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India may be entering endemic stage of Covid-19: WHO Chief Scientist

Country adds 25,467 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, recovery rate at 97.68%.

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India may be entering an endemic stage of Covid-19, with low or moderate level of virus transmission, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Soumya Swaminathan said on Tuesday.

The endemic stage is when a population learns to live with a virus, which is in sharp contrast to the epidemic stage where the virus overwhelms a population.

In an interview to news website The Wire, Swaminathan said that given the size of India and heterogeneity of population and immunity status in different parts of the country, it is “very very feasible” that the situation may continue like this with ups and downs in various parts of the nation. “We may be entering some kind of stage of endemicity where there is low-level transmission or moderate level transmission going on but we are not seeing the kinds of exponential growth and peaks that we saw a few months ago,” she said.

Swaminathan said that she hopes that by the end of 2022 “we would be in that position that we have achieved vaccine coverage, say 70 per cent, and then countries can get back to normal”.

On prevalence of Covid among children, Swaminathan said parents need not panic. “We can take from the sero survey and what we learnt from other countries also that while it is possible that children could get infected and transmit, children luckily have very mild illness most of the time and there is a small percentage that gets sick and get inflammatory complications and few will die but much much less than the adult population…But it is good to prepare… preparing hospitals for paediatric admissions, paediatric intensive care is going to serve our health system in many ways for other illnesses children have but we should not panic about thousands of children crowding into ICUs,” she said.

On clearance to Covaxin, she said the decision can be made hopefully by mid-September. “The Bharat Biotech submitted their data in the third week of July which was the first data set, then there was an updated data set that came in the middle of August. The committee has gone back to the company with some questions which they must be in process of answering now. I think the technical advisory group that ultimately approves will meet in the first 10 days of September and so we are hoping it happens soon after that,” she said.

“So by the middle of September I am thinking, and the reason it took longer was because of back and forth and the need for more data requested from the company and this is the usual process. People think it is taking longer for Covaxin than for others but that is not the case… each company that applied for EUL (Emergency Use Listing) had taken this period of 4 to 6 to 8 weeks to get all the data needed,” she said.

As for the third wave, she said that no one has a “crystal ball” and it’s impossible to predict a third wave. “It will be impossible to predict when, where the third wave will be upon us and if at all a third wave will come. However, you can make an educated guess on some of the variables that have an impact on transmission,” she said.

On booster doses, Swaminathan said that there are both scientific and moral, and ethical reasons for not rushing into boosters.

In the meantime, India on Tuesday reported 25,467 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the overall tally to 3,24,74,773, said the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

India’s active cases currently stand at 3,19,551. The active caseload is the lowest in 156 days. It accounts for less than 1 per cent of total cases, currently at 0.98 per cent, which is the lowest since March 2020. With 39,486 recoveries during the last 24 hours, the country also registered the highest ever recovery rate of 97.68 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

According to the health ministry, as many as 3,17,20,112 people have recovered from the disease so far. The country also reported 4,35,110 deaths from the infection so far of which 354 people died in the last 24 hours.

The daily positivity rate has remained below 3 per cent for the last 29 days and currently stands at 1.55 per cent. The weekly positivity rate is at 1.90 per cent. It also remained below 3 per cent in the last 60 days.

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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PRESIDENT ADDRESSES SPECIAL SESSION OF HIMACHAL ASSEMBLY ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF ITS STATEHOOD

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All Indians are proud of the development story written by the people of Himachal Pradesh in the past 50 years, said the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, while addressing the special session of Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly in Shimla on Friday. This special session was being organised on the occasion of golden jubilee of statehood of Himachal Pradesh.

The President said that all the previous governments of Himachal Pradesh have played an important role throughout the journey of its development. He appreciated contributions made by former Chief Ministers— Late Dr. Y.S. Parmar, Late Shri Thakur Ram Lal, Shri Shanta Kumar, Shri Prem Kumar Dhumal and Late Shri Virbhadra Singh. He said that the initiative taken by the Himachal Pradesh government to take the development journey of the state to the people is highly commendable.

Himachal Pradesh has set new dimensions of development in various fields. He noted according to a report by NITI Aayog, that Himachal Pradesh ranks second in the country in the “Sustainable Development Goals – India Index 2020-21”. He said that Himachal Pradesh is the leading state in the country on many parameters. He appreciated the government of Himachal Pradesh for these achievements.

Pointing to the fact that water of rivers of Himachal Pradesh is clean and soil is full of nutrients, the President urged the farmers of the state to adopt natural farming more and more and keep their land free from chemical fertilizers.

The President said that eco-friendly agriculture, horticulture, tourism, education, employment, etc., have immense potential for sustainable development in Himachal Pradesh. Therefore, we should make continuous efforts for development while preserving its natural beauty and heritages, he added.

