A) Bihar COVID toll goes up by 72% after court orders recount.
Following a recent direction by the Patna High Court, the Bihar government recounted its Covid-19 toll, which has jumped by a whopping 72.84%. On June 7, the official toll figure in the State was 5,424 but on June 8, the government said the figure had gone up to 9,375 after it recounted deaths in all 38 districts. A Division Bench of the Patna High Court had in May slammed the Bihar government and expressed concern over inconsistencies in the toll in Buxar district, presented by two top government officials in two separate affidavits. The court had asked the government to verify all facts before placing them on record. All facts must be verified from all sources and then only be placed before us, else it will amount to filing of false or incomplete affidavit Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar told the government. The Bihar Chief Secretary, who is said to have got the figures from the State Health Department, had submitted in court that a total of six deaths occurred due to Covid-19 in Buxar district since March 1, while the Divisional Commissioner’s affidavit had mentioned 789 cremations at just one cremation ground of the district between May 5 and May 14. In view of the court direction, the State Health Department had sent detailed instructions to District Magistrates, civil surgeons and heads of medical colleges and hospitals to verify the tolls in their respective districts and hospitals. On June 8, the State government said that the toll due to COVID-19 pandemic in the State had gone up to 9,375 from the figure of 5,424 it had reported on June 7. In the verification exercise that lasted 20 days, the State government added 3,951 more deaths. Most of the deaths, according to State health officials, occurred in the second wave of the pandemic since April 2021. Among the districts, Patna registered the highest toll of 2,303 deaths, followed by Muzaffarpur with 609, Nalanda (463), Begusarai (454), East Champaran (425), Darbhanga (342) and Madhubani (317). The spurt in the number of deaths reflects those reported at private hospitals, in transit to health facilities, under home isolation, and those dying of post-COVID complications after they tested negative and were discharged from hospitals, Additional Secretary (Health) Pratyaya Amrit told reporters on Wednesday.
B) 11 killed, 7 injured as rickety building collapses in Mumbai.
Eleven people, including eight children were killed, and seven others injured after a portion of a four-storey residential structure collapsed on an adjacent two-storey structure in western Mumbai late on Wednesday. The incident was reported from the Malvani slum in Malad in the western suburbs of Mumbai following incessant rains throughout the day. The Maharashtra government has announced an ex-gratia of ₹5 lakh to the kin of the deceased. According to civic officials, the building had serious structural faults and was further damaged during cyclone Tauktae after which some more dangerous changes were made to it. The collapse has affected the adjacent residential structures as well, leading to the civic body evacuating them. Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar asked the culprits behind the tragedy to take responsibility. Today 11 people including children have died. When the building is declared under C category, the occupants must be moved out immediately. Culprits must take the responsibility, she said. Pednekar added that instead of searching for the authority responsible for it, had every authority worked with responsibility, the tragedy could have been averted. Buildings in category C mean that they are beyond repair and need to be demolished. The dead have been identified as Sahil Sarfaraz Sayyed, 9, Arifa Sheikh, 9, Shafiq Md Saleem Siddiqui, 45, Tausif Shafiq Siddiqi, 15, Aalisha Shafiq Siddiqui, 10, Alfisa Shafiq Siddiqui, 1.5, Afina Shafik Siddiqui, 6, Ishrat Bano Shafiq Siddiqui, 40, Rahisa Bano Rafik Siddiqui, 40, Tahes Safik Siddiqui, 12, and Jhon Irranna, 13.
C) GST Council to meet on June 12 to discuss tax cuts on COVID essentials, black fungus medicine.
The all-powerful GST Council, chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, will meet on June 12 to decide on possible GST rate cuts for COVID essentials and black fungus medicine, according to officials. In the previous meeting on May 28, a Group of Ministers (GoM) was set up to recommend tax relief on COVID essentials, including PPE kits, masks and vaccines, to the GST council. The GoM submitted its report on June 7. Officials said the GST Council would be meeting on June 12 to discuss the GoM report as well as consider tax rate cuts for black fungus medicine. Some state Finance Ministers in the GoM are understood to have pitched for a rate cut on COVID essentials. Uttar Pradesh Finance Minister Suresh Kumar Khanna, who is also a member of the GoM, on Wednesday said that the state is in favour of cutting taxes on COVID essentials to facilitate patients, but will accept the decision of the GST council on tax rates. The GoM on GST concessions on COVID relief items was mandated to examine whether a GST rate cut or exemption is required for medical-grade oxygen, pulse oximeters, hand sanitizers, oxygen therapy equipment like concentrators, ventilators, PPE kits, N-95 and surgical masks and temperature checking equipment. Besides, the panel also looked into COVID vaccines, drugs, and medicines for COVID treatment and testing kits for COVID detection. The GST Council on May 28 had left taxes on COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies unchanged after the BJP and opposition-ruled states sparred over whether the tax cut benefits will reach the common man.
