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As Britain Reopens, Scientists Warn of Fertile Ground for Coronavirus Variants 

Britain risks becoming a breeding ground for new variants of the coronavirus that could be resistant to vaccines, according to some scientists. Henry Ridgwell reports from London. Camera: Henry Ridgwell    Produced by:  Barry Unger 

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Somalia Green Energy Association Touts Clean Power Potential

Somalia lacks a national power grid and relies on imported fuel and wood and charcoal for its energy needs. But energy experts say with the longest coastline in mainland Africa and an average of 10 hours of sunshine per day, Somalia has great potential for onshore wind and solar power. Mohamed Sheikh Nor reports from Mogadishu. Camera: Mohamed Sheikh Nor   Produced by: Marcus Harton
 

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CDC to Recommend Indoor Masks Again, Even for Some Vaccinated People

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to recommend that vaccinated people in parts of the country wear masks while indoors, reversing a decision it made two months ago.Federal officials with knowledge of the decision told news agencies the CDC is expected to make the announcement later Tuesday, based on surging numbers of new cases in regions with low vaccination rates.   The rising caseload is driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  There has also been a rise in cases of so-called breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people, suggesting the delta variant may be able to cause such infections more often than previous strains of the virus.  Health officials say vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of infection with the virus, including those involving the delta variant.In televised interviews Sunday, White House medical advisor and top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the mask guidelines were under review, as new infections in areas with low vaccination rates have been surging. The CDC says 30 states have less than half their residents fully vaccinated.In May, the CDC said fully vaccinated people no longer would be required to wear masks or maintain social distancing of six feet from other people.  The agency still suggested people remain masked on public transportation and at crowded outdoor events.  For months, COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. fell steadily, but those trends reversed over the past two months as the delta variant of the coronavirus began to spread.The New York Times reports several cities and towns have restored indoor masking rules in recent weeks, including St. Louis, Missouri, Savannah, Georgia and Provincetown, Massachusetts.Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and the French News agency, AFP.

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Cameroon Receives US Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Amid Covid Hesitancy 

Cameroonian authorities are urging the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19, following a U.S. donation Monday of 300,000 Johnson & Johnson doses.  Cameroonians can now choose between the Chinese Sinopharm, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs but vaccine hesitancy remains high.Just 10 civilians have visited the Biyem Assi hospital in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde today to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Among them is Olivia Forbi, a 38-year-old vegetable seller.Forbi said she wants the Johnson & Johnson vaccine she heard about from Cameroon state radio.”I have learnt that Johnson & Johnson is more than 75 percent effective in stopping the spread of the coronavirus and secondly, you take it in one dose. Sinopharm and AstraZeneca, you take in two doses. You spend more time going for the second dose,” said Forbi.On July 21, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. was shipping 1.3 million vaccine doses to Africa. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gambia, Lesotho, Niger, Senegal and Zambia are the seven beneficiaries.Mary Daschbach is in charge of mission at the U.S. embassy in Yaounde. She says she handed over 303,050 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to the government of Cameroon on Monday.”We don’t want to see people dying in Cameroon from the variant that is raging round the rest of the world. We have seen what it has done in Indonesia, we have seen what it has done in Tunisia and we see what it is doing in the United States to people who have chosen not to get vaccinated. It is very important, the vaccine is effective at preventing people from dying,” she said.Dashbach said she was hopeful the 303,050 dozes donated by the United States of America will save 303,050 lives in Cameroon.Manaouda Malachie is Cameroon’s health minister. He said civilians should consider Johnson & Johnson as another life-saving vaccine.He said he is very grateful to the American government and its people for making it possible for Cameroon to have a variety of COVID-19 vaccines. He said he is pleading with people from 18 years and above who are still reluctant to be vaccinated to rush for either the Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm or AstraZeneca vaccines and save their lives.Cameroon has received more than a million doses since April, but less than 25 percent of the vaccines have been dispensed.Alirou Bachirou is a 24-year-old cattle seller who has refused vaccination.Bachirou said he prefers local remedies Cameroon government has officially introduced to stop the spread of COVID 19. He said people should trust African healers’ remedies and stop believing that all solutions to their health problems must come from America or Europe.This month, Cameroon approved the sale of a herbal remedy from Samuel Kleda, a Roman Catholic bishop in the Central African.The government said the recipe is supplementary aid to fighting coronavirus infections and was not a cure for COVID-19. 

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Cities Unprepared for Intense, Frequent Heat Waves