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PUNJAB YET TO PROPOSE PENSION FOR HIV AIDS PATIENTS

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HIV AIDS patients of Punjab have been suffering not only the disease but also bearing the sting of financial deprivation for the last many years. All neighboring states of Punjab have a pension plan for these patients, even the Capital of Punjab Chandigarh also has a pension plan. Nevertheless, Punjab State AIDS Control Society is yet in the process of thinking to create a proposal for a pension scheme and send that to State Government. Punjab has a maximum patient load of HIV-AIDS patients when compared to the neighboring states. These patients require treatment, nutrition, travel expenses, Medicine expenses but whom shall they look upto. As the government despite knowing all the ground reality sitting silent and yet thinking to propose a plan for such patients.

For an HIV patient, it takes time for him/her to reach the stage of AIDS. There are more than 40000 patients in state who are suffering from HIV, some of them had already reached the stage of AIDS. Some are residing in the border area of Punjab and a maximum of them are getting treatment from PGIMER. It’s a tedious task for an HIV Patient to travel first to the PGIMER, then seek medicine every month.

Pragya Thakur (Name Changed) of Amritsar told The Daily Guardian, “It’s like adding insult to injury for me, I hardly could manage nutritious food for myself as after popping these medicines one need nutritious food to survive and then traveling this long for medicine and treatment, I have no option but to strive hard for myself and my kids who also turned out to be HIV positive”.

“Maybe it is not my mistake but once someone turns HIV Positive, people in society would not let him or her life with dignity. I was thrown out of my job after my boss get to know that I am HIV positive. Even my family too had cornered me. I became HIV positive in 2020 after infected blood was infused in me by a govt hospital in Bathinda. Government is other states provides pension to HIV patients but here in Punjab no one cares,” says Sudhanshu Mishra from Bathinda

Talking about this grim situation, Project Director of Punjab State AIDS Control Society IAS Amit Kumar exhorted, “ We know life is not easy for them. We are going to propose a Pension scheme to the Government comprising many other benefits that we could provide to these patients. Also, we are trying to collaborate with the POSHAN scheme so that we may contribute nutritious food to them. Moreover, We are also in process of providing free travel to these patients. We are hopeful that state government shall soon pass this proposal.”

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BJP CHANGES ITS STRATEGY AGAINST MAMATA IN BHABANIPUR, TO RUN CAMPAIGN ‘SECRETLY’

Arup Kali

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There are only a few days left for the Bhabanipur by-election in the state of West Bengal. The propaganda storm of all the camps is at its peak. Complaints and counter-allegations are also coming to the fore in the atmosphere of propaganda. This time the BJP changed its campaign strategy. Their new strategy with Bhabanipur is that the campaign will be run secretly. The BJP leadership will reach different parts of Bhabanipur without informing anyone. Recently, Priyanka Tibrewal, the BJP candidate in the Bhabanipur by-election, has been accused of violating the Covid-19 rules. But her counter-claim is that some unknown people are reaching out during her campaign, and that’s why the crowds are getting bigger. So, this time the state BJP decided to change the campaign strategy for Bhabanipur.

BJP candidate Priyanka Tibrewal alleged that a group of 15 to 20 people were behind her campaign team wherever she went. Priyanka claims that although these unidentified persons are claimed to be police, there are doubts as to whether they are police at all. The BJP leader estimates that they are not police at all. They are the ones who are motivating the crowd in campaign, she said. And seeing the crowd, there admin puts the allegations of breaking the Covid-19 rules. The BJP demanded that if those people were policemen, they should come in police uniforms.

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SCRAP FARM LAWS, TALK TO FARMERS TO FIND WAY FORWARD, PUNJAB CM AMARINDER SINGH TELLS CENTRE

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As the nation marked one year of the Farm Laws, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday demanded immediate scrapping of the legislations by the Centre, calling for detailed discussions with the farmers to find a way forward.

Pointing out that many farmers had died in these protests, the Chief Minister said it was high time the Central Government realised its blunder and withdrew the legislations in the interest of the farmers and the nation.

The Chief Minister, wearing a #nofarmers_nofood bade, was inaugurating the 3rd state level virtual Kisan Mela organised by Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The 2-day mela is centered on the theme : ‘KARIE PARALI DI SAMBHAL, DHARTI MAA HOVE KHUSHHAL’, in line with the state government’s focus on eliminating stubble burning.

“Till date, the Indian Constitution has been amended as many as 127 times, so why can it not be amended once again to scrap the Farm Laws and resolve the imbroglio resulting from them,” asked the Chief Minister. “What is the problem in doing it a 128th time,” he demanded to know from the BJP-led government at the Centre.

What was happening with the farmers today was extremely sad, given the immense contribution made by them to India’s development and progress, said Captain Amarinder, calling for immediate revocation of the laws, which he said were detrimental to the interest not just of the agricultural community but the entire country.

