INDIA HALTS BRITISH FLIGHTS TILL 31 DECEMBER OVER NEW COVID STRAIN - The Daily Guardian
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INDIA HALTS BRITISH FLIGHTS TILL 31 DECEMBER OVER NEW COVID STRAIN

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan assures people that the government has the situation under control and ‘there is no need to panic’; experts believe that current vaccines should be effective against the new strain.

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The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Monday banned all flights from the UK till 31 December 31 in the wake of a new fast-spreading strain of novel coronavirus in that country. The ban will start from Wednesday and all passengers arriving from the UK before then will be tested on arrival at airports.

“Considering the prevailing situation in UK, the Government of India has decided that all flights originating from UK to India to be suspended till 31st December,” said the Aviation Ministry after a joint monitoring group on Covid-19 met on Monday morning to discuss the mutant coronavirus that has spread rapidly in the UK.

It added that as a measure of abundant precaution, passengers arriving from the UK in all transit flights should be subjected to mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at the airports in India. Those who test positive will be sent to institutional quarantine while the rest will be asked to home-isolate for seven days.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that the new variant had an unusually large number of genetic changes and the development “calls for enhanced epidemiological surveillance, enhanced containment” and other measures to effectively tackle the challenge.

“India has been seeing a sustained decline in the number of fresh Covid-19 cases for over two months now, accompanied by a decline in the number of deaths. In this scenario, any interjection of a SARS-CoV-2 variant virus through passengers with air travel history could pose critical risks for pandemic management in India,” he said.

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan assured people that the government has the situation under control and “there is no need to panic”. He said on Monday, “Don’t get hassled with imaginary situations… The government is fully alert.”

Though not much is known about the strain, experts believe that current vaccines should be effective against it. Indian-American physician Vivek Murthy, US President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Surgeon General, has said there is no evidence to suggest that a new and more contagious coronavirus variant reported in the UK is any deadlier. “This news from the UK appears to be about a new strain of the virus that’s more transmissible, more contagious than the virus we’ve seen prior to this,” he said. “While it seems to be more transmissible, we do not have evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus to an individual who acquires it,” Dr Murthy told NBC News on Sunday.

Meanwhile, there had been several calls to ban flights from the UK. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted this Monday morning: “New mutation of corona virus has emerged in UK, which is a super-spreader. I urge central government to ban all flights from UK immediately.”

The UK is one of 23 countries that India shares an “air bubble” with; the country is home to a huge Indian diaspora and several flights per day take hundreds of people between London and New Delhi and London and Mumbai.

The mutant virus was first detected in southeast England in September. It is quickly becoming the dominant strain in London and other parts of the UK, and has led to surging infection numbers and toughest levels of restrictions on some 18 million Britons.

Maharashtra on Monday imposed an 11 pm to 6 am night curfew till 5 January in Mumbai and other cities, and announced new quarantine rules for arrivals from the Europe and West Asia, in view of a fast-spreading strain of coronavirus that has emerged in the UK.

Passengers from European or West Asian nations will be sent to 14-day institutional quarantine, and all others must home-isolate for a similar period, the Maharashtra government said on Monday evening.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner told news agency PTI that around 1,000 people are expected to arrive in five flights landing till midnight 22 December, when the centre’s ban on incoming flights from the UK takes effect.

Meanwhile, during the period of the night curfew, essential services, like supply of vegetables and milk, will remain unaffected. However, no more than five people can assemble at a given place in this time.

Several countries have suspended flights from the UK over the new strain, believed to be 70 per cent more infectious. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock had earlier claimed that “the new variant is out of control”.

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APPLE MAY LAUNCH M1X POWERED MACBOOK PRO, MAC MINI IN 2021’S Q4

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Washington: Two MacBook Pro models and one Mac mini are expected to arrive within the fourth quarter of this year, with all three machines fueled by American tech giant Apple’s much-talked-about M1X chipset.

