With the Union Health Ministry noting a surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, official sources have said that the reason behind the spike is the Omicron variant which has started replacing its predecessor Delta in India and the world. According to Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, in the latest batch of genome sequencing, of the 282 samples collected from Mumbai, 55% cases were of the Omicron variety, 13% were Delta, and the rest 32% were derivatives of the Delta variety.
As per government sources, Omicron variant infections account for around 80% of Covid-19 cases detected among international travellers. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has been holding a review meeting daily over the Covid-19 situation since 25 November with all officials and public health experts.
“The trend of an increasing number of Covid-19 cases shows that it is due to Omicron, which is replacing Delta in India and globally as well,” official sources said. However, most of the patients infected with Omicron are asymptomatic and some of them are mildly symptomatic, they added.
Since the first two cases of Omicron were reported in India on 2 December, the Union Health Ministry has been working on mission mode and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also monitoring the situation closely. “The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s war room is dedicatedly working 24×7, even at night senior officers are monitoring, analysing and reviewing the situation, the trends and surge in cases,” said sources.
Delhi witnessed 1,796 fresh Covid cases in the last 24 hours. While Maharashtra saw 8,067 Covid cases, which included, Mumbai’s 5,428 cases. India on Friday reported 16,764 new cases, while 1,270 cases of its Omicron variant.
CENTRE WRITES TO STATES
The Centre on Friday called upon states and union territories to consider anyone with fever, headache, sore throat, breathlessness, body ache as a suspect case of COVID-19 and conduct tests. “lt is also emphasized that during the current upsurge of COVID-19 cases, any individual with fever with/without cough, headache, sore throat, breathlessness, body ache, recent loss of taste or smell, fatigue and diarrhoea should be considered as a suspect case of COVID-19 unless proven otherwise by confirmation of another etiology. All such individuals must be tested. While awaiting the test results, they should be advised to immediately isolate themselves and follow the home isolation guidelines of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to states and UTs.
Bhushan also asked the states and UTs to ramp up rapid antigen tests (RAT) as RTPCR-based testing leads to delays in confirming the diagnosis due to its turnaround time of 5-8 hours.
He urged them to set up multiple RAT booths on a 24/7 basis and permit RATs at government and private hospitals, including all districts hospitals and primary healthcare centres.
“Use of self-tests/home tests may be encouraged for symptomatic individuals. Seven such home testing kits have been approved so far, and two of them are also available on the GeM portal,” the letter states.
“All RT-PCR and RAT results should be uploaded on the ICMR portal,” it added.
India has a network of 3,117 molecular testing laboratories, which includes 2,014 RTPCR, 941 TrueNat, 132 CBNAAT and 30 other testing platforms. India’s estimated daily molecular testing capacity is more than 20 lakh per day.
‘LEARN TO LIVE WITH SARS-COV-2’
Meanwhile, suggesting that people should learn to live with SARS-CoV-2 and its variants which will continue to emerge, virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, however, on Friday said that the Omicron variant of coronavirus is comparatively less severe than other variants.
Dr Kang said, “We will have to learn to live with SARS-CoV-2 and its variants which will continue to emerge. There will be many waves, time and again. But fortunately, Omicron seems comparatively less severe than other variants.” “I believe we should be sending children to school, as generally Covid-19 infections are not much severe in children. Data available to inform a decision as to which vaccine should be used as a booster dose in India is very little,” she added.
145 CRORE VACCINE DOSES
On New Year’s Eve, as India crossed the milestone of administering 145 crore Covid-19 doses to the eligible population, Mandaviya said “ending the year on a great note”.
“Ending the year on a great note by crossing the milestone of 145 crore Covid-19 vaccinations,” the Union Health Minister tweeted. Thanking the healthcare and frontline workers for helping achieve the milestone, the minister added, “My gratitude to our doctors, scientists, healthcare and frontline workers for displaying immense grit, determination and resolve in the challenging 2021 year.”
As per CoWIN portal, India administered 1,45,05,86,211 vaccine doses by 4.26 pm. On Friday, a total of 49,38,832 vaccine doses were administered by 4.26 pm.
India’s nationwide vaccination drive against Covid-19 commenced on 16 January 2021.
As per the Centre, more than 150.66 crore vaccine doses have been provided to States and UTs.
