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PM Modi reviews preparedness of Covid-19 vaccine delivery strategy


Countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Qatar, Bhutan, Switzerland, Bahrain, Austria and South Korea – have shown keen interest in partnering for vaccine development of Indian vaccines and use thereof. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the preparedness of Covid-19 vaccine delivery, distribution and administration. Prime Minister appreciated the efforts of innovators, scientists, academicians and pharma-companies in their efforts to develop vaccines and has directed that every effort should be made to facilitate the research, development and manufacturing of the vaccine.

Five vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which 4 are in Phase II/III and one is in Phase-I/II.  Countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Qatar, Bhutan, Switzerland, Bahrain, Austria and South Korea – have shown keen interest in partnering for vaccine development of Indian vaccines and use thereof.

In an effort to administer the vaccine at the first available opportunity, database of healthcare and frontline workers, augmentation of cold chains and procurement of syringes, needles, etc. are in advanced stages of preparation.

The vaccination supply chain is being enhanced and non-vaccine supplies are being escalated.  Medical and nursing students and faculty will be involved in the training and implementation of the vaccination programme.  Every step is being steadily put in place to ensure that vaccines reach every location and person according to the prioritisation principles.

The Prime Minister has directed to work in collaboration with all reputed national and international institutions and regulators to ensure the rigour and highest global standards in Indian research and manufacturing.

National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) in consultation with State Governments and all relevant stakeholders have accelerated the implementation of vaccination of priority groups in first phase.

The digital platform for vaccine administration and distribution is prepared and test runs underway in partnership with the State and District Level stakeholders.

The Prime Minister reviewed the aspects of emergency use authorisation and for manufacture and procurement of medicine. As the results of these Phase III trials from national and international vaccine arrive, our robust and independent regulators will speedily and rigorously examine these for according authorisation for use.

The Government has provided assistance of Rs 900 crore under Covid Suraksha Mission to support Research & Development of Covid-19 vaccination.

The Prime Minister directed that a time-bound plan be laid out for speedy regulatory clearances and timely procurement for early rollout of the vaccination drive.

The Prime Minister appreciated comprehensive efforts at vaccine development. He also emphasised that given the persisting pandemic scenario there is no place for any relaxation in preventive measures such as wearing masks, keeping distance and ensuring hygiene.

The meeting was attended by Principal Secretary to PM, Cabinet Secretary, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Principal Scientific Advisor, Secretary Health, DG ICMR, officers of PMO, and Secretaries of related Departments of Government of India.




Hong Kong bans Air India flights from Delhi for fifth time due to coronavirus


Passengers from India can arrive in Hong Kong only if they have a coronavirus-negative certificate from a test done within 72 hours prior to the journey.

Hong Kong has banned Air India flights from Delhi till December 3 after a few passengers on its flight tested positive for the novel coronavirus post-arrival earlier this week, an official said on Friday.

This is the fifth time Air India’s flights from India have been banned by the Hong Kong government for bringing passengers who tested positive for the pathogen after arrival.

Passengers from India can arrive in Hong Kong only if they have a coronavirus-negative certificate from a test done within 72 hours prior to the journey. All international passengers are required to undergo a post-flight COVID-19 test at the airport, according to rules issued by the city state’s government in July.

The previous bans on the airline’s Delhi-Hong Kong flights were from August 18-31, September 20-October 3 and October 17-30, and on its Mumbai-Hong Kong flights during October 28-November 10.

“A few passengers on a Delhi-Hong Kong flight of Air India earlier this week tested positive for COVID-19 post-arrival,” the government official said.

“Consequently, the airline’s Delhi-Hong Kong flights have been banned till December 3.”

In a statement to PTI, an Air India spokesperson said the airline had been barred from operating any flights between Delhi and Hong Kong between November 20 and December 3.

However, the spokesperson added that the national carrier did not have any flight scheduled to Hong Kong during this period.

