BAKU, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Azerbaijan's senior health officials on Monday took their first inoculations of a vaccine made by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, marking the beginning of mass vaccination against COVID-19 in the country, according to state-run news agency AZERTAC.
Current COVID restrictions will be maintained till February 1. It was decided by the Inter-Agency Coordination Council led by Giorgi Gakharia, Prime Minister of Georgia at the Government Administration today.
As instructed by the Head of Government of Georgia, intensive meetings will be held with business owners prior to the gradual removal of restrictions to make sure that maximum preparedness and high standards of public safety exist by that time in the trade sector and public transportation.
Inter-Agency Coordination Council also discussed the
Discussions were held at the Council Meeting on the current epidemic situation in the country, along with current efforts taken for the uninterrupted flow of the vaccination process. It was noted that the community transfer rate is stabilising as a result of imposed restrictions, though it should not relax us. Compliance with all the issued recommendations, including the social distancing and uniform wearing of face masks, remains vital.
Steps made by the Specialized Task Force established with the instructions of the Prime Minister of Georgia for the uninterrupted flow of COVID vaccination process in the country have been discussed at the meeting today as well. It was noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and overseas diplomatic missions of Georgia are engaged in the negotiations held on behalf of the State with international partners and pharmaceutical companies to make sure that first dozes of the COVID vaccine reach the country as early as possible.
The Inter-Agency Coordination Council also discussed the steps made by the Designated Commission established under the instructions of the Prime Minister of Georgia. Council was also briefed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on the actions taken by the overseas diplomatic missions of Georgia towards this end. It was noted that negotiations are actively pursued concurrently with several pharmaceutical companies to make sure that vials reach the country as soon as possible. Nevertheless, international recognition of the vaccine is the most important precondition of the procurement. It should be cleared by the World Health Organization and should have an international acknowledgement. Also, it was noted that essential infrastructure already exists in the country for keeping vials in the required conditions and work progresses to build capacity towards this end. Besides, a specialised commission is actively working on the schedule of immunization, which defines the due target groups and stages of vaccination in the country.
Since the detection of the first case of COVID-19 in Georgia, 239 780 individuals have been proven positive through lab testing, out of which 226 215 individuals recovered and 2 796 died.
Currently 506 individuals are placed in quarantine, 722 - at clinical hotels and 3 929 - at hospitals under medical supervision.
The Inter-Agency Coordination Council led by the Prime Minister of Georgia actively engages the Parliament of Georgia chaired by MP Archil Talakvadze and Administration of the President of Georgia.
Press Service of the Government Administration
EIB and ProCredit to support faster recovery of Georgia`s SMEs from the COVID-19 crisis with €10 million
The European Investment Bank /EIB/ will provide €10 million to the ProCredit Group to offer a new credit line for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and midcaps.
The EU bank and ProCredit create a €10 million credit line for the recovery of SMEs and midcaps from the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia.
EIB and ProCredit Group agree on similar credit lines in Ukraine (€25 million) and Moldova (€20 million), bringing the total support to companies to €55 million.
The operation is part of the Team Europe’s COVID-19 emergency response to help sustain jobs, maintain liquidity and operations, and fuel the economic recovery of the EU partner countries.
The European Investment Bank, the lending arm of the European Union, will provide €10 million to the ProCredit Group to offer a new credit line for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and midcaps in Georgia and support their faster recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit line can be made available in multiple currencies, including in the local currency.
The investment is a part of a €55 million regional agreement with the ProCredit, which allows creation of similar credit lines at ProCredit Group in Ukraine (€25 million) and Moldova (€20 million), all in support of faster economic COVID-19 recovery of the EU partner countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood.
This transaction provides much-needed financing to companies in Georgia to address working capital issues created by the ongoing pandemic. The EIB loan also strengthens the national banking sector in Georgia and reinforces its ability to finance the economic recovery of the country.
