Europe

Regional News • Europe
WHO says European vaccine rollout is "unacceptably slow"
WHO says European vaccine rollout is "unacceptably slow"
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a statement, saying that "speeding up vaccination roll-out is crucial as new cases in the WHO European Region are increasing in every age group, apart from one."

Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, stated that vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections, but the "roll-out of these vaccines is unacceptably slow". Kluge is recommending "the same public health and social measures as we have in the past to compensate for delayed schedules" and added, "we must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now."

“Only 5 weeks ago, the weekly number of new cases in Europe had dipped to under 1 million, but now the Region’s situation is more worrying than we have seen in several months. There are risks associated with the increased mobility and gatherings over the religious holidays. Many countries are introducing new measures that are necessary and everyone should follow as much as they can,” said Dr Dorit Nitzan, Regional Emergency Director for the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Climate & Environment
Research: Europe experiences worst dry period in the last 2,100 years
Research: Europe experiences worst dry period in the last 2,100 years
Credit: unsplash.com / Bernard Hermant

Recent summers in Europe have been the driest in the past two millennia, according to a recent international study based on tree ring analysis. Using a specific method, the team led by Ulf Büntgen of the University of Cambridge succeeded in creating a massive dataset that traces hydroclimatic conditions in Central Europe from Roman times to the present.

For the work, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Büntgen and his colleagues from the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland took more than 27,000 measurements on tree rings from 147 oak trees, covering a period of 2,100 years (75 B.C. to 2018). The samples came from historic wells, buildings, and pile dwellings, as well as from archaeological remains and shore sediments, and also from living trees from what is now the Czech Republic and parts of southeastern Bavaria.

Health
WHO meets to discuss AstraZeneca jab as more EU countries halt vaccination
WHO meets to discuss AstraZeneca jab as more EU countries halt vaccination
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The World Health Organization's vaccine safety experts were due to meet Tuesday to discuss the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, as more countries stopped vaccinations over blood clot concerns. WHO on Monday appealed to countries to keep vaccination campaigns going, saying there was no evidence the vaccine caused clotting issues.

But much of Europe has gone against that advice in recent days, temporarily halting AstraZeneca shots even as the continent confronts a third wave of the pandemic, spurred by variants of the virus, and faces criticism over sluggish vaccination campaigns.

In a statement on Sunday, the pharmaceutical giant said that of the 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the United Kingdom so far, blood clot incidents were "much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population."

Business • Economy
German Bundesbank without profit for the first time since 1979
Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann
Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

For the first time since 1979, the German Bundesbank does not distribute profits. This was reported by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann at the central bank's annual press conference on Wednesday.

The monetary crisis measures in the Corona pandemic have had a significant impact on the Bundesbank's balance sheet, the institution reported. In light of the associated risks, the bank is increasing its risk provisioning, it said

"The increased risk provisioning is the main reason why the Bundesbank is reporting a balanced annual result for 2020 and is not distributing a profit for the first time since 1979," Weidmann said at the presentation of the annual financial statements. In the previous year, the profit distribution had amounted to 5.9 billion euros.

Technology • Internet & Web
Spotify expands international footprint across 80+ new markets
Spotify expands international footprint across 80+ new markets
Credit: Sara Kurfeß

Over the next few days, Spotify will launch its service in 85 new markets across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, as announced at its online event, "Stream On". The company will also add support to 36 new languages on the platform.

The streaming platform stated, "Our dedication to international artists and listeners is unwavering. Working closely with local creators and partners, we’ll deliver a Spotify experience that meets the unique needs of each market, with scaled language translations and specialized payment formats. These 80+ markets represent more than 1 billion people—potential Spotify listeners who have yet to tap into the power of our platform."

Law
Fossil fuel corporation sues Dutch government
Fossil fuel corporation sues Dutch government
Credit: Selbst / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

As the government of the Netherlands plans to end coal-based electricity, the German RWE corporation seeks to obtain compensation based on the controversial Energy Charter Treaty signed in 1994.

