With the COVID-19 pandemic upending the lives of millions of children around the world, UNICEF is delivering life-saving supplies despite unprecedented transport and logistical constraints caused by the virus.
“From supply shortages to transport constraints, COVID-19 has brought enormous challenges to our supply operations,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore was quoted as saying in a press release on Monday.
“However, with support from our partners, we were able to meet some of the most pressing needs and keep children and communities safe.”
So far this year, UNICEF has given key personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to over 100 countries to support their response to the pandemic, including 7.5 million surgical masks, 2.8 million N95 respirators, nearly 10 million gloves, over 830,000 gowns, and nearly 600,000 face shields.
The UN body also shipped over 550,000 diagnostic tests, with an additional 912,000 planned to be delivered through August, and is sending over 16,000 oxygen concentrators to 90 low- and middle-income countries.
In Vietnam, UNICEF handed over to the Ministry of Health 15,000 coveralls for distribution to health facilities in need.
UNICEF also distributed life-saving supplies including soap bars, hand sanitizer, and ceramic water filters to schools, commune health centers, and communities in seven provinces, including Soc Trang, Ben Tre, Ninh Thuan, Lao Cai, Dien Bien, Gia Lai, and Kon Tum.
These locally procured supplies reached more than 340,000 vulnerable people – mainly children – to protect against the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.
Limited availability of commercial flights has also taken a heavy toll on shipments of supplies for regular programs.
From March to May in a typical year, UNICEF would have made more than 700 vaccine shipments to countries around the world.
During the same period in 2020, just over half that amount – 391 shipments – was delivered.
Despite such challenges, UNICEF was able to procure and timely deliver 800,000 doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to Vietnam for routine immunization and this contributes to ensuring adequate stock and continuity of IPV vaccination in the country.
In addition, 340 medical refrigerators for vaccine storage are on the way to Vietnam and should be delivered in July 2020.
To address vaccine shipment challenges, UNICEF is appealing to governments, the private sector, the aviation industry, and others to provide solutions for freight space at an affordable cost for life-saving vaccines.
For example, a recent charter pooled what would have been separate vaccine shipments into one, making eight stops in West African countries that would otherwise be hard to reach.
UNICEF’s COVID-19 response builds on a strong year for its supply operations in 2019, when its procurement of supplies and services reached a record level of US$3.826 billion, representing a nearly 10 percent increase from 2018 levels.
Over one-third of the total procurement was for vaccines at $1.656 billion, accounting for 2.43 billion doses for nearly 100 countries to reach 45 percent of the world’s children under five years of age.
UNICEF also exceeded its savings target for 2019 by over 35 percent, achieving $363.3 million in savings across a range of products by leveraging strategic procurement approaches.
“Our collaboration with national governments, partners, and the private sector is vital to our efforts to reach children with the supplies they need,” said Etleva Kadilli, director of the UNICEF supply and procurement headquarters.
“Through our global reach and innovative approaches, we leverage our purchasing power and achieve significant savings for governments and donors.
“As we work together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, this approach becomes even more important to maximize each dollar spent so that regular programs can be maintained, as countries also scale up COVID-19 response efforts.”
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U.S. sets record for new COVID cases third day in a row at over 69,000
New cases of COVID-19 rose by over 69,000 across the United States on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, setting a record for the third consecutive day as Walt Disney Co stuck to its plans to reopen its flagship theme park in hard-hit Florida.
A total of nine U.S. states – Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin – also reached records for single-day infections.
In Texas, another hot zone, Governor Greg Abbott warned on Friday he may have to impose new clampdowns if the state cannot stem its record-setting caseloads and hospitalizations through masks and social distancing.
“If we don’t adopt this best practice it could lead to a shutdown of business,” the Republican governor told local KLBK-TV in Lubbock, adding it was the last thing he wanted.
California announced on Friday the state will release up to 8,000 inmates early from prisons to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside the facilities. At San Quentin State Prison, outside San Francisco, half of the facility’s roughly 3,300 prisoners have tested positive for the virus.
The Walt Disney Co said the theme parks in Orlando would open on Saturday to a limited number of guests who along with employees would be required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. The park also cancelled parades, firework displays and events that typically draw crowds.
