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US FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Huawei, ZTE gear
18 June 2021, 10:37 AM

The US Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to advance a plan to ban approvals for equipment in US telecommunications networks from Chinese companies deemed national security threats like Huawei and ZTE.

The vote drew opposition from Beijing.

Under proposed rules that won initial approval, the FCC could also revoke prior equipment authorizations issued to Chinese companies.

A Huawei spokesperson, in an email, called the FCC revision “misguided and unnecessarily punitive.”

Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said the new measures would “exclude untrustworthy equipment from our communications networks. We have left open opportunities for (Huawei and other Chinese equipment) use in the United States through our equipment authorization process. So here we propose to close that door.”

Commissioner Brendan Carr said the FCC has approved more than 3 000 applications from Huawei since 2018.

The FCC action would prohibit all future authorizations for communications equipment deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to national security.

“The United States, without any evidence, still abuses national security and state power to suppress Chinese companies,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry.

“Once again we urge the US to stop stretching the concept of national security and stop politicising economic issues,” Zhao said at a regular media briefing in Beijing.

In March, the FCC designated five Chinese companies as posing a threat to national security under a 2019 law aimed at protecting US communications networks.

A group of US lawmakers including Democratic Senator Ed Markey and Republican Senator Marco Rubio praised the FCC action saying it mirrors the goals of bipartisan legislation.

They said the FCC voted “to put national security first by keeping compromised Chinese equipment out of US telecommunications networks.”

The affected companies included the previously designated Huawei and ZTE, as well as Hytera Communications Corp, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.

Huawei said “blocking the purchase of equipment, based on a predictive judgment,’ related to the country of origin or brand is without merit, discriminatory and will do nothing to protect the integrity of US communications networks or supply chains.”

In August 2020, the US government barred federal agencies from buying goods or services from any of the five Chinese companies.

In 2019, the United States placed Huawei, Hikvision and other firms on its economic blacklist.

Last year, the FCC designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats to communications networks – a declaration that barred US firms from tapping an $8.3 billion government fund to purchase equipment from the companies.

The FCC in December finalized rules requiring carriers with ZTE or Huawei equipment to “rip and replace” that equipment. It proposed a reimbursement program for that effort, and US lawmakers in December approved $1.9 billion to fund it.

Rosenworcel said the FCC will vote in July to finalize the rules overseeing the reimbursement fund.

Charlotte Maxeke Hospital to reopen in phases starting next week: Kubayi-Ngubane
18 June 2021, 10:14 AM

Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has confirmed that the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, will be reopened in phases, starting from next week.

The hospital was closed from late April, following a fire incident that gutted several floors. Almost 1 000 patients had to be relocated to other hospitals.

Kubayi-Ngubane says the oncology department will be the first to open next week.

“We can confirm now that by next week the oncology side at Charlotte Maxeke will be handed over to start operating, which is phase 1. And once we have a date for phase 2, we will announce it. But I can confirm that work has been done with the province and it was based on what we needed to do. And I think the other issue that was a challenge was around the fire doors that needed to be manufactured and that took longer because without those the certificates would have taken longer to be issued.”

Response to Gauteng’s surge in COVID-19 cases

In response to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Gauteng, the acting Minister of Health says the Military Health Service has been roped in to assist the sector.

Of the 11 767 new cases reported in the last 24-hours nationwide, 7 502 are from Gauteng.

Kubayi-Ngubane has appealed to Gauteng residents to strictly adhere to COVID-19 health protocols amid a rise in infections across the province.

“I would really want to appeal, can we respond and save the lives of many South Africans in your province as the health practitioners are starting to be under pressure. We have requested additional capacity to assist Gauteng in terms of military help that has moved into the province to assist us by moving into the hospitals.”

“We need the human capital for the beds we are making available for managing the pandemic. The second area they will assist us in, is around mass testing, screening and contact tracing,” explains the minister.

The Acting Minister of Health together with a panel of experts have been briefing the media on the progress of government’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19, including an update on the national vaccination roll out programme.

Briefing below:

Health experts warn of Olympic COVID-19 threat, prefer no spectators
18 June 2021, 8:50 AM

Japan’s top medical experts warned on Friday that holding the Olympics during the COVID-19 pandemic could increase infections, and said banning all spectators was the least risky option, setting up a possible collision with organisers.

The report, led by top health adviser Shigeru Omi, was released after Tokyo 2020’s organising committee chief told the Sankei newspaper she wanted to allow up to 10 000 spectators at stadiums for the global sport extravaganza, which kicks off on July 23. Japan is pushing ahead with hosting the delayed Games despite worries about another surge in COVID-19 infections and strong public opposition, although organisers have banned spectators from overseas.

“This event is different from ordinary sports events in scale and social interest and because it overlaps with summer vacations, there is a risk the movement of people and opportunities to interact during the Olympics will spread infections and strain the medical system,” the experts said.