Besides India, a pre-flight COVID-negative certificate is mandatory for all passengers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, France, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, the UK and the US, according to the Hong Kong government’s rules.

An airline operating a flight to Hong Kong from these countries has to submit a form before departure, stating that all passengers onboard have COVID-negative certificates.

Another mandatory COVID-19 test is carried out for passengers after landing in Hong Kong and reports of this test may be at variance from the reports of tests conducted 72 hours before taking the flight, the spokesperson mentioned.

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the pandemic.

However, the Indian airlines have been permitted to operate special international flights under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under the bilateral air-bubble pacts since July.

Under the pact, the airlines of both countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions. India has formed such pacts with approximately 20 countries.




US President Donald Trump’s eldest son tests positive for coronavirus


Trump Jr’s positive test follows infections for a string of others connected to the White House, including his father, who was hospitalized, the president’s wife Melania and Trump’s youngest son Barron.

US President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr has tested positive for Covid-19 and is quarantining without symptoms, the latest in a long list of infections among those with links to the White House.

“Don tested positive at the start of the week and has been quarantining out at his cabin since the result,” his spokesman said.

“He’s been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended COVID-19 guidelines,” the spokesman said of the 42-year-old.

Trump Jr’s positive test follows infections for a string of others connected to the White House, including his father, who was hospitalized, the president’s wife Melania and Trump’s youngest son Barron.

Donald Jr’s girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, also tested positive in July.

Earlier Friday, Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and son of the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, announced he had tested positive.

Trump Jr is one of the most outspoken and aggressive defenders of his father, who is still refusing to recognize his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in the November 3 presidential election.

In the days after the vote, Trump Jr called for his father to go to “total war” against what he calls electoral fraud despite no evidence to support the claim.

Like his father he has also consistently downplayed the pandemic, telling Fox News as the virus surged around the country last month that deaths from Covid-19 had fallen to “almost nothing.”

Trump’s administration has been heavily criticized for its response to the pandemic and for downplaying the dangers.

Many in the crowds at his pre-election rallies were often maskless and not abiding by social-distancing rules.

They were a sharp contrast with Biden’s drive-in rallies and his scrupulous mask-wearing.

On Monday, the president-elect expressed frustration over Trump’s refusal to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying “more people may die” of coronavirus without immediate coordination on fighting the pandemic.

With Trump refusing to concede defeat, Biden and his team have been unable to coordinate with government officials on crucial continuity of issues like national security, but also on emergencies like a distribution plan for Covid-19 vaccines to tens of millions of Americans.

Current US numbers — more than a quarter of a million deaths have been reported — have alarmed authorities enough to advise that people stay home for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, when Americans usually travel to be with their families.

New York City has shut down schools for its 1.1 million students, while California will impose a 10:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew from Saturday.

There was however a new sign of hope on Friday as US biotech giant Pfizer and German partner BioNTech sought approval to roll out their coronavirus vaccine early.




8 injured in shooting at US mall in Wisconsin, gunman missing


The shooter was identified by police as a “white male in his 20s or 30s.”

Eight people were injured in a shooting at a US mall in Wisconsin on Friday according to police, who said they were still hunting for the shooter.

The FBI and the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office tweeted that their officers were on the scene at the Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, supporting the “active” response by local police.

“When emergency personnel arrived, the shooter was no longer at the scene,” the Wauwatosa Police Department said in a statement.

It said the wounded included seven adults and one teenager who had been rushed to hospital. The seriousness of their injuries was not immediately known, but Wauwatosa mayor Dennis McBride told ABC news their injuries were not life threatening.

The shooter was identified by police as a “white male in his 20s or 30s.”

Numerous workers at the mall took shelter inside the building as the shooter rampaged, according to videos circulating on social media.

Shopper Jill Wooley told a local news station she was inside with her 79-year-old mother when the gunfire erupted.

“I knew right away it was a gunshot and they just kept coming one right after the other,” Wooley told CBS affiliate WDJT. “We just dropped to the floor.”

