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Racism row as French doctors suggest virus vaccine test in Africa

Two French doctors have been accused of racism for suggesting that a potential vaccine for coronavirus should first be tested on people in Africa. The comments were made on the French television channel, LCI, during a discussion on Wednesday about COVID-19 trials set to be launched in Europe and Australia to see if the BCG…

Racism row as French doctors suggest virus vaccine test in Africa

Two French doctors have been accused of racism for suggesting that a potential vaccine for coronavirus should first be tested on people in Africa.
The comments were made on the French television channel, LCI, during a discussion on Wednesday about COVID-19 trials set to be launched in Europe and Australia to see if the BCG tuberculosis vaccine could be used to treat the virus.
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“It may be provocative. Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things, because we know that they are highly exposed and don’t protect themselves?” said Jean-Paul Mira, head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin Hospital in Paris.
Camille Locht, research director at France’s national health institute, Inserm, agreed: “You are right. And by the way, we are thinking of in parallel about a study in Africa using this same approach.”

It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this. Africa isn’t a testing lab. I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racists words. Helps us save Africa with the current ongoing Covid 19 and flatten the curve. pic.twitter.com/41GIpXaIYv
— Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) April 2, 2020

It did not take long for the backlash to begin on social media.
“Africa isn’t a testing lab,” Ivorian professional football player Didier Drogba, who used to play for Chelsea, wrote on Twitter. “I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racist words.”
Olivier Faure, of France’s Socialist Party, said the marks were hardly a provocation. “It’s not provocation, it’s just racism,” he wrote on Twitter. “Africa is not the laboratory of Europe. Africans are not rats!”
The anti-racism group SOS Racisme called on France’s media regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de L’Audiovisuel (CSA), to formally condemn the remarks.
The group issued a statement saying, “No, Africans aren’t guinea pigs”, adding that comparison with AIDS and prostitutes was “problematic” and “unwelcome”.
The organisation said the CSA had not responded to their complaint.
“It’s scandalous to see that not a single regulatory authority has come out to publicly denounce these statements,” Amar Thioune, a member of SOS Racisme, told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Le Club des avocats au Maroc, a Moroccan lawyers’ collective, said it was suing Jean-Paul Mira for racial defamation.
‘Distorted video’
On Twitter, Inserm, Locht’s employer, posted a statement accompanied by the hashtag #FakeNews, writing that the remarks were taken out of context.
“A distorted video, taken from an interview on LCI with one of our researchers about a study on the potential use of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19, is now the subject of erroneous interpretation,” the statement said.
It added that Africa “shouldn’t be forgotten or excluded from this research because the pandemic is global”.
Mira later apologised in a statement published by his employer.
“I want to present all my apologies to those who were hurt, shocked and felt insulted by the remarks that I clumsily expressed on LCI this week,” he said.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Mira further clarified: “Africa could be even more exposed to serious forms of harm because there will be so few masks and little confinement because of societal structure.”
“It seemed interesting to me that in addition to France and Australia, an African country could participate in this study which I had never heard of before hearing about it on the show,” he added.
Africa is currently the continent least affected by COVID-19, with nearly 7,500 cases and about 320 deaths, though there are fears that the number of undetected cases is low due to a lack of testing.
Experts warn that poor health systems in many African countries could lead to a disaster in the event of a severe coronavirus outbreak.
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Exclusive: French reform proposal for Lebanon delves into details |NationalTribune.com

Beirut, Lebanon – French President Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Lebanon, has offered to help provide the crisis-hit nation with vital aid if its politicians make good on long-overdue reforms. Speaking at the palatial French ambassador’s residence in Beirut from where Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by colonial France 100 years ago, Macron said on…

Exclusive: French reform proposal for Lebanon delves into details |NationalTribune.com

Beirut, Lebanon – French President Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Lebanon, has offered to help provide the crisis-hit nation with vital aid if its politicians make good on long-overdue reforms.
Speaking at the palatial French ambassador’s residence in Beirut from where Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by colonial France 100 years ago, Macron said on Tuesday he would rally international aid at an October donor conference aimed at rebuilding the capital after a devastating explosion last month and halting the country’s economic demise.
But “we will not give Lebanon a carte-blanche, or a blank check,” he added, noting that everything was conditional on whether the country’s fractious leaders could unite around change.
Even before the August 4 explosion that killed at least 190 people, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged wide swaths of Beirut, Lebanon had been drowning in economic crisis.
Its government was seeking $20bn in financial aid, half from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and the other half from development funds pledged by a host of donor nations at a 2018 donor conference. An additional sum of nearly $5bn is now needed for the reconstruction of Beirut, as well as humanitarian assistance.
Macron said Lebanese leaders had pledged to form a government within 15 days, which must then implement a host of reforms within one to three months.
Before the meetings on Tuesday, the French embassy distributed a “draft programme for the new government”, to the heads of political blocs, which Al Jazeera has obtained.
The French draft proposals get into the nitty-gritty details of public policy in Lebanon, underlining some laws and projects and sidelining others.
Here are the main points:
COVID-19 and the humanitarian situation

The government will prepare and disseminate a coronavirus pandemic control plan “that includes support for the most vulnerable people”.

It will strengthen social safety net programmes for the population.

Aftermath of the Beirut explosion

The government will facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid – provided by the international community and coordinated by the United Nations – in an “expeditious, transparent and effective manner”.

