International Latest News

India absent at China meet with neighbors on Covid vaccine supply

Beijing: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a virtual meeting of his counterparts from some South Asian countries to deal with the COVID-19 situation during which he proposed flexible methods for “diversified and stable” vaccine supplies.

Wang presided over the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to discuss COVID-19 cooperation to firm up its influence in South Asia.

India, Maldives and Bhutan were conspicuously absent at the meeting.

Wang said China also extended an invitation to India to attend the meeting, state-run Global Times reported.

He said that this meeting also extended an invitation to India. China expresses its deep sympathy over the raging epidemic in India and extends its sincere condolences to the Indian people, a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry said.

State-run China Global Television Network quoted him as saying that the first batch of oxygen supplies have been sent to India.

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing that the “door is wide open” for India and other South Asian countries to join the framework.

Except for Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have received vaccine supplies from India.

He also noted that China is willing to set up warehouses for emergency supplies in those countries through friendly consultation and to explore various forms of cooperation tackling the spread of variants of COVID-19.

About China’s offer of extending support and assistance to India, he said, “China has expressed readiness early on to provide necessary support and assistance to India, and is coordinating Chinese enterprises to positively respond to India’s demand for anti-epidemic supplies such as oxygen concentrators”. (The Print)


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Israel lifts outdoor mask mandate, reopens schools

Jerusalem: Israel has lifted a public mask mandate and fully reopened its education system in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions following its mass vaccination drive.

All primary and secondary school grades returned to classrooms on April 18, and health officials ended a year-long requirement to wear a mask in public spaces. Masks are still required indoors and in large gatherings.

Israel has speedily inoculated a majority of its population against the coronavirus in a world-leading vaccination campaign. It has lifted most of its coronavirus restrictions and announced last week that it would be reopening the country to vaccinate foreign tourists starting in May.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Israel has recorded over 836,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 6,331 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Over 53 per cent of its 9.3 million citizens have received two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

In the months since Israel launched its vaccination campaign in December, serious cases and deaths have fallen precipitously and allowed the economy to fully reopen. (Business Today)

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COVID-19 long way from over, warns WHO chief

Geneva: There have now been seven consecutive weeks of increasing Covid-19 cases and four weeks of increasing deaths globally, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic is ‘long from over’.

“In January and February, the world saw six consecutive weeks of declining cases. We have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths. Last week was the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far,” Tedros said during the briefing.

This is despite the fact that more than 780 million doses of vaccine have now been administered globally, he said.

“Make no mistake, vaccines are a vital and powerful tool. But they are not the only tool. We say this day after day, week after week. And we will keep saying it. Physical distancing works. Masks work. Hand hygiene works. Ventilation works. Surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine and compassionate care – they all work to stop infections and save lives,” he said.

He added, “But confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives.”

While citing “many countries around the world” have shown that this virus can be stopped and contained with proven public health measures and strong systems that respond rapidly and consistently, Tedros said that the global body “does not warrant endless lockdowns”.

The death toll from the coronavirus infection in the world as on April 13 topped 2.94 million; almost 136.3 million cases of infection were detected, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University. (Zee News).

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India surpasses US to become fastest Covid vaccinating country

New Delhi: India has surpassed the United States to become the fastest Covid-19 vaccinating country in the world with an average daily rate of 30,93,861 vaccine doses, the Union Health Ministry said.

According to the ministry, the cumulative number of coronavirus vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 8.70 crore.

As on day 81 of the vaccination drive on April 6, a total of 33,37,601 vaccine doses were given.

“Cumulatively, 8,70,77,474 vaccine doses have been administered through 13,32,130 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am today (April 7). These include 89,63,724 HCWs who have taken the 1st dose and 53,94,913 HCWs who have taken the 2nd dose, 97,36,629 FLWs (1stdose), 43,12,826 FLWs (2nd dose), 3,53,75,953 1st dose beneficiaries and 10,00,787 2nd dose beneficiaries more than 60 years old and 2,18,60,709 (1st dose) and 4,31,933 (2nd dose) beneficiaries aged 45 to 60,” according to the statement.

From April 2, the government started vaccinating all people above 45 years.

The Union Health Ministry has stated that vaccination for all will not be opened to all ages as of now. The aim of the vaccination drive is to administer the vaccine to those who need it and not to those who want it.

“Many people ask why we shouldn’t open vaccination for all. There are two aims of such vaccination drives — to prevent deaths and protect the healthcare system. The aim is not to administer the vaccine to those who want it but to those who need it,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

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Sri Lanka cancels Imran’s speech to avoid ‘clash’ with India: Report

Colombo: In an effort to avoid confrontation with India, Sri Lanka has cancelled a scheduled speech of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Parliament.

According to a report titled ‘Sri Lanka avoids clash with India by cancelling Khan’s Parliament speech’ by Dar Javed published in Colombo Gazette, the Colombo government cannot risk its relations with India when it is getting stuck in the Chinese debt-trap and India being the savior for the world for distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

India has recently gifted 5 lakh doses of Covishield vaccines to Sri Lanka.

In past recent months, there have been anti-Muslim sentiments in Sri Lanka as Buddhist people have been protesting on issues such as animal sacrifices in mosques.

It is expected that Imran Khan would have used the Muslim card during his visit to Sri Lanka. He had played the same card during his visit to Afghanistan last year.

Javed said that the Pakistan Prime Minister in 2012 had supported the Taliban saying the terror activities were “holy war” that is justified by Islamic law.