Disney’s chief medical officer said earlier this week she believed the rules would allow guests to visit the park safely.
Roughly 19,000 people, including some theme park workers, have signed a petition asking Disney to delay the reopening. The union representing 750 Walt Disney World performers has filed a grievance against the company, claiming retaliation against members over a union demand that they be tested for COVID-19.
Other theme parks opened in Orlando in June, including Comcast Corp’s Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc’s SeaWorld.
Florida remains one of the worst hotspots for the virus in the nation and is among a handful of states where deaths are rising, based on a Reuters analysis of fatalities in the last two weeks, compared with the prior two weeks.
On Thursday, the state reported a record 120 deaths and added another 92 on Friday. It recorded 11,433 new coronavirus cases on Friday, just short of the state’s record, and nearly 7,000 hospitalizations.
Antiviral drug to Florida
More than four dozen hospitals in Florida have reported their intensive care units were full.
This month, Florida has repeatedly reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country had at the height of their outbreaks. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, angered some residents and medical experts by calling the spike a “blip”.
On Friday, DeSantis said that the state would receive more than 17,000 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir from the U.S. government, adding: “That’ll be something that will hopefully help to improve patient outcomes.”
Scott Burkee, a 43-year-old former Disney employee from Davenport, Florida, said DeSantis “has shown zero effort to control the spread, he only becomes concerned when Trump does. The virus is clearly out of control.”
Trump, a Republican, traveled to Florida on Friday for an event at the U.S. military’s Southern Command and a campaign fundraiser.
The president has sparred with state and local officials and teachers unions over the reopening of schools and said on Friday the Treasury Department would re-examine the tax-exempt status and funding of those that remain closed.
Trump previously vowed to cut federal funding to the schools and eject foreign students attending universities in the United States unless their schools offer in-person classes. Most education funds come from state and local coffers.
The number of confirmed U.S. infections is over 3 million, according to a Reuters tally, stoking fears that hospitals will be overwhelmed.
Nearly 134,000 Americans have died, a toll that experts warn will likely surge along with the rise in cases.
Overall, coronavirus cases are rising in 44 American states, based on a Reuters analysis of cases for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks.
California to release 8,000 prisoners to slow pandemic
California will release up to 8,000 inmates early from state prisons to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside facilities, state authorities said on Friday.
Several California prisons have suffered large coronavirus outbreaks and the state corrections department said inmates could be eligible for release by the end of August.
The release marks the biggest move yet by California to “decompress” prison populations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by creating more space for social distancing and quarantines.
“These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a statement.
Prisoners with a year or less left to serve will be eligible for release. Among prisoners excluded from early release are those convicted of violent felonies and sex crimes, the department said.
The move follows a reduction in inmate populations statewide by around 10,000 since the pandemic began.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday nearly 2,400 people in California’s 35 prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 1,314 at San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco.
LinkedIn sued over allegation it secretly reads Apple users’ clipboard content
Microsoft Corp’s LinkedIn was sued by a New York-based iPhone user on Friday for allegedly reading and diverting users’ sensitive content from Apple Inc’s Universal Clipboard application.
According to Apple’s website, Universal Clipboard allows users to copy text, images, photos, and videos on one Apple device and then paste the content onto another Apple device.
According to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court by Adam Bauer, LinkedIn reads the Clipboard information without notifying the user.
LinkedIn did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
According to media reports from last week, 53 apps including TikTok and LinkedIn were reported to be reading users’ Universal Clipboard content, after Apple’s latest privacy feature started alerting users whenever the clipboard was accessed with a banner saying “pasted from Messages.”
“These “reads” are interpreted by Apple’s Universal Clipboard as a “paste” command,” Bauer’s lawsuit alleged.
A LinkedIn executive had said on Twitter last week that the company released a new version of its app to end this practice.
Developers and testers of Apple’s operating system iOS 14 found that LinkedIn’s application on iPhones and iPads “secretly” read users’ clipboard “a lot,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks to certify the complaint as class action based on alleged violation of the law or social norms, under California laws.
According to the complaint, LinkedIn has not only been spying on its users, it has been spying on their nearby computers and other devices, and it has been circumventing Apple’s Universal Clipboard timeout.
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