CENTRE CALLS FOR RAMPING UP REMDESIVIR PRODUCTION AS COVID CASES REACH 1.84L - The Daily Guardian
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CENTRE CALLS FOR RAMPING UP REMDESIVIR PRODUCTION AS COVID CASES REACH 1.84L

Aishvarya Jain

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India recorded its biggest-ever single-day spike with 1,84,372 Covid-19 cases, besides 1,027 deaths, in 24 hours. This is the highest number of cases that India has ever recorded and is now the second country after the USA to record these many cases in the span of 24 hours.

As the sudden surge in cases across the nation has led to an unprecedentedly high demand of Remdesivir, the government has announced that the production of the antiviral drug will be ramped up and its prices reduced. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan also called for stringent action against those found hoarding or black-marketing the drug.

States like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have flagged depleting stocks of the injectable antiviral drug, which, they say, has added to the crisis caused by the surge. Responding to this, Dr Harsh Vardhan told ANI, “The shortage of Remdesivir happened because its production was reduced as Covid-19 cases were decreasing. But our drug controller and (the Chemicals and Fertilizers) ministry held a meeting with stakeholders and have asked manufacturers to strengthen production.”

Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya further informed, “The government has decided to increase the production and supply and reduce the prices of Remdesivir. This will ramp up production capacity for manufacturing to around 80 lakh vials a month. Manufacturers of Remdesivir are to reduce the price to less than Rs 3,500 by the end of this week.”

“In case of any complaint of black marketing or hoarding of doses, stringent action will be taken by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Stringent action should be taken against those who are exploiting people by inflating the price of Remdesivir,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Earlier this week, the Centre banned the export of the Remdesivir injections and active pharmaceutical ingredients, which was cleared by the drug regulator for restricted use in an emergency situation in June. It is being used for the treatment of patients with severe Covid-related complications. The government has stated that the drug must be given only in serious cases and not be used at home.

“It is an investigational drug. Its role has been clearly defined in the clinical management protocol. Remdesivir is to be used only in those who require hospitalisation and are on oxygen support. There is no question of its use in home settings and for mild cases. That is unethical,” said NITI Aayog member VK Paul, flagging “irrational” use of the drug.

Meanwhile, the Union Health Minister emphasised that there is no shortage of vaccines and the Centre is providing them to every state. “It is the job of the states to provide the vaccine at the centre in a time-bound manner along with monitoring the drive and meticulous planning,” he said.

Dr Harsh Vardhan also responded to questions about the Kumbh Mela which is attracting lakhs of people by saying, “It is clear that it is a new virus and the most important Covid-appropriate behaviour is using masks, distancing and sanitisation. Wherever it is not followed, it is dangerous…We should go back to Covid-appropriate behaviour and only then we can lower the cases.”

However, the viral infection is still rapidly spreading in most regions of the country. Delhi witnessed another record high because of it with 17,282 new Covid-19 cases and 104 deaths in 24 hours. It also registered 9,952 recoveries. With this, the total number of cases in the national capital has increased to 7,67,438 and the death toll stands at 11,540. 7,05,162 people have recovered so far. There are 50,736 active cases.

Maharashtra reported 58,952 fresh Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, besides 278 deaths. The total cases in the state have now reached 35,78,160, out of which 6,12,070 are active cases. Meanwhile, Mumbai reported 9,925 fresh cases and 54 deaths.

Uttar Pradesh reported 68 coronavirus deaths as it witnessed 20,510 more cases, making it the highest single-day number for the state, pushing the total infection count to 7,44,021. So far, 9,376 people have died from the infection in UP.

Himachal Pradesh reported 925 new positive cases, 250 recoveries and 13 deaths in the last 24 hours. The death toll in the state stands at 1,135, while 72,319 patients have recovered so far. There are 6,929 active cases.

Goa recorded 473 fresh cases of Covid-19 and four more casualties in 24 hours. With this, the tally of infections in the state reached 63,815, while the death toll mounted to 857.

Andhra Pradesh reported 18 Covid-19 fatalities, the highest in a day, as 4,157 fresh cases of the infection were registered in the state. 1,606 coronavirus patients also recovered in the state in 24 hours, while the number of active cases increased to a near six-month high of 28,383. The total recoveries reached 9,01,327 while the gross toll rose to 7,339. Telangana recorded 2,157 fresh coronavirus cases, pushing the total positives to over 3.34 lakh, while the toll rose to 1,780 with eight more fatalities. The total number of cases stood at 3,34,738 while, with 821 patients being cured, the total recoveries were at 3,07,499.

Tamil Nadu reported 7,819 new Covid-19 infections, pushing the caseload to 9,54,948, while the toll mounted to 12,970 with 25 more deaths. Recoveries mounted to 8,87,663 with 3,464 patients being discharged, leaving behind 54,315 active cases.

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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CHINA HAS 30 MILLION UNMARRIED MEN; IS IT DUE TO SHORTAGE OF BRIDES?

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A new in China shows that the country has about 30 million unmarried men, triggering speculations about shortage of brides there.

