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Over 1,000 shanties destroyed after major fire breaks out in slums of Delhi's Tughlakabad


A massive fire broke out in the slums of South-East Delhi's Tughlakabad on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.


"We received information about a fire at around 1 am at slums in Tughlakabad. All police staff reached here immediately. It is being said that around 1,000-1,200 shanties caught fire," Rajendra Prasad Meena, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), South East, told ANI.

"Locals are saying most people came out of their shanties after a fire broke. However, it cannot check as it is a big fire," he said.

Firefighting operations are underway and no casualty has been reported so far, Meena further said.

According to a fire official, the department got the call at 12:15 am.

"Around 30 fire tenders are present at the spot. The situation is under control. No casualty has been reported so far," he said.




India Records Biggest Jumps in Cases on 5 Out of Last 7 Days as Covid-19 Count Crosses 1.25 Lakh


The record rise of 6,654 cases on Saturday was once again led by Maharashtra, which reported 2,940 new cases in the last 24 hours, of which 1,751 were from Mumbai alone.

The number of novel coronavirus infections saw the biggest spike in India with 6,654 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total tally to 1,25,101 on Saturday, the union health ministry said on Saturday. The death toll due to the pandemic rose to 3,720 after 137 more fatalities.

This was the fifth day in the last one week that the infections have increased by a record number, as nearly 35,000 cases have emerged in this time span. Both the spread of the virus and the spurt in cases in recent days will be a cause for concern for the authorities. Follow all live updates of coronavirus outbreak here.

 

India has registered highest single day spikes on May 17 (4,987 cases), May 18 (5,242 cases), May 20 (5,611 cases), May 22 (6,088 cases) and May 23 (6,654 cases) in the last seven days. Only on May 19 (4,970) and May 21 (5,609) were new daily records not set.

The record rise of 6,654 cases on Saturday was once again led by Maharashtra, which reported 2,940 new cases in the last 24 hours, of which 1,751 were from Mumbai alone.

The jump in cases, officials have pointed out, also corresponds to a rise in testing as 1 lakh samples have been tested daily for five days in a row now. Over the last two months, India has increased its testing capacity from 1,000 tests per day in March to one lakh tests daily tests.

The active cases of the coronavirus disease have risen to 69,597, while 51,784 people have recovered, according to the ministry bulletin.

 

But what continues to surprise is the relatively low number of Covid-19 deaths in India, even as the cases report a surge. Even as record number of cases were recorded in the last few days, the number of deaths did not exceed 150 even once.

Of the 137 new deaths confirmed on Saturday, 63 were in Maharashtra, 29 in Gujarat, 14 each from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, six from West Bengal, four from Tamil Nadu, two each from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, and one from Haryana.

The central government has, meanwhile, said lockdowns 1 and 2 managed to avert between 1.4 and 2.9 million coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases and 54,000 deaths, according to government data released by Niti Aayog member Vinod Paul on Friday. At least five different agencies were involved in data analysis, providing a range between 1.4 and 2.9 million cases averted, and between 37,000 and 78,000 deaths averted.

The analysis also showed that much of the outbreak is confined to a limited area. As of May 21, around 80% of the Covid-19 cases were limited to five states, and 90% of the cases were spread largely across 10 states. The states are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka.




Behind the Numbers: India Has Managed to Contain Covid-19 Deaths Despite Surge in Cases


Germany, which was hailed as a model for containment of Covid-19 deaths, has a cases/deaths ratio similar to India.

here has been a recent and significant increase in Covid-19 cases in India. From an average of 3,829 cases in the six days between the May 10 and 15, the number has risen to 5,407 in the last six days between May 16 and 21.

However, this surge is not surprising. Relaxations were eased after Lockdown 2.0, which ended on May 3 and further concessions have been made when lockdown 3.0 ended on May 17. Also, testing has increased and India is moving closer to its peak which is expected sometime in June.

Given these factors, India’s rate of increase in cases hasn’t been even close to as alarming as it could have been. The growth in the number of new infections has still been linear and nowhere close to exponential as was predicted by some experts.

But what continues to surprise is the low number of Covid-19 deaths in India, even as the cases report a surge. According to tracking site worldometers, India hasn’t reached 200 single-day deaths on any day, the maximum being 175 on May 4.