EIB Vice-President Teresa Czerwińska, who is in charge of operations in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, said: “Team Europe continues to support economic recovery of EU partner countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood from COVID-19, reinforcing pan-European solidarity in these difficult times. We have thus created new sources of financing at a moment when such aid is crucial for the survival of our SMEs. We look forward to expanding our partnership in the future, so as to allow even more companies benefit from our shared dedication to support SMEs and midcaps grow and develop.
EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell said: The EU stands by Georgia during the pandemic. The EU has mobilised an unprecedented GEL 1.5 billion COVID-19 support package for Georgia, of which economic recovery of businesses is a fundamental part. This top-up by the EU bank strengthens this component by providing more assistance via local Georgian banks. Thanks to this agreement, an additional number of Georgian small and medium businesses will be able to access finance to get them through these challenging times.
The management of ProCredit Holding AG & Co. KGaA, the parent company of the ProCredit group, said:
“Thanks to the well-established relationships with our clients and partners such as the EIB, we have been able to provide efficient support to numerous SMEs during these turbulent months. These EIB credit lines will support SMEs in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to overcome short-term liquidity shortages and will provide much-needed support in local currencies for their investment projects. We expect that this will open them up to new lines of business and opportunities and thus will support economic recovery in the coming years. We are confident that this will be stimulated by a structural shift towards investments that are climate-friendly as well as socially and ecologically sustainable.”
Team Europe: Strengthening pan-European solidarity in times of crisis
The EIB investment is a part of Team Europe’s overall response to COVID-19 and supports the sustainable social and economic recovery of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood. The operation reinforces both SMEs and mid-caps, which are the backbone of national economies and a major source of employment in three countries.
Covered by guarantees from the European Union, the EIB investment enables the ProCredit Group to increase its lending activities without jeopardising the long-term stability of the local financial sectors or their ability to support the economic recovery from the pandemic in the long term.
The credit lines will be even more attractive due to the more flexible terms enabled by the EIB’s COVID-19 emergency measures. These emergency measures are a part of Team Europe’s efforts to support partner countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood during the pandemic.
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EU launches nine new projects with EUR 7 million budget to support vocational education and labour market development in Georgia
Projects funded under the EU’s ongoing Skills4Jobs programme will assist thousands of Georgians in finding jobs by enhancing high quality vocational education, improving lifelong learning opportunities and supporting entrepreneurship.
At a special event held online under the auspices of Skills Week Georgia, the nine grant projects, funded by the EU’s second phase of the Skills4Jobs programme in Georgia, were introduced. These grants have been allocated to private and public sector and civil society organisations to further enhance employment opportunities, particularly in the regions.
The nine projects, with a total EU contribution of EUR 7 million (approx. GEL 27 million), will focus on ensuring that relevant skills matching services and education opportunities in vocational education, training and entrepreneurship are available throughout Georgia, particularly for youth, women and vulnerable populations. The Skills4Jobs overall programme has three main targets:
- Relevant skills-matching services are accessible in selected regions of Georgia;
- Relevant lifelong learning skills provision are accessible in selected regions with a focus on youth;
- Entrepreneurial learning and training opportunities are accessible in selected regions.
“We are happy to launch the new grant projects as part of the second phase of the EU’s Skills4Jobs 5-year programme in Georgia. In the context of COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to support Georgia in its efforts to improve professional skills, enhance entrepreneurship and adapt the labour and employment strategies to the current needs. With the start of these new projects we contribute directly to the improvement of employability of women, men, youth and vulnerable people in Tbilisi and regions of Georgia.”, stated Catalin Gherman, Deputy Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Georgia.
“At this time when coronavirus is testing Georgia’s VET system to its limits, and while we are striving to introduce new and innovative approaches in VET governance and practices and increase the attractiveness of vocational education and qualifications, we are being strongly supported as always by the EU, our longest-standing partner in VET. Europe is a source of inspiration and best practice examples in VET, and the EU’s financial and technical support has been invaluable in helping us to modernize our system in line with international standards”, stated Tamar Kitiashvili, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Georgia.
