12 April 2021
A) Amid lockdown talk, migrant movement spikes on Mumbai-Agra road in Indore.
A severe spike in COVID-19 cases in Mumbai and persistent talk of a complete lockdown there to tackle it has made the National Highway No. 3 skirting past Madhya Pradesh’s commercial hub Indore a prime route for wary migrants returning home to States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, according to the Press Trust of India. The number of motorcycles, black-and-yellow mini trucks and auto rickshaws, teeming with migrants, have been on the rise over the past few days on a bypass road connected to this route, popularly known as Mumbai-Agra road, eye-witnesses said on April 11. The virus outbreak has once again got very severe in Mumbai. There might be a lockdown and it may, like last year, render us jobless. So we have decided to return home, said Ramsharan Singh (40), making his way back to Ballia in Uttar Pradesh in an autorickshaw. Similar is the case with Mohammad Shadab, going back to his hometown in Bihar’s Bhojpur district. In 2020, the route witnessed bumper-to-bumper traffic as people trying to escape a crippling coronavirus-induced lockdown in Mumbai and adjoining areas made their way home to eastern and northern States in some of the most helpless and trying travel conditions. Mumbai on April 10 reported 9,330 fresh cases and 28 deaths, taking the count of infections to 5,10,512 and the toll to 11,944. Mumbai division, comprising the metropolis and adjoining districts, reported 18,241 new cases and 89 deaths during the day, raising the tally to 10,64,221 and the fatality count to 21,028.
B) Centre prohibits export of Remdesivir in view of spike in cases.
The Centre has prohibited the exports of injection Remdesivir and Remdesivir Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) in an order issued on Sunday stating that there has been a sudden spike in demand for injection Remdesivir used in treatment of COVID patients. India is witnessing a recent surge in COVID cases and there is a potential of further increase in demand for injection Remdesivir in the coming days, said the Centre in a statement. Seven Indian companies are producing injection Remdesivir under voluntary licensing agreement with M/s. Gilead Sciences, USA. They have an installed capacity of about 38.80 lakh units per month. In view of increased demand for Remdesivir due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Centre on April 11, 2021 said the export of the antiviral injection and its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) has been banned till the situation improves. The release issued by the Health Ministry noted that to ensure easy access to the injection all domestic manufactures of Remdesivir have been advised to display on their website, details of their stockists/distributors to facilitate access to the drug. Drugs inspectors and other officers have been directed to verify stocks and check their malpractices and also take other effective actions to curb hoarding and black marketing. The State Health Secretaries will review this with the Drug Inspectors of the respective States/UTs, added the release. It added that the Department of Pharmaceuticals has been in contact with the domestic manufacturers to ramp up the production of Remdesivir. As per the National Clinical Management Protocol for COVID-19 of the Central Government Remdesivir is listed as an Investigational Therapy (i.e. where informed and shared decision making is essential).
C) In survey, India Inc says it prefers strict safety measures to partial lockdowns.
Cautioning that partial lockdown measures could impact the movement of labour and goods and lead to a decline of up to 50% in production, India Inc believes stringent implementation of safety norms is a better option than partial lockdowns, according to a survey by the CII. The survey on the impact of partial lockdowns on industry, conducted among 710 CEOs and senior industry leaders from manufacturing and services sectors, comes at a time when several States are imposing restrictions such as night curfew and full lockdowns amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Three out of four respondents feel that the implementation of night curfew or a partial lockdown will impact movement of labourers and workers to factories and workplaces, respectively. Out of these respondents, a further majority (52%) foresee a fall in production/sales ranging between 10%-50%, on a monthly basis, due to the restricted movement of labour, the CII said. About 31% of the industry leaders said they would accommodate their labour force in the factory in case of movement restrictions due to night curfew. T.V. Narendran, president-designate, CII, said, stringent enforcement measures to promote strict adherence to health and safety protocols are essential and any measures to restrict social gatherings should not be extended to regular functioning of industry and commerce. He also pitched for extending the vaccination programme to all people above 18 years of age. Protecting livelihoods along with lives is essential and industry is keen to work with the government on universal coverage [18 years and above] of vaccination programme and in implementing strict health and safety protocols.
D) Bengal BJP president warns of more Sitalkuchi-like shootings.