“I think we’re all born with it,” she said. “We’ve all been exposed to public shootings like this. I think all of us have thought of what we would do in a situation like this.”

“We are disheartened and angered that our guests and tenants were subject to this violent incident today,” the company that operates the mall said in a statement.

“We are thankful for our partners at the Wauwatosa Police Department and we are cooperating with them as their investigation develops,” it added.




China sends vessel into earth’s deepest ocean trench with 3 men on board


The vessel “Fendouzhe”, or “Striver”, descended more than 10,000 metres into the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench with three researchers on board, state broadcaster CCTV said.

 

China livestreamed footage of its new manned submersible parked at the bottom of the ocean Friday, the latest foray by the country’s scientists into the Earth’s deepest ocean trench.

The vessel “Fendouzhe”, or “Striver”, descended more than 10,000 metres into the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench with three researchers on board, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Video footage shot and relayed by a deep-sea camera showed the green-and-white submersible moving through dark water surrounded by clouds of debris as it slowly touched down on the seabed.

Fendouzhe had earlier this month set a national record of 10,909 metres for manned deep-sea diving, just shy of the 10,927-metre world record set by an American explorer in 2019.

The submersible, equipped with robotic arms to collect biological samples and sonar “eyes” that use sound waves to identify surrounding objects, is making repeated dives to test its capabilities.

It is observing “the many species and the distribution of living things on the seabed”, scientists on board told CCTV.

The researchers will collect specimens for their work, the broadcaster said.

“It takes more than two trials before we can call it a real success,” Zhu Min, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences involved in the mission, told CCTV on Tuesday.

 

 




India witnesses surge in Covid cases with over 45k cases in 24 hours; overall tally crosses 90 lakh


The overall number of deaths till now has been recorded at 1,32,162 with 584 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The Covid caseload in India has crossed the 90 lakh mark with 45,882 infections in the past 24 hours. This is a worrisome development as the country has been continuously recording a decline in cases reaching below 30,000 mark after 4 months.

The overall number of deaths till now has been recorded at 1,32,162 with 584 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Covid recoveries surged to 84.28 lakh, pushing the national recovery rate to 93.6 per cent.

Maharashtra remains at the top of the list in terms of the Covid cases with 17,63,055 total cases, up 5,535 since Thursday.

In the last 24 hours, the state recorded 154 deaths. Other states in the top-5 list include Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawalla on Thursday said the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine should be available for healthcare workers and elderly people by around February 2021 and by April for the general public, and will be priced at a maximum of ₹ 1,000 for two necessary doses for the public, depending on the final trial results and regulatory approvals.

With the steep surge in coronavirus cases, Ahmedabad – the capital of Gujarat – has announced a total lockdown from Friday night till Monday morning with some restricted relaxations.

The city has witnessed a surge in the cases after Diwali as the city is famous for celebrating the festival with excitement and its Navratri is famous all over the world.




After surge in Covid cases post festive season, Ahmedabad imposes complete lockdown


The decision to impose the night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am from Friday was taken in a review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

With the steep surge in coronavirus cases, Ahmedabad – the capital of Gujarat – has announced a total lockdown from Friday night till Monday morning with some restricted relaxations.

The city has witnessed a surge in the cases after Diwali as the city is famous for celebrating the festival with excitement and its Navratri is famous all over the world.

The decision came hours after Additional Chief Secretary, forest and environment Rajiv Kumar Gupta, who is in charge of the Covid situation in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), announced an indefinite night curfew from Friday.

As per the reports, the decision to impose the night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am from Friday was taken in a review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

The situation was reviewed again late evening.

Rajiv Kumar Gupta, in a late night post on Twitter emphasised that after the total curfew lifts Monday 6 am, the city would go under the indefinite night curfew Monday night onward.

