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Warning over measles outbreak in Europe with 400% rise in cases

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Measles cases across Europe soared by 400% last year, according to the World Health Organisation.

A total of 21,315 cases were reported on the continent in 2017 and the infection was the cause of 35 deaths.

It came after a record low of 5,273 measles cases the previous year.

WHO said a decline in immunisations, interruptions in vaccine supply, low rates of vaccination among marginalised groups and poor monitoring had contributed to the crisis.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, described it as “a tragedy we cannot accept”.

:: More than 120 cases as measles outbreak in England grows

Symptoms of measles include cold-like symptoms, sore red eyes, a high temperature and a blotchy rash. Although it usually clears in 7-10 days, complications of the illness can be fatal.

Last September, it was announced that measles had been officially eradicated in the UK – meaning it had not freely circulated for three years – thanks to widespread immunisation with the MMR vaccine.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella
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The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella

But there was a slight surge in cases this winter, and the WHO recorded a total of 282 last year.

According to Public Health England, the outbreak is linked to the rise in Europe and 36 cases were reported in 2018.

Dr Mary Ramsey, head of immunisation at PHE, said those who had not been vaccinated and had recently travelled to Romania, Italy or Germany were at risk.

“This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children,” she said.

Some 15 European countries experienced serious outbreaks of measles last year, but the worst affected were Romania, with 5,562 cases, Italy with 5,006 and Ukraine with 4,767.

Other states to be seriously affected were Greece with 967 cases, Germany with 927, and Belgium with 369.

“Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated,” Dr Jakab said.

Around 95% of cases of measles happen in low-income countries, and globally the fatality rate of measles is one in five.

That’s much more than Europe’s current outbreak, which is less than 0.2%.

Most deaths from measles result from severe complications such as diarrhoea, dehydration, brain inflammation or respiratory infections, according to Medicins Sans Frontiers.

“Elimination of both measles and rubella is a priority goal that all European countries have firmly committed to, and a cornerstone for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals,” the WHO’s Dr Jakab said.

“This short-term setback cannot deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all.”

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New Zealand is best placed to survive a global collapse of society, study suggests | World News

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New Zealand is the country most likely to survive a collapse of global civilisation, researchers have said.

A study has suggested a combination of ecological destruction, limited resources and population growth could trigger a worldwide breakdown “within few decades”, with climate change making things worse.

A “very likely” collapse would be characterised by the disintegration of supply chains, international agreements and global financial structures, according to researchers at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.

Wind turbines at Whitelee Windfarm in East Renfrewshire
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Researchers said the UK could increase its use of wind turbines to secure its future

They said problems could spread quickly because of how connected and economically dependant countries are on one another.

Five countries were identified as best placed to maintain civilisation within their own borders: New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.

All of them are islands or island continents which have fewer extremes in temperatures and varied amounts of rainfall due to their proximity to oceans.

Researchers said this makes them most likely to have relatively stable conditions in the future, despite the effects of climate change – which is expected to hit subtropics and tropics the hardest.

New Zealand’s ability to produce geothermal and hydroelectric energy, its abundant agricultural land and its low population would allow it to survive relatively unscathed.

Although the UK has generally fertile soils and varied agricultural output, it does not have as much agricultural land available because of its population density, raising questions about future self-sufficiency.

Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy was considered to be a risk as power sources could be “rendered at least partly inoperable” if global supply chains collapse.

:: Subscribe to ClimateCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Spreaker.

Researchers said this could be mitigated by the nation’s manufacturing capabilities.

Meeting the large population’s energy demands through renewables alone would require very extensive infrastructure, they said, but the UK could increase its resilience by harnessing more energy from wind and water bodies like lagoons or barrages in the Severn Estuary.

Professor Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said “significant changes are possible in the coming years and decades”.

He said: “The impact of climate change, including increased frequency and intensity of drought and flooding, extreme temperatures, and greater population movement, could dictate the severity of these changes.”

Researchers identified pandemics as another risk to societal stability, citing the United Nations’ warning that future pandemics could be even more severe than COVID-19.

Twenty countries were analysed in the report.

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Boris Johnson urges world leaders to dig deep to boost children’s education across globe | Politics News

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Boris Johnson is urging world leaders to dip into their pockets to boost children’s education across the globe and help avoid a “legacy of wasted talent” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The prime minister will host a summit in London on Thursday with the aim of fundraising among governments, business and charities for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

The GPE aims to raise $5bn (£3.6bn) over the next five years in order to get 175 million more children into education around the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta at Chequers, the country house of the serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Wednesday July 28, 2021.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will close Thursday’s summit

Ahead of the Summit, Mr Johnson said: “We have a fight on our hands to ensure COVID-19 does not scupper the life chances of millions of children, leaving a lasting legacy of wasted talent.

“Too many children around the world – girls in particular – were already out of school before the pandemic.

“Enabling them to learn and reach their full potential is the single greatest thing we can do to recover from this crisis and build better, greener and fairer societies.

“Today I am urging governments, businesses and philanthropists to invest in the future by fully funding the transformative work of the Global Partnership for Education.”

Girls are feared to be particularly at risk of never returning to school once they have left, with 132 million girls around the world already estimated to be out of school even before the impact of the COVID pandemic.

Thursday’s summit is being jointly hosted with Kenya and will be opened by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo.

The prime minister and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who held bilateral talks at Chequers on Wednesday, will close the summit, along with Australia’s former prime minister Julia Gillard, who is the GPE’s chair.

World leaders, businesses, UN agencies, charities and youth leaders will join the summit both virtually and in person.

The UK last month pledged £430m to the GPE at the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

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Pedro Castillo: Left-wing rural teacher becomes Peru’s president, promising a new constitution | World News

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A man who was until recently a teacher in a rural part of Peru has been sworn in as the country’s new president.

Pedro Castillo, representing a left-wing party, stunned voters and political observers by emerging from a group of 18 candidates and advancing to the run-off, finishing in first place.

His slogan, “no more poor in a rich country”, attracted support from the impoverished and those living in rural areas.

Pedro Castillo
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Pedro Castillo has never held political office before

Mr Castillo, 51, has never held political office before, defeating right-wing career politician Keiko Fujimori by just 44,000 votes.

He is promising a new constitution, and to rule for “my peasant sisters and brothers”.

The son of illiterate peasants, he led a teachers’ strike in 2017. He is his country’s first president of peasant origin.

Mr Castillo is married with two children. Video of his wife, filmed at the weekend, shows her sweeping the floor at their house in the Andes and tending to some animals. Their home is in the country’s third-poorest district.

Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world, but its economy has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic. Economic gains made over the last decade have been eliminated.

Private companies are fearful that Mr Castillo will hike taxes on mining to fund health and education reforms.

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Pedro Castillo’s family leave behind rural life

But on the day of his inauguration, he said there was “not the remotest” plan to nationalise industry.

He will be seeking a “new pact” with private investors, however.

In a speech shortly after being sworn in, he said he wanted the state-owned bank to compete with private lenders but that he would maintain economic “order and predictability”.

He faces a divided Congress, meaning his political abilities will be tested from the start.

Pedro Castillo receives the presidential sash from the president of the Congress, Maria del Carmen Alva
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Mr Castillo receives the presidential sash

Claudia Navas, an analyst with the global firm Control Risks, said his government begins amid “considerable uncertainty”.

She added: “We still do not have clear his main lines of policy. However, we foresee that possibly, due to the characteristics of the Peruvian political system and the current general political and economic situation of the country, that Castillo will maintain a more pragmatic position than he announced during the campaign.

“The key is to build those consensuses and add strength to the proposals on how he is going to achieve them.”

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