According to China’s seventh population census by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), out of the 12 million babies born last year there were 111.3 boys for every 100 girls. In 2010, the ratio was 118.1 to 100.

“Normally in China, men marry women who are much younger than they are, but as the population ages, there are even more older men, which exaggerates the situation,” ANI quoted Prof Stuart Gieten-Basten as saying.

Bjourn Alpermann, another professor, warned of a huge shortfall in potential brides by the time the babies born reached marriageable age. “Of these 12 million babies that were born last year, 600,000 boys will not be able to find a marriage partner their same age when they grow up,” he said.

China’s one-child policy, implemented in 1979 and withdrawn in 2016, had exacerbated the practice of sex-selective abortion in favour of boys, said Jiang Quanbao, a demography professor.

Meanwhile, SCMP reported citing the NBS that China’s fertility rate was 1.3 children per woman, well below the 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population.

Highlighting that men from lower classes faced the most difficulty in finding brides, Cai Yong, an associate professor of social demography warned that without marriage, they will suffer “poorer physical and psychological health”.

“As long as the preference for boys does not change, it will skew the sex ratio at birth. With such preferences, people still will find a way to select boys over girls and more female fetuses will be aborted,” he said.

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Gates quit board as Microsoft probed his affair with employee

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Resignation of Bill Gates in 2020 from Microsoft’s Board of Directors came after the board hired a law firm to investigate a romantic relationship he had with a Microsoft employee that was deemed inappropriate, people familiar with the matter said.

Quoting Wall Street Journal, CNN reported that some Microsoft Directors began an investigation in 2019 into the woman’s allegations of prior sexual relationship with Bill Gates. During the probe, some board members decided it was no longer suitable for Gates to sit as a Director at the software company he started and led for decades, the people said.

Gates resigned before the Board’s probe was completed and before the full board could make a formal decision on the matter, another person familiar with the matter said, reported Wall Street Journal. “Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

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GASPING FOR OXYGEN, NEPAL ASKS MOUNTAINEERS TO BRING BACK CANISTERS FOR COVID PATIENTS

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Running short of oxygen for patients of Covid-19, Nepal has requested mountain climbers of ongoing Spring Expedition to bring back their canisters so that it can be refilled to supply medical gas (oxygen) to the patients. With Covid-19 surging in the country, patients are gasping for oxygen as there is a dearth of oxygen containers.

Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) has requested climbers to bring back their empty or unused cylinders so that it can be used for oxygen refilling.

“We now are facing the second wave of infection which has created grave kind of situation and crisis, matter is going out of hand. Cylinders (oxygen) which arrived back from the expedition can be used at this hour of crisis. We are lending our hands to government, various associations and those who are working on it,” said Santa Bir Lama, president of NMA.

“In the ongoing expedition all the climbers are on base camp, they possess ample number of cylinders. We have requested owners and operators to bring back cylinders immediately after completion of expedition to use it for the benefit of people,” Lama added. ANI

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Evidence suggests Covid-19 originated from Wuhan lab: Pompeo

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The evidence suggests that coronavirus originated from the lab in Wuhan city of China, said former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday. He added that the risk of bioweapons and bioterror arising from the region is “very real”.

Pompeo told Fox News that the Chinese Communist Party “covered up” the origins of Covid-19 and that evidence continues to mount despite their efforts to deny access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. “We worked to get every bit of evidence that we could, we tried to deliver this to the CDC, tried to work with the Chinese. They covered it up terribly,” Pompeo said.

He said the combination of circumstantial evidence and China’s intense effort to deny any information relating to the lab suggests to him that the virus originated in that lab. “I haven’t seen a shred of evidence to suggest anything to the contrary,” Pompeo said. “The risk that something like this happens again from that laboratory or another Chinese laboratory is very real,” he said. “They [China] are operating and conducting activities that are inconsistent with their capacity to secure those facilities. And the risk of bioweapons and bioterror emanating from this region is very real.”

Pompeo also warned that similar scenarios could happen in the future, pointing to the possibility of biological warfare.

Recently, findings in a report in an Australian daily has yet again reinforced the call that international investigators must dig deeper to rule out whether Covid-19 is a made-in-China bioweapon. The controversy about Covid-19 origins has resurfaced after the Weekend Australian newspaper revealed that Chinese scientists were thinking about bioweapons, visualising a World War-III scenario.

The daily cited a Chinese government document that discussed the weaponisation of SARS coronavirus. Titled the Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons, the 2015 paper was authored by Chinese scientists, Chinese public health officials and members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

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CHINA’S DEADLY SUICIDE DRONE ARMY IS IN THE WORKS

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The future battlefield belongs to attack drones or flying artillery shells and China is now is looking to buy Kamikaze drones. Michael Peck in an article in The National Interest said that the US ally Israel first taught China about suicide drones. Now Beijing is looking for its own. China got its first taste of suicide drones when Israel sold it the Harpy in the 1990s, to the displeasure of the US government. The Chinese military wants two types of suicide drones, according to an announcement posted on a Chinese military procurement Web site. The desired technical specifications of the drones, or the number to be purchased, are classified, reported The National Interest.