The Skills Week Georgia, an online four-day conference, organized by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Georgia with the support of the EU’s Skills4Jobs Technical Assistance Project, offers a platform to discuss new challenges and solutions for vocational education in the current reality. The conference was opened by Mikheil Chkhenkeli – Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Sigrid Brettel – Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, His Excellency Hubert Knirsch – Ambassador of Germany and Ekaterine Mikabadze – Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development.
Phase 2 of the EU’s Skills4Jobsprogramme was launched in 2018 to improve the employability of women, men, young people and vulnerable people in Tbilisi and regions of Georgia. The programme is implemented through a range of different measures. The total budget of the programme is EUR 48,85 million (approx. GEL 190 million) and includes:
- a EUR 30 million budget support to the Government of Georgia for implementing sector reform,
- two Twinning projects which bring the EU Member States’ civil servants to Georgia to help introduce reforms,
- grant scheme component for EUR 7 million, and
- technical assistance to support the relevant ministries. This component is assisting the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, the Youth Agency and other public agencies in updating and improving their sector reform policies.
Amid the corona crisis, which causes about 500,000 confirmed cases and 8,000 deaths a day worldwide, a Korean-based religious organization called Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (hereinafter referred to as Shincheonji Church) hosted an online prayer meeting, “3rd Global Prayer Service of Religious People” on November 15th.
Broadcast live on the official YouTube channel of Shincheonji Church, the prayer meeting was organized to pray for not only the patients and their families in sufferings but also the government, medical staff, and volunteers fighting to overcome COVID-19. Along with 200,000 domestic and foreign members of Shincheonji Church, about 56,000 people around the world wishing to defeat this pandemic joined the prayer meeting at the same time.
Religious leaders from all over the world added their aspirations for the end of COVID-19 in the online prayer meeting. Their words carried the weight and sincerity as they have continued to work with Chairman Man Hee Lee, a representative of an international peace NGO called HWPL
Chairman Lee, as a war veteran, has practiced peace activities based on the love for humanity toward many victims of war and the words of Jesus, “glory in heaven and peace on earth,” as a believer. He suggested an online prayer meeting because “as the world is suffering from COVID-19, religious people around the world need to pray together to end this disaster."
“Too many people are suffering from COVID-19. In particular, many were infected within our church last February. Both the church members and citizens suffered a lot. We must actively step forward and pray to God for the extinction of COVID-19 in the globe and for the nation and the people,” he said.
352 religious leaders from Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, and Hinduism, representing 73 countries participated in the prayer meeting with one heart transcending religions and denominations. They shared the need of overcoming the crisis by taking the lead in resolving a disaster as religious leaders.
Dr. Anak Agung Diatmika, Secretary for International Relationship of PHDI Jakarta, said, “Genuinely from the inner of our heart consider as WE ARE ONE. We should continue our prayer till the end of the COVID-19 pandemic from the earth and continue our synergy among world religious leaders to keep the world peace, harmony, justice, and prosperity. I am so happy I can join this that truly brings world peace and harmony.”
Following this prayer meeting, about 4,000 recovered patients from COVID-19 who are also Shincheonji Church members will donate blood plasma to develop convalescent plasma treatments. Shincheonji Church has already conducted two large-scale plasma donation of 1,700 church members last July and September, and among them, 312 recovered patients donated twice.
Regarding the large-scale blood plasma donation, Rt. Hon. Hrant Bagratyan, Former Prime Minister of Armenia, sent his congratulatory message, “the action of those who decided to donate plasma at the request of the government deserves praise. If a vaccine is developed through plasma donation, it would be helpful worldwide."
