Latest Current Affairs 12 May 2021

12 May 2021



A) 26 Covid-19 patients die in Goa hospital in a span of few hours.

Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane on May 11 said 26 Covid-19 patients died at the State-run Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in the early hours and sought an investigation by the High Court to find out the exact cause. He said these fatalities occurred between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. which is a fact, but remained evasive about the cause. Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who visited GMCH, said the gap between the availability of medical oxygen and its supply to Covid-19 wards in the GMCH might have caused some issues for the patients even as he stressed that there is no scarcity of oxygen supply in the State. Speaking to reporters, Rane admitted the shortfall in the supply of medical oxygen at the GMCH as of May 10. The High Court should investigate the reasons behind these deaths. The HC should also intervene and prepare a white paper on oxygen supply to the GMCH, which would help to set the things right, the Health Minister said after the CM’s visit to GMCH. Rane said the medical oxygen requirement of the facility as of May 10 was 1,200 jumbo cylinders of which only 400 were supplied. If there’s a shortfall in the supply of medical oxygen, the discussion should be held about how to bridge that gap, he said.

B) PIL against Central Vista construction another attempt to stall project: Centre to HC.

The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that the PIL seeking stay on the construction of Central Vista in New Delhi amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic was just another attempt to stall the project, which has been facing such attempts from the beginning on one pretext or another. The intentions and motive behind filing of the plea are evident from the fact that the instant project has been singled out by the petitioners despite several other agencies, including Delhi Metro, carrying out construction activities across the national capital, the Centre has alleged. The very fact that out of all these construction activities going on simultaneously for different projects by different agencies, the petitioner has chosen to be a public spirited citizen only with regard to one project only speaks volumes about his intentions and motive behind filing the present petition, the Centre’s affidavit has contended. Since the affidavit was not yet on record, a Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh listed the matter for hearing on May 12. The court also allowed the early hearing application moved by the petitioners Anya Malhotra, who works as a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary film maker — who have contended that the project was not an essential activity and therefore, it can be put on hold for now during the pandemic. In the affidavit filed in the court on May 10, the Central government has said that the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has permitted construction activities, during the prevailing curfew, where the labourers are residing on-site.

C) BJP focused on efforts to protect Brand Modi, set to launch campaign to promote ‘positivity’

The second wave of the pandemic has left even the well connected high and dry when it comes to accessing health care resources, a fact illuminated by the death of four BJP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh alone, as well as a a letter from Union Minister Santosh Gangwar to U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The letter talks about the lack of resources in his constituency of Bareilly, and the helplessness being expressed even within BJP circles in terms of dealing with public distress. The effect of all this not just in terms of what it means for the progress of the pandemic through the country but also for the reputation of Brand Modi seems to be very much on the minds of BJP leaders, according to sources in the party. On Tuesday, party president J. P. Nadda wrote a four-page rebuttal to Congress working president Sonia Gandhi’s speech at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet held the previous day. In this, Nadda accused her and her party of being duplicitous and petty and creating a false panic in the fight against Covid-19. The tone of the letter was to emphasise that the Opposition and the Chief Ministers of the Opposition-ruled States have steadily opposed prescriptions to control the pandemic and blamed Modi as it went out of hand. BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya bemoaned the fact that while fatalities were being talked about, recovery rates were not being highlighted in quite the same way. The RSS, the ideological mothership of the BJP, also announced, via its COVID Response Team (CRT) the launch of a campaign entitled Hum Jeetenge (Theywill win), also called Positivity Unlimited to counter ‘negativity’ around the fight against Covid-19.

D) Bodies of 71 suspected Covid-19 victims recovered from Ganga.

Bodies of 71 suspected Covid-19 victims, which were found floating in the Ganga at Chausa in Buxar district of Bihar on Monday, were retrieved and some of them were disposed of by the district administration by Tuesday morning. Samples of some bodies have been preserved for further tests. They retrieved 71 bodies. Some of them have been disposed of, while the process for others is underway. Samples of some bodies too have been preserved for further tests, Buxar Superintendent of Police Neeraj Kumar Singh told The Hindu over phone. Post-mortem of bodies was done at the ghat itself as they were highly decomposed, he added. Ram Ashray Yadav who sells pyre wood for funeral at the Mahadeo ghat (bank) at Chausa, said, Most of the bodies were buried in a large pit dug by a JCB machine on the bank of the river. The district officials had said the bodies might have floated in from adjoining districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh such as Varanasi and Allahabad. The bodies are bloated. They seem to have been in the water for at least 5-7 days. Their origin needs to be investigated. They could be from Varanasi or Allahabad of U.P., a senior official of the district said. Videos of bloated bodies had also gone viral on social media, sparking an outrage and shock among villagers. Chausa is about 10 km downstream from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

E) Array of measures can be used to make vaccines and other supplies cheaper.