“Holding with Games without spectators is the least risky option and we think desirable.” A final decision on domestic spectators will be made at a meeting to be held as early as Monday among Tokyo 2020 organisers, the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, Japanese government and Tokyo Metropolitan government.

“I would like it to be held with spectators. I plan to head into the five-way meeting with that in mind,” the Sankei newspaper quoted Tokyo 2020 head, Seiko Hashimoto, as saying in an interview published late on Thursday.
Hashimoto said the advice from Omi would be to inform talks among the IOC and others.

“NOT NORMAL”

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government decided on Thursday to ease emergency coronavirus curbs in nine prefectures including Tokyo while keeping some “quasi-emergency” restrictions.

Omi’s experts agreed earlier this week that the number of spectators at domestic events could be raised to 10 000, but only in areas where “quasi-emergency” measures, including limiting restaurant hours, have been lifted.

Tokyo is scheduled to be under the lesser restrictions until July 11 after the state of emergency – the third since April last year – expires for the capital on June 20.

The lifting of earlier emergencies has been followed by fresh increases in infections and strains on hospitals.
The experts report said organisers should be prepared to act swiftly to ban spectators or declare another state of emergency if needed. It also recommended that if spectators are allowed, restrictions should be tough, including limiting them to residents of the local area.

Omi, a former World Health Organisation official has become increasing outspoken about the risks the event may spread the virus. Earlier this month, he told parliament it was “not normal” to hold the Games during a pandemic.
Hiroshi Nishiura, a Kyoto University professor and epidemiology adviser on the government’s pandemic response who is a signatory to the Omi recommendations, said he believed cancelling the Games would be best, but that decision was for the government and organisers.

“If the epidemic situation worsened, no spectators and cancelling the Games in the middle (of the event) should be debated,” he told Reuters.

Japan’s public remains concerned about the risks. A survey by NHK public TV this month showed 32% favoured a cap on spectators, 29% wanted no spectators and 31% wanted the Games to be cancelled.

Japan has not experienced the explosive outbreaks seen elsewhere but a recent surge and initially slow vaccinations rollout prompted concerns about strains on the medical system.

The country has recorded more than 776 000 cases and over 14 200 deaths, while just 15% of its population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccination.

COVID-19 cases surge in Africa, less than 0.8% of people fully vaccinated: Officials
18 June 2021, 6:00 AM

COVID-19 cases rose by over 20% week-on-week in nearly two dozen African countries and progress on vaccinating the population is proceeding slowly, with just 0.79% of people on the continent fully vaccinated, senior health officials said on Thursday.

Africa is in the midst of a full-blown third-wave. We’ve seen in India and elsewhere how quickly COVID-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems,” WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti, told a news conference.

New cases are up nearly 30% in the past week and deaths are up by 15%, she said, with five countries, South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia, Uganda and Namibia, accounting for 76% of the new cases.

The continent of 1.3 billion people has not yet been battered with an emergency during the pandemic on the scale of that recently facing India, but officials including Moeti continue to warn that such a catastrophe could hit.

African nations lack sufficient numbers of hospital beds and oxygen supplies and would be even more overwhelmed than India if cases surged in a similar way, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned in April.

Africa has reported over 5 million COVID-19 cases, representing 2.9% of total cases globally, according to the Africa CDC.

Africa CDC’s chief John Nkengasong told reporters in a separate news conference on Thursday that amid quickly rising cases in many countries, progress on vaccination campaigns is generally slow.

Four African countries have not begun vaccination campaigns, but the WHO said on Thursday that Tanzania plans to request to join the COVAX global vaccine-sharing facility. This was the latest sign of the country’s change of tack following the death of its COVID-19 sceptic president in March.

The aim of COVAX is to help poorer countries vaccinate their people.

Both Moeti and Nkengasong stressed that African nations carrying out vaccinations at a relatively good pace were running out of their stocks.

Five African countries, Sao Tome and Principe, Morocco, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Libya, have used 90% or more of their vaccine stocks, according to the WHO.

Nkengasong welcomed the Group of Seven’s pledge of 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine but said the news should be put in the right context. “The one billion doses are not here now. We are hoping they will be here soon.”

State Capture Commission to apply for extension of hearings to September
17 June 2021, 11:24 AM

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture is to apply to the High Court this afternoon for an extension of its hearings. The Commission wants an extension from July to September.

Commission chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo elaborates why they went beyond their June deadline.

“The assessment that was made was made in good faith but it just did not work out. The evidence that still needed to be heard beyond the end of March was very important evidence, it included the evidence of former senior executives of SOEs such as Transnet and Eskom.”

The Commission resumed today with oral evidence from former Transnet CFO Anoj Singh and will also hear evidence from former public enterprise minister Malusi Gigaba tonight.

Zondo this week announced that the Commission has limited time to wrap up its oral evidence and dismissed most of the applications for leave to cross-examine.

Today’s proceedings below:

 

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