Even as 5000-plus cases were recorded in the last four days, the number of deaths did not exceed 150 on even a single day. The average number of deaths just saw a marginal rise from 109 between May 10 and 15 to 138 between May 16 and 21.

These are low numbers when considered relatively given the ease in the lockdown restrictions and the stage the virus India is in currently.

We compare the average number of cases per death in India to some of the other severely affected countries in the world when they saw their worst surge in cases. Some of these countries (Western Europe and USA) are past their peak while some others like Brazil, Peru and Russia are yet to experience their worst.

India’s cases per death during May 16-21 (its worst period) is 39.18.

What is stunning is the disparity between India and almost all the other countries analysed. USA saw its worst period recording more than 30,000 cases on six consecutive days between April 6 and 11. Its average number of deaths in this period were 2,045. This implied that USA had a cases/death ratio of almost 16 during its worst surge period. The corresponding ratio for UK and Italy is 6.29 and 7.18.

Germany, which was hailed as a model for containment of Covid-19 deaths, has a ratio similar to India (37.27). It is also interesting that while Germany had its worst spike in cases between March 30 and April 4, the average number of deaths were highest only between April 13 to 18 – unlike most other nations where the worst periods for surge in cases and deaths coincided.

It is not surprising to see Russia recording 115 cases per death during its worst phase (May 7-12) – as there is serious under-reporting of deaths from the country.

Controlling the loss of lives has been the real success story for India so far. It has reported 3,600 Covid-19 deaths thus far. Among the 14 nations who have registered at least 70,000 cases, India’s mortality rate (MR) of 3.01% is the fourth-lowest only after Russia, Turkey and Peru. However, there are credible reports of under-reporting from Moscow and Istanbul.

And just for contrast, Brazil has a mortality rate of 6.44%, USA (5.94%), Spain (9.97%), Italy (14.24%), UK (14.36%) and France (15.52%).

India’s tests/death at 755 is second only after Russia. Brazil is recording one death for every 37 tests, France – 49, UK – 86, Italy – 100, USA- 140, Canada – 224 and Germany – 432.

There are many reasons why our mortality rate could be low - a high percentage of young and rural population, the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis, the hot temperature and a milder strain of the virus.

But amongst these there is one definite reason – the early and stringent lockdown. Lockdowns 1 and 2 managed to avert between 1.4 and 2.9 million coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases and 54,000 deaths, according to government data released by Niti Aayog member Vinod Paul on Friday.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group, in which they adopted two approaches for projections, estimated 36 lakh to 70 lakh cases averted, and 1.2 lakh to 2.1 lakh lives saved as a direct consequence of the lockdown. Another estimate by the Public Health Foundation of India stated that 78,000 deaths had been averted.

Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease thus it is not surprising to see a surge in the number of cases in India. But this should not create panic. The only thing which matters in the end is the number of lives lost.

 



Death Toll Due to Cyclone Amphan Reaches 85 in Bengal; Protest in Kolkata Over Power, Water Supply


West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to visit Cyclone Amphan hit South 24 Parganas district on Saturday and take stock of the situation.

The death toll due to Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal has risen to 85, as angry Kolkatans resorted to protest and road blockades in various parts of the city over the administration's failure to restore normalcy even after three days.

With normal life thrown out of gear by the region's worst weather disasters, the authorities scrambled in various parts of the state to restore normalcy.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to visit Cyclone Amphan hit South 24 Parganas district on Saturday and take stock of the situation.

 




Celebratory Flight Ends in Tragedy as Pakistan Plane Crashes in Karachi Residential Area, Killing 97


The Friday afternoon flight was supposed to be a happy sign that Pakistan was moving past the coronavirus and inching toward normalcy, with families set to reunite after two months in lockdown to spend the Eid al-Fitr holiday together.

At least 97 people were killed when a Pakistan International Airlines plane with 99 people on board crashed into a densely populated residential area near the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Friday, officials said, nearly a week after the Covid-19-induced air travel restrictions were lifted by the government.

Flight PK-8303 from Lahore crashed at the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir minutes before its landing in Karachi, they said. The PIA Airbus A320 carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members crash-landed into the Jinnah Housing Society located near the airport, a spokesperson of the national carrier said.

The Friday afternoon flight was supposed to be a happy sign that Pakistan was moving past the coronavirus and inching toward normalcy, with families set to reunite after two months in lockdown to spend the Eid al-Fitr holiday together.