According to The Verge, reports suggest that both the M1X MacBook Pro models, which can likely include a 14-inch and a 16-inch version, alongside a Mac mini, will be launched in late October or early November. Since Apple did announce its M1-running MacBook products last year on November 10, this prediction could hold merit, but a lot can happen within the coming months. From what’s known, both the M1X MacBook Pro models are expected to feature mini-LED screens a bit like the M1 iPad Pro.

Unfortunately, Apple has run into supply issues with this particular component, and to mitigate those problems, the company has reportedly added another supplier to assist with production slowdowns.

Even then, Apple isn’t expected to start out production of the new portable Macs until late 2021, and since the Mac mini can’t be announced as a standalone product since it’ll deduct the spotlight from the MacBook Pro family, it’ll likely be unveiled alongside the 14-inch and 16-inch notebooks.

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HERE’S WHY GOOGLE APP ON ANDROID PHONE KEEPS CRASHING

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Washington: If you are an android user who is struggling with the Google app on your phone, then you are not the only one who is complaining and here’s the reason why.

The search engine giant usually keeps updating all its app and the ‘Google’ app is no different, but Mashable India reported that several people on the internet appear to be going through an annoying issue with the app which constantly makes it crash. Users on Twitter highlighted the issue until the officials from the Android Authority took note and figured out that an update to the app- ‘version 12.23.16.23.arm64 and 12.22.8.23’, is the reason behind the same.

Mashable India learnt that according to the note, there is “no easy way to check if you have an affected version of the app, but if you do have an affected version of the app, you will see repeated notifications that the app has stopped working.”

The issue is reportedly “reminiscent of a recent issue with Android System WebView, which caused Gmail and other Google apps to crash”.

There has been no official fix reported to fix this crash but the subsidiaries of Google have suggested that soft rebooting the phone can act as a potential remedy. Other suggestions include installing the latest beta version of the app, or reverting to a previous version.

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Imran Khan’s comic reply exposes evasion

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is being termed as the world’s leading anti-Islamophobia crusader as he has time and again refused to condemn China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Muslim-majority Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

In an interview with ‘Axios on HBO’ on Sunday, when Khan was asked about his outspokenness about Islamophobia in Europe and the US but total silence on the genocide of Muslims in Western China, he replied, “This is not the case, according to them (Chinese authorities).” He has himself exposed the parochiality of his much-hyped anti-Islamophobia campaign. Khan, who just two years ago feigned ignorance on the ongoing religious persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China stating he “didn’t know much about it,” is today fully conversant with this issue.

“Whatever issues we have with the Chinese, we speak to them behind closed doors,” Khan said, appearing to imply that his country had taken up the issue with Beijing but doesn’t dare to take issue publically with China. He also admitted that China had been pouring cash into Pakistan, which is too critical of an alliance to challenge. “China has been one of the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times. When we were really struggling, when our economy was struggling, China came to our rescue,” he continued, noting that as a result of such financial assistance, “we respect the way they are.”

Xinjiang is a province in Communist China where an estimated two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained since 2016. They are believed to have been placed in detention centres across Xinjiang, according to the US State Department. Many former detainees allege they were subjected to attempted indoctrination, physical abuse, and even sterilisation.

The US government and several Western countries have labelled China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide. But Khan said Beijing had denied reports of widespread abuses of Uyghur Muslims in private conversations with Islamabad. “We respect the way they are. How come this is such a big issue in the Western world? Why are the people of Kashmir ignored? It is much more relevant,” he said.

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PM TRUDEAU FUELS ELECTION SPECULATION AFTER ‘TOXICITY’ BARB ON CANADIAN PARLIAMENT

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OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while fuelling speculation regarding early polls, is portraying Parliament as a place of “toxicity” and “obstructionism” as opposed to his minority government’s agenda. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that with key Bill being debated in the House of Commons, including Liberals’ budget implementation Bill, time is running short to get outstanding legislation passed. “We have seen a level of obstructionism and toxicity in the House that is of real concern,” Trudeau said outside of the steps of Rideau Cottage.