“He has used the United Nations General Assembly to rake up Muslim cause, which has often been perceived as interference in the internal matters of the other countries. In October 2020, he urged the Muslim-majority countries to protest after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed concerns over the murder of a teacher by an Islamist radical. He wrote to the leaders of Muslim-majority countries ‘to counter the growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states’,” the author stated.

Looking at the past incidents, it is evident that “giving him (Imran Khan) a platform like Parliament to speak would be like to dice with death”.

“He would use the platform to make statements that will have “serious ramifications” for both the Buddhist people of Sri Lanka and the Rajapaksa government at the international level.”

While Imran Khan seems eager to raise the issue of the treatment of Muslims in other countries, the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women report had stated that the religious freedom in the country has continued to deteriorate.

The commission further noted that the minorities in Pakistan are treated as second-class citizens. Besides, several Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan were recently demolished.

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N Korea ‘tried to hack’ Pfizer for vaccine info: Reports

Seoul: North Korean hackers tried to break into the computer systems of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a search for information on Covid-19 vaccine and treatment technology, South Korea’s spy agency said, according to reports.

The nuclear-armed North has been under self-imposed isolation since closing its borders in January last year to try to protect itself from the virus that first emerged in neighboring China and has gone on to sweep the world, killing more than two million people.

Leader Kim Jong-un has repeatedly insisted that the country has had no coronavirus cases, although outside experts doubt those assertions.

And the closure has added to the pressure on its tottering economy from international sanctions imposed over its banned weapons systems, increasing the urgency for Pyongyang to find a way to deal with the disease.

Seoul’s National Intelligence Service “briefed us that North Korea tried to obtain technology involving the Covid vaccine and treatment by using cyber-warfare to hack into Pfizer”, MP Ha Tae-keung told reporters after a parliamentary hearing behind closed doors.

North Korea is known to operate an army of thousands of well-trained hackers who have attacked firms, institutions and researchers in the South and elsewhere.

Pfizer said in December that documents relating to their vaccine were “unlawfully accessed” during a cyberattack on a server at the European Medicines Agency, the EU’s medicine regulator.

The comments came after the Amsterdam-based EMA said it had been the victim of a hacking attack, without specifying when it took place or whether its work on Covid-19 was targeted.

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India Latest News

Canada welcomes Modi’s Covid-19 vaccine promise

Toronto: The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) and many other Indo-Canadian organizations have welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to provide Covid-19 vaccine to Canada.

Modi made this promise to his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau who called him this week to discuss various issues, including the pandemic, the economic recovery and climate change.

In a tweet, Modi said that he “assured him (Trudeau) that India would do its best to facilitate supplies of COVID vaccines sought by Canada”.

Trudeau is facing a public backlash because of the lack of the availability of vaccines as both Pfizer and Moderna have either cut or delayed shipments to Canada which has got only 1.1 million doses so far.

Indo-Canadian trade bodies welcomed the initiative by Trudeau to call Modi in the wake of the setback to bilateral relations after Trudeau issued a statement in December in support of the farmers’ stir in India.

Calling it a big development in bilateral ties, Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce President Vijay Thomas said: “India’s promise to deliver Covid vaccine to Canada is welcome news in the wake of some recent headwinds in our relationship. A big barrier has been broken.”

Thomas said the phone discussion between the two Prime Ministers could be the beginning of a new partnership.

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Rich nations have ‘hoarded’ Covid-19 vaccines: Amnesty

Paris: Rich countries have hoarded enough coronavirus vaccines to protect their populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021, Amnesty International and other groups said, possibly depriving billions of people in poorer areas.

“Nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in ten people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough doses are produced,” Amnesty warned.

According to Amnesty, Canada tops the chart with enough vaccines to vaccinate each Canadian five times.

“Updated data shows that rich nations representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far,” it said.

The Pfizer /BioNTech vaccine has received approval in the UK and vaccinations have already begun. It is likely to receive approval from other countries. including the US. within days.

Two further potential vaccines, from Moderna and Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca  are expected to submit or are awaiting regulatory approval. The Russian vaccine, Sputnik, has announced positive trial results and four other candidates are in phase 3 clinical trials.

So far, all of Moderna’s doses and 96 percent of Pfizer/BioNTech have been acquired by rich countries.

In welcome contrast, Oxford/AstraZeneca has pledged to provide 64 percent of their doses to people in developing nations. Yet despite their actions to scale up supply they can still only reach 18 percent of the world’s population next year at most.

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Sputnik V to cost lower than Pfizer, Moderna’s Covid vax

Moscow: Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 will cost governments much lower than that of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, the official Twitter handle of the world’s first registered vaccine against the pandemic said.

“Translating pharma lingo: the announced price of Pfizer of $19.50 and Moderna of $25-$37 per dose actually means their price of $39 and $50-$74 per person. Two doses are required per person for the Pfizer, Sputnik V and Moderna vaccines. The price of Sputnik V will be much lower,” said the tweet.

According to a spokesman for the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), RDIF is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the price of the Russian vaccine will be made public next week, TASS news agency reported.

Russia became the first country to give regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine in August when Sputnik V was officially registered ahead of large-scale clinical trials.

The third, post-registration, stage of clinical tests began on August 25. The vaccine was developed on a platform that had been used for a number of other vaccines.

According to the Russian Health Ministry, these vaccines have proved their ability to form lasting immunity for a period of up to two years.

The first batch of the vaccine was dispatched to Russian regions on September 12, said the TASS report.

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