U.S. President Joseph Biden on Tuesday issued a new proclamation revoking the Omicron travel ban he endorsed in a previous proclamation on November 26.
Tuesday the President will lift the ban this week on travel from South Africa and other countries in the region, imposed due to fear of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
“The travel restrictions… are no longer necessary to protect the public health” and will end on Friday, Biden said in the proclamation.
The White House had already said it would end the restrictions but Biden’s proclamation makes the decision effective at 12:01 am in Washington on Friday (0501 GMT).
Biden said that he was lifting the bans on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that US researchers, “in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, having made substantial progress in understanding the Omicron variant.”
While the Covid strain has now spread to more than 100 countries including the United States, the threat level is considered lower than initially feared because “scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are protected against severe disease,” Biden said.
Countries around the world blocked travel from southern Africa after the variant was detected in South Africa, which reported Omicron to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24.
WHO and the United Nations spoke out against the travel bans, while officials in South Africa said they were being punished for identifying the strain and being transparent.
The ban had applied to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
COP15: How Countries reach agreement to protect land, water resources
By Obabueki Victor Nosakhare
Participant countries at the United Nations Biodiversity conference, COP15, in Montreal, Canada have adopted a new Global Biodiversity Framework, guiding actions worldwide through 2030, to preserve and protect our natural resources.
190 countries at the United Nations Biodiversity conference, COP15, reached an agreement to protect 30 per cent of the world’s lands and oceans amidst ongoing efforts to protect and reverse declining biodiversity.
The Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment, Huang Runqiu, who is leading the COP15 meeting disclosed this on Monday.
His announcement came shortly after a representative of the delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo objected to the text, causing some African nations to protest at the manner in which the outcome was proclaimed.
The passing of the deal comes a day before the end of COP15 in Montreal, Canada, and over a decade ago after parties failed significantly to fulfil COP10’s ambitious targets agreed upon in 2010.
During COP10, governments agreed to strive for ambitious targets by 2020, including halving natural habitat loss, and implementing plans for sustainable consumption and production. But none of these targets were fully met, according to a 2020 UN report.
This year, the UN Biodiversity Conference, billed for 7-19 December, is where negotiators will set new targets and goals aimed at arresting the destruction of nature, due to human activity.
COP15 is expected to lead to the adoption of a new Global Biodiversity Framework, guiding actions worldwide through 2030, to preserve and protect our natural resources.
Heralded as a sweeping deal to protect biodiversity loss, the most significant part of the agreement is the commitment to protect 30 per cent of land and water considered important for biodiversity before the end of the decade.
Meanwhile, scientists have posited that only 17 per cent of terrestrial and 10 per cent aquatic areas (marine) are protected currently.
The agreement envisages putting $200 billion toward supporting biodiversity by 2030, with another $500 billion to be possibly raised by phasing out or reforming subsidies, such as those for food or fuel.
The COP15 deal also calls for giving low-income countries far more than is currently provided for their efforts to protect nature. This amount is envisaged to reach at least $20 billion annually by 2025 and might subsequently increase to $30 billion by 2030.
Negotiators also agreed to manage the remaining 70 per cent of the planet to prevent losing areas of high importance to biodiversity and to ensure that big businesses disclose biodiversity risks and impacts from their operations.
Commenting on the deal, Brian O’Donnell, Campaign for Nature Director, a coalition of conservation groups, described the agreement as “ a huge moment for nature” .
“This is a scale of conservation that we haven’t seen ever attempted before,” the director was quoted to have said.
Similarly, Joseph Onoja, a biologist who directs the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, noted that the former colonial powers had grown rich by exploiting natural resources all over the world.
“They came around and plundered our resources to develop themselves,” he said.
He added that developing countries are trying to use natural resources for their own growth, they’re being told they must preserve them in the name of global conservation.
Mr Onoja said he believes in protecting nature but wants industrialised countries to be held accountable for past actions.
Highlighting key benefits of 2022 U.S.-Africa Summit
By Obabueki Victor Nosakhare
The 2022 U.S.- Africa Summit has come and gone but the key benefits for the African continent will continue to speak for years to come.
