‘2021 the worst since WW2 for children’ – UNICEF
Year 2021 has been the worst year since the war, for children, UNICEF has said, adding this was a “sensational step backwards on all indicators” and “we will need 10 years to recover”. But this year’s appeal goes even beyond the dramatic figures at a global level and the UN agency says anguish and fear, collateral effects of the pandemic, may have crept up to create an irrefutable emergency for the mental health of the youngest. “Mental health problems affect more than 13% of adolescents between 10 and 19 years old worldwide. By October 2020, the pandemic had interrupted or stopped critical services mental health in 93% of countries around the world,” the agency said.
COVID would be beaten in 2022 – WHO chief
World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu is optimistic the coronavirus pandemic would be defeated in 2022, provided countries work together to contain its spread. However, in a new year statement, he warned against “narrow nationalism and vaccine hoarding”. His comments come two years since COVID took the world by storm, as global cases now stand at 288 million, while nearly 5.5m people have died.
Europe welcomes New Year in muted mood
Muted New Year’s Eve celebrations have taken place across Europe as renewed COVID-19 restrictions prevented large-scale events. Firework displays and live TV shows went ahead in several capitals, but often without spectators as many instead watched from home. The new measure was only one of several new restrictions put in place to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant. In Eastern Europe, the number of people to die from COVID has reached a million, as Russia overtook Brazil to become the country with the second-highest deaths behind the United States.
Macron: 2022 should be ‘turning point’ for EU
French President Emmanuel Macron has said 2022 should be a “turning point” for the European Union. The pro-EU 44-year-old leader hailed the EU’s role in securing vaccines against COVID-19 for the continent and in providing funds for national stimulus plans which are set to be rolled out in 2022. He said the COVID-19 crisis had demonstrated that “our Europe can be not only useful but also a source of hope”. France has now taken over the rotating presidency of the EU.
‘G7 should be pioneer for climate-friendly growth’
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he wants to use his country’s G7 presidency, starting today, to develop it into “a club that is pioneering in its efforts to achieve green growth and a socially-just world”. In his first New Year’s address, Scholz said his new coalition government is determined to strengthen the European Union: “Our goal is a sovereign, strong Europe. A Europe that lives according to its common values of peace, the rule of law and democracy.”
World’s largest trade pact comes into force
Trade barriers between most countries in the Asia Pacific will be lowered significantly as of today as the world’s largest free trading bloc opens for business. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade deal between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. RCEP will cover about 30% of global GDP worth €23.17 trillion, and nearly a third of the world’s population, some 2.2 billion people. By comparison, the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) covers 28% of world trade, while the European Union’s Single Market is a distant third at nearly 18%.
‘Golden Girls’ actress Betty White dies aged 99
The death has been announced of comedy actress Betty White, star of the American television sitcoms “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. She was three weeks shy of her 100th birthday and held the Guinness World Record for “Longest TV Career for an Entertainer”. In a youth-driven entertainment industry, where an actress over the age of 40 can often be facing the twilight of her career, White was an anomaly, becoming a star in her 60s and a pop culture phenomenon in her 80s and 90s.
South Korea’s cats cause 107 house fires in 3 years
Between January 2019 and November 2020, South Korean cats started 107 house fires, mostly lighting the electric stoves while they were alone in the house. The Seoul Fire Department has warned cats can turn on electric stoves by jumping on touch-sensitive buttons and, once overheated, appliances can catch fire. Four people were injured in the fires.