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Weekly Round-Up


1. UK’s Oxford University and AstraZeneca produce trial Coronavirus vaccine that creates an immune response in patients.

According to a study published in the Lancet, a major medical journal, on Monday, a trial vaccine created by the University of Oxford in partnership with British pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, is safe and creates a strong immune response for a period of two months. The trial was conducted on over a thousand people and patients who received a second dose appeared to develop a stronger immunity. AstraZeneca has agreed an advance purchase deal with the United Kingdom for 100 million initial doses. Governments around the world are pouring vast sums of money into this vaccine, which is yet to be approved for mass use, in the hope that this will be the key to defeating Coronavirus, saving lives and getting the world back to normal.

2. Drones are being used in South Africa to improve water security.

Unmanned Aerial Systems are being used in the semi-arid region of the Karoo in South Africa, to combat the spread of foreign tree species which sap already sparse water resources. Wattle and Pine trees are an invasive species not native to the country’s Western Cape which is hungry for water, causing feeder streams and rivers in the area to see a significant reduction in water levels, dwindling scarce supplies of clean water and heavily impacting the community and farmers. Kammanassie and Olifants river systems, as well as the river systems supplying towns such as Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp have either run dry completely or are drastically underperforming.

In response Drone technology has been deployed to identify clusters of the invasive species and prevent their spread with targeted herbicides. Given the cost of labour and herbicides, it is normally too expensive to do this using manpower. However, unmanned aerial systems allow this to be carried out at a fraction of the cost and time. One local farmer described this technology as a “saving grace”. Hopefully, as populations of the unwanted plants reduce, water will become less scarce in the region, giving people enough to drink and promote agriculture.

3. Pakistan ranked as the Most Improved nation in protecting Nuclear Materials.

The Nuclear Security Index, published annually by the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative has ranked Pakistan as the Most Improved country after it adopted “new on-site physical protection and cyber security regulations and improving insider threat protection measures”. The majority of Pakistan's improvements were in the Security and Control Measures category, which increased by 25 points, on account of the passage of new regulations.

There was further improvement in the Global Norms category, in which the ranking improved by one point.

The security of nuclear sites is of paramount concern. The threat to them from organised crime and terror networks cannot be underestimated. Pakistan's rise up the rankings, the second greatest improvement seen by any state since the rankings began in 2012, should be widely praised.

4. Flooding in India’s Assam region has grown worse killing scores of people and threatening wildlife and ecosystems.

Floods and intense rain in India’s Assam region have killed at least 84 people and displaced 2.75 million. Last week, we recounted the drastic effects this has had on the region’s human population who are also battling the Coronavirus. This week the catastrophic effects on India’s unique wildlife has become clear, as the bodies of nine rare Rhinos have been retrieved from the affected areas. The floods have inundated the Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest population of Rhinos as well as other vulnerable species. Over 100 other rare and endangered animals have died. Sadly, waters in the region are expected to rise further likely causing more human and environmental tragedy.

5. Malaysia ends maritime curfew in Eastern Sabah Security Zone.

On the 19th July Malaysia ended an extended maritime travel curfew in seven districts in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone). The curfew had been in place to help track and prevent violent acts of terror by the Philippine-originated Islamist jihadi group 'Abu Sayyaf'. Although the threat posed by Abu Sayyaf has not abated, combined efforts by regional powers including Malaysia has helped see a reduction in kidnappings, which had become a major source of revenue and publicity for the terror outfit. On a broader level the trans-border nature of Abu Sayyaf, further highlights the need for international collaboration in defeating insurgent ideologies and activities.


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