The three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit which held between December 13-15 had President Biden inviting 49 African heads of state and the head of the African Union to Washington, D.C.
The most important goal of the historic summit was to build and expand vital political, economic, and strategic partnerships, as well as people-to-people dialogue, based on mutual interests and shared priorities in Africa.
The summit’s agenda included increasing sustainable food production, strengthening health systems, providing humanitarian assistance, responding to the climate crisis, reinforcing democracy and human rights, boosting U.S.-African trade, advancing peace and security, and even enhancing space research and cooperation.
President Biden believed that U.S. collaboration with African leaders, as well as civil society, business, diaspora, women, and youth leaders, is essential to addressing these shared challenges.
According to U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard, the summit presented opportunities to deepen U.S.-Nigeria bilateral ties on multiple levels.
In the build up to the summit, Leonard said: “We look forward not only to the Nigerian government’s robust participation in the summit, but also to hearing the views of all stakeholders in Nigeria’s promising future, including independent voices from the private sector, civil society, young people, women, and all those who are working to build a strong and inclusive democracy.”
Among other benefits, the summit was also an opportunity for the United States and the American people to reiterate their profound and enduring interest in engaging with Africa as a whole.
As Secretary of State Blinken noted during his trips to Nigeria last year and to other countries in the region earlier last year, Africa’s demographic growth and economic potential will shape not just the future of its people, it will also shape the world.
The African continent will hope to recant the testimonies of the benefits of resolutions and agreements reached in this unique summit when these leaders gather together in 2023.
Ukraine liberates 40% of territory occupied by Russia since Feb 2022: official
By Obabueki Victor Nosakhare
Ukrainian forces have liberated 40% of the territory Russian gained after it invaded its southern neighbor more than 10 months ago, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi confirmed Monday.
Of the five regions where Russian forces remain, including Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea, roughly 28% has been freed from occupation.
Zaluzhnyi described 2022 as, “A year that forever changed us, our present and future. A year that went down in world history.”
Emergency service workers extinguish a fire after shelling on the Bakhmut frontline in Ivanivske, Ukraine as Russia-Ukraine war continues on Jan. 2, 2023.
The official said the active front line that continues to divide Ukraine’s eastern regions is roughly 930 miles long with heavy fighting taking place particularly in Donetsk.
Areas like Bakhmut have seen heavy ground fighting for months with trench warfare and a constant barrage of shelling from both sides.
In a rare admission of wartime losses, Russia said on Monday that some 63 Russian servicemen were killed after Ukraine hit its military barracks in the settlement of Makiyivka, roughly 50 miles south of Bakhmut and located in the Donbas region which has seen fighting by Russian-backed groups since 2014,
Some reports have suggested the death toll from the attack that occurred around midnight at the start of the New Year could be significantly higher.
Soldiers of the 59th brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces fire grad missiles on Russian positions in Russia-occupied Donbas region on Dec. 30, 2022, in Donetsk, Ukraine.
“Every day, the Armed Forces fight not only for Ukraine but also for like-minded Europe, for preserving peace, security, and freedom in the whole world. And we will definitely win,” Zaluzhnyi said according to a translation by the Kyiv Independent.
The U.K. defense ministry assessed on Tuesday that Russia had increased the presence of its Wagner mercenary group in Donetsk around Bakhmut in December as fighting escalated, but noted its “operations were poorly supported.”
The ministry said that in response to the escalation Ukraine over the past 10 days committed “significant reinforcements to defend the sector,” and Russian assaults have likely been reduced since mid-December when they peaked.
Shells are prepared for the day as Ukrainian tanks from the second company of the tank battalion are positioned on the frontline on Dec. 25, 2022, in Donetsk, Ukraine.
However, the ministry also noted that “both sides have suffered high casualties.”
“Russian offensive operations in the area are now likely being conducted at only platoon or section level,” the assessment continued. “It is unlikely Russia will achieve a significant breakthrough near Bakhmut in the coming weeks.”
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