The plane was filled with military officers, executives and bankers headed from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi, a sprawling port city in Pakistan’s south. But it ran into trouble as it tried to land, crashing into a residential neighbourhood.

Thick black smoke rose from the accident scene in the Model Colony area. At least 97 people have been confirmed dead.

Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho told the media late Friday night there are two survivors including President of the Bank of Punjab Zafar Masood. He called up his mother to inform her of his well-being. "We don't know exactly how many are injured as yet as we were already in an emergency situation due to COVID-19 (outbreak)...," she said.

Faisal Edhi of the Edhi Welfare Trust said that around 25 to 30 residents whose houses were damaged by the plane have also been taken to the hospital, mostly with burn wounds.

The aircraft wings during the crash landing hit the houses in the residential colony before crashing down. "At least 25 houses have been damaged in this incident,” Edhi said.

“The first priority is to rescue the people. The main hurdle is narrow streets and presence of ordinary people who gathered at the place after the crash but they have been dispersed,” the minister said.

Television footage showed rescue crews combing through debris strewn across the streets of the district - 3 km north-east of the airport - where a number of houses have been destroyed.

According to a PIA official, the captain informed the air traffic control that he was having problems with the landing gear before the aircraft disappeared from the radar.

The cause of the crash is yet to be confirmed. PIA chief executive Air Vice Marshal Arshad Malik said the pilot had told traffic control that the plane was experiencing "technical difficulties".

Malik rejected reports that the plane had problems even before flying. Talking to the media, he said the aircraft was completely safe and sound.

He said all checks and procedures were done and “technically as well as administratively everything was in place and perfect”.
The plane with 99 people on board came for landing but just before landing the pilot said he was going for a go-around. While coming for a second landing, it developed some problems and crashed.

“The real cause of the mishap will be known after inquiry, which will be free and fair and it will be provided with media,” he said.

Malik said that the entire operation will take two to three days to complete.

Pakistan has set up a four-member board of inquiry to know the cause of the crash.

The board has been asked to complete the probe within shortest possible time, according to an official notification by the Aviation Division of the government.

Pakistan's Dunya News said it had obtained a recording of the conversation, also posted on monitoring website liveatc.net.

In it, the pilot says they have "lost two engines". Several seconds later he calls "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" and there is no further communication.

Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the plane crash.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while expressing deep sorrow over the loss of precious lives as a result of the PIA passenger plane crash in Karachi, has ordered an immediate inquiry into the incident.

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa condoled the loss of lives and directed the military to provide full assistance to the civil administration in rescue and relief efforts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the plane crash and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

The flight was coming from Lahore to Karachi after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) allowed limited resumption of domestic flights last Saturday following weeks of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Television channels showed several houses and cars damaged in the society where the aircraft crashed.

The plane lost contact with the air traffic control at 2.37 PM (local time), PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said.

He said that the passengers included 31 women and nine children.

This is the first major aircraft crash in Pakistan after December 7, 2016 when a PIA ATR-42 aircraft from Chitral to Islamabad crashed midway. The crash claimed the lives of all 48 passengers and the crew.
Friday's accident occurred on a day when the interior ministry announced Eid holidays from May 22 to May 27, even as the country was facing a spike in the coronavirus cases.

The COVID-19 cases in the country have crossed the 50,000-mark after a record 2,603 more patients were diagnosed on Thursday. The death toll stands at 1,067.




Moderna Unveiled Promising Coronavirus Vaccine Results. Then Top Execs Dumped Nearly $30mn of Stock


The sales occurred after Moderna (MRNA) excited Wall Street before markets opened Monday by announcing encouraging vaccine trial results. Moderna's market value swelled to $29 billion -- even though the company has no marketed products.

Moderna's stock price skyrocketed as much as 30% on Monday after the biotech company announced promising early results for its coronavirus vaccine. As ordinary investors piled in, two insiders were quietly heading for the exits.

Moderna's chief financial officer and chief medical officer executed options and sold nearly $30 million of shares combined on Monday and Tuesday, SEC filings reviewed by CNN Business show.

The sales occurred after Moderna (MRNA) excited Wall Street before markets opened Monday by announcing encouraging vaccine trial results. Moderna's market value swelled to $29 billion -- even though the company has no marketed products.

