The International Strategy has three core ambitions over the next five years:

  • Raise Wales’ profile on the international stage
  • Grow the economy by increasing exports and attracting inward investment

Establish Wales as a globally responsible nation

It is the start of a new approach to how the Welsh Government promotes Wales internationally, identifies Wales’ key global markets in a post-Brexit landscape and highlights three sectors where Wales is recognised as a world leader – cyber security, compound-semiconductors and the creative industries. This will project a new dynamic and vibrant image of Wales as a modern, confident, high-tech, creative and sustainable nation.

Speaking ahead of the launch at Econotherm, a Bridgend based export company which has achieved year-on-year growth and was recently recognised in the Wales Fast Growth 50, the Minister said:

“As Wales’ first Minister for International Relations, it was important to bring the achievements of the last 20 years together and use these as a foundation to set out Wales’ future approach to its international work.

“For a small, smart nation, Wales enjoys a reputation, which stretches far beyond its borders. The strategy will build on this reputation and showcase Wales as a nation that will be known for its creativity, its expertise in technology and its commitment to sustainability.”

The Minister was visiting Brussels and Paris l to promote the strategy.

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#Iran – Khamenei and Rouhani must face justice for crimes against humanity says Iranian Resistance


On 31 December, Resistance units posted banners carrying pictures and messages of Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance, in different parts of Tehran, including Qoddousi, Qasr, Khajeh Nassir Tousi and Sabalan streets, as well as in Qods City.

The banners read, “Overthrow of the anti-human enemy is certain,” “Khamenei and Rouhani must face justice for crime against humanity,” “Destruction of theocracy’s rule of oppression and injustice is close” and “Resistance units open the path and serve as guides for the rebellious, defiant generation.”

In another development, this morning, defiant youth torched the paramilitary Bassij bases in Tehran, Karaj and Iranshahr, as well as a regime seminary in Tehran. In Mahshahr, Khamenei’s picture was set ablaze.

Yesterday, defiant youth also targeted the IRGC’s Khatam ol-Anbiya Construction Headquarters in Tehran. Today, the mullahs’ regime confirmed the attack, while trying to down play the assault to minimize its impact on the morale of its forces and agents. Quoting an “informed source,” the state-run Asr-e Khabar wrote: “Early morning yesterday, an unidentified man riding on a motorcycle threw a hand-grenade at the building… Given the available videos, his identity is under investigation.”

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#Conservative win marks bad day for people of Britain, says #GUE/NGL


A statement by GUE/NGL Co-President Martin Schirdewan on the Conservative Party’s victory in the British general election: “Today is a sad day for people living in Britain.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the message of hope has not carried in the face of a dirty and dishonest campaign by the Conservatives.

“Voters who had voted for change, for an end to austerity, for social and tax justice, will now have to endure a government bent on social inequality, deregulation, discrimination and xenophobia.

“It is also now clear that Britain will be leaving the EU at the end of January. As the Left in the European Parliament, we will continue to hold the British government to their commitments under The Good Friday Agreement,” he added.

“Furthermore, we will protect the interests of people across the EU in the negotiations on the future relationship. We will also seek to safeguard the interests of the people in Britain, and will work with the broader labour movement and progressive forces in Britain to this end,” said Schirdewan.

Also commenting on the vote’s impact on Brexit, Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin, Ireland) said: “The people in the North of Ireland want to remain in the EU. The result of this election shows that the only way that this can happen is through Irish unity – a referendum on which is guaranteed under The Good Friday Agreement.”

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#EuropeanGreenDeal to be presented in plenary by Commission president


MEPs will debate the ‘European Green Deal’ to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent today (11 December) at 14:00, in an extraordinary plenary sitting in Brussels.

Following the Commission’s expected announcement of the European Green Deal on Wednesday 11 December, the European Parliament will have a first debate on it with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, who will close the debate.