"This is not the first time a fossil fuel company tries to get tax payers to pick up the bill for bad business decisions and it won’t be the last if we fail to act," reacted the director of Climate Action Network Europe, Wendel Trio.

Business • Markets
Amsterdam overtakes London as most important financial center in Europe
Amsterdam overtakes London as most important financial center in Europe
Credit: unsplash.com / Adrien Olichon

In January, 9.2 billion euros were traded daily on the Amsterdam stock exchanges, significantly more than in London with 8.6 billion euros, according to figures from the financial market firm Cboe Europe.

By comparison, in 2020, an average of 17.5 billion euros per day had still been traded in London, according to Cboe, while Frankfurt was second with 5.9 billion euros per day and Amsterdam only sixth with 2.6 billion per day.

Health
Europen Medicine Agency approves AstraZeneca vaccine
Europen Medicine Agency approves AstraZeneca vaccine
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler.

The EMA has recommended conditional market approval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine claiming the vaccine "was safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age."

Germany's vaccine commission had said on Thursday that it could not recommend the use of the jabs on people aged 65 years and older because efficacy data for the group were lacking.

Lifestyle • Travel
Disneyland Paris reopening delayed until April
Disneyland Paris reopening delayed until April
Credit: unsplash.com/Lyle Hastie

Disneyland Paris announced on Monday that it would delay reopening until at least April 2nd. The park had initially planned to reopen on February 13th.

The company said in a statement that "due to the prevailing conditions in Europe, Disneyland Paris will not reopen on the 13th of February as initially planned. If conditions permit, we will reopen Disneyland Paris on the 2nd of April, 2021 and will welcome reservations from that date forward."

Regional News • World
Biden to not lift international travel restrictions
An officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations welcomes and clears international travelers arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., March 13, 2020.
An officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations welcomes and clears international travelers arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., March 13, 2020. Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jen Psaki, President-elect Joe Biden’s press secretary, dismissed Donald Trump's order to lift the ban on travellers from Europe and Brazil that has been in place since March 2020, instead announced plans to "strengthen public health measures around international travel."

"With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel," Psaki tweeted. "On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19."

Science
Microplastics from laundry machines found in the arctic
Esmarkbreen,Isfjorden, Spitsbergen
Esmarkbreen,Isfjorden, Spitsbergen Credit: Gunvor Røkke (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Polyester fibres traced from laundry machines in North America and Europe have been discovered in Arctic seawater. The microplastics are thought to have drifted into the Arctic from the Atlantic ocean.

Scientists do not yet know the impact of these microplastics on the Arctic, its marine life, and the communities that live there.

Regional News • Europe
European power grid experienced a disruption on Friday
European power grid experienced a disruption on Friday
Credit: unsplash.com / Matthew Henry

Outage in Romania led to underfrequency in Europe. According to Austrian Power Grid, normal operation was restored after one hour.

According to Austrian Power Grid (APG), a disturbance occurred in the synchronized European high-voltage power grid Friday afternoon, which led to an under frequency in Europe with a short-term frequency deviation of about 260 mHz. The detailed analysis is still in progress.

Thanks to the protection mechanisms established throughout Europe and the immediate and coordinated cooperation of the transmission system operators, normal operation for the whole of Europe was restored within an hour. APG controls the supra-regional power transmission grid in Austria.

Regional News • Europe
France and Britain decide on plans to resume freight traffic
France and Britain decide on plans to resume freight traffic
Credit: unsplash.com / Andrey Sharpilo

According to the BCC, Britain and France will decide on a plan to resume freight traffic after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on measures to reopen the French border. The measures will apply from Wednesday, the BBC said, citing French Europe Minister Clément Beaune.

Climate & Environment
Report: November 2020 was the hottest on record, by a clear margin
Report: November 2020 was the hottest on record, by a clear margin
Credit: unsplash.com / Eelco Böhtlingk

The surface air temperature in this year's November was higher than any year before on record.

