08 April 2021
A) As India stares at vaccine shortage, Health Minister accuses States of covering up ‘failures’ by spreading panic.
Is India facing a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines? It might appear to be so when we consider that in recent days, several states, including direly affected Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have complained about erratic vaccine supply. The Centre, however, has consistently maintained that there are no shortages. Today, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, in a no-holds-barred attack on opposition led-state Maharashtra, accused them of demanding universal vaccination for all adults to cover up their poor vaccination efforts. Maharashtra, which has, and continues to see, the highest number of cases and deaths, was putting its citizens in danger by allowing them to escape institutional quarantine for the sake of personal vasuli (personal extortion) , Harsh Vardhan alleged. Overall, as the state has lurched from one crisis to another, it seems as if the state leadership is happily sleeping at the wheels. Maharashtra’s Health Minister, however, today warned that the State had only three days’ vaccine stock left, and urged the Centre to expedite the delivery of vaccine doses to the State. Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Tope remarked that the State daily vaccination rate was the fastest in the country and said Maharashtra needed a stable supply of at least 40 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines each week. At present, we just have 14 lakh vaccine doses, which will get over in the next three days. We’ve asked for 40 lakh more vaccine doses per week. At the moment, Maharashtra is reeling under a severe shortage with many districts and vaccination centers reporting that they have no doses to give, said the Health Minister. Tope also spoke of the various demands he had made to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan during a two-hour video conferencing with health ministers of nine States on Tuesday evening.
B) Vaccine bottleneck: SII gets lawsuit from AstraZeneca for delay in supply as production capacity stretched to the limit.
Adding another dimension to the controversy over vaccine shortages, Serum Institute of India (SII) has said that its production lines are under stress and India must provide it ₹3,000 crore ($408 million) to boost capacity. Adar Poonawala, CEO, SII, told NDTV that it was unable to export vaccines (which it sells at a higher price) because of restrictions placed by India and this was curtailing profits necessary for larger manufacturing capacity investments. The company produced about 65 million vaccines a month, most of it for India. However, with India now administering over 2-4 million doses a day, these could quickly dry up. Poonawala also said his company had been sent legal notices by AstraZeneca over delays, and a ban by the United States on exporting raw material necessary for making the Novavax vaccine meant that their production capacity had halved. Though the Centre has also ordered 20 million doses of Covaxin by Bharat Biotech, there are again concerns on how quickly it can ramp production of the projected 120 million. Bharat Biotech, too, has reportedly requested funds from the government for ramping up production. India has supplied about 64.5 million doses of Covaxin and Covishield to at least 84 foreign governments as of March 29, and has administered 84 million to its own people. So far, only 5% of Indians have received at least one dose and only 0.8% have been fully inoculated.
C) Every Indian deserves safe life, says Rahul on Covid-19 vaccine access.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today batted for universal access to the Covid-19 vaccine, saying every Indian deserves the chance to a safe life. He was reacting to the Health Ministry’s statement on Tuesday that the vaccine needs to be given to those who need it and not those who want it. The vaccine is currently available to all Indians above the age of 45 years. It’s ridiculous to debate needs and wants. Every Indian deserves the chance to a safe life, Gandhi said on Twitter, using the hashtag “#CovidVaccine”. He later shared a video of a person being beaten up by police in Indore for alleged violation of Covid-19 norms. Such type of shameful, inhuman behaviour in the name of enforcing Corona guidelines is unacceptable to the country. Where should the public go when policemen who are supposed to protect people commit such atrocities, he said in a tweet in Hindi.
D) It’s compulsory to wear a mask even when driving alone in a private vehicle, says Delhi HC.