The European Green Deal will focus on the fight against climate change and other environmental objectives in areas such as transport, energy, pollution, agriculture, circular economy and biodiversity.

The Commission’s communication is expected to include a timeline for the upcoming proposals. Parliament has already stressed that the EU should cut emissions by 55% by 2030 to become climate neutral by 2050 and that an ambitious long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 is needed urgently.

Debate: Wednesday, 11 December 14.00-16.00

Procedure: Statement by the President of the Commission, followed by debate

Press Conference: Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, at 16.00-17.00 in the Anna Politkovskaya Press Conference Room – Spaak building, room 0A50

The European Green Deal sets out how to make Europe the first climateneutral continent by 2050, boosting the economy, improving people’s health and quality of life, caring for nature, and leaving no one behind

The European Commission has presented The European Green Deal – a road map for making the EU’s economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all.

President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away. It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming so that we live healthier and make our businesses innovative. We can all be involved in the transition and we can all benefit from the opportunities. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.”

Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans added: “We are in a climate and environmental emergency. The European Green Deal is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model. Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens. We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation. Moreover, our responsibility is to make sure that this transition is a just transition, and that nobody is left behind as we deliver the European Green Deal.”

The European Green Deal provides a road map with actions to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy and stop climate change, revert biodiversity loss and cut pollution. It outlines investments needed and financing tools available, and explains how to ensure a just and inclusive transition. The European Green Deal covers all sectors of the economy, notably transport, energy, agriculture, buildings, and industries such as steel, cement, ICT, textiles and chemicals. To set into legislation the political ambition of being the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050, the Commission will present within 100 days the first ‘European Climate Law’. To reach our climate and environmental ambition, the Commission will also present the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the new Industrial Strategy and Circular Economy Action Plan, the Farm to Fork Strategy for sustainable food and proposals for pollution-free Europe. Work will immediately start for upping Europe’s 2030 emissions targets, setting a realistic path to the 2050 goal. Meeting the objectives of the European Green Deal will require significant investment.

Achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets is estimated to require €260 billion of additional annual investment, representing about 1.5% of 2018 GDP. This investment will need the mobilisation ofthe public and private sectors. The Commission will present in early 2020 a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to help meet investment needs. At least 25% of the EU’s long-term budget should be dedicated to climate action, and the European Investment Bank, Europe’s climate bank, will provide further support. For the private sector to contribute to financing the green transition, the Commission will present a Green Financing Strategy in 2020. Fighting climate change and environmental degradation is a common endeavour but not all regions and Member States start from the same point. A Just Transition Mechanism will support those regions that rely heavily on very carbon intensive activities. It will support the citizens most vulnerable to the transition, providing access to reskilling programmes and employment opportunities in new economic sectors. In March 2020, the Commission will launch a ‘Climate Pact’ to give citizens a voice and role in designing new actions, sharing information, launching grassroots activities and show-casing solutions that others can follow. The global challenges of climate change and environmental degradation require a global response.

The EU will continue to promote its environmental goals and standards in the UN’s Biodiversity and Climate Conventions and reinforce its green diplomacy. The G7, G20, international conventions, and bilateral relationships will be used to persuade others to step up their efforts. The EU will also use trade policy to ensure sustainability and it will build partnerships with its neighbours in the Balkans and Africa to help them with their own transitions. Next steps The Commission invites the European Parliament and the European Council to endorse the Commission’s ambition for Europe’s future economy and the environment and to help realise it. The Commission will bring forward the measures announced in the European Green Deal roadmap. Background Climate change and environmental degradation present an existential threat to Europe and the world. To overcome this challenge, Europe needs a new growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, where economic growth is decoupled from resource use and where no one and no place is left behind.