After spiking to as high as $87 on Monday, Moderna's stock price has since retreated below $70 as medical experts have debated the importance of the early findings.

The securities transactions were done through automated insider trading plans, known as 10b5-1 plans, that lay out future stock trades at set prices or on set dates.

Lorence Kim, Moderna's chief financial officer, exercised 241,000 options for $3 million on Monday, filings show. He then immediately sold them for $19.8 million, creating a profit of $16.8 million.

The next day, Tal Zaks, Moderna's chief medical officer, spent $1.5 million to exercise options. He immediately sold the shares for $9.77 million, triggering a profit of $8.2 million.

Moderna said the sales were executed under 10b5-1 trading plans that were established in advance.
"These transactions are executing automatically pursuant to these trading plans," the company said.

Although the fortuitous timing of the transactions may raise eyebrows, Charles Whitehead, professor at Cornell Law School, said the stock sales did not appear to raise any legal red flags.

"On its face, there is nothing wrong with these trades," Whitehead said. "It's what a 10b5-1 plan is intended for, assuming the requirements are met."

These plans regulate when and how many shares company insiders, including directors and executives, are allowed to sell. The transactions are typically executed automatically, without the insiders taking any action.

Kim, the CFO, also made stock sales prior to the vaccine news. On May 15, just days before the results were announced, Kim sold 20,000 shares of stock worth $1.3 million.

Moderna's stock has since retreated


Andrew Gordon, director of research services at Equilar, said there would only be a "legal issue if they created or modified their 10b5-1 plan while in possession of material insider information."

"It's not uncommon for insiders to sell shares they own, nor is it bad for them to capitalize on the current stock price," Gordon said in an email.

Moderna's share price fell 10% to $71.67 on Tuesday after health website STAT reported that vaccine experts concluded the company did not release enough information to know how significant the Phase 1 findings are.

By Thursday, Moderna finished at $67.05, down 16% from its Monday close.

"It'll look bad from a PR perspective if Moderna's stock price starts to fall dramatically after all this trading," Gordon said.

Moderna shares did rebound 2% to $68.60 on Friday after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, cheered the vaccine trial findings.

"Although the numbers were limited, it was quite good news because it reached and went over an important hurdle in the development of vaccines," Fauci said during a CNN town hall. That's the reason why I'm cautiously optimistic about it."

'OPTICS ARE TERRIBLE'
Moderna is one of the early frontrunners to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, which has killed more than 90,000 Americans. The biotech company's vaccine produces neutralizing antibodies that bind to the virus and disable it from attacking human cells.

Moderna said its trial vaccinated dozens of participants and measured antibodies in eight of them.
All eight developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus at levels reaching or exceeding the levels seen in people who have naturally recovered from Covid-19, the company said.

If future studies go well, Moderna has said its vaccine could be available to the public as early as January.

Charles Elson, a corporate governance expert at the University of Delaware, said the Moderna stock sales underscore why he has always believed executives should not sell stock while they are at the company.

"Even if it can be done legally, the optics are terrible because it shows you have a better place to put your money," said Elson. "It shows a lack of confidence in your company going forward."




RBI cuts repo rate by 40 bps from 4.4% to 4%: Highlights of RBI Guv Shaktikanta Das' press briefing


Notably, this will be the third presser by Shaktikanta Das in the context of coronavirus-related measures in the last two months. The first one was held on March 27 and the second one was on April 17. In these two pressers, the RBI governor had announced several measures to ease liquidity pressure in the banking system and to boost the economy from the coronavirus shock.

Highlights of the briefing:

MPC voted for reduction in rates. It was decided to reduce repo rate by 40 bps.

Repo rate cut by 40 bps to 4 per cent from 4.4 per cent earlier.

Reverse repo rate cut by 40 bps to 3.35 per cent.

RBI maintains accommodative stance till growth revives.

Domestic market hit due to the lockdown.

Electricity and petroleum has seen plunge in demand.

Kharif sowing was up by 45 per cent compared to the last season.

Food inflation has surged to 8. 6 per cent.

Inflation outlook highly uncertain; elevated level of inflation in pulses worrisome, requires review of import duties.

India’s merchandise exports and imports suffered their worst slump in 30 years.

MPC is of the view that headline inflation will remain firm in the first half of 2020. But there will be an ease in the second half of 2020.