Wearing a mask or face cover in a vehicle occupied by either a single person or multiple persons is compulsory in the view of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, the Delhi High Court ruled on Wednesday. A mask is a ‘suraksha kavach’ for preventing the spread of the corona virus, Justice Prathiba M. Singh remarked, while dismissing four different pleas challenging the ₹500 challan issued to persons for not wearing face masks while travelling alone in a private car. A vehicle which is moving across the city, even if occupied at a given point in time by one person, would be a public place owing to the immediate risk of exposure to other persons under varying circumstances, the court said. In one of the four cases, a lawyer, who was on his way to his chambers at Tis Hazari Courts on August 9, 2020, and driving his privately owned car, was stopped near Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital, Rajpur Road, Civil Lines by the police. The lawyer was in his car travelling alone, with his mask hanging on his face, from one of his ears. The case of the lawyer is that since he was in his car alone, he had not put on the face mask and that he had intended to wear the mask as soon as he stepped out of the car. He stated that the four windows of his car were closed. When the police official stopped his car, he was informed that non-wearing of mask by him is in violation of the Delhi Epidemic Diseases (Management of Covid-19) Regulations, 2020, and a sum of ₹500 was imposed on him as fine. The lawyer had sought to declare that privately owned cars are private places for the purpose of the Regulations of 2020. Apart from refund of the amount of ₹500, he had also sought a compensation of ₹5 lakh. Justice Singh highlighted that a person travelling in a vehicle or car, even if he is alone, could be exposed to the virus in various ways. The person may have visited a market, or workplace, or hospital or a busy street, prior to entering the car or vehicle. Such a person may be required to keep windows open for the purposes of ventilation.
E) EC sends notice to Mamata on model code violation.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses an election campaign rally for the Assembly polls, at Baneswar in Cooch Behar district, West Bengal on April 7, 2021. The Election Commission today sent a notice to West Bengal Chief Minister and All-India Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee stating that her appeal to minority voters not to divide their votes was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). The EC asked the Chief Minister to respond within 48 hours, failing which it would take a decision without any further reference to her. The notice said a BJP delegation led by Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had met the EC and complained about Banerjee’s speech during a campaign event in Tarakeshwar on April 3 appealing to Muslim voters not to let their votes get divided among political parties. He is requesting his minority brothers and sisters with folded hands don’t divide the minority votes after listening to the devil (shaitaan) person who had taken money from the BJP (sic), the EC quoted Banerjee as saying. The EC said it found Banerjee’s speech to be in violation of the MCC, which was imposed after the West Bengal Assembly polls were announced on February 26. Among the clauses highlighted by the notice were those against the use of caste or communal appeals to voters and intimidation of voters.
F) India has world’s third highest number of billionaires, says Forbes report.
Mukesh Ambani, the richest person in India and also the wealthiest in Asia, is ranked 10 on the global billionaires’ list. India has the third highest number of billionaires in the world after the U.S. and China, according to a new list by Forbes magazine, which said Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani reclaimed his spot as Asia’s richest person, dethroning Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma, who was the richest person in the region a year ago. Forbes’ 35th annual list of the world’s billionaires is topped by Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos for the fourth year in a row. His net worth is $177 billion, up $64 billion from a year ago as a result of surging Amazon shares, Forbes said. On the second spot is SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who was the biggest gainer in dollar terms. Musk’s fortune ballooned to $151 billion, a whopping $126.4 billion more than a year ago, when he had ranked 31 and was worth $24.6 billion, it said. The main reason: a 705% climb in Tesla shares, Forbes said. Ambani, the richest person in India and also the wealthiest in Asia, is ranked 10 on the global billionaires’ list. He reclaimed his spot as Asia’s richest person with a net worth of $84.5 billion. Ambani has become the richest person in Asia, ranked Number 10 and worth an estimated $84.5 billion. He nudges out Jack Ma of China, Asia’s richest person a year ago, whose rank dropped to 26 (from 17 last year) despite a nearly $10 billion jump in his fortune to $48.4 billion, Forbes said. Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani, the second richest person in India, is ranked 24th on the global list of billionaires with a net worth of $50.5 billion. Chairman of the Poonawalla Group and founder of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Cyrus Poonawalla is ranked 169th on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of $12.7 billion. Poonawalla ranks seven on the list of Indian billionaires. Founder of HCL Technologies Shiv Nadar, the third richest person in India, is ranked 71st globally and has a net worth of $23.5 billion. The three richest Indians alone have added just over $100 billion between them, Forbes said. At 724, the U.S. has more billionaires than any other country in the world (up from 614 last year). China is closing the gap with 698 billionaires, up from 456 last year.