An array of measures, including reduction in GST rates, zero GST rate on critical raw materials, permitting GST-free imports, as well as direct cash incentives to producers, can be used by the Centre to make Covid-19 vaccines and other critical supplies cheaper, tax experts have suggested. At present, GST oods and Services Tax is levied at the rate of 5% on vaccines and 12% on Covid-19 drugs and oxygen concentrators for domestic supplies and commercial imports. For oxygen concentrators imported for personal use, the government has reduced GST rate from 28% to 12% and waived customs duties. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday launched a staunch defence of the GST levies on Covid-19 relief supplies after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi mooting an exemption from these taxes amid the pandemic’s escalating second wave. The Finance Minister had said that exemption of vaccines from GST would be counterproductive without benefiting the consumer. If the government is exploring free vaccination to all the citizens, then the consumer of such vaccine will be the government. Thus, no matter at what rate it is taxed, it may not directly impact the pocket of common man. It would be more of a revenue-sharing issue between the Centre and States, said Siddharth Surana, adviser (strategy and business transformation) at tax consultancy RSM India. Under the present policy, the Centre is providing free vaccines to those above 45 years, while States and individuals have been asked to foot the bill for the rest. Tax implications matter not just for vaccines, but also other critical drugs and equipment. A taxation expert, on condition of anonymity, said reducing the GST on final products as well as raw materials, or zero-rating supplies, would be a better option than an outright GST exemption. Saket Patawari, executive director (indirect tax) at advisory firm Nexdigm, said the government could also take measures to slash costs, including a possible special incentive scheme to refund taxes, outside the ambit of the GST law.

F) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.

The number of reported coronavirus cases from India stood at 2,31,92,346 with the official death toll at 2,52,251. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday that the B.1.617 variant first identified in India last year was being classified as a variant of global concern. They classify it as a variant of concern at a global level, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, told a briefing. There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility. Such a classification is made only when the variant is either more infectious or more lethal than the original strain. Meanwhile, an early trend of decline in daily new Covid-19 cases and deaths has been noted in the country, the government said on May 11, indicating that the devastating second wave of the pandemic is on the wane. According to the government, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Chhattisgarh were among 18 States and Union Territories showing continued plateauing or decrease in daily new Covid-19 cases. Addressing a press conference, a senior official, however, said Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Punjab were among 16 States and Union Territories showing continued increasing trend in daily new cases. Thirteen States have more than 1 lakh active cases each and 26 States have a positivity rate of over 15%, the government said.


A) EU is suing AstraZeneca to get 90 million doses before July. 

The European Union is suing British Swedish pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to force it to deliver 90 million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine before July, a spokesman said on Tuesday. They want the court to order the company to deliver 90 million additional doses, in addition to the 30 million already delivered in the first quarter, European Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker told a media conference. The Commission has launched two emergency legal actions against the company in a Belgian court, first to have the urgency of the issue recognised, and then to have a judge rule on whether the EU’s case is well-founded. After citing production problems in its EU manufacture, and refusing to divert doses from British factories listed as suppliers in the EU contract, the company offered revised deliveries.

B) School shooting in Russia kills 9 people; suspect arrested.

A gunman attacked a school Tuesday morning in the Russian city of Kazan, sending students running out of the building as smoke poured from its windows. At least nine people were killed seven eighth-grade students, a teacher and another school worker and 21 others were hospitalised, Russian officials said. Footage released by Russian media outlets showed students dressed in black and white running out of the building. Another video depicted shattered windows, billowing smoke, and sounds resembling gunshots in the background. Dozens of ambulances lined up at the school’s entrance after the attack and police fenced off access to the building. Russian media said while some students were able to escape, others were trapped inside during the ordeal. All students were eventually evacuated to nearby day care centers and collected by their families. Officials said the attacker has been arrested and police opened a criminal investigation into the shooting. Authorities immediately put additional security measures into place in all schools in Kazan, a city 700 kilometers (430 miles) east of Moscow.

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