Omicron ‘sub-variant’ throws up new virus questions


BA.2 has yet to be designated a variant of concern — but Flahault says countries have to be alert to the latest development as scientists ramp up surveillance. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

Scientists are keeping a close watch on a recently-discovered sub-variant of the Omicron version of the Covid-19 virus to determine how its emergence could effect future pandemic spread.

The initial Omicron variant has become the dominant virus strain in recent months but British health authorities have notably identified hundreds of cases of the latest version, dubbed BA.2, while international data suggest it could spread relatively quickly.

https://www.thelocal.no/20220122/omicron-sub-variant-throws-up-new-virus-questions/

Taliban hold talks with woman activists on first day of Oslo talks


Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks during an interview with AFP in Kabul on January 22, 2022. Mohd Rafsan/ AFP

The first Taliban delegation to visit Europe since returning to power in Afghanistan began talks Sunday with Afghan civil society members focused on human rights, Norway’s foreign ministry said.

Headed by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, the delegation was to dedicate the first day of their three-day visit to talks with women activists and journalists, among others, before meeting Western diplomats on Monday and Tuesday.

https://www.thelocal.no/20220123/taliban-hold-talks-with-female-activists-on-first-day-of-oslo-talks/

Ukraine tension: US and Russia hold ‘frank’ talks


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shook hands as talks proceeded at a hotel in Geneva

Russia’s foreign minister and his US counterpart have held what they called “frank” talks to try to reduce the chance of a wider conflict in Ukraine.

Sergei Lavrov repeated denials that a huge Russian force assembled near Ukraine’s borders would be used to invade Ukraine.

Antony Blinken said America would respond severely to any invasion.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60077776

After the Omicron wave, here’s what experts say could come next in 2022

(CNN)Picture a not-too-distant future when you can book that summer trip to Italy or you don’t have to remember to take off your mask for graduation photos. After the past 25 months, forgetting the pandemic for even a little while may sound like a fantasy — after all, the coronavirus has gotten our hopes up before.

But infectious disease experts say there just may be an end in sight. Maybe.
Well, let’s say it’s not outside the realm of possibility for 2022.

Exclusive: U.S. opposes plans to strengthen World Health Organization

BRUSSELS, Jan 21 (Reuters) – The United States, the World Health Organization’s top donor, is resisting proposals to make the agency more independent, four officials involved in the talks said, raising doubts about the Biden administration’s long-term support for the U.N. agency.

The proposal, made by the WHO’s working group on sustainable financing, would increase each member state’s standing annual contribution, according to a WHO document published online and dated Jan. 4.

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/exclusive-us-opposes-plans-strengthen-world-health-organization-2022-01-21/