As the world braces for more intense heat waves fueled by climate change this summer, urban centers across the world are unprepared to face these brutal natural disasters.Several countries in the FILE – In this June 26, 2021, photo, paramedics respond to a heat exposure call at a cooling center during a heat wave in Salem, Ore.Urban islands of heatCities can run several degrees hotter than nonurban environments. This effect, known as an urban heat island, puts city dwellers at more risk during hot weather. Asphalt in pavement and roof shingles, for example, provides a dark surface that reflects less light and absorbs more heat, explained Hashem Akbari, who studies urban heat islands at Concordia University in Montreal.Meanwhile, closely packed buildings and streets also mean fewer trees and plants, which reduces potential shade. Plants normally absorb water through their roots and use surrounding heat to evaporate and emit the moisture as vapor from their leaves. With less greenery, that natural cooling effect is also gone.”Citizens who are living in urban areas are going to see the cumulative effect of the heat island plus the extreme heat that will come,” Akbari told VOA.FILE – In this Aug. 18, 2017, photo, electrical power flow and conditions are monitored at the California Independent System Operator grid control center in Folsom, Calif.Energy demandsIn these scenarios, to avoid the heat, urban populations rely on electricity to power air conditioners and fans.”Urban infrastructure already has a higher population to serve, so the infrastructure is working at a higher capacity because of the demand (for electricity),” said Sayanti Mukherjee, a professor in the department of industrial and systems engineering at the University at Buffalo, New York.When all these demands exceed how much electricity an energy grid can generate and provide, the system overloads and the flow of power shuts off. Extreme weather events are difficult to anticipate when they are far from the historical norms that helped city planners and engineers prepare for possible situations.”There is a lack of adequate models that can predict what would be the demand in the future accounting for all of these extreme events,” Mukherjee explained to VOA. “Climate is just taken as a constant, but the climate is changing.”FILE – Cars pass a hazard warning that reads, ‘Caution, danger of heat damage’ on the A81 highway near Sindelfingen, Germany, August 8, 2015.Materials in infrastructureHeat makes materials expand, and that can have consequences on urban infrastructure.Power lines, typically made of copper or aluminum, help transmit electricity to buildings and transportation systems. A combination of heat from the weather and overloaded electricity demands can cause the metal to expand and sag. The drooping lines then risk touching trees, vehicles or people and can cause fires or deaths.Concrete and asphalt expand too. “What we really get concerned about with heat is big variations at a quick time scale,” said Matthew Adams, who studies concrete durability and sustainability at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Sudden changes in temperature can heat up a surface faster than an interior. The difference results in inconsistent expanding in concrete that creates cracks and can cause buildings, streets or bridges to deteriorate faster.On asphalt pavement, the material has nowhere to expand sideways, so it pushes against itself, buckles upwards and cracks, Adams explained.Then there is steel. A bridge roasting under the sun, for example, can swell where the joints of two steel parts meet and push against each other. Without room to shift, they can get stuck when trying to lift the bridge to allow boats to pass under. Similarly, rail tracks can expand to create curves and kinks that force trains to run slower or even stop to avoid accidents. FILE A rooftop garden on a building in Durban, South Africa, Dec. 7, 2011.Preparing for climate changeBesides lowering greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change, researchers are also encouraging other solutions for helping urban populations endure extreme heat.”I think one thing cities or counties can do better is have more systematic records of heat-related deaths,” Vanos said, referring to the frequent underreporting of these mortalities. That, and improving coordination across different public sectors, can help identify at-risk populations and improve emergency responses. Planting more vegetation such as trees, grass and green roofs to shade and cool cities has the potential to turn cities into oases instead of urban heat islands, said Akbari. Updating structures with materials that are lighter in color and more reflective can also lower temperatures and save energy.To address energy demands, Mukherjee recommends integrating renewable sources, such as wind and solar, into power generation. Introducing smart grids with computer-based operators to control the multiple components of a power system can also help utilities respond efficiently to weather events.The world’s carbon emissions have pushed the climate past a tipping point, according to experts. “The more frequent and intense heat waves are showing that we need to prepare ourselves more to address this problem in the future,” said Mukherjee.

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Epidemics Don’t Have to Happen, Expert Says

The number of known deaths from COVID-19 has passed 4 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking both cases and deaths. In the past 100 years, there have been flu and cholera epidemics, the AIDS epidemic and multiple other diseases around the world. VOA’s Carol Pearson says the latest research shows many epidemics either don’t have to happen or can be contained.

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UNESCO Leaves Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Off Endangered List

After much lobbying, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will not appear on a list of “in danger” World Heritage Sites. Environmentalists call this a “terrible” decision fueled by political pressure. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports.

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Fauci Sounds New Virus Warnings

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, sounded new alarms Sunday about the surge in coronavirus cases in the country, especially in regions where people have been resistant to getting vaccinated even as the delta variant spreads rapidly.“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “Fifty percent of the country is not vaccinated. That’s a problem.”“We’re putting ourselves in danger,” said Fauci, the top medical adviser to President Joe Biden.In the United States, hospitalizations and deaths are far below their peaks last winter. But the number of new infections has been rising sharply in parts of the country where skepticism about the need to get vaccinated, the safety of the vaccines and resistance to government suggestions to get inoculated remain a potent force.More than 51,000 new infections were recorded in the U.S. on Saturday, a 172% increase over the last two weeks, and more than 250 deaths have been occurring daily in recent weeks.As it stands, the government says more than 162 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, which corresponds to 49% of the country’s population and nearly 60% of adults.But polls have shown that as many as 80% of unvaccinated Americans say they definitely will not get inoculated or are unlikely to, no matter how many officials urge them to get the shots.Many conservative politicians previously had adopted a more cautious approach toward vaccinations or said whether to get inoculated was a matter of personal choice. Now some are voicing their exasperation at those refusing to get vaccinated.Republican Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama said last week of the unvaccinated, “These people are choosing a horrible lifestyle.”Another Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, has long urged vaccinations in his southern state but it still has one of the lowest rates of inoculations. Two adolescents recently died of COVID-19 in his state. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.“These are alarm bells,” he told CNN. Nonetheless, he noted, “Certainly the resistance (to inoculations) has hardened.”Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson shows a chart on vaccination rates at a town hall meeting in Batesville, July 12, 2021.But Hutchinson voiced optimism that the unvaccinated will change their minds. “People can change their resistance,” he said. “That should be our focus.”Fauci said those vaccinated “are highly protected,” including against the delta variant. But the pace of vaccinations has dropped in the U.S. by more than 80% since mid-April.Some cities, including Los Angeles in the West and St. Louis in the middle of the country, have imposed new orders for people to wear masks in public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. Other cities are considering similar directives. 

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