This is the News in Brief.
Health agency calls for greater cooperation to identify COVID mutations
Far greater scientific cooperation is needed to quickly identify and study emerging variants of the COVID-19 virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
To date, 350,000 sequences of the new coronavirus have been shared, but most are from just a handful of countries.
In addition to monitoring the coronavirus’s mutations, virus and serum samples should be shared via globally-agreed mechanisms, WHO scientists believe, so that critical research can happen.
This new platform will help inform global disease control efforts, said WHO’s Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, at a virtual meeting convened by the agency on Tuesday, that was attended by more than 1,700 experts from 124 countries.
“Improving the geographic coverage of sequencing is critical for the world to have eyes and ears on changes to the virus”, added Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19.
Lower wages and higher health risks: Reality of COVID homeworking
The UN’s labour agency, ILO, has called for greater protection for the hundreds of millions of people who work from home, as new research has shown that they are usually worse off than those who work outside the home, even in higher-skilled professions.
According to the ILO, homeworkers earn around 13 per cent less in the United Kingdom; 22 per cent less in the United States, 25 per cent less in South Africa and about 50 per cent less in Argentina, India and Mexico.
Prior to COVID-19, there were approximately 260 million home-based workers globally, representing almost eight per cent of global employment.
However, in the first few months of the pandemic, an estimated one-in-five workers found themselves working from home.
Data for the whole of 2020, once available, is expected to show a “substantial increase” over the previous year.
Homeworkers include teleworkers who work remotely year-round, and a vast number involved in the production of goods that cannot be automated, such as embroidery, handicrafts, and electronic assembly.
A third category - digital platform workers - provides highly specialized services, such as data annotation for the training of artificial intelligence systems.
The ILO’s report warns that many of these “invisible” workers endure poor working conditions, face greater health and safety risks and lack access to training.
Prosecutors ‘lost case file’ of murdered activist, says UN rights panel
An expert UN rights panel in Geneva has urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to pursue an investigation in the murder of rights activist Pascal Kabungulu, 15 years after he was killed in front of his family.
Mr. Kabungulu, who spoke out against corruption and impunity, worked for the human rights group Héritiers de la Justice.
It uncovered and documented violations and war crimes in DRC.
The 55-year-old was slain in 2005 by three armed men wearing masks and uniforms, who broke into his house in the eastern town of Bukavu.
Denouncing the extrajudicial killing, the UN Human Rights Committee said that more than 15 years after the crime, no date has been set for a murder trial.
The panel underlined the “silence and inaction of the country's judicial bodies, which are no longer even able to locate the case file”, as the reason why Mr. Kabungulu's family turned to the Committee to ask for help.
In a call for a prompt and transparent probe into Mr. Kabungulu's death, the Committee said that it regretted “the lack of cooperation by the DRC in bringing justice to his family…The protection of human rights defenders is fundamental to ensuring a just society based on the rule of law", it insisted.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.