News Roundup: Concerns over third wave, Dogecoin, digital COVID certificate for travel, Lebanon crisis…

203 new Covid-19 cases raise fresh concerns over third wave in Nigeria
Nigeria on Monday reported 203 new cases of COVID-19 infection, a two-month high rate that is raising fresh concerns of the rise of a third wave in Nigeria. Although the new high comes as the sum of backlog of data recorded from February to May from Benue and Nasarawa States, according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigerians are worried afresh about the implications of a third wave. Benue tops the highest rate of infections with 178 new cases, followed by Lagos State with 10 and Ondo with six infections. This brings the total confirmed cases to 166,518.

Seven European countries begin issuing digital COVID certificate for travel
Seven European countries have started to issue a digital COVID certificate that will facilitate travel within the European Union in an early stage of what could become the new normal around the world for post-pandemic travel. The document, known as a digital green certificate, records whether people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, recovered from the virus or tested negative within 72 hours. Travellers can move freely if at least one of those three criteria is met. The countries are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland. These countries have made the certificates available to their citizens as of Tuesday and are accepting them for visitors. The European Commission, the bloc’s administrative branch, said the system would be used in all 27 EU countries by July 1.

Africa gets 5m doses in first tranche of US donation of vaccine surplus
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. will donate 75 percent of its unused COVID-19 vaccines to the U.N -backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, acting as more Americans have been vaccinated and global inequities have become more glaring. Of the first tranche of 25 million doses, about 19 million will go to COVAX, with approximately 6 million for South and Central America, 7 million for Asia and 5 million for Africa, a breakdown of sharing reported by Associated Press stated. The doses mark a substantial and immediate boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries. Overall, the White House aims to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June, most through COVAX.

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Twitter launches Birdwatch to combat misinformation
Twitter has revealed plans to roll out Birdwatch as part of its efforts to combat misinformation on the platform.The social media platform informed users in a tweet that they might see Tweets with Birdwatch notes across all devices. The new feature, which is only available to a few pilot participants, requires users to add notes that provide more information to misleading tweets. A pilot version of the product was launched in January with the social media giant calling it a community-based approach to misinformation. The Birdwatch feature comes with two notes: currently rated helpful and currently not rated helpful. Consequently, users can rate tweets displayed as the former to elevate the most helpful ones. However, if all notes on the tweet are currently rated not helpful, there won’t be a card on the tweet, and users can still access the feature on that tweet by clicking on the icon. This week, Twitter deleted a tweet by Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, in which he made some disturbing statement regarding the Nigerian Civil War.

Facebook to end special treatment for politicians after Trump ban

Facebook is planning to end its policy that shields politicians from some content moderation rules, The Verge reported on Thursday, in what would be a major policy reversal for the world’s largest social media network. The reported change comes as Facebook is expected to announce its response to recommendations made by the company’s independent oversight board when it ruled on the firm’s suspension of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Tech platforms have grappled in recent years with how to police world leaders and politicians who violate their guidelines. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long argued that the company should not police politicians’ speech. The company currently exempts politicians’ posts and ads from its third-party fact-checking program and its “newsworthiness exemption” allows politicians’ rule-breaking posts on the site if the public interest outweighs the harm – though Facebook said it did not apply its newsworthiness allowance in the Trump case.In the board’s recommendations it stressed that considerations of “newsworthiness” should not take priority when urgent action is needed on the platform to prevent “significant harm.”

Dogecoin surges after Coinbase launch news
Dogecoin, a meme-based cryptocurrency popular among retail investors, surged on Wednesday, benefitting from news that digital asset exchange Coinbase will make the crypto unit available to its users on its trading platform. Coinbase said on Tuesday that it will immediately accept inbound transfers of Dogecoin via Coinbase Pro, a trading venue for professional traders. Dogecoin rose 31 percent on Wednesday to $0.41 in the wake of the Coinbase news. That pushed the cryptocurrency’s market capitalisation to $54bn, making it the sixth-largest token, according to data and market tracker CoinGecko.com. Dogecoin lost more than a third of its price after Musk, a big supporter of the currency, called it a “hustle” during his guest-host spot on Saturday Night Live. The token’s rise came during a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coin has not seen much growth in usage for payments or in commerce.

Lebanon crisis could rank among world’s three worst in 150 years
Lebanon’s financial and economic crisis could rank as one of the world’s three most severe since the mid-19th century, concludes the latest Lebanon Economic Monitor released by the World Bank on Tuesday. Lebanon’s descent into what could end up being one of the top three worst crises in 150 years has been stunningly swift. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – which measures the total output of goods and services – nosedived from close to $55bn in 2018 to an estimated $33bn last year, the report noted, with GDP per capital plummeting by around 40 percent. “Such a brutal and rapid contraction is usually associated with conflicts or wars,” said the World Bank. The report pulls no punches in its criticism of Lebanon’s political elites, accusing the country’s authorities of deliberately mounting an inadequate policy response to the country’s compounded crises including the rapid deterioration of economic and financial conditions, the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s Port of Beirut explosion.The inaction, says the report, is not due to lack of knowledge or quality advice, but rather the failure to agree on effective policy initiatives and a political consensus that defends “a bankrupt economic system, which benefited a few for so long”.

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