The Serum Institute of India (SII) on Wednesday fixed the prices of Covishield vaccine at Rs 400 per dose for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals, even as many states like Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Uttar Pradesh announced free vaccinationto all above 18 years.
The Central government had said on Monday that everyone above 18 years of age will be eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19 from 1 May.
The SII’s announcement came days after the Centre had announced its “Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy” which will become effective from 1 May, and under which vaccine manufacturers would be free to supply 50% of their monthly doses to state governments and in the open market.
Currently, the Covishield vaccine costs Rs 250 in private hospitals, which is a highly subsidised rate as the Centre has till now been directly procuring the vaccine from SII. The Centre will continue to receive Covishield doses at Rs 150 each, which means it will be cheapest to get vaccine shot from Central government hospitals or establishments.
The vaccines will still be more affordable than foreign jabs, which cost anywhere from Rs 750 to Rs 1,500 a shot, SII said.
As part of the government’s new policy, 50% of the vaccine doses will be reserved for the Centre and the rest will be divided between states and private hospitals.
“Following the Government of India directives, we are announcing the prices of the Covishield vaccine—Rs 400 per dose for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals,” the SII said. SII further said the company will serve 50% of the total production to the Government of India’s vaccination programme, and the remaining 50% of the capacity will be for the state governments and private hospitals.
“Furthermore, owing to the complexity, and urgency of the situation it is challenging to supply it independently to each corporate entity. We would urge all corporate and private individuals to access the vaccines through the state facilitated machinery and private health systems. Post 4-5 months, the vaccines will be made available in retail and free trade,” it said.
Meanwhile, a report from Patna said the Bihar government will provide the Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced on Wednesday. “The Bihar government will provide Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age in the state,” Kumar tweeted in Hindi. The Bihar government has imposed a impose night curfew in the state amid rising Covid-19 cases.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too announced on Wednesday that those above 18 years will be given free vaccination for Covid-19. “All above 18 above will be vaccinated in Madhya Pradesh free of cost,” he said. Chouhan said that the state government will come out with guidelines concerning the decision.
Assam and Uttar Pradesh governments have also said that they will vaccinate those above 18 years free of cost.
A report from Thiruvananthapuram said the Kerala government will provide the Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced on Wednesday. Addressing media in Thiruvananthapuram, he also urged the Central government to give vaccines to the states for free as they are already under financial burden due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The state governments have been asked to buy vaccines. But states are already going through a financial burden because of Covid-19. Instead of pushing states to further economic crisis, the Centre should give vaccines to the states for free,” he said. “Kerala government is not going back on its promises, we will provide Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age,” he added.
A report from Raipur said expenses to vaccinate all aged above 18 years against Covid-19 in Chhattisgarh will be borne by the state government, said state Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Wednesday. He requested the Central government to ensure availability of adequate number of vaccines. “Expenses, to vaccinate all aged above 18 years in Chhattisgarh, will be borne by the state government. We will take all possible steps to protect our citizens’ lives. Request central government to ensure availability of adequate number of vaccines,” Baghel tweeted.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
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CHINA HAS 30 MILLION UNMARRIED MEN; IS IT DUE TO SHORTAGE OF BRIDES?
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.
Gates quit board as Microsoft probed his affair with employee
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.
GASPING FOR OXYGEN, NEPAL ASKS MOUNTAINEERS TO BRING BACK CANISTERS FOR COVID PATIENTS
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
Evidence suggests Covid-19 originated from Wuhan lab: Pompeo
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).
CHINA’S DEADLY SUICIDE DRONE ARMY IS IN THE WORKS
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
ISRAEL LAUNCHES HEAVY AIR STRIKES AS GAZA FIGHTING ENTERS SECOND WEEK
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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