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Budget 2022-2023: Healthcare sector expects substantial increase in budgetary allocation, tax sops
Coronavirus crisis has brought healthcare to the focus of priorities for the common people and the policymakers alike. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to give a big push to investments in health infrastructure and provide some other financial support to healthcare sector in the Union Budget 2022-23 scheduled to be presented on February 1. Public expenditure on healthcare in India is among the lowest in the world. As per the government data, it stands at around 1.2 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Compare it with other countries: the United States spends over 16 per cent of its GDP in public healthcare. The countries like Japan, France, Germany and Canada spend around 10 per cent. Even the poorer countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh spend around 3 per cent of their GDP on public health system. The world average is around 6 per cent of GDP.
Clearly, India requires to give a big push to investment in health sector. In 2021-22 budget presented in the parliament on February 1, 2021, the finance minister announced to more than double the budgetary allocation for health sector. The budgetary allocation to health sector was increased to Rs 2,23,846 crore for the financial year 2021-22, which is 137 per cent higher when compared with the outlay of Rs 94,452 crore in 2020-21.
Sitharaman not only announced 137 per cent increase in the budgetary allocation to health sector in 2021-22 budget but also gave assurance of continued support and enhanced allocation in the future.
While presenting the 2021-22 union budget, Sitharaman stated that while the investment on health infrastructure in this Budget has increased substantially, “progressively, as institutions absorb more, we shall commit more”.
According to a survey conducted by the industry body ASSOCHAM, the finance minister is likely to give top priority to health sector.
As many as 47 per cent of the respondents in the industry survey expressed hope that the finance minister will give top priority to healthcare in 2022-23 Budget.
According to Covid-19 Induced Healthcare Transformation in India’ report published jointly by FICCI and KPMG in October 2021, public health sector allocation is expected to increase to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2024-25 from around 1.2 per cent of the GDP in 2021-22.
The report notes that the Covid -19 pandemic not only brought into focus that the healthcare sector is the backbone of a country but also opened a floodgate of opportunities for the country to head towards a more resilient and robust healthcare system one that is capable of not only fighting the current situation but also in safeguarding populations against any unanticipated challenges in the future.
“The Covid -19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in our health systems and amplified already existing challenges pertaining to gaps in health infrastructure, workforce, accessibility and equity in health services. But at the same time, it also reinforced an urgent need to make greater investments in augmenting health preparedness and quality of care,” said Alok Roy, Chair, FICCI Health Services Committee & Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has suggested that the public investment in healthcare should be increased to at least 3 per cent of the GDP by FY 2025. The industry body has also pitched for creation of a Medical Innovation Fund that should support private sector and empower them to innovate and conduct research and development (R&D). The Fund should also support in implementation of new digital healthcare platforms and adoption of new technologies. The healthcare sector also expects some tax sops from the finance minister. The industry has been pitching for reduction in GST on raw materials that goes into active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) from 18 per cent to 12 per cent. There has also been demands for reduction import duties on medical devices.
GOVERNMENT SHOULD FOCUS ON EDUCATION IN THIS BUDGET, REDUCE DIGITAL DIVIDE
In comparison to 2021, India is in a much better state to handle the upcoming wave of Covid-19 cases. A majority of the sectors has recovered and is now back on track for rapid growth. One sector, however, has seen the slowest recovery – the Education sector, with students still unable to attend school physically and unable to get vaccinated, either.
We expect the Government to shift a lot of focus to the Education sector in this version of the budget in the following ways:
Higher allocation in overall budget
1. Last year, the Government slashed it’s allocation towards Education in the Annual Budget by 6%, amounting to a total allocation of Rs. 93,223 crores, against Rs. 99,311 crores in the year before that. This year, we expect the Government to increase allocation by around 10%, since last year the 6% slash was attributed to funds allocation towards healthcare and other emergency services.
Reducing the digital divide
2. We expect this year’s Education budget to focus on reducing the digital divide, which has kept a significant number of students – that rely on the country’s public education system and belong to challenged socio-economic backgrounds – from accessing education during the pandemic. We have already seen states like Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat provide devices and connectivity to needy students for free, or with heavy subsidy; we expect the Central Government to address this issue to ensure that students can resume classes virtually.
Reduced GST rates
3. The pandemic’s impact on the education system, particularly the public education system, has increased reliance of all students on supplementary sources of education that are provided by private organisations. Traditionally, such sources have been categorized under ‘Educational Services’ and taxed at 18% under Goods & Services Tax (GST). We expect the Government to revise the GST rate for this category to 5%, thereby easing the financial pressure on the students’ parents, particularly those from lower and middle class families .