A Shincheonji Church official said, “We have been conducting online service since February 18th, and praying at each worship service for the end of COVID-19, the safety of the quarantine authorities and medical staff, and the recovery of the patients. We will do everything we can with a responsible attitude until the end of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Press-release of HWPL
The Republic of Turkey provided significant medical equipment and medicines to Georgia, including respirators, PCR diagnostic kits and personal protective equipment in order to support the country in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The donation of the Republic of Turkey is aimed at assisting the population of Georgia during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular those who are affected by the Russia-Georgia conflict. This is especially important against the background, when the humanitarian situation in Georgia’s occupied territories has been further deteriorated amid the pandemic. Consequently, a large part of the humanitarian aid will be directed for addressing the needs of the people affected by the existing conflict between Russia and Georgia.
The Agreement between the Governments of Georgia and the Republic of Turkey on Donation in the Field of Healthcare was signed by the Deputy Minister of Health of Turkey Emine Alp Meşe and the Ambassador of Georgia to Turkey Giorgi Janjgava.
Руководство Меджлиса Туркменистана приняло участие в двухдневной пятой Всемирной конференции спикеров парламентов, организованной в онлайн-формате Межпарламентским союзом, в партнёрстве с парламентом Австрии и Организацией Объединённых Наций.
Укрепление межпарламентского взаимодействия, призванного вносить свой вклад в решение актуальных задач современности, выступает важной составляющей политико-дипломатической деятельности Туркменистана на мировой арене.
В состав созданного более 130 лет назад Межпарламентского союза (МПС), штаб-квартира которого находится в Женеве (Швейцария), сегодня входят около 180 национальных парламентов и 13 региональных парламентских структур. Кроме того, ряд международных парламентских организаций имеют статус ассоциированных членов МПС.
Нынешний форум предварил основную часть пятой Всемирной конференции спикеров парламентов, которая перенесена на 2021 год из-за пандемии COVID-19 и состоится в столице Австрии – Вене. Во встрече приняли участие более двухсот парламентариев и эксперты из разных стран мира, представители авторитетных международных организаций.
С приветственным словом на церемонии открытия телеконференции к собравшимся обратился Генеральный секретарь ООН Антониу Гутерриш, который подчеркнул важность консолидации усилий парламентского сообщества для достижения Целей устойчивого развития, решения глобальных проблем в области здравоохранения, климата и экономики, принятия эффективных мер в целях смягчения социально-экономических последствий пандемии коронавирусной инфекции, с которой столкнулось человечество.
В интерактивной беседе участники форума обсудили широкий круг вопросов, решению которых придается особое значение в политике. А именно - усиление межпарламентского сотрудничества, противостояние глобальным вызовам времени и продвижение Повестки дня в области устойчивого развития на период до 2030 года.
Среди ключевых тем дискуссий – «Демократия и меняющаяся роль парламента в XXI веке», «Наука, технологии и этика: новые вызовы и неотложные решения», «Создание инклюзивной и устойчивой экономики, обеспечивающей благополучие и справедливость для всех».
Были представлены доклады, в которых освещался лучший мировой опыт по претворению в жизнь гендерного равенства, расширения прав и возможностей женщин, активизации участия молодёжи в политической и парламентской деятельности.
Особое внимание было уделено неотложным мерам, которые необходимо предпринять в связи с происходящими на планете изменениями климата, а также решению проблем, касающихся трудовой миграцией. Специальное мероприятие было посвящено борьбе с терроризмом и насильственным экстремизмом.
Концептуальные подходы нашей страны по вышеназванным аспектам международной жизни были чётко сформулированы в официальных выступлениях Президента Гурбангулы Бердымухамедова на сессиях Генеральной Ассамблеи ООН, других высоких форумах.
Широкую международную поддержку получили конструктивные инициативы туркменского лидера, нацеленные на обеспечение всеобщего мира и стабильности, выработку сбалансированных решений глобальных проблем экономического, экологического и гуманитарного характера, вызывающих озабоченность мирового сообщества, создание оптимальных условий для устойчивого развития в региональном и планетарном масштабе.
