The Central government on Friday advised citizens to avoid nonessential travel and mass gatherings and to ensure that New Year celebrations are kept at a low key, even as the threat of a third wave of coronavirus infections looms over the country. The government also said that India has witnessed as many as 101 cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 across 11 states and union territories.
Addressing a press conference, Joint Secretary with the Ministry of Health, Lav Agarwal said that 32 cases were reported in Maharashtra, 22 in Delhi, 17 in Rajasthan, 8 each in Karnataka and Telangana, 5 each in Gujarat and Kerala, one each in Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, respectively. He said that the Omicron variant has been found in 91 countries in the world.
“World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Omicron is spreading faster than the Delta variant in South Africa where Delta circulation was low. It’s likely Omicron will outpace Delta variant where community transmission occurs, WHO added,” Agarwal said.
The Health Ministry also said that non-essential travel and mass gatherings should be avoided, and festivities should be kept low key. And that vaccines alone will not help, so masks will have to be worn, and social distancing and hand hygiene too need to be maintained.
“New daily cases were recorded below 10,000 for the past 20 days. The case positivity for the last one week was 0.65%. Currently, Kerala contributes 40.31% to the total number of active cases in the country,” Agarwal added. However, 19 districts in the country are reporting 5-10% positivity rate per week, while five districts are reporting over 10%. The disricts with 5% case positivity rate have been advised to impose restrictions until the rate stays below 5% for at least two weeks.
The ministry also warned against an unprepared system getting overwhelmed with the sheer number of cases.
The Health Ministry further lauded the country’s vaccination drive and said that India is administering Covid-19 vaccine doses at the highest rate in the world and the daily rate of doses administered is 4.8 times the rate of doses administered in the United States and 12.5 times the rate of doses administered in the UK.
GENOME SEQUENCING NOT POSSIBLE
Meanwhile, the Union Health Ministry also said that genome sequencing of every sample is not possible. Addressing a media conference on Friday, NITI Aayog Member of Health, Dr V.K. Paul said, “Genome sequencing of every sample is not possible. It is a surveillance and pandemic assessment and tracking tool, not a diagnostic tool as of now. We can assure sufficient systematic sampling is being undertaken.”
Further, Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research Dr Balram Bhargava said, “We have been discussing these anti-viral Covid-19 pills. We have found that these pills need to be given very early, even before the diagnosis of the disease. Scientific data is still not supported in a big way that the pills will be useful at the moment.”
In Delhi, five out of 10 patients infected with Omicron variant who had been admitted at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital have been discharged after testing negative for the virus, said a hospital official. Dr Suresh Kumar, LNJP MD, said, “LNJP, as the designated Omicron hospital, had ten Omicron cases, of which five have been discharged after testing negative.”
He further said that the hospital has a separate isolation ward with 100 beds, oxygen supply, and ICU. “We have a separate isolation ward with 100 beds, oxygen supply, and ICU. Fully vaccinated people are not as threatened by Omicron,” Kumar added.
MARKET TANKS ON OMICRON FEAR
Key indices of the Indian equities markets fell sharply on Friday dragged by across-the-board selling pressure as rising Omicron cases hit investors’ sentiments. The benchmark Sensex tanked nearly 900 points while Nifty slipped below 17,000 points. Auto, banking and financial stocks slumped on concern that fast-spreading Omicron cases would derail the economic recovery. Negative cues from the global economy and equities markets also dented the sentiments at the markets. The 30-stock S&P BSE Sensex of the Bombay Stock Exchange plunged 1.54 per cent or 889.40 points to 57,011.74 points. The Nifty 50 closed 1.53% lower at 16,985.20 points after touching a low of 16,966.45 points in the intra-day.
CLAIMS FROM RUSSIA, CHINA
Meanwhile, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said that the Russian Sputnik V and Sputnik Light vaccines induce robust neutralizing antibody response to Covid-19 variant Omicron. As per RDIF, Sputnik V vaccination is further strengthened by Sputnik Light booster, performing 3-7x better than other (including mRNA) vaccines. It demonstrated high virus-neutralizing activity (VNA) against the Omicron variant and is also expected to provide a strong defence against severe disease and hospitalization. “Virus neutralizing antibodies against Omicron 2-3 months after Sputnik Light booster were higher than antibodies developed against wild-type 6 months after Sputnik V vaccination. Based on these data the expected efficacy of Sputnik V with Sputnik Light booster against Omicron could be more than 80 per cent,” said RDIF. 100 per cent of individuals are re-vaccinated with Sputnik Light as a booster developed neutralizing antibodies against Omicron based on sera 2-3 months after the re-vaccination, it said.
China’s biotech firm Sinovac claimed that a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine is 94% effective against the Omicron variant. This came a day after a study found that the two doses of the vaccine failed to generate any detectable antibody response against the fast-spreading variant.
