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EU Delays Decision On Border Re-Opening

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The EU cannot agree on a list of “safe countries” from where travellers could visit Europe in July, with some member states requiring more time to decide, diplomats said Saturday.

After days of talks, EU envoys on Friday agreed to propose a list of 14 countries to their national governments, with the United States, where the coronavirus is still spreading, to remain excluded.

Croatia, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, requested that countries offer feedback by Saturday at 1600 GMT, with hopes the matter could then be put to a vote among the 27 member states.

“There are still ongoing consultations, which will continue until Monday,” an EU source told AFP.

“There is no visibility on where this will go, but the presidency still hopes to put this matter to a vote on Monday,” the source added.

The proposed “safe” list contains just fourteen countries: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

Crucially, travellers from China would be approved to enter, but under the condition that Beijing would do the same for Europeans.

Non-essential travel to the EU has been banned since mid-March, but only after member states closed their national borders in confusion and without coordination as the pandemic grew.

The restrictions are to be gradually lifted starting July 1, as the infection rate recedes — at least in Europe — and some countries hoped for close EU coordination.

Whatever is decided in Brussels will exist only as a recommendation since border control remains a national competence and a limited number of flights to and from banned countries have continued throughout the crisis.

Talks dragged on with some EU members wanting to limit the reopening to countries with an epidemiological situation “comparable or better” than that in the bloc — that is with 16 or fewer cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks.

Under that criteria, travellers from the United States, Brazil and Canada would remain banned.

However, the health-based criteria has collided with geopolitics, with some countries reluctant to collectively ban the US while welcoming visitors from China, where the pandemic began.

The United States is currently the country most affected by COVID-19 with more than 125,000 deaths — while Europe believes it has passed the peak of its outbreak.

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Report: U.S. Wealth Division Leads to Serious Human Rights Issues

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The China Society for Human Rights Studies on Tuesday published an article laying bare the harsh reality of the serious division between the rich and the poor in the United States under the superficial of its overall prosperity.

The growing division between the rich and the poor in the United States has further highlighted and exacerbated the existing social and economic inequality within the U.S. society, reducing people at the bottom to a more difficult situation, read the article titled “The Growing Division Between the Rich and the Poor Leading to Increasingly Severe Human Rights Issues in the United States.”

The wealth of 0.1 percent of the richest U.S. family equals to the sum of wealth owned by the 90 percent families from the bottom combined, noted the report, citing comments from a UN Special Rapporteur who said the United States has the widest gap between the rich and the poor among all Western countries.

“The American Dream was rapidly transforming into the “American Illusion,” said the rapporteur.

A person sleeps on a bench in the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, the U.S., May 26, 2020. /AP

American illusion

The growing division between the rich and the poor have led the American people into grave human rights disasters, the report pointed out, noting low-income groups are faced with the threat of hunger and their equal opportunities for education are also eroded due to poverty.

According to the report, around 40 million U.S. citizens live in poverty, and among them, 18.5 million live in extreme poverty. Nearly half of U.S. households are unable to maintain an adequate standard of living and more than five million U.S. citizens live in a state comparable to that of the absolutely poor in the third world.

The division also caused the “health gap” in the U.S. as those who lost their medical insurance due to poverty cannot afford medical expenses also have shorter life expectancy and are more likely to die of illness, said the report.

The report attributed the cause of the division to “the so-called U.S. democratic system” which “deprives its citizens of economic, social, and cultural rights.”

Money politics

It further revealed that the U.S. government lacks the political will to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor, stating the nature of “money politics” of the U.S. political system.

“The capital interest has turned the U.S. government into a spokesman for the rich,” said the report.

It suggested that the division between the rich and the poor in the U.S. will be a stable, long-term trend as substantial reversal of this situation is unlikely in the near future.

“The severe negative impact it has brought on the enjoyment and realization of the human rights of the U.S. people will continue to worsen,” the report concluded.

(With input from Xinhua)

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Bill Gates Calls for COVID-19 Meds to go to People Who Need Them, Not ‘Highest Bidder’

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Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called for COVID-19 drugs and an eventual vaccine to be made available to countries and people that need them most, not to the “highest bidder,” saying relying on market forces would prolong the deadly pandemic.

“If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidder, instead of to the people and the places where they are most needed, we’ll have a longer, more unjust, deadlier pandemic,” Gates, founder of Microsoft, said in a video released on Saturday during a virtual COVID-19 conference organized by the International AIDS Society.

“We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors.”

With hundreds of vaccine projects under way and governments in Europe and the United States investing billions of dollars in research, trials and manufacturing, there is concern that richer nations could scoop up promising medicines against the new coronavirus, leaving developing countries empty-handed.

The European Commission and the World Health Organization have warned of an unhealthy competition in the scramble for a medicine seen as key to saving lives and resolving economic chaos sowed by virus, while some officials in Washington have indicated they would seek to prioritize U.S. residents.

Gates said efforts begun two decades ago to battle the global HIV/AIDS crisis, when countries came together to eventually make medicines available in most of the world including Africa, can serve as a model for making COVID-19 medicines widely accessible.

As examples he pointed to the 2002-created Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the U.S.-based President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief to get medicines to people to combat some of the world’s deadliest diseases as examples.

“One of the best lessons in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the importance of building this large, fair global distribution system to get the drugs out to everyone,” Gates said.

(Cover image: Microsoft founder Bill Gates attends the 10th World Health Summit 2018 event in Berlin, Germany, October 16, 2018. /Reuters)

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China-US Relations: Online Forum Held to Discuss Future Cooperation Between Beijing And Washington

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The China-US Think Tanks and Media Online Forum aims to help construct mutual respect, trust and cooperation between Beijing and Washington. The forum was held online this morning here in Beijing. Lu Sirui has more.

More than 30 top diplomats and experts from across the world have met online to discuss the direction of China-US relations.

Ties between the two nations have become increasingly tense, as COVID-19 continues to rage across the globe. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed the pandemic on China, leading to strained relations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says China is still willing to strengthen China-US relations with good will and sincerity. He delivered a speech during the online forum, saying the two sides should keep channels open for more dialogue.

WANG YI Chinese Foreign Minister “The China-US relationship is one of the world’s most important. There needs to be more positive messages and energy from it. I hope the US will develop more objective and cool-headed perceptions about China, and a more rational and pragmatic China policy.”

The forum discussed the issues and challenges facing the two countries, as well as ways to keep both sides on the right track for better bilateral relations. LU SIRUI, CGTN, BEIJING.

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