The Economist / American officials question AstraZeneca’s vaccine results
- On the morning of March 22nd, the company announced positive results about the jab’s safety and efficacy from a clinical trial with 32,000 people conducted mostly in America. But late that night the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), an American government agency that funded the trial, issued a vaguely worded statement that questioned the company’s announcement.
- AstraZeneca reported that the jab was 79% effective against covid-19 symptoms, when administered in two shots four weeks apart. According to the Washington Post, the DSMB’s letter to Dr Fauci and other officials said that the efficacy figures the company should have published were between 69% and 74%.
- Results from Britain’s mass-vaccination programme show that the jab works well, with the efficacy of the first shot alone around 70% in some studies.
- Any damage to the reputation of AstraZeneca’s vaccine could hobble global efforts to bring the pandemic to an end. In most of the world covid-19 vaccines will be in short supply for at least a year. The AstraZeneca jab is one of those already manufactured in vast quantities. It is cheaper and easier to distribute than the other available vaccines.
- The New York Times – Matina Stevis-Gridneff / EU sets to curb vaccine exports for 6 weeks
The Guardian – Oliver Holmes and Quique Kierszenbaum / Israel election results: Netanyahu ahead in exit polls
- Exit polls from Israel’s fourth election within two years suggested Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party was ahead but still short of a clear parliamentary majority needed to form a government and end the political deadlock.
- However, post-voting polls have proved unreliable in the past. Critically, to form a 61-seat majority coalition, Netanyahu will need to convince other parties to join him. Political negotiations could fail, possibly resulting in an unwanted fifth election this summer.
- The politician’s preferred path to victory would be what is being called a “full rightwing government”, composed of extreme nationalist, hardline religious and far-right parties. Allies from ultra-Orthodox Jewish factions would be relied on for support, such as Aryeh Deri, who said on Sunday it was not a woman’s “natural place” to be a candidate in the party, Shas, which he leads .
- In opposition, Lapid, a former TV host and finance minister, hoped his Yesh Atid party can become a significant force. However, to do that, the self-proclaimed “centrist” will probably have to forge alliances with parties from across the political spectrum, from Arab parliamentarians to far-right nationalists, such as former Netanyahu ally Avigdor Lieberman.
- Haaretz – Anshel Pfeffer / Israel election results: exit polls looked good for Netanyahu. They now predict a stalemate
Washington Post – Tim Elfrink / One of the world’s biggest ships is stuck sideways in the Suez Canal. No one can pass.
- On Tuesday morning, the Ever Given sailed into the placid waters of the Suez Canal, the 120-mile long link on its journey from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean as it carried thousands of tons of cargo bound for the Netherlands. By midmorning, the massive ship — one of the largest in the world at more than 1,300 feet long, more than twice the height of the Washington Monument — was wedged sideways across the canal.
- As of early Wednesday morning, live satellite maps from MarineTraffic.com show the Ever Given still wedged across the canal and surrounded by a half dozen tug boats working to free it.
- In 2015, the Suez Canal underweight an $8.5 billion expansion to accommodate the ships and to set-up a two-way traffic headed both north and south — but its owners never envisioned one of those mega-ships blocking the whole route, experts said.
- “Most ships waiting to cross the Canal at this time are tankers. Oil stocks are high across the globe and should be fine,” he said. “This is not the Canal’s busiest time of the year. Autumn and summer in the Northern Hemisphere would be more problematic.”
- Bloomberg – Serene Cheong, Annie Lee, and Sharon Cho / Suez Canal blockage to ripple through global energy market
Financial Times – Jim Brunsden and Yuan Yang / Sanctions row threaten EU-China investment deal
- Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU’s trade commissioner, said that the fate of the freshly negotiated EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment was tied up with the diplomatic dispute, which erupted this week.“China’s retaliatory sanctions are regrettable and unacceptable,” Dombrovskis said.
- The European Commission was already navigating choppy political waters over its decision last year to agree an investment treaty with Beijing — a move that has been attacked by human rights groups as placing the interests of business ahead of fundamental values. But the deal’s fate is even more uncertain following China’s decision on Monday to place sanctions on members of the European Parliament.
- The bulk of the deal, struck at the end of last year, is focused on opening up investment opportunities for EU companies operating on the Chinese market. But the European Parliament’s large centre-left Socialists and Democrats group has already made clear that ending the sanctions against the parliament is a “precondition” for work on ratifying the investment agreement to advance.
- Winkler and other MEPs insist that there is time to salvage the situation before the real ratification process for the agreement gets under way — a step that is unlikely until late this year given the need to translate the agreement into all of the EU’s 24 official languages. But that would require China to lift sanctions and pivot to constructively addressing EU concerns.
- Politico – Stuart Lau, Rym Momtaz, and Jakob Hanke Vela / China’s hardline turn lifts chances of deeper US-EU alliance
Today’s long read:
- Financial Times – Kathrin Hille / Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC: the most important company few people have heard of