The European Union already has a strong track record in reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases while maintaining economic growth. Emissions in 2018 were 23% lower than in 1990 while the Union’s GDP grew by 61% in the same period. But more needs to be done. The EU, given its extensive experience, is leading the way in creating a green and inclusive economy. The Green Deal Communication sets the path for action in the months and years ahead. The Commission’s future work will be guided by the public’s demand for action and by undeniable scientific evidence as demonstrated most comprehensively by IPCC, IPBES, Global Resources Outlook and EEA SOER 2019 reports (important to bring these key sources of evidence out; add proper references). Our proposals will be evidence-based and underpinned by broad consultation. An overwhelming majority of Europeans consider that protecting the environment is important (95%). Almost 8 in 10 Europeans (77%) say that protection of the environment can boost economic growth. The results of the Eurobarometer survey concerning environmental attitudes of EU citizens confirm the wide public support for environmental legislation at EU level and EU funding for environmentally friendly activities.

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‘The risk of #Brexit happening without a ratified deal still exists’ Phil Hogan 


European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan

Speaking at his first event in Ireland as the European Commissioner for Trade (6 December), Phil Hogan addressed what he described as the ‘seemingly endless’ question of Brexit, as well as other pressing trade issues.  

Hogan is hoping that next week’s UK general election will provide clarity and unblock paralysis. He told Irish business leaders that ‘we are not out of the woods yet’ and that the risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit still exist. He advised the audience of Irish businesses to continue with their work on preparedness given the lack of certainty. The Commissioner appeared to unwittingly acknowledge that a new government, of any hue, will not deliver clarity on what the UK’s situation will be at the end of 2021. 

EU still in the dark about what the UK wants 

Hogan accused the British media of quoting him out of context when he said that he thought that a deal was achievable before the end of 2020. He said the truth was that there was no accurate way to predict how long it would take to negotiate a deal with the UK as there was no precedent. He said that the UK needs to focus on content, the ‘nuts and bolts’ not timing. 

Hogan said he was still in the dark about what type of Free Trade Agreement the UK ultimately want. He said that the UK must outline preferences, define its offensive and defensive interests for each stage of the negotiations, consider the necessary trade-offs and compromises. He urged UK negotiators to involve also stakeholders in defining each stage of negotiations and to have a frank discussion about pros and cons. He said that there was little point negotiating a deal without knowing whether it will gain domestic approval. 

Hogan said the new agreement will secure that there was no hard border on the island of Ireland, but did not address the checks and controls that would apply across the Irish Sea. Today, the Labour Party revealed the contacts of a report on future arrangements written by Her Majesty’s Treasury. Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit Keir Starmer accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of lying about his deal when he has made repeated claims that it would mean no customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.  

Hogan told his audience that he warmly welcomed the deal’s commitment to maintaining EU state aid and VAT rules in Northern Ireland, enforceable in the European Court of Justice.  

Making a point that has been made by the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, he made it clear that given the EU’s geographical proximity and economic interdependence the EU would expect solid guarantees in relation to state aid, labour, environmental protection and tax arrangements. He said that the EU has made it abundantly clear that an ‘ambitious’ deal will be contingent on these guarantees.  

It is the UK’s desire to diverge from these EU level-playing-field standards that will be highly problematic. During the campaign Johnson has promised that he will introduce new state aid rules, that will allow the government to intervene more in the economy.  

Hogan lamented that many in the UK had not yet ‘woken up’ to the fact that anything other than EU membership would be greatly inferior to the status quo. 

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#BOLDT sponsors stunning exhibition of De Bock photography



©
Jimmy De Bock
The way we see the world is often best captured by a photograph. Iconic images of mankind’s plight and triumphs have over and over again been seared into our collective memory,
writes Martin Banks.  

In this spirit, on Tuesday, 3 December, BOLDT – in co-operation with Fondation Franz Weber – sponsored a photo exhibition of Belgian photographer and BOLDT’s Creative Director Jimmy De Bock’s latest work.

It is a series of haunting images of elephants, lions, giraffes, cheetahs and other threatened species that could become extinct in the wild within a decade if poaching continues at current levels.   