Partner with private companies
4. Given the utility of education-technology (EdTech) tools during the pandemic, we expect the Government to announce a host of schemes this year to make EdTech tools accessible to students across the country. These schemes could pertain to Public Private Partnerships (PPP), subsidies or Direct Bank Transfers (DBT) to enable citizens to procure devices, connectivity and even subscription to educational services that will enable them to garner knowledge amidst closure of their educational institutions
Focus on vernacular languages
5. Since a significant number of students relying on the public education system learn in vernacular languages which are largely ignored by private EdTech players – it is quite likely that the Education budget will observe the Government mobilising resources towards creation or curation of regional-language educational content that will be aimed at such students. Efforts in this direction have already been initiated over the last few years, however, they are likely to receive a shot in the arm this year.
I believe that these key features, if addressed in the upcoming budget, will help India’s education system get back on track to recovery and help students continue their education even if they are unable to visit their schools till the students get fully vaccinated.
The Author is the Co-founder of ConnectEd Technologies which is an ed-tech social enterprise
YOU END UP SAYING THINGS IN WRITERS ROOM THAT COME OUT ONLY DURING THERAPY: GARIMA PURA
In this exclusive conversation, Garima, who is the co-writer of the Netflix show ‘Little Things’ opened up about her journey of working as a screenwriter.
Writer Garima Pura joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Garima, who is the co-writer of the Netflix show ‘Little things’ opened up about her journey of working as a screenwriter.
Garima started off by giving us insights about her fellow writers and sharing her experience of being the writer of a prominent show like ‘little things’ she said, “ The first and second season were written by Dhruv Sehgal, he is the original writer. When Netflix picked it up for the third season is when they asked for a diversity in the writers teams. Writers room experience per say was all heart. You end up saying things that come out only during therapy. Writing is a personal experience. There is craft and technique but mostly there is experiences and emotions. So all the writers have to become friends and get to know each other well. You just put all those experiences in the mix on the table and then pick what is good for the show. She went to say that, ‘’This is not purely experience based, there’s fiction too
Talking more about her writer’s room experience and how she bagged the project, Garima shared, “Little things writers rooms was first few in the country. This concept is seen an advent with the advent of OTTs. At that time, I was already floating my work with the production houses to see if I get something or not. I was presenting and asking to be given an opportunity. That is when ‘Little things’ team went through my profile. We had to write sample scripts and a solid screening process post, which we were picked. Then we found ourselves in a little writer’s room where we met day and day out.
Sharing about the overwhelming response from the audience on the third season of the show, Garima expressed, “There are so many talented people out there who deserve their writing to be showcased. Being in this position, I feel so honored and privileged that I got an opportunity so early in my carrier to contribute to an already solid show. I feel great and humble at the same time and it also inspires me to do better work and tell stories which are honest and people feel close to.”
When asked about her previous work experiences, the writer said, “I have made documentaries in the past and I’ve been different types of writer at different stages. Until the time I was in studying in Chandigarh, filmmaking was nowhere in the horizon, I just wanted to be a writer. I had published poems and stories and enrolled in a media course to become a journalist. So there I felt like film making is a good vessel to share my experiences and be heard.”
For our final question, we asked Garima about her upcoming projects, to which she revealed, “Right now I am doing dialogues for an 8 episode web show. I am extremely excited for this because its North Indian dialogues as I have a good command over this lingo. Next, I am working with Audible and a couple of short films here and there. I wrote a feature documentary “Sacred bond” which is about an orphan elephant who is being taken care of by human parents”.
ANDRE LEON TALLEY: VOGUE MAGAZINE’S PRODIGY AND BEACON OF INSPIRATION
Talley was one of the last great fashion editors, who had an incredible sense of fashion history. He could see through everything you do to the original reference, predict what was on your inspiration board.
The death of André Leon Talley at age 73 on January 18 2022 owing to a heart attack is a setback to the fashion industry.
Andre Leon Talley has died aged 73Talley and Naomi Campbell wear Alexander McQueen for the AngloMania Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2006
The former creative director of Vogue, Talley was recognised for his larger than life personality and expansive knowledge in sartorial topics, requisites that deemed him as a fashion icon in his own right.
Born in Washington D.C. and raised by his grandmother in North Carolina, Talley studied French literature at Brown University before becoming an apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1974.
He went on to work as a fashion journalist at Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue, attending regular fashion shows in New York and around Europe.