Amid the unabated spread of the Omicron variant globally, US President Joe Biden on Thursday warned about a winter of “severe illness and death” for unvaccinated Americans as Covid-19 cases continue to spike across the country. “…I want to send a direct message to the American people: Due to the steps we’ve taken, Omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would’ve otherwise done and as is happening in Europe. But it’s here now, and it’s spreading, and it’s going to increase,” said Biden after meeting with members of his Covid-19 response team. “For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death—if you’re unvaccinated—for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm,” he added. Biden emphasised on the need to get booster shots in guarding against the virus amid the spread of a new variant. “About 60 million people have one—have been boosted. So, go get your shot today. Go get boosted if you’ve had your first two shots. If you haven’t, go get your first shot. It’s time. It’s time. It’s past time,” he said.
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‘I had tears in my eyes’: Saqib Saleem reveals Mohinder Amarnath’s reaction to his performance in 83
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Saqib Saleem revealed Mohinder Amarnath’s reaction to his performance in 83 and much more.
Garnering praises for his stellar performance in 83, Actor Saqib Saleem joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. As part of the exclusive conversation, the actor opened up about the response to his latest film 83, Mohinder Amarnath’s reaction to his performance and much more.
Speaking about the release of 83 and the response coming his way, Saqib said, “I have been working for the last 10-12 years but it feels like it is my first film because the love I have gotten for this, I have never gotten in my life for anything. It is just so overwhelming that the kind of messages I have been getting whether it is from the fraternity, whether it is from people on social media, my friends, my relatives and I don’t know how to react. Like I said, I have never gotten a response like this, so I don’t know what to say or what to do. I didn’t know that I was so bad at taking compliments. It is the first time I have realised that I am bad at taking compliments.”
When asked about the best compliment that he has received so far for his performance in the film, Saqib revealed, “If I had to tell you the best compliment I have gotten is from the man himself- Mohinder Amarnath. It was at the premiere of the film and I was very nervous about how he would see it. I had already the seen the film so I knew the film was good but I really wanted his review because I was playing him. When the premiere was on, I was slyly next to his seat, trying to gauge his reaction as to what he is thinking but I was getting very anxious. I was like I can’t do this to myself. I have to let him enjoy the film. I have to just disconnect from the film right now. I went out of the theatre. I had a couple of more black coffees and I got more anxious. When the film got over, I came back in. I went to him and I don’t know why but I had tears in my eyes. I looked at him and all I said was that ‘Sir, I am really sorry if I did something that was wrong’. He looked at me with his trademark smile and said, “Are you mad?”
“He had a red handkerchief that he would always carry himself in the 1983 world cup. He was wearing a red pocket square. He took out that pocket square and put on my jacket and said, “This is yours from now. You have made me 10 years younger.” I couldn’t stop crying. I had never in my life, my acting career had a more honest moment. I felt so connected to my own self at that time. Now, no review matters, no box office matters, nothing matters. The man himself appreciated it and that is the biggest validation I could have asked for, “ he added.
Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube:
ITA Awards 2021 will be held in March this year: Anu Ranjan
In the exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Anu Ranjan gave us an insight into ITA, her association with ITA and the preparations for this year’s ceremony.
As the countdown for ITA Awards 2021 begins, Producer Anu Ranjan joined NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Anu Ranjan gave us an insight into ITA, her association with ITA and the preparations for this year’s ceremony, especially amid a Covid scare.
Speaking about her association with ITA 2021 and what has the journey been like, Anu Ranjan said, “This is our 21st year. I started it and I have been there since its inception. It is just that because of what has happened the previous year, we have been running a few months late. Ideally it should have been last year but we had 20th awards last year so 21st would be held in March this year. I just love it. No other words for it.”
Talking about the inception of ITA awards, she shared, “It was an idea told to me by my friends while we were walking on the beach. They were saying that there are no TV awards and that was in 2000. That time, it was just a thought. I used to live in America and I moved to India after I got married. The Emmy’s was something that we had always seen so I said ‘Okay, let me try doing it’. It just so happened that TV started at the same time. All of a sudden, things started happening on television. All the KBCs and K Series etc, all started and ITA was launched the same year. TV from no where; people not recognizing who the TV stars were, became household names exactly that year onwards.”