MPC is of the view that macroeconomic impact of the pandemic is more severe than initially anticipated

Moratorium on loan repayments extended by additional 3 months from June 1 to August 31.

Group exposure limit for lenders to corporates raised to 30 per cent from 25 per cent.

RBI to extend Rs 15,000 crore line of credit to EXIM Bank.

RBI has decided to roll over the facility of Rs 15,000 crore for another 90 days in SIDBI.

RBI’s job is to maintain the banking system in sound condition. It is doing all it should in this direction.

 
 
 



RBI extends EMI moratorium on term loans for another three months


Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor on Friday held a press conference to announce various measures in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Das announced that the EMI moratorium on term loans, which the RBI had announced in its earlier presser, has now been extended by another three months that is from June 1 to August 31, 2020.

"In the view of the extension of coronavirus lockdown and continuing disruption on account of COVID-19, these measures are being further extended by another 3 months from June 1 to Aug 31," Das said.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had on March 27 allowed banks and financial institutions to offer a moratorium of three months on payment of instalments of all term loans outstanding as on March 1 to help mitigate hardship faced by borrowers.

"All commercial banks (including regional rural banks, small finance banks and local area banks), co-operative banks, all -India Financial Institutions, and NBFCs (including housing finance companies and micro-finance institutions) ("lending institutions") are being permitted to allow a moratorium of three months on payment of instalments in respect of all term loans outstanding as on March 1, 2020," the RBI had said.

Earlier, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that over 3.2 crore people availed RBI's 3-month moratorium that was announced on March 27.


In addition to this, RBI reduced repo rate by 40 basis points from 4.4% to 4% in an effort to further boost liquidity in the economy which has been reeling under the impact of COVID-19 induced countrywide lockdown.

As a result, the reverse repo rate stands at 3.35 per cent, said RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das.

Notably, this was the third presser by Shaktikanta Das in the context of coronavirus-related measures in the last two months. The first one was held on March 27 and the second one was on April 17. In these two pressers, the RBI governor had announced several measures to ease liquidity pressure in the banking system and to boost the economy from the coronavirus shock.




Will Swiggy, Zomato deliver alcohol in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune? Here's what we know


Liquor shopkeepers have roped in Swiggy and Zomato and a couple of other on-demand delivery platforms in Maharashtra, excluding Mumbai, where the civic body has not issued any permission for its sale at the counter or home delivery. Of the 10, 791 license holders across the state, 6,027 have started liquor sales on counters and offer home delivery.

The government, from May 4 (when the liquor sale resumed) till May 20, has collected excise duty of over Rs 300 crore. The daily excise collection is ranging between Rs 20 crore and Rs 42 crore, which is showing steady increase. Liquor home delivery has been launched since the last three days in Thane and Navi Mumbai.

A state Excise Department officer told the Free Press Journal, “It is mandatory that liquor shopkeepers strictly ensure social distancing during the lockdown. In the case of home delivery, shopkeepers can rope in Zomato, Swiggy or another platform. The state government is no way involved in it. It is the responsibility and liberty of the shopkeepers to deliver liquor at home by sticking to the guidelines issued by the Excise Department.’’

He informed that customers can place orders via WhatsApp, SMS or call. The shopkeepers will have to display their contact number outside their shops. Making arrangements for delivery will be the retailer's responsibility. But, the retailer can request passes for delivery boys, which can be obtained from offices of the excise superintendent of police and deputy SP.

The Maharashtra government on May 19 issued revised guidelines for lockdown 4.0, which is up to May 31. The government has allowed home delivery of liquor apart from its sale on counters only in permitted areas.

Meanwhile, Swiggy has enabled the online processing and home delivery of alcohol through the Wine Shops category on the Swiggy app. The service went live in Ranchi today after obtaining necessary approvals from the Jharkhand government. Other major cities in the state will be launching it within a week. Swiggy is also in the advanced stages of discussion with multiple state governments to provide support with online processing and home delivery of alcohol, which the company can immediately enable by leveraging its existing technology and logistics infrastructure and nationwide presence.

Swiggy vice president Anuj Rathi said by enabling the home delivery of alcohol in a safe and responsible manner, it can generate additional business for retail outlets while solving the problem of overcrowding, thereby promoting social distancing.




Global investment firm KKR to invest Rs 11,367 crore into Jio






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