This comes after Trudeau returned from the Group of Seven (G7), NATO, and Canada-EU summits and is now quarantined under the country’s Covid-19 rules. The Canadian PM on Tuesday had said his government’s push to ban conversion therapy and enshrine the country’s aim to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 can happen with the help of the Bloc Quebecois and NDP. Trudeau said he welcomes parliamentary scrutiny of their work but found it troubling to see opposition MPs bring the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada to be publicly shamed. The opposition is demanding information on why two scientists were escorted from Canada’s highest security laboratory in Winnipeg two years ago and eventually fired. The issue has caused potential security concerns involving China.

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WUHAN LAB’S CLASSIFIED INFO HAMPERING COVID ORIGIN SEARCH

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A review of Wuhan Institute of Virology’s public records and internal guidelines have revealed the existence of unspecified classified projects and discussion of the lab’s responsibilities under China’s state secrets law, that hamper the search for the origins of the virus. This came amid mounting pressure over calls for a fresh probe into the origins of Covid-19.

According to Washington Post, some records mention protocols for disclosing information to foreigners and the sealing of some research reports for up to two decades. Tang Kaihong, a local representative of China’s National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, discussed the national security risks of the institute’s research and warned of infiltration efforts by foreign spies, according to an account published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The secrecy may help to explain why efforts to confirm or disprove the lab-leak theory of the pandemic’s origins have made little progress.

The US President had earlier ordered intelligence agencies to ‘redouble their efforts’ to determine the source of the virus, which is exactly the sort of operation the Wuhan lab prepared for more than a decade ago with the setting up of systems to handle confidential information.

The Wuhan lab has drawn global scrutiny because of its research on bat coronaviruses in the city where the pandemic began. The lab leak theory has recently become the subject of renewed public debate after several prominent scientists called for a full investigation into the origins of the virus.

As China’s threshold for the classification of secrets is lower than in some countries, the country’s State Secrets Law entails information on military and diplomatic affairs and on the country’s economic, scientific and social development to be confidential, reported Washington Post.

The topics of the Wuhan lab’s classified projects are unknown. Its guidelines on information disclosure say the institute shares details of its work with the public, except state secrets, research and work secrets, matters under investigation, and disclosures that would violate the law. This year, the lab distributed forms to students for sealing dissertations on confidential topics. One of the forms said “confidential” dissertations would be sealed for up to 10 years and “classified” ones for up to 20 years.

The hypothesis that the virus was accidentally leaked from the lab was largely disregarded by scientists in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. China has repeatedly denied that the lab was responsible for the outbreak.

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GRAVE CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT UYGHUR PERSECUTION AT UN RIGHTS COUNCIL

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Canada delivered a joint statement on behalf of 42 countries at the UN Humans Rights Council, on Tuesday, expressing grave concerns over the “Uyghur genocide” in China’s Xinjiang province,

During the UNHRC meeting on behalf of 40 countries, Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Leslie Norton said, “We urge China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers.” The statement was backed by major countries Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Britain, Spain and the United States, among others.

Norton also called on China to implement the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s Xinjiang-related recommendations, including ending the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. The remarks highlighted reports of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilisation, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children from their parents by authorities.

“We also share the concerns expressed by UN Special Procedures in their 29 March statement on alleged detention, forced labour and transfers of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities and in a letter published by UN experts describing collective repression of religious and ethnic minorities,” the statement added.

The countries also urged China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the High Commissioner. Despite mounting evidence, China denies mistreating the Uyghurs and goes on to insist it is simply running “vocational training” centres designed to counter extremism. On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had said that she hopes to agree on terms with China for a visit this year to Xinjiang province, to look into reports of serious abuse against Uyghurs. This is the first time that UN rights official has suggested a timeline for the visit amid the growing pressure from the international community to secure access to Xinjiang.

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