Meanwhile, in the United States, a medical professor who is opposed to mask and vaccine mandates and attacked concern over the pandemic as “Covid mania” has been named as Florida’s new surgeon general.
Dr Joseph Ladapo, who likened the eating of fruit and vegetables to the benefits of vaccination, has been appointed to the role by Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor.
Mr DeSantis himself has railed against restrictions placed upon day-to-day life to dampen the Covid pandemic and has sought to block funding for schools in the state that have attempted to make students wear masks to stop the spread of the virus that has killed more than 675,000 people in the US since the pandemic began.
Ladapo is a Harvard-trained doctor who was until recently a researcher at UCLA. His new position for the state government will come alongside a new position he has accepted at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
At a press conference on Tuesday to mark his appointment, Lapado said he would “reject fear” in his dealing with the pandemic. He added:
Florida will completely reject fear. Fear is done.
The number of cycling trips made by women in England rose by more than 50% in 2020, official statistics have shown, as the quieter roads of lockdown seemingly helped to tempt a demographic known to be more wary of traffic danger on to their bikes.
While for men there was a 12% overall rise in the average number of cycle “stages” – rides that formed part of a greater journey – made by each person in 2020 compared with the year before, for women the increase was 56%, Department for Transport (DfT) statistics show.
Overall, men still cycled more on average over the year, as has long been the case. However, while in 2019 men cycled almost three times as many stages as women, in 2020 this fell to twice as many.
A DfT report introducing the figures notes that studies have shown women are consistently more likely than men to believe that roads are too dangerous to cycle on, and that amid the lockdown of 2020, motor vehicle traffic was 21% lower across England compared with the year before.
In Australia, police in Melbourne have again fired non-lethal rounds and teargas at anti-Covid lockdown protesters to end an almost three-hour standoff at the city’s war memorial during a third straight day of demonstrations.
More than 200 people were arrested. Two officers were injured by bottles thrown at them and one was hospitalised with chest pains, Victoria police said. Earlier, up to 400 protesters had camped on the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance, lighting flares and throwing bottles, batteries, tap handles and golf balls at police.
The protests that have seized Australia’s second-largest city for days had their genesis with members of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), who were resisting a government mandate for compulsory coronavirus vaccinations for workers on building sites.
But the initial rally appears to have since been hijacked by far-right extremists, allegedly including neo-Nazis and anti-vaccination groups, who have organised via Telegram, Facebook and WhatsApp. Comments circulating on social media channels, seen by the Guardian, are explicitly racist, antisemitic, and include conspiracy theorist tropes.
Amnesty International has accused six pharmaceutical companies that have developed Covid vaccines of fuelling a global human rights crisis, citing their refusal to sufficiently waive intellectual property rights, share vaccine technology and boost global vaccine supply.
After assessing the performance of six Covid vaccine developers – Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax – Amnesty International claims that all are failing to uphold their own human rights commitments and warns they should not be putting profit before the lives of people in the world’s poorest countries.
Less than 1% of the almost 6bn doses of Covid vaccine administered worldwide have gone to low-income countries, with almost 80% delivered to wealthy countries. Despite calls to ensure a fair global vaccine supply, some companies have continued to disproportionally distribute vaccines to wealthy countries, according to Amnesty’s report, published today.
Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, said:
Big pharma’s intentional blocking of knowledge transfer and their wheeling and dealing in favour of wealthy states has brewed an utterly devastating vaccine scarcity for so many others.