The temperature anomaly was the highest in much of Siberia, the Arctic Ocean and bordering coastal seas, extending into western and northern Alaska, the far north-west of Canada, the Tibetan Plateau and East Antarctica. Temperature records were also broken in parts of Europe and heatwaves were experienced in parts of Australia.

The average temperature from December 2019 to November 2020 is almost 1.3°C above the pre-industrial level defined in the IPCC Special Report on “Global Warming of 1.5°C”.

Technology • Internet & Web
To avoid EU privacy rules, Facebook will move UK users to US terms
To avoid EU privacy rules, Facebook will move UK users to US terms
Credit: Illustration for Pendect by Ashley Winkler, Logo Facebook

In an effort to avoid the EU's privacy laws, Facebook will move all of its users in the United Kingdom into user agreements with the corporate headquarters in California. Google has done a similar move in February. 

"Like other companies, Facebook has had to make changes to respond to Brexit and will be transferring legal responsibilities and obligations for UK users from Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc. There will be no change to the privacy controls or the services Facebook offers to people in the UK," so Facebook's UK arm.

Sports • Soccer
UEFA Champions League round of 16 draw puts Barcelona against Paris Saint-Germain
UEFA Champions League 2020-21 round of 16
UEFA Champions League 2020-21 round of 16 Credit: UEFA (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

After a draw made on Monday, UEFA Champions League round of 16 ties are:

  • Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER) vs Manchester City (ENG)
  • Lazio (ITA) vs Bayern (GER)
  • Atlético (ESP) vs Chelsea (ENG)
  • Leipzig (GER) vs Liverpool (ENG)
  • Porto (POR) vs Juventus (ITA)
  • Barcelona (ESP) vs Paris (FRA)
  • Sevilla (ESP) vs Borussia Dortmund (GER)
  • Atalanta (ITA) vs Real Madrid (ESP)

The first legs are scheduled for 16/17 and 23/24 February, with the second legs on 9/10 and 16/17 March.

Regional News • Europe
Brexit deal negotiations still without breakthrough

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced further Brexit negotiations after a telephone conversation. Von der Leyen explained in a TV statement that the talks would continue "despite major differences". These differences were on the three topics of fishing rights, guarantees for fair competition and the regulation of future relations.

The Brexit negotiations had been declared a top priority after the negotiators had failed to make progress on Friday.

Regional News • Europe
Italy reports 28,352 new Covid-19 cases and 827 deaths
Italy reports 28,352 new Covid-19 cases and 827 deaths
Credit: Adam Nieścioruk

The Italian Health Ministry reported 827 Covid 19-related deaths and 28,352 new infections in the country. Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 53,677 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Great Britain.

While Italy's daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed, suggesting the latest wave of infections was receding. The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy's financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Friday, reporting 5,389 new cases from a previous 5,697.

Regional News • Europe
WHO envoy warns of third Coronaivurs wave in Europe if governments don't build necessary infrastructure

David Nabarro, a World Health Organization special Coronavirus envoy, has told the Swiss newspaper Solothurner Zeitung that Europe could face a third wave next year if governments "don’t build the necessary infrastructure."

He praised Asian countries such as South Korea: “People are fully engaged, they take on behaviors that make it difficult for the virus. They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate when they’re sick, wash hands and surfaces. They protect the most endangered groups.”

“Another element that is very clear in East Asia is that once you have brought down the case numbers … you don’t relax the measures,” he said. “You wait until the case numbers are low and stay low. You have to prepare the necessary measures to stop future outbreaks.”

Regional News • Europe
WHO says Europe is facing 'six tough months' of pandemic
WHO says Europe is facing 'six tough months' of pandemic
Credit: unsplash/Isaac Quesada

As Europe has recorded over 29,000 Covid-19 deaths in the past week, meaning that "one person is dying every 17 seconds", WHO Europe director Hans Kluge warns that Europe is facing "six tough months".

"There is light at the end of the tunnel but it will be a tough six months," so Kluge at a news conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. "Europe is once again the epicentre of the pandemic, together with the United States."