The World Heritage Committee, convened under the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the country has not done enough to protect the world’s largest coral reef system from the impacts of climate change.
Climate change and coral bleaching
Despite commitments and progress under a long-term sustainability plan known as Reef 2050, the Great Barrier Reef continues to deteriorate, according to the report, and has suffered significant coral bleaching over the past five years.
“It can be concluded that, despite many positive achievements by the State Party, progress has been insufficient in meeting key targets of the Reef 2050 Plan,” the draft report said.
The UN committee consists of representatives from 21 countries and its next meeting will be held virtually from China in July.
“The Plan requires stronger and clearer commitments, in particular towards urgently countering the effects of climate change, but also towards accelerating water quality improvement and land management measures,” the report continued.
“The widespread effects of the consecutive coral bleaching events further add to the significant concerns regarding the future of the property.”
Australia will challenge the proposed recommendation, according to a statement published on Tuesday on the website of the country’s Environment Minister, Sussan Ley.
It said authorities “have been stunned by a back flip on previous assurances from UN officials that the Reef would not face such a recommendation prior to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting hosted by China in July, and are concerned about a deviation from normal process in assessing World Heritage Property Conservation status.”
Ms. Ley said that the draft decision had been made on the basis of a desk top review and without adequate consultation.
“The Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef in the world and this draft recommendation has been made without examining the Reef first hand, and without the latest information,” she said. UN
Angela Merkel has said travellers from the UK should be quarantined wherever they arrive in the EU, as the union’s agency for disease control forecast that the Delta variant of Covid will account for 90% of cases in member states by the end of August.
Ahead of Thursday’s summit with fellow EU leaders, the German chancellor said she wanted better coordination to fight the spread of the highly transmissible variant that has surfaced strongly in the UK and is now bedding down in the bloc.
“In our country, if you come from Great Britain, you have to go into quarantine – and that’s not the case in every European country, and that’s what I would like to see,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Merkel has criticised Portugal in recent days, where the entry of British tourists is permitted without quarantine. The French government also allows double vaccinated travellers from the UK to enter the country without going into isolation.
Merkel’s call for a uniform policy on UK travellers came as Dr Andrea Ammon, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said the Delta variant was likely to spread widely among young people this summer, and warned people with a single jab that they were at risk.
In a sombre statement at a time when many EU countries are looking to relax restrictions and facilitate travel through a Covid passport, Ammon said there remained too many people in the more vulnerable age groups in the union who were not fully vaccinated.
The ECDC’s modelling suggests that without maintenance of the current Covid restrictions and a sharp acceleration in vaccination, there is likely to be a wave of infection, deaths and hospitalisation similar to that experienced last autumn.
Ammon called on younger people who may not have received their full complement of jabs to strictly keep to social distancing regulations. She added that the EU’s public health authorities should accelerate their vaccination efforts to save lives as the ECDC published its risk assessment of the Delta variant.
The ECDC’s latest published data suggests that 33.9% of adults in the EU/EEA are fully vaccinated, and 57.1% have had at least a single dose.
“The Delta variant is more transmissible than other circulating variants and we estimate that by the end of August it will represent 90% of all Sars-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the European Union,” Ammon said. “Unfortunately, preliminary data shows that it can also infect individuals that have received only one dose of the currently available vaccines.
“It is very likely that the Delta variant will circulate extensively during the summer, particularly among younger individuals that are not targeted for vaccination. This could cause a risk for the more vulnerable individuals to be infected and experience severe illness and death if they are not fully vaccinated.”
Ammon, a former adviser to the German government, said the positive news was that two doses of all the available vaccines in Europe provided “high protection against this variant and its consequences. However, about 30% of individuals older than 80 years and about 40% of individuals older than 60 years have not yet received a full vaccination course in the European Union.”
The Delta variant, which has slowed down the UK’s reopening, is believed to be 40% to 60% more transmissible than the original virus and is thought to be associated with higher risk of hospitalisation.
The ECDC’s modelling suggests 70% of new Covid infections will be due to this variant in European economic area by early August and 90% of infections by the end of that month.
The EU agency has further modelled that a 50% reduction in non-pharmaceutical interventions by September, such as permitting the staging of large events, will lead to an increase of infection across all age groups.
Ammon said the variant put the cumulative efforts to control the pandemic at risk and required “immediate actions” from national authorities.
She said: “There are still too many individuals at risk of severe Covid-19 infection whom we need to protect as soon as possible. Until most of the vulnerable individuals are protected, we need to keep the circulation of the Delta virus low by strictly adhering to public health measures, which worked for controlling the impact of other variants.
“It is very important to progress with the vaccine rollout at a very high pace. At this stage it becomes crucial that the second vaccination dose is administered within the minimum authorised interval from the first dose, to speed up the rate at which vulnerable individuals become protected.”
Ammon added: “I am aware that it requires a significant effort from public health authorities and the society at large to achieve this goal. “But now is the time to walk the extra mile. We have several safe and effective vaccines available and every single infection prevented now through our compliance with public health measures, is a life that can be saved by vaccination.” By Daniel Boffey in Brussels, Guardian/Yahoo News
The European Union has started the process to lift sanctions on Burundi, local media reported Tuesday.
The EU imposed sanctions on Burundi in 2015 at the height of a political crisis in the East African country following late President Pierre Nkurunziza's extension of tenure, which triggered protests.
At the end of May this year, the EU working groups unanimously directed the EU judicial institutions to revoke the suspension of financial aid to the Burundian government, EU Ambassador to Burundi Claude Bochu told local press.
This came after his meeting with Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye.
Bochu said the decision was reached after seeing positive progress under the new administration headed by Ndayishimiye in terms of promoting governance, rule of law and human rights.
Noting that the EU expects more positive results, Bochu said that the EU together with other partners such as the African Development Bank would finance the rehabilitation of the Port of Bujumbura and its surrounding areas before the end of this year, and contribute funds to the farming sector.
The East African Community (EAC) bloc had recently appealed to the EU to lift sanctions on Burundi, saying the country is ready to move forward.
EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki said the sanctions were hurting Burundians as well as the people of the entire East African region.
The EAC bloc brings together Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. - James Tasamba, Anadolu Agency
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