West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Dilip Ghosh on Sunday courted controversy by warning that there will be Sitalkuchi cases in various places if anyone took the law into their own hands. Where have so many naughty boys come from? The kind of naughty boys who got shot in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar won’t remain in Bengal. This is just the beginning. Those who take the law into their own hands will be dealt with in a befitting manner. If they want to fight, then they have seen what happened at Sitalkuchi. There will be Sitalkuchi cases in various places. So be careful, the State BJP president said while addressing a public meeting at Baranagar in North 24 Parganas. Mr. Ghosh, who is no stranger to making outrageous comments, said that those who thought that the guns carried by the Central forces were just for show were now realising the strength of the guns. The remarks drew condemnation from different political parties, including the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Left parties. Five persons were killed in two separate incidents of firing at Sitalkuchi at Cooch Behar during the fourth phase of polling on April 10. Four persons died when Central forces opened fire at booth number 126 at Jor Patki village in the Sitalkuchi Assembly segment.
A) Jordanian prince makes first appearance since house arrest.
Jordan’s Prince Hamzah on Sunday made his first public appearance since he was placed under house arrest last week, attending a ceremony with King Abdullah II in what appeared to be an attempted show of unity on a major Jordanian holiday. But it remained unclear whether the king and his popular half brother had put aside the differences that escalated last week into the most serious public rift in the ruling family in decades. Prince Hamzah joined members of the Jordanian royal family marking the centenary of the establishment of the Emirate of Transjordan, a British protectorate that preceded the kingdom. The royal palace released a photo and video with Abdullah, Hamzah, Crown Prince Hussein and other dignitaries at the grave of King Talal in Amman, Jordan’s capital. It was the first time that Prince Hamzah was seen in public since he was placed under a form of house arrest on April 3 following accusations that he was involved in a malicious plot to destabilize the kingdom. In statements leaked to the media, Prince Hamzah denied the accusations and accused the country’s government of corruption and incompetence. King Abdullah subsequently said authorities had thwarted an attempt at sedition involving his half brother and some 18 suspects, while saying he was angry and in shock. King Abdullah also suggested there was continued control over Prince Hamzah’s movements, saying the prince was with his family at his palace, under my care.
B) China considers mixing vaccine to boost efficacy.
China is considering the mixing of different COVID-19 vaccines to improve the relatively low efficacy of its existing options, a top health expert has told a conference. Authorities have to consider ways to solve the issue that efficacy rates of existing vaccines are not high, Chinese media outlet The Paper reported, citing Gao Fu, the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. His comments mark the first time a top Chinese expert has publicly alluded to the relatively low efficacy of the country’s vaccines, as China forges ahead in its mass vaccination campaign and exports its jabs around the world. China has administered around 161 million doses since vaccinations began last year, and aims to fully inoculate 40% of its 1.4 billion population by June. But many have been slow to sign up for jabs, with life largely back to normal within China’s borders and domestic outbreaks under control. Mr. Gao has previously stressed the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is vaccination, and said in a recent state media interview that China aims to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population between the end of this year and mid-2022. At the conference, Mr. Gao added that an option to overcome the efficacy problem is to alternate the use of vaccine doses that tap different technologies, referring to mRNA vaccines. Sinopharm’s vaccines have efficacy rates of 79.34% and 72.51% respectively, while the overall efficacy for CanSino’s stands at 65.28% after 28 days.
C) Two conservatives declare bids in race to succeed Merkel.
The head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its smaller Bavarian sister party both declared themselves willing to run for Chancellor on Sunday, with the bloc poised to decide who will represent it in the race to succeed the veteran leader in September elections. CDU chief Armin Laschet and Markus Soeder, the head of the smaller Bavarian CSU party, told reporters they were open to being the centre-right alliance’s candidate for Chancellor during a crunch meeting of conservative MPs in Berlin. They have established that they are both suitable and both willing, Mr. Soeder said. Mr. Laschet, 60, a long-time Merkel ally, took over as CDU leader in January, and would normally be first choice to lead the parties into the elections on September 26, when Ms. Merkel will retire from politics after 16 years as Chancellor. But the sister parties’ backing is tumbling over their recent handling of the coronavirus crisis, and some have called for Mr. Laschet to step aside in favour of the charismatic Mr. Soeder, 54. Mr. Laschet said on Sunday that he and Mr. Soeder had agreed that they would both stand, stressing: Their goal is to provide as much unity as possible between the CDU and CSU. Mr. Soeder had spent months avoiding showing any clear interest in the top job while doing little to dispel talk that he wants the chancellorship for himself. While Mr. Laschet remains more likely to win over party bigwigs, Mr. Soeder has also already drawn the support of several CDU lawmakers, as conservative MPs face falling poll ratings with growing nervousness.