Jüri Ratas resigned as prime minister of Estonia and head of the Centre Party on Wednesday, amid allegations of corruption against his party.On Tuesday, the Estonian Public Prosecutor’s Office announced it suspected the Centre Party and five individuals, including its Secretary-General Mihhail Korb, were involved in “possible corruption” in relation to allegations of influence peddling and bribery over the Porto Franco property development project in Tallinn.Ratas said in a statement published on Facebook that while he had been told he was not personally implicated in the allegations and had never knowingly made any “malevolent or knowingly wrong” decisions during his time as PM, he was taking “political responsibility” and stepping aside. “The suspicions lodged by the Office of the Prosecutor General … do not yet mean that someone is definitely guilty, but they inevitably cast a serious shadow on all the parties involved,” Ratas wrote. “In such a situation, giving, through my resignation, a possibility to shed light on all circumstances and achieve clarity seems the only right thing to do.”According to local media, under the constitution, Ratas’ resignation will lead to the dissolution of the current government, with Ratas likely continuing to act as a caretaker prime minister until a new one is formed.
Several more polio cases recorded in 3 countriesThe Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in its latest weekly update today noted new cases of polio in Pakistan, Angola, and Myanmar—all countries battling ongoing outbreaks of wild or vaccine-derived poliovirus.In Pakistan, four wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases were reported in three provinces, with symptom-onset dates ranging from Aug 2 through Aug 28. The new cases raise Pakistan’s year-to-date total to 66, dwarfing last year’s total of 12 WPV1 cases.Angola reported four cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2). “The onsets of paralysis were between 31 July and 15 August 2019. There is a total of 19 cVDPV2 cases from six outbreaks reported in 2019,” GPEI said.Finally, Myanmar recorded two cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1) from Papun district in Kayin province. The onsets of paralysis were Aug 8 and 29, and they raise Myanmar’s 2019 cVDPV total to six.In other polio news, Taliban leaders in Afghanistan announced they will now allow World Health Organization (WHO) workers to resume vaccinating children in that country, Asia News reported today. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the two countries remaining in the world with endemic polio transmission.In April, the Taliban banned WHO health workers, at the time saying the vaccination efforts were a way for Western powers to sterilize Afghani children. Sep 27 GPEI update Sep 27 Asia News report Third MERS case this month confirmed by Saudi health ministrySaudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported another MERS-CoV case, the second this week, this time in a man from Afif. It is the third case reported in September.The new MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case involves a 41-year-old man with unknown camel exposure. Health officials said his exposure to the virus is primary, meaning it’s unlikely he contracted the virus from another MERS patient.As of Sep 19, the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean regional office said that, since 2012 there have been 2,468 MERS cases, at least 850 of them fatal. The vast majority of cases have been in Saudi Araba. Sep 27 Saudi MOH statement BioFactura announces contract to develop smallpox countermeasureBioFactura, a biotechnology company based in Frederick, Maryland, announced yesterday that it has received a contract worth up to $67.4 million from the federal government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a medical countermeasure for smallpox.In a news release yesterday, the company said the goal is to boost the country’s preparedness by having a second antiviral against smallpox with a different mechanism of action to guard against possible host resistance.The base phase of the contract is about $9.5 million, with three option phases over 5 years. The base period will cover development of a manufacturing process for drug components, final product formulation, analytical method development, stability studies, and regulatory activities to engage with the Food and Drug Administration.The candidate drug from BioFactura is a monoclonal antibody, said Darryl Sampey, the company’s president and chief executive officer, in the release, “This advanced research and development contract award marks the culmination of decades of discovery and development work performed by our team, our partners at the National Institutes of Health, and our principal government collaborator, Dr. Jay Hooper at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.” BARDA is part of the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the US Department of Health and Human Services.Sep 26 BioFactura press release