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Regional News • Africa
Mauritius in National Lockdown
Mauritius in National Lockdown
Credit: unsplash.com / Guillaume Baudusseau

The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Mr. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, has announced, this evening, during a televised address to the nation, that a lockdown will be implemented from 10 March 2021 at six am till 25 March 2021, following an increase in Covid-19 cases.

He indicated that the virus is now to be found in several clusters adding that new positive cases have been detected today which are not from the initial cluster.

As part of the restrictions, all activities will remain closed except for the police, port, airport, fire services, health, pharmacy, and security services.

Essential services that will operate on 10 March 2021 are health services, fire services, security services, petrol facilities, security services, pharmacy services, and retail distribution chains.

Supermarkets, superettes, shops, bakeries, and petrol stations will remain closed tomorrow but will reopen on 11 March 2021 with strict sanitary measures. Access to these services will be in alphabetical order.

The Prime Minister confirmed that a local case of COVID-19 has been detected in Mauritius and it is a person working in a company dealing with products from South Africa. To this end, he stressed that additional precautions have been taken to avoid the risk of contamination in the country.

Regional News • Africa
Ship runs aground off Mauritius with fuel aboard
Ship runs aground off Mauritius with fuel aboard
Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

A Chinese-flagged trawler containing 130 tonnes of oil ran aground off the Indian Ocean archipelago nation Mauritius. It is the second shipwreck in less than a year off Mauritius, after a tanker struck a reef in July and leaked 1,000 tonnes of fuel in the country's worst environmental disaster in history.

Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo said the captain of the Lurong Yuan Yu, a trawler flying the Chinese flag, issued distress calls late Sunday afternoon. By the time the government issued an urgent appeal for international help the slick had reached the shore, coating mangrove forests, fragile ecosystems and coral reefs. The disaster was unprecedented for Mauritius, an archipelago of 1.3 million people where many derive their livelihood from tourism and fishing, and tens of thousands marched in protest over the government's handling of the crisis.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution now observes AfD nationwide in Germany
BfV premises in Cologne
BfV premises in Cologne Credit: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Public Domain)

According to SPIEGEL, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has declared the entire AfD a suspected case of right-wing extremism. This means that the agency can also observe the party using intelligence means.

However, in an ongoing legal dispute before the Cologne Administrative Court, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has committed itself to refrain from intelligence surveillance of members of the federal, state and European parliaments for the time being. The same applies to candidates in the upcoming elections in 2021.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) is also currently not allowed to disclose its classification as a "suspected case".

The basis for the observation of the entire AfD is a roughly 1000-page report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Since the beginning of 2019, the office's lawyers and experts on right-wing extremism have compiled a great deal of evidence of suspected violations of the free democratic order.

According to SPIEGEL information, the report is to provide evidence that the AfD violates the guarantee of human dignity and the principle of democracy in the Basic Law. Several hundred speeches and statements by officials at all party levels are to serve as evidence.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
Fidesz MEPs leave EPP Group in the EU Parliament
Fidesz MEPs leave EPP Group in the EU Parliament
Credit: unsplash.com / Guillaume Périgois

Hungary's head of government withdraws his Fidesz MEPs from the EPP group in the EU Parliament.

The Hungarian right-wing nationalist ruling party Fidesz will leave the Christian Democratic EPP group in the European Parliament today, Wednesday. This was announced by Fidesz this morning. The withdrawal had already been announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a letter to EPP Group leader Manfred Weber.

In it, Orban had threatened the parliamentary group, which wants to suspend the Fidesz deputies. If it came to the vote and adoption of new rules of procedure of the group, which makes the suspension or the exclusion of whole groups possible, the Fidesz MEPs would leave the club of the European People's Party of their own accord, Orban had announced.

Business • Health Care
New Covid-19 mutation in California worries researchers
New Covid-19 mutation in California worries researchers
Credit: Ashley Winkler for Pendect

A corona mutation is circulating in California and other U.S. states that could be more contagious and dangerous. The data situation is still unclear, but some things seem worrying.

Now another mutation has emerged in California, it has already spread to other U.S. states and has also been detected in countries such as Australia, Denmark and Mexico. It was first discovered in December, reports the journal Science. Investigations suggest that this variant of Sars-CoV-2 could not only be more contagious but probably also takes more violent courses. According to this, intensive medical care and deaths occur more frequently - however, the data situation here is still very thin.

The researchers call the variants B.1.427 and B.1.429 - it occurs with slightly different mutations. Under a different naming scheme, it is also known as 20C/L452R.