В данном контексте следует подчеркнуть особую значимость предложений Президента Туркменистана по всемерному задействованию потенциала научной дипломатии в борьбе с распространением COVID-19.
Отметим, что накануне туркменская делегация приняла участие в 13-м Саммите женщин-спикеров парламентов, посвящённом мерам реагирования на пандемию коронавируса с учётом гендерных факторов, также проведённом по видеосвязи Межпарламентским союзом под эгидой ООН.
В ходе видеофорума также констатировалась актуальность инициатив главы Туркменского государства Гурбангулы Бердымухамедова по созданию международного Совета учёных-медиков, активизации сотрудничества ученых и специалистов, обеспечению условий для регулярного обмена мнениями экспертов различных профильных сфер в решении глобальных проблем, связанных с распространением вирусов и опасных для здоровья людей микробов.
По итогам форума была принята Декларация, созвучная общей теме Конференции: «Парламентское лидерство во имя эффективного многостороннего подхода, обеспечивающего мир и устойчивое развитие народонаселению и планете».
Государственное информационное агентство Туркменистана
According to the laboratory test results taken in recent days, it has been confirmed that 11 employees from various structural units under the Ministry of Internal Affairs were infected with COVID 19 disease. Out of 11 confirmed cases – 7 have been registered at Border Management and Coordination Main Division of the Patrol Police Department, 3 in Mestia municipality, where firefighter, Security Policemen and Border Police officer tested positive for the disease, while 11th case was confirmed in Tbilisi, to Security Police inspector.
International Scholars Raise Concerns over “an Attempt to Destroy a New Religious Movement” in South KoreaMonday, 27 July 2020 11:31
On July 20, a webinar on a new religious movement in South Korea and its political, religious, and social dimensions with the recent COVID-19 crisis invited international scholars and experts in the field of religion, international law, and human rights.
Titled “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea”, the webinar addressed the recent issues of aggressive attack from politically powerful conservative and fundamentalist Protestant churches in the country on a newly-established, fast-growing Christian denomination named 'Shincheonji (New Heaven and New Earth) Church of Jesus' founded in 1984.
The new Christian movement by Shincheonji has become a target of “persecution from fundamentalist protestants” because of its successful religious expansion “from the conservative and fundamentalist protestants who see Shincheonji as competitors and want to destroy it," said Massimo Introvigne as an Italian sociologist of religion who studied Shincheonji before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and published the first account of the religious group in English.
Alessandro Amicarelli, Chairman European Federation for Freedom of Belief, pointed out that the South Korean authorities problematized Shincheonji as a cause of the COVID-19 crisis to shut down the church. “Already 30 other people were tested positive before the patient 31 (a member of Shincheonji criticized for the widespread of the virus). Many Chinese including ones from Wuhan had visited Daegu (of South Korea) and infection spread,” he said.
Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), said that the recent attack on Shincheonji can be viewed as an attempt by the fundamentalist Protestant groups in South Korea to weaken and destroy the competitor in the religious market. He added, "Human rights violations against Shincheonji members through coercive conversion program (also known as 'deprogramming') with kidnapping and confinement for the last decade have been made as a result of the failure of competition from the Protestant churches in the country."
Ciaran Burke, Associate Professor in University of Derby, said that the South Korean health authorities explicitly link Shinchoenji and outbreak of the COVID-19 until now even though a greater link between the virus and confirmation cases has been found in other churches. He also expressed concerns over “collecting personal information of 300,000 domestic and international Shincheonji members by the government which is a possible violation of international agreement, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) South Korea ratified in 1990.”
The prosecution initiated investigation of Shincheonji leaders including founder Man Hee Lee for his alleged role in the widespread of the COVID-19. Three Shincheonji officials were arrested on July 8 on a charge of playing a role in major outbreak at its early stage by “(submitting) inaccurate list of members.”
