The United States will pay more than $200 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the end of the month, following President Joe Biden’s reversal of a Trump-era decision to exit the organization, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Feb. 17.
“This is a key step forward in fulfilling our financial obligations as a WHO member and it reflects our renewed commitment to ensuring the WHO has the support it needs to lead the global response to the pandemic,” Blinken told a virtual United Nations Security Council session on COVID-19, AFP reported.
“The United States will work as a partner to address global challenges. This pandemic is one of those challenges and gives us an opportunity not only to get through the current crisis, but also to become more prepared and more resilient for the future.”
Thousands Protest Long-Term Lockdown in China’s Current Virus Hotspot
Gaocheng district of Shijiazhuang city, Hebei Province, is one of the hotspots of the latest COVID-19 resurgence in China. The district of roughly 800,000 people has been under total lockdown since early January, despite authorities recently downgrading the disease risk level to low.
Thousands of residents at the Hengda Oasis residential community in the district protested against the lockdowns this week and clashed with local government workers. Meanwhile, people in nearby Nangong city, another hotspot, are becoming mentally distraught after being stuck indoors for an extended period. One reportedly committed suicide. The Hebei government announced that the mass lockdown will continue for the foreseeable future.
On Feb. 7, conflicts broke out between residents and government officials. The owners accused the government of inaction. Tensions escalated and eventually, a clash broke out, according to local residents.
US Death Toll Tops 500,000
Worldometer reported that the U.S. death toll from the CCP (China Communist Party) virus reached 500,000 Wednesday, with a total of 28.38 million cases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had a total death count of 486,466 as of 4:30 p.m. The CDC is expected to report a 500,000 death toll in the next few days.
Worldometer said their number is updated constantly because they monitor daily reports released by local authorities, while “national aggregates often lag behind.”
The European Union reported last week that more than 500,000 people had died there from the CCP virus.
Third of Troops Turning Down CCP Virus Vaccine: Pentagon
About one-third of U.S. military troops have turned down the vaccine for the CCP virus, said the Pentagon on Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro, a top official in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military has a two-thirds acceptance rate for the CCP virus vaccine.
“Our initial look—and this is of course very early data—is acceptance rates are somewhere in the two-thirds territory,” Taliaferro said in a hearing. “And of course, it varies by different groups.”
“We believe that, of course, the vaccine is the right thing to do. It’s clearly safe for service members,” Taliaferro said, noting that military officials want personnel to get the shot, reported Politico. “And we need to continue to educate our force and help them understand the benefits.”
Mexico Surpasses 2 Million Cases, 175,000 Deaths
Mexico’s total number of CCP virus cases crossed 2 million with another 8,683 cases recorded on Tuesday, the health ministry said.
The country’s tally of infections now stands at 2,004,575. Mexico also reported 1,329 additional fatalities, bringing the total to 175,986 deaths.
South Korea Warns Against Lax Distancing as Daily Cases Hit One-Month High
South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Wednesday warned against loosening enforcement of social distancing rules after the number of new CCP virus cases, which causes the disease COVID-19, hit the highest levels in nearly 40 days.
The government relaxed distancing curbs starting this week, after getting on top of a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that peaked at about 1,200 daily cases in late December. But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday.
Facebook Suspends Australian Lawmaker Over Hydroxychloroquine Posts
Facebook has suspended the account of Liberal Member of Parliament Craig Kelly for a week after he allegedly violated their “misinformation and harm policy” by sharing information on hydroxychloroquine.
The lawmaker revealed yesterday that the social media giant deleted five of his posts, which featured medical experts’ support of alternative CCP virus treatments, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin. Facebook also removed a post in which Kelly shared an opinion from a pathologist that “paper and fabric masks are simply virtue signaling.”
New York Attorney General Sues Amazon Over Shortfalls
In a complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, Attorney General Letitia James sued Amazon on Tuesday over faster growth and higher profits leading to its “flagrant disregard” of steps needed to protect workers from the CCP virus at two warehouses.
James also accused Amazon of illegally retaliating when employees began to complain, including last March when it fired activist Christian Smalls purportedly for violating a paid quarantine when he led a protest over conditions at the warehouse in Staten Island.
Many Question Safety of China-Made Vaccines
As China seeks to bolster its international standing through “vaccine diplomacy,” public confidence in the safety and efficacy of China’s COVID-19 vaccines—both in and outside China—appears mixed.
China scored second-to-last, at -19 on average. The negative score means people were more likely to feel worried than reassured by a vaccine coming from there.
Pfizer-BioNTech to Get EU 200 Million More Shots
Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday they have reached an agreement to supply the European Union with another 200 million doses of their CCP virus vaccine.
The U.S. and German companies said in a statement that the doses come on top of the 300 million initially ordered. The EU’s executive commission has an option to request a further 100 million doses. They said the 200 million doses are expected to be delivered this year, with an estimated 75 million of them in the second quarter.
Alex Wu, Tom Ozimek, Li Hai, Jack Phillips, Nicole Hao, Epoch Times Sydney Staff, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.