B.1.427 / B.1.429 carries several mutations, but three seem to be particularly relevant. They affect the spike protein that the virus uses to dock with human cells. Mutation L452R, in particular, appears to increase infectivity. It apparently stabilizes the interaction between the spike protein and the receptor used by the virus. None of the three spike mutations are found in the virus variants from Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Business • Health Care
BioNtech-Pfizer vaccine stops 89.4 percent of virus transmission
BioNtech-Pfizer vaccine stops 89.4 percent of virus transmission
Credit: Ashles Winkler for Pendect, Logos Pifzer & BioNTech

According to an initial study, the vaccine from BioNtech and its US partner Pfizer apparently largely prevents the transmission of the coronavirus. This is the result of a large observational study conducted jointly with the Israeli Ministry of Health. The study found that the vaccine was 89.4 percent effective in preventing Sars-CoV-2 infections.

The study is based on data from 1.1775 million vaccinated Israelis. Vaccinated people are thus not only protected from disease but also appear to have a high probability of no longer infecting other people.

According to the data, the vaccine also has an efficancy of nearly 96 percent after two doses of vaccination. According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, two weeks after the second dose of vaccine, 95.8 percent fewer infections were found in vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people. One week after the second dose, efficacy is 91.9 percent, according to the report.

Science • Space
Researchers: Cyanobacteria could thrive under Martian conditions
Researchers: Cyanobacteria could thrive under Martian conditions
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA02653 file (Public Domain)

Cyanobacteria could thrive excellently even under the inhospitable conditions on Mars, produce oxygen and thus enable astronauts to survive self-sufficiently in the future. This is the conclusion reached by Humboldt Fellow Cyprien Verseux from the Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen. He and his team now present some of their findings in the scientific journal "Frontiers in Microbiology".

Cyanobacteria are known primarily as blue-green algae, which can proliferate in lakes in summer, the scientists explain. On Mars, their full potential comes into play, as they produce oxygen through photosynthesis. This ability is found in almost all plants, but cyanobacteria can also grow on the basis of the nutrients that are present on Mars

Science • Space
Nasa rover "Perseverance" to land on Mars - First helicopter flight on another planet
This illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover casting off its spacecraft’s cruise stage
This illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover casting off its spacecraft’s cruise stage Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

More than a century after the first motorized flight on Earth, such a maneuver is soon to take place on another planet for the first time. As part of the "Mars 2020" mission, the U.S. space agency Nasa plans to bring its Mars rover "Perseverance" together with the ultra-light helicopter "Ingenuity" to the Red Planet on Thursday (Feb. 18). There, "Ingenuity" is to fly through the Martian atmosphere. This is a particular challenge because the Martian atmosphere is only one percent as dense as the Earth's atmosphere.

"Ingenuity" is actually more like a drone. Nasa engineers had to make the mini-helicopter as light as possible so that it could take off in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere. It weighs just 1.8 kilograms and consists of four feet, a missile, and two propellers. The propellers rotate 2400 times per minute, about five times faster than a normal helicopter.

"Ingenuity" is expected to complete up to five flights over the surface of Mars. The aircraft can ascend up to five meters and fly up to 300 meters. However, the first test will cover a much shorter distance. Each flight can last up to one and a half minutes.

Since it takes about 20 minutes to transmit data from Mars to Earth, "Ingenuity" is not remotely controlled, but flies independently. Nasa issues only basic commands after which "Ingenuity" orients itself with a series of sensors. The results of the flights will not be available until some time later.

Business • Health Care
EU orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from Moderna
EU orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from Moderna
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The EU has secured 300 million additional doses of Corona vaccine from the manufacturer Moderna. A second supply contract to this effect has been approved with the US company, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. According to the company, an initial 150 million of these doses would be delivered in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. There is also an option for a further 150 million cans for 2022.

Last year, the EU Commission initially ordered 160 million vaccine doses from Moderna.

Business • Economy
Amazon quarterly figures significantly higher than previously
Amazon quarterly figures significantly higher than previously
Credit: unsplash.com / Christian Wiediger

Amazon's quarterly figures have just been published. Here are the most important key figures:

Revenue is $125.56 billion (year-ago quarter $87.4/expected $119.7).

Earnings per share are $14.09 (prior-year quarter $6.47/expected $7.23).

For the current ongoing quarter, revenue is now expected to be $100-106 billion.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) delivered $12.74 billion in revenue (prior year $10/expected 12.8 today).

The stock is trading at -0.4 percent in after-hours trading.