 




‘Oxford Covid-19 vaccine should be available by around April for general public’: Serum Institute chief


‘It will probably take two or three years for every Indian to get inoculated, not just because of the supply constraints but because you need the budget, the vaccine, logistics, infrastructure and then, people should be willing to take the vaccine.’

Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawalla on Thursday said the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine should be available for healthcare workers and elderly people by around February 2021 and by April for the general public, and will be priced at a maximum of ₹ 1,000 for two necessary doses for the public, depending on the final trial results and regulatory approvals.

Probably by 2024, every Indian will get vaccinated, he said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS), 2020.

“It will probably take two or three years for every Indian to get inoculated, not just because of the supply constraints but because you need the budget, the vaccine, logistics, infrastructure and then, people should be willing to take the vaccine. So these are the factors that lead up to being able to vaccinate 80-90 per cent of the population.

“It will be 2024 for everybody, if willing to take a two-dose vaccine, to be vaccinated,” Mr Poonawalla said.

Asked at what price the public will get it, he said it will be around USD 5-6 per dose with an MRP of around ₹ 1,000 for the two necessary doses.

“The government of India will be getting it at a far cheaper price at around USD 3-4, because it will be buying in a large volume and get access to the price that is similar to what COVAX has got. We are still pricing it far cheaper and more affordable than other vaccines we have in the market today,” Mr Poonawalla said.

Asked about the efficacy of the vaccine, he said the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is so far proving to work very well even in elderly people, which was a concern earlier.

“It has induced a good T-cell response, which is an indicator for your long-term immunity and antibody response but then again, time will only tell if these vaccines are going to protect you in the long term. Nobody can answer that for any of the vaccines today,” Mr Poonawalla said.

Responding to a question on the safety aspect, he said there has been no major complaints, reactions or adverse events, adding, “We would need to wait and see. The efficacy and immunogenicity results from the Indian trials will come out in about a month-and-a half.”

Asked when the SII will apply for an emergency authorisation, Mr Poonawalla said as soon as the UK authorities and the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA) approve it for emergency use, it will apply to the drug controller for emergency use authorisation in India.

“But that will be for a limited use for frontline workers, healthcare workers and elderly people,” he added.

Children would have to wait a little longer till the safety data is out, but the good news is that COVID-19 is not so bad and serious for them, Mr Poonawalla said.

“Unlike measles pneumonia, which is deadly, this disease is seeming to be less of a nuisance for children but then, they can be carriers and can give the infection to others.

“We want to vaccinate the elderly people and others who are the most vulnerable first. Once we have enough safety data to go in on children, we can recommend it for children too,” he said.

Mr Poonawalla said the Oxford vaccine is affordable, safe and stored at a temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius, which is an ideal temperature for it to be stored in the cold storages of India. He said the SII plans to make about 10 crore doses per month from February.

As regards how many doses would be provided to India, Mr Poonawalla said talks are still going on and no agreement has been arrived at in this regard.

“India wants around 400 million doses by July. I do not know if it will take all from the Serum Institute. We are gearing up to offer that kind of volume to India and still have a few 100 million to offer to COVAX by July and August. No agreement so far,” he said.

Mr Poonawalla said the SII is not entering into any agreement with other countries at this moment as India is its priority.

“We have not signed and committed anything else beyond Bangladesh at the moment. We really do not want to partner right now with many countries because we will not have enough stocks to deliver.

“We want to handle India as a priority first and manage Africa at the same time and then help out other countries,” he said.

Mr Poonawalla said 30-40 crore doses of the Oxford vaccine will be available by the first quarter of 2021.

In another session of the summit, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said there is some talk going on between Pfizer and the Indian government but not much with Moderna.

“It is going to be a huge challenge as far as the Pfizer vaccine is concerned, considering that it needs a cold chain of minus 70 degrees Celsius,” he said and pinned hoped on the vaccines that are at various stages of trial in India.

On the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Guleria said the percentage of population to be inoculated will depend on the number of vaccines getting the regulatory approvals and the number of shots they are producing.