Talley landed a role as Vogue’s Fashion News Director, and was later named the magazine’s first Black male creative director in 1988. He returned to the publication in 1998 to serve as editor-at-large, ending his tenure in 2013. Talley often advocated for diversity during his time at Vogue and within the fashion industry. “He also was very involved in fighting for more diversity on the runway, for more Black models,” New York Fashion Week creator Fern Mallis said. “Mostly on the runway it started, and then certainly that became a movement about in every aspect of the industry”.
He once served as a stylist for United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during their time in the White House; as well as styling Melania Trump for her 2005 wedding to Donald Trump.
Beyond print, Talley was a judge on America’s Next Top Model, starred in 2016 documentary The Gospel According to André, and wrote two memoirs.
In the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, the character Nigel Kipling portrayed by Stanley Tucci is widely believed to be a depiction of Talley.
The kaftan or robe clad journalist he served as the creative director and editor-at-large (chronologically) at Vogue was usually seen at events next to Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
In his time there, Talley became a close comrade of big-name designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Paloma Picasso; and his representatives noted his “penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers”.
Vogue’s Anna Wintour remembered him fondly as “magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny”.
Belgian designer Diane von Furstenberg said no one was “grander and more soulful”, adding: “The world will be less joyful.”
Famed American designer Marc Jacobs said he was “in shock” over the news. “You championed me and you have been my friend since my beginning,” he posted online.
BRITAIN CALLS FOR UNITY AGAINST CHINA AND RUSSIA
Britain had cautioned Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Western world stands united to fight for democracy against dictatorships which it said were more emboldened than at any time since the Cold War.
Speaking at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, “The West must respond together to global threats, deepen ties with democracies in the Indo-Pacific and face global aggressors. Global aggressors are emboldened in a way we haven’t seen since the Cold War.” The Foreign Secretary highlighted that the 21st Century will be the century of struggle between democracies and rivals such as China and Russia who are challenging the post-Cold War consensus through all means be it militarily, economically and technologically.
She added, “They seek to export dictatorship as a service around the world. That is why regimes like Belarus, North Korea and Myanmar find their closest allies in Moscow and Beijing.”
She emphasised on the need to work with allies like India, Japan, Australia, Israel and Indonesia to face down global aggressors and threats to the world order.
In her speech, Liz Truss, called Russia a dictatorial model which is governed by a mercurial elite that had been involved in irresponsible escapades such as the 2014 annexation of Crimea, attempts to meddle in US and European elections, and a series of high-profile espionage and assassination attempts abroad. Truss further cautioned Moscow to desist and step back from Ukraine before it makes a massive strategic mistake and added that “Kremlin has not learned the lessons of history that invasion will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life, as we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and conflict in Chechnya.”
In the last few months, tensions in the West on one hand, and China and Russia on the other hand, had increased in multiple theaters across the globe.
CANDIDATES QUESTION HEIGHT MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUE BEING USED FOR POLICE RECRUITMENT IN HARYANA
The process of male and female police constables recruitment for 5500 posts is going on in Haryana. But amid this, what came to the surface is that a lot of candidates continue to visit the Haryana Staff Selection Commission every day having complaints of irregularities which led to an increase in the troubles of the commission. It is learnt that aspirants miffed over the physical assessment technique being adopted by the Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC) during the aforesaid recruitment. The candidates raised their fingers over and accused machines and equipment of wrong physical measurements being used to measure their heights. The issue has become the talk of the town these days as a lot of candidates had visited the HSSC headquarters having complaints pertaining to the irregularities in the recruitment which emerged as a huge problem for the commission.
While reacting to the media over the ongoing issue, Bhopal Singh Khadri, the Chairman of the HSSC outrightly rejected the possibility of any kind of irregularities saying that there are no such irregularities during the physical measurements of the candidates. If any candidate is not satisfied with his physical measurement, then he will be given another chance and the concerned candidates are suggested to give written complaints or presentations before the commission regarding the issue further he said, the commission has already formed a redressal committee to address the issue of candidates.
Besides, few of the Haryana male aspirants were reportedly upset over the issues of irregularities pertaining to their documents on part of the commission. Many candidates hailing from the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) standing outside the HSSC offices here on Friday said that their documents were up to mark but not accepted which is annoying.
Several candidates Rohit, Manish, Deepak hailing from Rohtak, Rewari and Palwal took a dig at the physical measure technique being used for police recruitment saying that how the height measured in 2021, of a candidate can differ from which was measured in 2019. So the issue of measurement technique for the recruitment is at the Centre of discussion requiring the HSSC to look into the matter. It is pertinent to mention that the physical measurement technique is still the same since 2019 for police recruitment.
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