De Bock, along with Vera Weber, Fondation Franz Weber CEO, Catherine Bearder MEP and Jeremy Galbraith, BOLDT Managing Partner, collectively called on Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, to incorporate a ban on all trade in ivory and ivory products to, from and within the EU as part of the European Green Deal.

Vera Weber, CEO, Fondation Franz Weber, said: “Since 1975 – basically my entire life – we at FFW have been campaigning to protect and preserve all wildlife and particularly elephants, which continue to be killed in huge numbers for their ivory every year. The EU and Japan – who would believe it – are the largest ivory markets in the world. If they followed the example of France, the UK, Luxembourg, China and the US, which have all closed their markets – with Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Singapore soon to follow suit – I believe we could end the trafficking of ivory and save elephants from extinction in the wild.”

UK MEP Catherine Bearder said: “This endangered species photo exhibition is timely. The EU Action Plan, which includes Wildlife Trafficking, runs only until 2020. It is little known that the world’s fourth largest organised crime is wildlife trafficking. The European Union must revisit this monumental issue. A new Action Plan, under the Commission President’s guidance, must sit squarely as part of the European Green Deal, due in December. 

“Europeans have a vital role to play in protecting global biodiversity – and yet too often we are the marketplace that drives the destruction. A new Action Plan is urgent and should do more to protect threatened and endangered species, so they have a fighting chance of survival in the wild.”

Jimmy De Bock, Photographer & Creative Director, BOLDT, added: “Taking pictures of wild animals is an intense experience. I get to spend hours watching the details of their behavior and interactions. It is incredibly powerful to witness but I think it is the rawness of these animals that fascinates me the most.  I believe African animals, and Africa as a whole, are part of who we are, part of our soul.”

Jeremy Galbraith, Managing Partner, BOLDT, commented: “My passion for elephants began over 30 years ago when I cared for two baby elephants. Unfortunately, they were in captivity but it sparked what has become an incredible passion for elephants. It is quite staggering that these majestic animals are now endangered. Today, an image is so much more powerful than words. Jimmy’s photographs are a reminder of what is at stake. Ending the trade of ivory is an achievable goal but the EU needs to step up its game – because it is simple: all legal ivory markets fuel poaching and trafficking of ivory.” 

Fondation Franz Weber was founded in 1975 by Franz Weber. Ever since, the organization has passionately carried out a diverse range of campaigns around the world to protect animals and nature. Until the end of 2020, 10% of the proceeds of all sales of Africa. Endangered. prints will be donated to the Fondation.

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#Huawei ‘is a trusted ally of Europe’


In response to the opinion piece by US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo published today (2 December) in Politico Europe Huawei issues the following statement:

“Huawei categorically rejects the defamatory and false allegations spread by the government of the United States. These are malicious and well-worn accusations. All they do is to undermine the reputation of the United States. Furthermore, they are an insult to Europe’s sovereignty and to the technical expertise of telecom operators.”

We wish to make it absolutely clear:
Huawei is a 100% privately-owned company. We are not controlled by any arm of the Chinese state.

Huawei does not receive favorable subsidies from any government. Certainly Huawei is not particularly favored by the Chinese government. And certainly there is no “massive state support”.

Huawei is not and has never been involved in espionage of any kind.

We have an extraordinary reputation: Huawei leads on Cybersecurity and has a clean track record without one single major data breach incident in the last 30 years. As Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has underlined: rather than hand over customer data to a government, we would shut down the company.

Huawei welcomes and encourages the EU’s facts-based approach towards the security of 5G networks. Indeed, this is the model that both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have endorsed as the gold standard for 5G verification.

Huawei is Europe’s natural partner for deploying 5G together and for supporting Europe in attaining its digital sovereignty.

Huawei’s 5G solution is safe and innovative. It is a key contributor towards mitigating the effects of climate change and connecting the world. And it is a central element to safeguard Europe’s values and the European way of life for future generations.

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