Financial Times – Donato Paolo Mancini and Hannah Kuchler / Oxford and AstraZeneca launch work on Omicron-targeted version of vaccine
- Oxford university and AstraZeneca have begun work to produce an Omicron-targeted version of their coronavirus vaccine, joining the ranks of their peers who are studying the potential for adapting formulations of their shots in case they become necessary to tackle the variant.
- When asked about Omicron, Sandy Douglas, a research group leader at Oxford, told the Financial Times: “Like with many previous variants of concern, and together with our partners AstraZeneca, we have taken preliminary steps in producing an updated vaccine in case it is needed.”
- He said: “Adenovirus-based vaccines [such as that made by Oxford/AstraZeneca] could in principle be used to respond to any new variant more rapidly than some may previously have realised. [They have] really important advantages, especially where need and logistical challenges are greatest.”
- AstraZeneca said: “Together with Oxford University, we have taken preliminary steps in producing an Omicron variant vaccine, in case it is needed and will be informed by emerging data.”
- Nature – Heidi Ledford / How severe are Omicron infections?
Politico – Hans Von der Burchard / Scholz tells Xi he wants to ‘deepen’ economic ties with China
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to deepen economic relations in a first phone call on Tuesday — but readouts by both sides did not mention human rights or the situation in Hong Kong.
- In remarks that appeared to echo the stance of his predecessor Angela Merkel, the new German leader told Xi that German-Chinese relations should be developed “in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual trust,” a readout by Chinese state-run press agency Xinhua said.
- Controversially, Scholz also said that he hoped the stalled EU-China investment deal “will take effect as soon as possible.” The remark would seem to contradict the coalition agreement Scholz’s Social Democratic Party struck with two other parties to form his current government.
- The investment deal was concluded at the end of last year but its ratification process was halted amid human rights concerns and China’s response to them: After EU countries last year sanctioned four Chinese officials involved in mass internment of Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region, Beijing sanctioned EU lawmakers — a reaction that caused the European Parliament to pause the deal until China lifts the sanctions.
- European Council on Foreign Relations – Janka Oertel and Andrew Small / Germany’s new China policy
Euractiv – Georgi Gotev / Putin vows tough response over US buildup in Ukraine, Eastern Europe
- President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had no room to retreat in a standoff with the United States over Ukraine and would be forced into a tough response unless the West dropped its “aggressive line”.
- Putin addressed his remarks to military officials as Russia pressed for an urgent US and NATO reply to proposals it made last week for a binding set of security guarantees from the West.
- “What the US is doing in Ukraine is at our doorstep… And they should understand that we have nowhere further to retreat to. Do they think we’ll just watch idly?” Putin said.
- “If the aggressive line of our Western colleagues continues, we will take adequate military-technical response measures and react harshly to unfriendly steps.”
- Project Syndicate – Carl Bildt / Putin’s Ukraine formula
Financial Times – Tom Wilson and Neil Hume / European gas prices shoot to new high as energy crunch worsens
- European gas prices have surged to new record highs as flows from a key Russian pipeline stopped, spooking buyers that have been scrambling to secure supplies during a deepening energy crunch.
- Gas for delivery in Europe next month, which was already trading at record levels, jumped more than 20 per cent on Tuesday to close at €181 per megawatt hour.
- After four months in which waning confidence in Russian supply had already pushed wholesale gas prices to their highest in history, the latest price rise threatens to drive up energy bills further for households and industry across the continent and add to inflationary pressures just as temperatures are forecast to drop.
- In the UK, where more than two dozen energy suppliers have already gone bust this year, prices climbed 20 per cent on Tuesday to a record 450 pence per therm.
- Euractiv – Imke Lübekke and Ludovic Voet / EU 2030: Winter chills, higher bills – or a climate-safe society?
Today’s longer reads: