News in Brief 1 September 2021

News in Brief 1 September 2021

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

New COVID-19 Mu variant could be more resistant to vaccines: WHO

A new coronavirus “variant of interest” named Mu – also known by its scientific name as B.1.621 – is being closely monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO), the agency has said.

In its weekly epidemiological update, published on Tuesday, WHO warned it was becoming increasingly prevalent in Colombia and Ecuador, and showed signs of possible resistance to vaccines.

It was first identified in Colombia in January. Since then, there have been “sporadic reports” of cases and outbreaks in South America and Europe, said WHO. 

Reports on the Mu strain’s prevalence should be “interpreted with due consideration”, given the low sequencing capacity of most countries, said the agency, which is treating it as a “variant of interest”, rather a variant of concern.

4.1 billion people live without social safety net: ILO

More than four billion people live without any welfare protection today to cushion them from crisis, the UN International Labour Organization (ILOsaid on Wednesday.

The ILO also highlighted that the COVID-19 crisis has pushed up government spending by some 30 per cent, urging international solidarity to help poorer nations implement more inclusive social safety nets that would let workers quarantine without losing wages.

Here’s ILO Director-General Guy Ryder:

“For millions of people, social protection has ensured access to healthcare, has safeguarded jobs and incomes and stabilised businesses and economies. And without the massive and rapid expansion of social protection throughout the COVID crisis, its impact would have been very much worse than it actually has been.”

ILO said that Europe and Central Asia have the highest rates of social protection coverage, at 84 per cent, followed by the Americas at 64.3 per cent.

In Asia and the Pacific and the Arab States, only around 40 to 44 per cent of people receive benefits, and only 17 per cent of people in Africa have access to social welfare.

Weather disasters have increased over past 50 years

Climate change and increasingly extreme weather events have caused a surge in natural disasters over the past 50 years, disproportionately impacting poorer countries, the UN said on Wednesday.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), there were more than 11,000 reported disasters attributed to weather, climate and water extremes, between 1970 and 2019.

These hazards caused just over two million deaths and $3.64 trillion in losses, while more than nine in 10 fatalities occurred in developing countries.

Mami Mizutori, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, insisted that developing countries needed help for resilience-building measures:

“We are not, unfortunately, in a safe place and the report tells us that the 50-year trend is quite, quite alarming. To give you some statistics, 31 million people were displaced by disasters last year. Now, the number of people who are displaced by disaster is almost getting larger than the number of people displaced by conflict."  

On a more positive note, the report found that improved early warning systems and disaster management had led to a near threefold decrease in deaths between 1970 and 2019.

Daniel Johnson, UN News. 

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  • Mu COVID-19 variant tracking latest: WHO
  • ILO: More than 4 billion people still lack social safety net
  • Climate hazards increased over past 50 years, UN agencies warn
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
3'18"
Photo Credit
© UNICEF/Arimacs Wilander