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UAE launches COVID-19 vaccine production with China’s Sinopharm

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2021)

A new factory in Abu Dhabi will start manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm later this year under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42).

The project is an expansion of Chinese diplomacy in the Gulf region and helps the United Arab Emirates’ quest to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon production.

The plant, which is being built in the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), will have a production capacity of 200 million doses a year with three filling lines and five automated packaging lines, a statement from the joint venture said on Monday.

The vaccine will be called Hayat-Vax when manufactured in the UAE, but is the same inactivated vaccine from the Beijing Institute of Biological Product (BiBP), a unit of Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG), that the UAE approved for general use in December.

As part of the joint venture, interim production of Hayat-Vax has already begun in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah under a deal between G42 and Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries PSC, the statement said.

That interim production line has an initial capacity of 2 million doses per month and no details were given about how long production will continue there.

The UAE, through G42, hosted Phase III clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine from July, which later expanded to other countries in the region including Bahrain. The UAE approved the vaccine for frontline workers in September before making it available to the general public in December.

G42 has previously said it has distribution and manufacturing agreements with Sinopharm and hopes to provide the UAE and other states in the region with the vaccine.

The deal was launched during a two-day visit to the UAE by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi which ended on Sunday.

The joint venture also includes a purpose-built research and development hub for life sciences, biotechnology and vaccine production in KIZAD.

“Our joint venture is also actively looking to bring our capabilities to new markets around the world,” G42 CEO Peng Xiao said.

The UAE has said its trials showed the vaccine has 86% efficacy, while Sinopharm reports 79.34% efficacy based on interim results.

Some people in the UAE failed to develop sufficient antibodies after a second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine and were given a third dose, the UAE health ministry said this month. It said the number was “minimal” compared to the number of vaccines administered.

On Sunday, a Sinopharm executive said the company will need to assess results from overseas Phase III clinical trials to decide whether its two-shot vaccine should be followed by a booster shot.

“Thanks to the close collaboration with the UAE, Sinopharm’s vaccine has been now administered to millions of people in the country, the region, and the world,” Sinopharm Chairman Liu Jingzhen said at a virtual launch also attended by UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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Taliban warns foreign forces to leave by May 1

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

Taliban on Wednesday afternoon warned the US and NATO to stick to the agreement of troops withdrawal on May 1 and said if the Doha agreement is not adhered to problems will be “compounded” and those in breach of the deal will “be held liable”.

In a series of tweets, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks the withdrawal of all foreign forces from our homeland on the date specified in the Doha Agreement.

“If the agreement is adhered to, a pathway to addressing the remaining issues will also be found.

“If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those whom failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable.”

This comes ahead of an expected official announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops with be pulled out by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meanwhile said in Brussels on Wednesday that the coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11.

Blinken said it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

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Austin arrives in Brussels ahead of troop withdrawal announcement

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of a planned announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.

Reuters reported earlier that a coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11. President Joe Biden is expected to make a formal announcement later Wednesday that will end two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.

NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement.

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NATO forces to leave together from Afghanistan: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

A coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels on Wednesday.

His remarks came ahead of a formal announcement of the end of two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission, Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels that it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

NATO foreign and defence ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement, expected later on Wednesday, for a complete U.S. withdrawal of troops by Sept. 11.

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