“The authorities ignored requests to change the word ‘sect’ in their official reports when referring to Shincheonji church. Local governments encouraged the residents to report Shincheonji congregation and facilities to the authorities, creating stigma that the members were to be treated as criminals,” said a Shincheonji official in the webinar.
A recent statement issued by “families of the deceased and victims of COVID-19” wrote that "the thousands of the damage and deaths of Koreans reflect the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government." It added that the Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae “allowed COVID-19 patients from China to enter Korea, leading to a widespread outbreak of the virus across the country, which resulted in the deaths of the Korean people.” It also stated that she is trying to avoid her responsibility for the damage by “giving direct orders to prosecutors for a raid and arrests against Shincheonji Church”.
A leading South Korean TV network, MBC reported that a recently conducted screening at Daegu, epicenter of COVID-19 major outbreak within South Korea added the weight to the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government. The report, citing analysis from a local university hospital, inferred that at least 180,000 of the total population of 2.4 million people in the city of Daegu were infected with the COVID-19, 27 times to the official 6,800 confirmed cases. Most of the confirmation cases, over 5,000, are members of Shincheonji Church as their personal information was collected by the government, while the remaining 180,000 potential infections have not been investigated.
Press Release of the Department of Public Relations
Heavenly Culture, World Peace, and the Restoration of Light
NGOs in the UN and Religious Leaders Demand Correction on Repression and Violation of Human Rights against ReligionWednesday, 15 July 2020 10:50
NGOs in association with the United Nations and religious communities in the globe are raising their voices on the need to correct inappropriate persecution and human rights violation against a religious group in South Korea named Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
11 NGOs including European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP-LC) submitted a report for “annual report for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” to the UN Secretary General at the 44th session in the UN Assembly Human Rights Council. The report is titled “scapegoating members of Shincheonji for COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea.”
By referring to the report from United States of America Commission of International Religious Freedom, the report to the UN said, “Shincheonji was suffering harassment from the South Korean government and society. Although some government measures appeared to be driven by legitimate public health concerns, others appeared to exaggerate the church’s role in the outbreak.”
“The government of Seoul locked down Shincheonji churches in the capital, and some mainline Protestant groups have accused the church of deliberately spreading the disease,” it continued.
The report stated, “The virus cannot be an excuse to violate human rights and religious liberty of hundreds of thousands of believers. Intolerance, violence, and discrimination against Shincheonji should be put to an end.”
Religious communities initiated to issue statements to advocate improvements in the unequal treatment against Shincheonji.
"The news of Chairman Lee and Shincheonji are being singled out and blamed for COVID-19 spread and sued is deeply concerning to all faith leaders who valued freedom of religion and the protection of human rights. This adverse action shall have chilling repercussions through the religious world," said Mr. Sheikh Musa Drammeh, Chairman of Islamic Cultural Center of North America.
And Swami Vedanand Saraswati, a Hindu Spiritual Leader based in Durban stressed the tolerance and harmony. “As members of the HWPL, our primary goal is unity, equality, respect and tolerance. Only together can we overcome the enormous challenges we face. United we stand, divided we shall fall. Let us unite and support each other and stop these unwarranted attempts to tarnish pure intentions and righteous actions.”
Recently, Chairman Lee of Shincheonji Church of Jesus encouraged the members who recovered from the COVID-19 to voluntarily join in donation of plasma. Around 4,000 recovered members said they are willing to donate plasma for research on a new treatment.
He said that there has been political motives in persecution of Shincheonji Church of Jesus and HWPL (a peace NGO) by “using us (Shincheonji), the victims of COVID-19, as their scapegoat in order to hide their own faults.” He added, “Persecuting peace organizations, religious organizations, and violating human rights must be stopped in Korea.”
Press Coordinator of Georgia
Department of Public Relations (International)
Heavenly Culture, World Peace, and the Restoration of Light