Asian Insider, Nov 10: S'pore-American Covid-19 vaccine in early 2021; RCEP by Nov 15

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: Singapore-American Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by early 2021; India’s Modi faces tough battle in Bihar polls; US think tank alleges Cambodia demolished another US-built facility; Indonesia expects signing of world’s largest trade pact on Nov 15; Singles’ sales in China start early, and more.

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Singapore-American Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by early 2021

A Singapore-American Covid-19 vaccine being developed by researchers could be ready by early next year, with the first shipments expected in the first quarter.

This was announced on Monday. American pharmaceutical company Arcturus Therapeutics is working with Duke-NUS scientists on the vaccine. Positive preliminary results have been reported from the early-stage clinical trials in Singapore.

News about the Singapore-American vaccine comes just shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that a vaccine being jointly developed by them was 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing phase 3 trials.  

Scientists are working on nearly 200 Covid-19 vaccines around the world, with about 44 of them having reached clinical trials, which means they are being tested on humans.

The process has had its worrying moments though. In the latest such episode, Brazil’s health regulator suspended a clinical trial for China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine citing a severe adverse event, which took place on Oct 29. The regulator, however, did not specify if the event took place in Brazil or in another country. The trial is one of three large late-stage trials underway for the Sinovac vaccine.

Delve deeper

The candidates in the Covid-19 vaccine race

Why Pfizer’s ultra-cold Covid-19 vaccine will not be at the local pharmacy any time soon

Vaccine hesitancy may undermine fight against Covid-19: UK report

India’s Modi faces tough battle in first state vote since pandemic

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, which is in coalition with the ruling alliance in Bihar, is having a hard time retaining control of the eastern state, that is the poorest in the country but has a population that exceeds that of European Union countries and sends 40 lawmakers to the federal Parliament. 

Exit polls have hinted at an opposition alliance win. However, early trends showed the ruling coalition, that includes Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, pulling ahead in some 127 seats.

The opposition grouping, led by the charismatic 31-year-old politician Tejashwi Yadav, was leading in 106 seats in the 243-member state assembly. It will be a while though before final results are known.

Go deeper

Jobs a key issue in Bihar’s election amid Covid-19 by Nirmala Ganapathy, India Bureau Chief

Another US facility in Cambodia demolished, says American think-tank

A leading Washington-based think-tank has drawn attention to a possible demolition of a second US-built facility at a naval base in Cambodia, citing recent satellite imagery.

Images published by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) show a Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat maintenance facility at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base standing on Oct 1, but not visible at the same site on Nov 4. This follows earlier reports that the US-funded Cambodian Navy tactical headquarters facility at Ream, just south of the maintenance facility, had been demolished.

Cambodia has repeatedly denied reports of a secret deal with Beijing to place forces at the base. Phnom Penh said last month that the earlier demolition was to allow for expansion.

Also read: 

Does China want to establish a military presence in Cambodia?

Indonesia expects RCEP trade pact to be signed on Nov 15

The world’s largest trade pact, involving 15 countries in the Asia Pacific, could be signed on Nov 15. 

Leaders of the 10-member Asean as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand will sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at a virtual summit, said Indonesian Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto.  

The 15 countries, which account for 29 per cent of global gross domestic product, agreed on RCEP terms last year. India, however, pulled out of discussions over concerns that the elimination of tariffs would open its markets to a flood of imports.

Singles’ Day buzz in China

The world’s biggest online shopping festival, Singles’ Day, is tomorrow (Wednesday). But e-commerce giants such as Alibaba have been running promotions early, since October 21, in the hope of luring more customers. China Correspondent Elizabeth Law writes that the festival will indicate whether domestic consumption has truly recovered from the pandemic’s impact.

Also read: 

Foreigners join China’s live-stream sales army

Green groups warn of China’s surge in packaging waste amid Singles’ Day online shopping spree

In other news…

No end in sight for Malaysia’s political turmoil: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s plans to call for a snap election to strengthen his mandate seems to be getting thwarted by coronavirus. As such elections are not due till 2023. However, the PM had wanted to call for one to improve his razor-thin majority in the 222-member Parliament. Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh says that the surging number of coronavirus cases has likely stalled plans for elections, at least till the end of 2021. 

Vietnam to be left off Formula One 2021 calendar: Vietnam has been taken off the calendar of Formula One Grand Prix in 2021, although the reasons for the decision were not immediately clear. The BBC said the move was linked to the arrest of a senior government official. Hanoi’s first race was to be held this year but was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Singapore’s e-economy on track to meet 2025 estimates, despite Covid-19 setback: Singapore’s Internet economy shrank 24 per cent to US$9 billion in terms of gross merchandise value (GMV) this year but it is still on track to reach US$22 billion in GMV by 2025, says a new report by Google, Temasek and consulting firm Bain & Company. Lockdowns and travel restrictions are reasons for the contraction but major sectors severely impacted by the pandemic are expected to rebound.

Thanks for reading the Asian Insider & The Straits Times. We’ll be back with you tomorrow.  

Shefali 

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