As per Peck, Chinese drone manufacturers do have products that might satisfy the demands of the People’s Liberation Army.

In 2018, China Aerospace unveiled the CH-901, which Chinese media described as being 4 feet long and weighing 20 pounds, with a speed of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour, a range of 15 kilometers (9 miles), and an endurance of two hours. The larger WS-43 is a 500-pound weapon with a range of 60 kilometers (37 miles) and an endurance of 30 minutes.

Called “loitering munitions” by military customers who are understandably reluctant to refer to them as suicidal, these weapons seek to bridge the gap between artillery shells – which can’t stay up in the air – and strike drones like America’s Reaper and Predator, which are big and expensive unmanned aircraft.

Loitering munitions feature a propeller, wings, a warhead, and a camera. They orbit an area, scanning it with their cameras to identify targets and transmitting the images back to the operator. When the operator sees a worthwhile target, he can command the drone to perform a death-dive on the target, reported The National Interest.

The potential uses of these weapons are numerous. Aerovision’s Switchblade, which the US Marine Corps ordered in 2018, is a handheld 6-pound weapon that fits inside a soldier’s backpack.

Switchblade is designed for situations such as troops encountering a mortar on the reverse slope of a hill that can’t be hit by direct-fire weapons. Instead of waiting for artillery or airstrikes, a rifleman can pluck a Switchblade from his backpack and destroy the target.

Or, if hitting a sniper in a building risks collateral damage to civilians, a Switchblade can be flown through the window. Its warhead is no more powerful than that of a grenade, but that’s still powerful enough to take out a mortar or sniper.

Israel’s Harpy, designed to knock out enemy radar sites, is a much larger weapon. Introduced in 1990 as probably the world’s first suicide drone, the 300-pound Harpy has a range of up to 250 miles and an endurance of two hours. It is similar to a traditional anti-radiation missile that homes in on signals from a radar station.

However, unlike a missile, it can stalk an area for hours, waiting for an unwary operator to switch on radar before it autonomously flies toward the target, reported The National Interest.

For the US military and other potential Chinese adversaries, this is one more advanced weapon that they may encounter in battle. Like drones in general, loitering munitions can be hard to detect and shoot down, especially the smaller models.

Even worse, those Chinese loitering munitions may be popping up outside of China. Beijing may have become the world’s No 2 arms exporter, whose aircraft, tanks, and rifles can be found across the globe. This means that American soldiers could face Chinese-made suicide drones in hotspots such as Africa and the Middle East, said Peck.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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ISRAEL LAUNCHES HEAVY AIR STRIKES AS GAZA FIGHTING ENTERS SECOND WEEK

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Israel launched heavy air strikes in Gaza and the Hamas kept up its rocket attacks on Israeli cities in fighting that spilled into a second week on Monday, with the death toll nearing 200. Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an end to hostilities was not imminent even as International calls mounted for a ceasefire.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza entered its eighth consecutive day after raids on Sunday killed at least 42 Palestinians, wounded dozens more, and flattened at least two residential buildings. The home of Gaza’s Hamas chief, Yehya al-Sinwar, was also targeted, as reported by Aljazeera news. At least 192 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the latest violence began last Monday. Israel has reported 10 dead.

The United Nations Security Council met on Sunday to discuss the worst outbreak of violence in years in Palestine and Israel. US President Biden conferred with Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, about efforts to broker a ceasefire. While supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas, Biden urged Netanyahu to protect civilians and journalists.

Over the past week, the 15-member UN Security Council met privately at least twice to discuss ways of reducing tensions. But efforts to reach an agreement on a statement or to hold an open meeting had faced resistance from the United States, Israel’s biggest defender on the council.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter: “All parties need to deescalate tensions—the violence must end immediately”, after he spoke with Egypt’s foreign minister about ongoing violence in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

At a meeting on Sunday of the UN Security Council, the United States said that it has made clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it is ready to offer support “should the parties seek a ceasefire”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s campaign in Gaza was continuing at “full force”, and that deterrence had to be achieved to prevent future conflict with Hamas, which rules Gaza. “We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel’s citizens. It will take time,” Netanyahu said in a televised address after his security Cabinet met on Sunday.

US President Biden said his administration is working with all parties towards achieving a sustained calm. “We also believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and enjoy equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” he said in a pretaped video aired at an event marking the Muslim Eid holiday on Sunday.

Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel on Friday for talks, and an official with first-hand knowledge of his meetings said on Sunday that he reiterated “full US support” for Israel’s right to defend itself. He also made clear that Washington understood that “this is clearly not something that can be wrapped up in 24 hours,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that hostilities in Israel and Gaza were “utterly appalling” and called for an immediate end to fighting. He said the United Nations was “actively engaging all sides toward an immediate ceasefire” and urged them “to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed.” UN envoys have helped to mediate past truces between Israel and Hamas.

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