He further said the coronavirus goes into the lungs without making a person symptomatic.

“We have individuals who are asymptomatic and you can see patches in their lungs at CT scans directly. It really bypasses a person’s defence mechanism, which means that you not only have the virus in your nose or throat, but it has gone right into your lungs. A virus which can do that is something we have to be wary of,” Dr Guleria said.




Georgia recount complete, affirms Joe Biden win: Officials


The confirmation makes Biden the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the southern US state.

The US state of Georgia has completed a manual recount of all the ballots cast there in the presidential election, and the results confirm Joe Biden’s win in the state, a local official announced Thursday.

“The audit confirmed that the original machine count accurately portrayed the winner of the election,” a statement posted on the website of Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger said.

The confirmation makes Biden the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the southern US state in almost three decades, despite his rival Donald Trump’s claims of fraud.




India executing pinpoint strikes in PoK


Indian Army strikes suspected Pakistani terror launch pads in response to ceasefire violations, terrorists’ infiltrations across LoC

The Indian Army is carrying out “pinpoint strikes” on suspected terror launchpads inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in response to Pakistani military’s unrelenting efforts to push maximum number of terrorists into India before the onset of harsh winters, sources in the security establishment said today.

The ‘deep state’ in Pakistan has tried to manage a fine balance between escaping the scrutiny by global anti-terror watchdog FATF and supporting terror at the same time with an aim to fuel unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, they said. In the last few weeks, Pakistan Army has been aggressively targeting civilians on Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) by resorting to indiscriminate firing by heavy calibre artillery guns to support infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir, they said.

This year, 21 innocent civilians have lost their lives in Pakistani firing compared to 18 in the whole of 2019, according to official data.

The sources said intelligence-based targeted strikes are being conducted by the Indian Army to neutralise mostly Pakistani and foreign terrorists, and the collateral damage has been very negligible in these operations.

The new pattern being followed by Islamabad in “inciting” unrest and arm the youths in Jammu and Kashmir has been to avoid any trace of its involvement in view of the growing international pressure on it to take action against terror groups operating from its soil, they said.

“Pakistan has sought to target the peaceful villagers living alongside the Indian side of the LoC in order to send a message to the inhabitants of Kashmiri hinterland that to disobey Pakistani directives on terrorism will prove lethal,” said a military source.

Triggering a major flare up, Pakistan resorted to heavy shelling in several areas along the LoC in north Kashmir on Friday killing five security personnel apart from at least four civilians.

The Indian Army mounted a major retaliation pounding several Pakistani positions with anti-tank guided missiles and artillery guns in which at least eight Pakistani soldiers were killed and 12 others injured.

“Pakistan Army’s actions to exclusively target civilians are countered by Indian Army’s pinpoint strikes on suspected launchpads inside Pakistan-OccupiedKashmir,” the source said, adding deaths of terrorists in the area are shown as civilian deaths by Pakistan in order to garner sympathy and aid from foreign donors.

‘Pak forces providing cover fire to terrorists’: India today charged Pakistani forces with continuing to provide supporting cover fire to terrorists to cross the LoC to indulge in terrorism in India.

“Despite repeated calls for restraint and adherence to the ceasefire understanding of 2003 for maintaining peace and tranquility, Pakistani forces continue to engage in providing supporting cover fire to infiltrators. The incessant infiltration of terrorists and induction of weapons to fuel terror activities continue unabated. Such activities are not possible without the support of Pakistani forces deployed along the LoC,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a media briefing here.

He said the Charge d’Affaires of the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi was summoned by the foreign office on 14 November and a strong protest was lodged over unprovoked ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces, on multiple sectors along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir on 13 November, resulting in the death of four civilians and injuries to 19 others.

He said India lodged a protest with Pakistan over its continued support to cross border terrorist infiltration. Pakistan has once again been reminded of its bilateral commitment to not allow any territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India.

(With input from PTI)





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