G) Hackers target LinkedIn users with fake job offers.
A hacking group is ‘spear phishing’ business professionals on LinkedIn with fake job offers to get remote control over the victim’s computer, according to researchers at eSentire. Spear phishing is an email or electronics communications scam in which a victim receives an email that leads them to a fake website infected with malware. The aim of the attack is to steal data or install malware on victims’ device. According to researchers, hackers are spear phishing with a malicious zip file using the job position listed on the target’s LinkedIn profile. For instance, if the LinkedIn member’s job is listed as Senior Account Executive—International Freight, the malicious zip file would be titled Senior Account Executive—International Freight position. Once a user opens the fake job offer, they initiate the installation of file-less backdoor, titled ‘more_eggs’. Once loaded, the backdoor trojan can download additional malicious plug-ins and provide hands-on access to the victim’s computer.
H) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.
The number of reported coronavirus cases from India stood at 12,913,854 with the death toll at 1,68,207. The Central government has decided to allow Covid-19 vaccination sessions at workplaces with about 100 eligible/willing beneficiaries. States/UTs have been asked to prepare for the launch by April 11, a Health Ministry official told The Hindu, adding that the move was aimed at making the vaccine accessible, quality-focused and citizen-centric. Only employees of a workplace aged 45 years and more will be eligible for vaccination at the workplace. No outsider, including eligible family members, will be allowed for vaccination at the Covid-19 vaccination centre at the workplace, he said. While there is no change in the eligibility criteria the vaccine is offered to willing beneficiaries who are 45 years old and above this is the first time that a vaccine is being offered outside a hospital setting.
A) Backlash after Pakistan PM links rape to dress of women.
Pakistan rights campaigners have accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of baffling ignorance after the former cricketer blamed how women dress for a rise in rape cases. In a weekend interview, Mr. Khan said an increase in rapes indicated the consequences in any society where vulgarity is on the rise. The incidents of rape of women have actually very rapidly increased in society, he said. He advised women to cover up to prevent temptation. This entire concept of purdah is to avoid temptation, not everyone has the willpower to avoid it, he said, using a term that can refer to modest dress or the segregation of the sexes. Hundreds of people signed a statement circulating online on Wednesday, calling Mr. Khan’s comments factually incorrect, insensitive and dangerous. Fault rests solely with the rapist and the system that enables the rapist, including a culture fostered by statements such as those made by (Khan), the statement said. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent rights watchdog, said on Tuesday it was appalled by the comments. Not only does this betray a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors, who, as the government must know, can range from young children to victims of honour crimes, it said. Pakistan regularly ranks among the worst places in the world for gender equality.
B) Iranian ship attacked in Red Sea, report says it was Israeli payback.
An Iranian freighter was hit by an explosion in the Red Sea, Tehran said on Wednesday, after U.S. media reported Israel had struck the ship in retaliation for past Iranian strikes on its vessels. Iran was at pains to stress that the freighter was a civilian ship, although other sources said it had been used by Iranian commandos as a base for shipping protection and other duties in the area. The explosion comes at a sensitive time as U.S. President Joe Biden attempts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran which was strongly opposed by Israel and abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in 2018. The blast struck the Iranian commercial vessel MV Saviz off the coast of Djibouti Tuesday morning, Foreign Ministry spokesman said Khatibzadeh said, adding an inquiry had been opened into the cause. The accident caused no casualties and a technical investigation is under way to determine its circumstances and origin, he said. Our country will take all necessary steps through international bodies in this regard. Mr. Khatibzadeh said the Saviz was a civilian vessel that had been deployed in coordination with the International Maritime Organization to protect shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Many foreign governments have stationed protection vessels in the area since a rash of attacks by Somali pirates between 2000 and 2010. This ship has been serving as Iran’s logistics station for technical and logistical support in the Red Sea, the spokesman added. The New York Times cited a U.S. official as saying Israel had informed Washington it had struck the ship in retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels. The paper said that according to the Israelis, the Saviz had been damaged below the water line. There was no immediate reaction from the Israeli authorities to the Times report.