29 April 2021
A) Glitches on CoWIN platform as COVID-19 vaccination registration begins for 18+.
As the registration of all citizens above 18 years of age for vaccination against COVID-19 started on the CoWIN portal at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, many people took to social media to complain about the technical problems they faced. The third phase of the inoculation drive, which would also include those between 18 and 45 years, is scheduled to begin from May 1. Some of them complained that the portal was not responding while others complained that it had crashed. At 4.35 p.m., a tweet from the verified Twitter handle of the Aarogya Setu mobile application said the CoWIN portal is working and that there was a minor glitch at 4 p.m., which was fixed. Cowin portal is working. There was a minor glitch at 4 pm that was fixed. 18 plus can register, it said. After registration, taking an appointment to get a Covid-19 vaccine jab would be mandatory for those aged between 18 and 44 years as walk-ins will not be allowed initially, officials had said. Appointments will be based on slots made available by states and private vaccination centres. Those above 45 years of age can still avail the facility of on-site registration to get vaccinated, they had said. An increased demand is expected once the vaccination is opened for all. For the purpose of crowd control, registering on the CoWIN portal and making an appointment to get a vaccine will be mandatory for those aged between 18 and 45 years. Walks-in will not be allowed in the beginning so that there is no chaos, an official had said. The inoculation process and the documents to be provided to get the jab remain the same. Media reports, citing government sources, said that the site, post-glitches, was getting 27 lakh hits a minute.
B) Shift journalist Kappan to a hospital in Delhi, SC tells U.P. govt.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to shift journalist Siddique Kappan to a hospital in Delhi, like the Ram Manohar Lohia or the AIIMS. A Bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and A.S. Bopanna directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the State, to shift Mr. Kappan to a Delhi hospital for proper medical treatment. The order came despite serious objections raised by Mehta on behalf of the State. Mehta said Kappan was found COVID-negative in an RT-PCR test and he cannot be singled out among other inmates for treatment in a hospital in Delhi. He said he could be kept in a hospital in Mathura. He said there were hundreds of other inmates with or without co-morbidities. But the Bench pointed out that the plea concerned the health of a man. The Bench said the State has an obligation to protect the health of an individual. It said it was not going into anything except that Kappan received medical treatment in a hospital outside U.P. Once he is sound of health, the court said, he would be brought back to Mathura jail, from where he could take appropriate measures for relief in accordance with the law, the Bench noted. The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) alleged that Kappan has been chained to a cot in the hospital he was admitted to, after falling in the bathroom and later testing positive for Covid-19.
C) SII cuts Covishield price for states to ₹300 per dose.
With a number of States expressing their inability to commence the third phase of vaccination from May 1 owing to vaccine scarcity, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) on Wednesday announced that it was reducing the price of its Covishield vaccine to the States from ₹400 to ₹300 per dose as a philanthropic gesture. As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of SII, I hereby reduce the price to the states from ₹400 to ₹300 per dose, effective immediately; this will save thousands of crores of state funds going forward. This will enable more vaccinations and save countless lives, said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla on Twitter. SII had earlier given its per dose pricing of its ‘Covishield’ vaccine as ₹150 for the Central government, ₹400 for State governments and ₹600 for private hospitals while Bharat Biotech (which rolls out ‘Covaxin’) had quoted ₹150 for the Centre, ₹600 for State governments, and ₹1200 for private hospitals. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope today said that despite the Centre announcing the third phase to begin from May 1, it would not be possible to begin the vaccinations on that date as the only two indigenous producers SII and Bharat Biotech could not supply the requisite amounts of doses for the smooth conduct of the inoculation drive.
D) India declines UN’s offer of assistance, says it has ‘robust system’
India has declined assistance offered by the United Nations of its integrated supply chain for Covid-19-related material, saying the country has a robust system to deal with the required logistics, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said. One of the things we did is we offered the assistance of our integrated supply chain if it was required. We’ve been told at this point that it’s not needed because India has a reasonably robust system to deal with this. But our offer stands, and we’re willing to help in whatever way we can, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Chief, said in response to a question by PTI. On whether any shipments of essential materials from UN agencies are expected to reach India amid the crisis, Haq said, None have been sought so far, but like he said, they do have people, including our people who deal with operational and logistical issues who are willing to help, if we’re needed, and we’re in touch with our counterparts in India to see whether that will be useful.
E) Home Ministry notifies GNCT Act that effectively makes L-G the ‘government’ of Delhi.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued a gazette notification stating that the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, would be deemed to have come into effect from April 27. This comes a day after the Delhi High Court cautioned the Delhi government to put its house in order over the issue of inadequate oxygen supply in the city, adding that the Centre would be asked to take over if the Delhi government couldn’t manage the situation created by the pandemic at hand. The Act, which gives the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Delhi more teeth and substantially waters down the powers of both the elected government and the Legislative Assembly, will clarify the expression Government and address ambiguities in legislative provisions to promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive. Coming as the development does in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Act is expected to trigger another round of confrontation between the L-G and the Delhi government under the AAP.