D) ICMR approves new rapid antigen test kit.
Meril Diagnostics from Gujarat has announced that its self-use Rapid Antigen Test kit for Covid-19, CoviFind, has received approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This indigenously researched and developed test kit can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus reliably in infectious individuals and can therefore be used for testing symptomatic individuals and immediate contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases as specified by the recent ICMR guidelines, the company said in a statement. The CoviFind test for at-home self-testing is highly effective in individuals with mid to high viral load, especially in detecting infection in the case of individuals more likely to transmit the disease to others, the statement added. The test also delivers results swiftly, providing results in 15 minutes, it said. The test kit does not have any specific storage or refrigeration requirements, thus driving ease and convenience in distribution, it added. The test kit is priced at ₹250 and will be made available as a single-pack, with additional purchase options, including a pack of 3, 5 and 25 tests. Each test kit is equipped with testing materials including a test device, one sterile nasal swab, and a pre-filled buffer tube with a cap. No additional instrumentation is necessary. The kit will also contain an Instructions for Use (IFU) leaflet, detailing step-by-step procedure on administration, handling and post-use disposal of the test kit, along with a disposable bag. The self-use test is to be used alongside the company’s official home testing mobile application, ‘CoviFind App,’ which will be available to download from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store once the product hits the market. The test kit will be available in two weeks at retail pharmacies, e-pharmacies and through e-commerce platforms including Amazon and Flipkart, with the company trying to expedite the process, it said. It will also run a dedicated website for direct orders of the test kit by individuals and institutions.
E) Adityanath’s Delhi visit sparks speculation of U.P. Cabinet expansion.
Just a few days after BJP’s national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh’s visit to Lucknow on a political and organisational stock-taking visit, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s arrival in Delhi for a two-day visit, with appointments lined up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and meetings with Home Minister Amit Shah and party president J.P. Nadda, has set off a flutter over a possible Cabinet expansion in Lucknow. While Adityanath’s aides insisted that the visit was with regard to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and raising the demand for a larger allocation of vaccines to the State, they admitted that after all that happened last week, of course political issues were and will be discussed. Santosh’s report to Nadda was detailed about the work culture in Yogi Adityanath’s chief ministerial office, the correctives required, which included being more accommodative of party allies in the State, in the run-up to the 2022 Assembly polls. The performance of the BJP in the recently concluded Panchayat polls in the State, where it came second to the Samajwadi Party (SP), was also underlined as a worrying situation. In fact, Apna Dal MP and leader Anupriya Patel also met Home Minister Amit Shah just after Yogi Adityanath’s meeting with the latter. Patel has been an ally of the BJP since 2014 both in the Lok Sabha and Assembly. After the breakup of the alliance between the BJP and the Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, the Apna Dal is the main ally still with the BJP. Rajbhar’s party is likely to go with Samajwadi Party in the Assembly polls.
F) Paytm, MakeMyTrip, Infosys offer to help India with vaccine bookings.
Paytm, Infosys and MakeMyTrip are among companies seeking approval in India to provide online Covid-19 vaccine bookings, the head of the government’s tech platform said, as the country tries to make it easier for its huge population to book shots. The government relaxed rules last month to potentially allow third-party apps to offer vaccine bookings and has taken back control of procurement from states following delays and shortages. It also faced initial problems with its own vaccine booking platform. Around 15 State agencies and private companies, which also include Indian healthcare giants Apollo and Max, and online pharmacy 1mg, have asked to be allowed to offer vaccine bookings, R.S. Sharma, head of the government’s panel managing the CoWIN vaccination registration platform, told Reuters. Softbank-backed digital payments app Paytm has more than 100 million monthly active users and MakeMyTrip has 12 million. Their popularity is seen as providing more options to Indians looking to book their vaccine shots, particularly if they are struggling with an unfamiliar government platform. It will work in favour of the country, the union of all the entities is better than just one individual platform, Sharma said. Only 3.5% of India’s 1.3 billion population has been fully immunised against Covid-19 and health officials say the pace will have to be increased to avoid further deadly surges of the virus.