Recalling that he had been asked by the Centre to stop Punjab’s farmers from going to Delhi last November, the Chief Minister said he had refused point blank to do so, as protest is the democratic right of farmers. “Why should they not protest? How can I stop them,” he asked, making it clear that he continues to stand with the farmers in their fight against these legislations, with his government continuing to give compensation and jobs to the families of the deceased farmers.

Noting the contribution of Punjab and its farmers to the country’s growth, the Chief Minister said the state, with only 1.53 % of total geographical area of India, produces about 18% of the country’s wheat, 11% paddy, 4.4% cotton and 10% milk. For the past many decades, Punjab has been contributing about 35-40% of wheat and 25-30% of rice to the central pool, he said, expressing pride in the achievements of the state’s farmers.

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No passport to government employees in J&K till they get vigilance clearance

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The administration in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory on Thursday made the latest vigilance clearance mandatory for obtaining a passport by a government employee.

“The passport to the citizens including Government employees is issued on the basis of verification carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The current system does not contain any mechanism that would help deny the passport to such employees who are either under suspension or facing departmental inquiry or prosecution on account of serious charges,” reads a government circular, a copy of which lies with the ITV Network.

Hitherto, a Government employee was only required to inform his employer for applying for a passport. “Also, the guidelines for obtaining passport have been reviewed by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel & Training, GoI in consultation with the Central Vigilance Commission and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and vide Office Memorandum No. F. No. 11012/7/2017- Estt.A-111 dated February, 2020, elaborate instructions have been issued for obtaining fresh vigilance clearance while considering grant of passport to Government employees,” it reads.

The government said Anti Corruption Bureau, J&K has also brought into its notice that the present mechanism for issuance of passport to Government employees without obtaining requisite vigilance clearance results in the issuance of passport to those employees against whom vigilance cases are pending. “Thus, there is an urgent necessity to instruct all the departments to issue the NOC for issuance of passport on the basis of vigilance clearance only.”

Accordingly, the government has impressed upon all the Administrative Departments/Heads of Departments to mandatorily obtain the latest vigilance clearance in respect of an employee applying for obtaining passport in terms of Office Memorandum dated February, 2020 issued by DoPT, GOI, strictly.

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MAMATA WILL BE THE FACE IN 2024, NOT RAHUL: TMC

In Trinamool’s internal meeting in Kolkata on Thursday, MP Bandyopadhyay said that it is West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, and not Rahul Gandhi, who is the face of the Opposition against PM Modi.

Arup Kali

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Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had long dreamt of clinching the seat of power in West Bengal. However, the people of the state relied on the ‘daughter of Bengal’ again. As Mamata Banerjee assumed power for the third consecutive time in a row, her eyes are settled on the main epicenter of power in New Delhi. Meanwhile, Mamata is moving from pillar to post in order to look for like-minded people who could join hands with her ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha Elections. As TMC is looking to form a grand alliance, to tackle the BJP juggernaut, the party wants to portray Mamata Banerjee as the main face against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 elections.

The Trinamool has already started bringing the like-minded opposition parties under one umbrella to win the capital. That list includes parties like Congress, NCP, SP, Shiv Sena, UP, DMK. However, the Trinamool wants to establish itself as the main face of the BJP opposition. This is clear from a report published in the Trinamool mouthpiece ‘Jago Bangla’ on Friday.

The title of the report suggested: “Rahul Gandhi could not defeat Modi, Mamata is an alternative face.” According to political analysts, the Trinamool wants to portray Mamata as the main face against Modi, even if there is an alliance with the Congress.

In the TMC’s internal meeting in North Kolkata on Thursday, senior MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay said that it is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and not Rahul Gandhi, who is the face of opposition against Narendra Modi.

“We are not talking about an alliance without the Congress. I have observed Rahul Gandhi for a long time and he has not developed himself as an alternative to Modi. The entire country wants Mamata so we will keep Mamata’s face and will campaign,” Bandyopadhyay was quoted saying by News 18.

Meanwhile, Adhir Chowdhury, the president of the West Bengal Congress, has strongly opposed this message. In this way, Mamata Banerjee is indirectly strengthening the hand of BJP.

Adhir Chowdhury’s response to the report was: “On the one hand, they are saying that all the opposition parties should be one. Again, without taking the views of the opposition parties, insulting them, without discussing with them, Mamata is writing in her party’s mouthpiece that she wants to be the Prime Minister of India. It is extremely unfortunate. I think the BJP’s hand is indirectly getting stronger by making these things happen. Because, BJP wants to see discord brewing within the opposition. The Chief Minister of Bengal herself is facilitating this. The BJP will benefit in the end. ”

However, in a bid to clear the air, Kunal Ghosh said, “There is no question of disrespecting the Congress or disrespecting Rahul Gandhi, nor is there any alternative to excluding the Congress. That being said, people are not accepting Rahul Gandhi as an alternative face to Narendra Modi. He is not ready yet.”

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