F) EC mandates rules for Assembly polls’ counting day.
The Election Commission of India (EC) on Wednesday made it mandatory for all candidates and their agents to have either negative Covid-19 test results or both doses of a vaccine before entering the counting halls on May 2, when votes in the five ongoing Assembly polls are tabulated. The EC issued instructions for counting of votes in the West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry elections at a time the country is going through an unprecedented surge of Covid-19. On Tuesday, the EC had banned all victory processions on May 2, and restricted the number of people accompanying winning candidates to collect their certificate of election from the Returning Officer to two. In view of the second wave of the pandemic and in order to ensure a completely Covid-safe arrangements during counting, the Commission has been regularly consulting the Chief Secretaries and the Chief Electoral Officers of all five poll going States/ UT and has taken their views and safety measures/ protocol to be followed during the pandemic, an EC statement said. The EC ordered the District Election Officers (DEO) to be the Nodal Officers for counting centres in order to make sure Covid-19-related rules are followed. No candidates/agents will be allowed inside the counting hall without undergoing RT-PCR/RAT test or without having two doses of vaccination against Covid-19 and will have to produce negative RT-PCR report or RAT report or vaccination reports within 48 hours of start of counting, the EC instructions read. It added that the DEO should make arrangements for the tests before counting day.
G) Trinamool candidate’s widow files case of culpable homicide against West Bengal Deputy Election Commissioner.
In a first, the widow of Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate Kajal Sinha, who recently died of Covid-19, has filed a case of culpable homicide against Sudip Jain, Deputy Election Commissioner In-Charge of West Bengal, accusing the Election Commission of India (EC) of deliberate and intentional omission leading to her husband’s death. Sinha was the TMC candidate from the Khardaha Assembly constituency, which went to polls in the 6th phase of the ongoing West Bengal Assembly election on April 22. He died three days after voting for his seat was held on April 25. Other than Sinha, three other candidates died during the prolonged election campaign in the State. Two candidates were from the Jangipur constituency the Revolutionary Socialist Party’s Pradip Nandi and Congress’ Rezaul Haque. Samir Ghosh, independent candidate from Baisnabnagar Assembly constituency, also succumbed to Covid-19. In her complaint, Nandita Sinha said that the EC had shown complete unpreparedness, negligence, lack of accountability and utmost disregard towards the lives of the common people. West Bengal alone, she said, has 95,000 Covid-19 cases and the EC had decided to carry out elections over eight phases spanning over 33 days despite the already precarious situation in the rest of the country. It has malignantly chosen to continue with eight phases of polls despite having reason to believe that the infection would spread at an alarming rate causing widespread death across West Bengal and the nation, she said. She also accused the EC of intentionally not taking any steps to ensure Covid-19 protocols were followed at public rallies.
A) India, Australia, Japan push for supply chain resilience.
The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) formally launched on Tuesday by the Trade Ministers of India, Japan and Australia brought a wary response from China, which has described the effort as ‘unrealistic’. Piyush Goyal, Minister for Commerce and Industry, launched the SCRI along with Dan Tehan, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, and Hiroshi Kajiyama, Japan’s Minister for Economy, Trade and lndustry. The three sides agreed the pandemic revealed supply chain vulnerabilities globally and in the region and noted the importance of risk management and continuity plans in order to avoid supply chain disruptions. Some of the joint measures they are considering include supporting the enhanced utilisation of digital technology and trade and investment diversification, which is seen as being aimed at reducing their reliance on China. The SCRI aims to create a virtuous cycle of enhancing supply chain resilience with a view to eventually attaining strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the region, a statement said. China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday described the move as ‘unrealistic’. The formation and development of global industrial and supply chains are determined by market forces and companies choices, spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. Artificial industrial ‘transfer’ is an unrealistic approach that goes against the economic laws and can neither solve domestic problems nor do anything good to the stability of the global industrial and supply chains, or to the stable recovery of the world economy.
B) EU lawmakers give nod to the post-Brexit trade agreement.
European Union leaders, their British counterparts, and European businesses expressed hope on Wednesday that the final ratification of the post-Brexit trade deal will open a new, positive era of cooperation despite the many divisive topics remaining between the former partners. Lawmakers at the European Parliament voted 660-5 with 32 abstentions to endorse the free trade agreement. Voting took place on Tuesday but results were not announced until Wednesday morning. After EU lawmakers ratified the agreement ensuring that free trade continues between the two sides without tariffs and quotas, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the vote marked the final step in a long journey, providing stability to our new relationship with the EU as vital partners, close allies and sovereign equals. Relations between the EU and the U.K. have been strained since a Brexit transition period ended on January 1. The two sides have argued so far this year over issues ranging from violations of the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, COVID-19 vaccine supplies to the full diplomatic recognition of the EU in Britain.