coronavirus International

Wuhan market may not be the origin of COVID-19: Chinese scientists

Beijing: In an apparent about-turn, Chinese scientists have claimed that the Wuhan seafood market may not be the origin of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The scientists said they have discovered a novel coronavirus clade that is different from that shared among patients connected to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, reported.

On the new theory of the virus origin, the paper says, “Scientists collected viral genome samples from 326 patients in Shanghai between January 20 and February 25. They identified two major clades, both of which included cases diagnosed in early December 2019. The scientists noticed that genomes of six patients with contact history related to the Huanan seafood market fell into one kind of clade while those of three other patients diagnosed in the same period but without exposure to the market clustered into the other clade, suggesting multiple origins of transmission in Shanghai.”

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world had reached nearly 5.5 million as of May 26.

The US and several European countries have been asking for a thorough probe to find the origin of the virus, which has devastated the world. Several scientists speculated that the virus could be leaked from a Chinese bio-lab.

The Huanan seafood market was previously deemed to be the origin of the novel coronavirus, but now research indicates that the speculation may not be right.

Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said he had gone to Wuhan to collect samples for Covid-19 researchers in early January, but no viruses were detected in the animal samples.

Viruses were only found in environmental samples, including sewage, wrote the People’s Daily.

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coronavirus International

Coronavirus is just tip of the iceberg: China’s ‘bat woman’

Beijing: China’s top Virologist Shi Zhengli has warned that coronavirus is ‘just tip of the iceberg’ and world will soon face even worse pandemics.

Known as China’s ‘bat woman’, Shi is the deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and is renowned for her work on coronavirus in bats.

In an interview on Chinese state television, Shi said that research into viruses needs scientists and governments to be transparent and cooperative, and it is “very regrettable” when science is politicized.

“If we want to prevent human beings from suffering from the next infectious disease outbreak, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and give early warnings,” Shi told CGTN. “If we don’t study them there will possibly be another outbreak.”

Her interview comes after US President Donald Trump suggested that COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Shi has said that the genetic characteristics of the viruses she’s worked with didn’t match those of the coronavirus spreading in humans. In a social media post, she wrote she would “swear on my life” the pandemic had nothing to do with her lab.

The outbreak has infected more than 5.4 million people worldwide and killed over 345,000.    

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coronavirus International

COVID-19 crisis: Ex-UK PM questions Trump

London: Bashing the US President’s refusal to work with other leaders, former UK PM Tony Blair has questioned President Donald Trump’s leadership in times of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The worry I have that an absence of global coordination and global leadership that’s necessary for it is a huge problem,” the Daily Mail quoted Blair as saying, citing his recent interview with NBC News.

He said that with “global coordination”, leaders could find a vaccine together, accelerate the development of therapeutics and testing capability, and organize economic measures to keep the international economy afloat, the Daily Mail reported.

“It’s that global coordination, the absence of which means that each individual country’s less effective at dealing with the disease. That’s the thing that worries me,” Blair, who served from 1997 to 2007 as UK’s prime minister, said.

Trump has been at the receiving end for his administration’s response to COVID-19, with some accusing him of downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic and others saying his officials reacted too slowly.

Trump on his part has isolated the US from several international alliances and threatened to withhold funding from the World Health Organization for its handling of virus.

World-over, some 5.4 million people have been infected with the virus. Economies across the globe have been shut down in the crisis.

In the US, the first quarter of 2020 saw the steepest decline since the Great Recession as unemployment climbed to over 40 million.

Blair also warned of ‘terrifying’ economic consequences if countries remain on lockdown. “I think they (people) are not sufficiently well-informed about the risks of economic collapse,” he said.

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India International

Worry about citizens, not airlines, SC tells govt

New Delhi: Stressing that “the government should worry about the health of citizens than the health of commercial airlines”, India’s apex court said there cannot be two norms — six feet social distance outside and shoulder to shoulder travel — on flights.

The Supreme Court allowed national carrier Air India to operate international flight service with middle seat booking till June 6.

The court was responding to a petition filed by the Center and Air India after Bombay high court questioned why the airline was not keeping the middle seats vacant in international flights.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said: “We are of the considered view that the petitioner – Air India should be allowed to operate the non-scheduled flights with the middle seats booking up to 6th June, 2020.”

Meanwhile, passengers were seen harried at the national capital’s IGI Airport on May 25 as over 80 domestic flights were cancelled owing to state governments’ cap on accepting flights.

The domestic air travel resumed in the country after a two-month gap due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Till around 1.00 pm 82 flights were cancelled from Delhi’s IGI Airport.

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Indian-American hotelier urges Trump admin to reopen US economy

Washington: Highlighting the struggles of Coronavirus hit American hoteliers, a prominent Indian American businessman has requested the Trump administration to reopen the economy “with common sense precautions”.

Danny Gaekwad, Chairman of OSEM Hospitality Management, said the pandemic has hit the hotel industry hard, and owners and employees alike continue to struggle.

“Reopening our businesses with common sense precautions that prioritize the health and wellbeing of employees and guests will help our industry and our state gets our economy moving again,” Gaekwad was quoted as saying in the American Bazaar.

Gaekwad spoke on behalf of the influential Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) at a roundtable of hospitality and tourism industry, hosted by Vice President Mike Pence in Orlando.

The AAHOA accounts for more than 50 per cent of the hotels and motels in the United States and over 90 per cent members of AAHOA are of Indian-origin.

Gaekwad, a resident of Ocala, in central Florida, drew Pence’s attention on the liquidity crisis faced by the members of AAHOA.

“If there is no guest, there is no dollar. If there is no dollar, don’t even think about liquidity. Do we have liquidity? Absolutely not,” the American Bazaar quoted the hotelier as saying.

“As an immigrant, my whole family works in a business because it does bother us. I represent here more than 20,000 (AAOHA) members. We all came with an American Dream. I thought I saw 9/11, I thought I saw the greatest recession. I have never seen this and I was never prepared for this.”

Besides Pence, the event was attended by Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and several prominent business leaders from the state.

The novel coronavirus has so far claimed 328,120 lives and infected nearly 5 million people globally. The US is worst affected with 93,439 deaths and over 1.5 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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Health International Latest News

China’s fast-spreading virus kills 6, reaches 5 countries

Beijing: China on Tuesday tightened control on people exiting and entering Wuhan the central Chinese city at the core of the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, which has killed six people, infected 300 and spread panic and anxiety ahead of the country’s biggest festival, the Lunar New Year (LNY), the media reported.

As many as 300 people have been infected, health authorities said Tuesday, adding that two more people died in Wuhan in the past 24 hours, pushing the toll up to six.

Two cases were confirmed in Tianjin, a city neighboring Beijing, and another 5 in the city of Chongqing, a megapolis of 30 million people.

Authorities are now attempting to isolate the previously unknown virus in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province and a transport and education hub.

Local authorities will continue to exercise control over entry and exit into Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the suspected source of the novel Coronavirus.

“Thirty-five stationary infrared thermometers and over 300 hand-held ones have been used to screen passengers with fevers at various transport terminals in Wuhan, including the airport, railway stations, bus stations and passenger piers,” official news agency Xinhua reported.

It added: “Passengers with fevers will be registered, provided masks and brochures about pneumonia and advised to see doctors. Ticket cancellations and changing will be free of charge for them, according to the municipal government”.

The Chinese foreign ministry said it wasn’t a complete ban on exiting or entering Wuhan city.

For Wuhan residents, this Lunar New Year will be a muted if not a dark one as celebrations to mark the new year eve on January 24, which attracts huge crowds, have been cancelled.

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