It will put in place governance mechanisms to allow the disbursal of aid in a “transparent and traceable manner”.

It will begin reconstruction based on a needs assessment by the World Bank, EU and UN that estimated the value of damages caused by the explosion at up to $4.6bn.

The government will rapidly launch tenders for the reconstruction of Beirut’s port according to “neutral” standards.

It will conduct an “impartial and independent investigation” into the port explosion “that enables the full truth to be established regarding the causes of the explosion, with the support of Lebanon’s international partners … within a reasonable timeframe”.

Reforms

The government will regularly exchange views with civil society regarding its programme and the reforms it entails.

It will immediately resume stalled negotiations with the IMF and rapidly approve measures requested by the lender, including a capital controls law and a “full audit” of the Central Bank’s accounts.

The French proposal also called for the approval of a timetable for working with the IMF within 15 days of the government gaining confidence. 

It goes on to propose time limits for sector-specific reforms.
Electricity sector
Within one month, the government will:

Appoint officials to the National Electricity Regulatory Authority according to Law 462/2002 “without amendments”, and provide the Authority with the resources to carry out its work.

Launch tenders for gas-fired power plants to plug Lebanon’s massive energy gap.

“Abandon” the controversial Selaata power plant project in its current form. The project is one President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party have insisted on.

Within three months, the government will:
Announce a timetable for raising the price of electricity, “provided that this will first affect the most financially wealthy consumers”.
Capital controls
Within one month:
Parliament should finalise and approve a draft law on capital control that should “immediately be implemented for a period of four years” after it is approved by the IMF.
Governance, judicial and financial regulations
Within one month, the government will:

Hold a meeting to follow up on the 2018 donor conference in which the international community pledged $11bn in soft loans, and launch a website dedicated to following up on projects, financing and related reforms.

Complete judicial, financial and administrative appointments, including members of the Supreme Judicial Council, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority and regulatory bodies in the electricity, telecommunications and civil aviation sectors, “in accordance with transparency and competency-based standards”.

Approve in Parliament a law on the independence of the judiciary.

Launch a study on Lebanon’s public administration by an “independent international institution” such as the World Bank or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “with a specialised office”.

Fighting corruption and smuggling
Within one month, the government will:

Appoint members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and grant it the resources to launch its work.

Launch the track to accede to a 1997 OECD treaty on combating corruption.

Implement customs reforms with immediate effect.

Within three months, the government will:
Establish “control gates” and strengthen oversight at the Beirut and Tripoli ports and at the Beirut airport, as well as at other border crossings.
Public procurement reform
Within one month:

Parliament will prepare, adopt and implement a bill on public procurement reform.

The government will grant the Higher Council for Privatization the human and financial capabilities necessary to carry out its tasks.

Public finances
Within one month:
Prepare and vote on a “corrective finance bill that explicitly clarifies the status of accounts for the year 2020”.
By the end of the year:
Prepare and approve a “harmonised” budget for the year 2021.
Elections
“The government will ensure that new legislative elections are organised within a maximum period of one year.”
“The electoral law will be reformed with the full inclusion of civil society, allowing Parliament to be more representative of the aspirations of civil society.”
At his speech later on Tuesday, however, Macron seemed to walk back his proposal for early polls, saying there was “no consensus” on early elections and that other reforms were the priority.
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, his government resign |NationalTribune.com

Philippe’s government will continue to handle ‘day-to-day matters’ until a new government is named [File: Christian Hartmann/Reuters] The French government led by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his government have submitted their resignations, which President Emmanuel Macron has accepted, according to the Elysee Palace. No reason was given in the short statement issued on Friday,…

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, his government resign |NationalTribune.com

Philippe’s government will continue to handle ‘day-to-day matters’ until a new government is named [File: Christian Hartmann/Reuters]
The French government led by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his government have submitted their resignations, which President Emmanuel Macron has accepted, according to the Elysee Palace.
No reason was given in the short statement issued on Friday, but a cabinet shuffle had been widely expected after Macron promised to chart a new course for the last two years of his term.
The government will continue to handle “day-to-day matters” until a new government is formed, the presidency said. The Elysee Palace later said the new prime minister was expected to be named “within hours”.
In French government reshuffles, the prime minister tenders his or her resignation before cabinet appointments but can still be renamed to the position.
It was not immediately clear whether Philippe would be called upon to form the new government.
Municipal elections
Macron’s move to refashion his centrist government comes after voters punished the former investment banker and his party in nationwide municipal elections.
The elections revealed surging support for the Green party and underlined Macron’s troubles with left-leaning voters. The only bright spot for Macron was Philippe’s victory in the northern port city of Le Havre.
With only 21 months until the next presidential election, Macron wants to reposition himself, close advisers say.
It would be a political gamble for Macron to replace Philippe, who is more popular with the public than the president, political analysts say.
The prime minister has shown steadfast loyalty during waves of unrest and could emerge as a presidential rival in 2022.
But keeping Philippe in office could be problematic too. It could suggest that Macron was too weak to let go of his prime minister and that his young party lacked the depth to allow for a full-blooded cabinet overhaul.
Moreover, Macron poached Philippe from the centre-right opposition and holding onto him would complicate winning back leftist voters.

SOURCE:
News agencies

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