G) Online registration not enough, anyone walking in should get vaccine, says Rahul.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on June 10 demanded that every person walking into a Covid-19 vaccination centre should get the jab, saying those who do not have access to internet also have the right to life. The Congress has been batting for vaccines for the poor, especially those living in far-flung and rural areas, who do not have digital access or smart phones. The Opposition party has also been demanding that CoWIN registration should not be mandatory for getting the vaccine. Online registration is not enough for the vaccine. Every person walking in at a vaccination centre should get the vaccine. Those who do not have access to internet also have the right to life, he said in a tweet in Hindi. The Congress has been critical of the government’s vaccination policy and its handling of the Covid-19 situation in the country.
H) Assam CM asks minority communities to adopt population control.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has advised the minority community to adopt decent population control measures to reduce poverty and pressure on land. Reacting to criticisms of his government’s drive to free State-owned land from encroachment, the Chief Minister said the illegal occupation of land belonging to temples, satras (monasteries) and forests cannot be allowed. Most of those evicted were Bengali-speaking Muslims. Members of the community have assured us that they do not want encroachment on these lands, Dr. Sarma told journalists on Thursday while marking a month of the BJP-led government. No one is our enemy and we want the poor people of every community to progress but we need community support. Instead of criticising the government, organisations such as AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) and AAMSU (All Assam Minority Students’ Union) should motivate people to have smaller families, he said. The Chief Minister said keeping the population in check could go a long way in easing the pressure on land. He cited the examples of the Bodo and Mishing communities that have not occupied forest lands over the decades because of family planning. He, however, justified giving land settlement certificates to indigenous forest dwellers because they have been protecting our forest resources.
A) U.S. to donate 500 mn doses to World.
The U.S. will purchase half a billion doses of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and donate them to 92 low and middle-income countries and the African Union. The vaccines will be shipped from August onwards, with 200 million doses distributed this year and 300 million by the middle of next year, according to a fact sheet released by the White House. Rich countries have come under increasing pressure to not sit on orders of excess vaccines as many in middle and lower income countries remain unvaccinated. The news of Joe Biden’s plan broke on Wednesday, as the President was en route to the U.K. to attend the G7 meetings. Mr. Biden is expected to formally announce the plan on Thursday evening from Cornwall, following his meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The U.S. will work on delivering the vaccines via COVAX, an international coalition that is involved with global vaccine access. Mr. Biden is expected to emphasize, in his remarks, that his plan will give lower income countries access to mRNA vaccines, which have been mostly used in rich countries to date, partly owing to more stringent cold chain requirements, which are harder for poorer countries to ensure. Pfizer will sell the doses to the U.S. government at a not-for-profit price, the Washington Post reported. The doses will be produced at Pfizer’s plants in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Massachusetts, with a combined workforce of at least 7,500 people, according to the White House.
B) Myanmar military charges Suu Kyi with corruption.
The Myanmar junta has charged deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi with corruption over claims she accepted illegal payments of gold and more than half a million dollars in cash, state media reported. The country has been in turmoil since the generals ousted Ms. Suu Kyi on February 1, with more than 850 civilians killed in a brutal crackdown by security forces on near-daily protests against the coup. The 75-year-old Nobel laureate, who has been in Custody since the putsch, is facing a raft of wide-ranging criminal charges, including sedition and breaching a coIonial-era secrecy law. The latest charges relate to allegations by the former Yangon region Chief Minister that Ms. Suu Kyi illegally accepted in cash from him along with around Il kg of gold. The Anti-Corruption Commision found evidence that Ms. Suu Kyi had committed corruption using her rank, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper. So she was charged under Anti-Corruption Law section 55. She is also accused of abusing her authority when renting two areas of land for her charitable foundation. After weeks of legal wrangling, two of Ms. Suu Kyi’s trials are due to start in earnest next week, hearing evidence from witnesses. In Naypyidaw, the remote capital purpose-built by the previous military regime, her trial on charges of violating restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies will start on. A separate case is scheduled to start on June 15, where she is charged with sedition alongside ousted President Win Myint and another senior member of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, dismissed the corruption charges as absurd. There is an undeniable political background to keep her out of the scene of the country and to smear her prestige he told AFP, saying she could face long prison terms on the secrecy and corruption charges. That’s one of the reasons to charge her to keep her out of the scene. Ms. Suu Kyi spent more than 15 years under house arrest during the previous military rule before her 2010 release.