When asked what has changed in the past 2 years considering the Covid-19 outbreak and the protocols that have been put in place, Anu Ranjan responded, “Last to last year, it was fab. There were 10-15 thousand people. We had it in Indore. It was perfect. Last year, we had to have it a studio. What we did was instead of having a 3 hour live show, we kind of extended it over 2 days. We did one act and let them all go. We had 10 awards with just 30 people and then continued. We did managed to do it. In the edit, we had put everything together. What we did in 3 hours, was spread into 20 hours. It worked pretty well that way too. This year, god willing, we have it in March. If things work out well, which I’m sure they will, then it is going to be another super year. “
On recognising actors who have amazed the audiences in the OTT space in ITA Awards 2021 nominations, she said, “This year, we have got OTT at par with TV. So far, TV was 80% chunk and OTT was 20%. Now, what has happened is that it has become 60-40. TV is still a little heavier. There is a lot happening here and the good thing is that all the artists, more or less, the same. Whether you are doing television, films or web, it is the same people and they are very widely recognised and accepted by all. That has made a very big difference. We started OTT 3 years ago and that time we had 14 show entries. This year, it goes into 100+. Every single network, all 8-10 of the platforms, all actively participating in the ITA awards.”
Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube:
Films that have a huge spectacle are driving people to the cinema: Vivek Krishnani
In an exclusive interview with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Vivek Krishnani, Krishnani talks to us about the roaring success of Spiderman: No way home.
Recognised for excellence in leading production houses on NewsX India A-List, Vivek Krishnani, Managing Director, Sony Pictures India recently joined us for an insightful chat. In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, Vivek Krishnani spoke to us about the success of Spiderman: No way home, films that are driving people to the cinema post pandemic and much more.
Speaking about starting the year 2022 with the roaring success of Spiderman: No Way Home amid uncertainty over its release due to Covid-19 pandemic, Vivek Krishnani said, “We at Sony are really happy with way the year is headed. When we started planning for this back in September last year, the theatres were closed. We were very anxious about what is going to happen with our biggest release of the year. In October, if you see, when Hollywood films paved the way, the exhibition started and then we had Venom, which released in October and it did really well. That gave us the confidence in the fact that people are coming back to cinemas and they are really embracing a film that basically provides good content and good entertainment. We saw that happen when a few local films released as well.”
“I think, at the end of the day, when we went in with Spiderman, what we realised is that the film already had a huge nostalgia value attached to it. It had a huge amount of newness in it, in terms of what the film had to offer and that we saw when the trailer released. It actually broke the Internet. It gave us huge number of views in a span of 24 hours. That really caught the fancy of people globally. Slowly and steadily, we saw the hype building, Finally, the dams broke when we opened the advances on 12th of December. It was something that was never-seen-before experience; for a film to get advance bookings, this kind of love and support from the audiences. We have really been happy with the way that the film has turned out and the love that people have given it at the box office”, he added.
When asked if he has seen a trend of good Hollywood films doing well at the box office, Vivek Krishnani responded, “What is happening is that by all imagination, good content is working. Whether it is Hollywood content or local film content, that is immaterial. We have seen that happen even in the past when regional films have released and they have done extremely well. Sooryavanshi released and it did really well as well. Now that Spiderman has released, it has done exceedingly well too. At the end of the day, it is the victory of content and it is basically where people are understanding now what kind of content will get them to the theatres. That is very important. We have to very careful as filmmakers and content creators to understand what will motivate audiences to come back into theatres. That’s what we are saying. Films that have huge spectacle, large VFX, in terms of good visual range, those are the films that are driving people to the cinema. Plus, Films that have a connect with audiences, something that they haven’t seen before is getting people into cinema.”
vEMPIRE REPORTS STELLAR 2021 PROFIT LED BY GAINS IN METAVERSE PROPERTY, NFTS SALES
Decentralised metaverse vEmpire on Monday reported a stellar performance in 2021 with an annualized profit of over $18.5 million, led by gains in metaverse property, sale of NFTs and staking investments.
The year-end report, compiled by vEmpire, discloses its staking strategies carried out across Ethereum, Decentraland, Sandbox, Axie Infinity, and Starlink, leading to unrealized profit surpassing $ 4 million in the final quarter of 2021 alone. As early adopters of the Metaverse the entity’s NFT sales amounted to an additional $500 thousand and supplemented with newly acquired valuable investments, at roughly ninety percent below current market value, concluding its 2021 annualized profit at $18.708 million and a price-earnings ratio of 1.44, 20 times lower than the average company in the S&P 500 today.
For 2022, vEmpire’s objective will remain to spur growth and decentralization of Metaverses. “Our users have contributed to staking tens of millions of dollars worth of Metaverse tokens on our platform, which has enabled us to build a decentralized Metaverse investment portfolio that represents the largest in the industry,” said Dom Ryder, founder of vEmpire. “Overall we are extremely pleased with the performance and the quality assets we have acquired over the past quarter. I am pleased to say we are very much on track for the remainder of our roadmap. We are still incredibly early to the Metaverse,” he added.
vEmpire’s ETH pool allows access for more individuals to the expensive, but profitable, blue-chip NFT protocols like Bored Ape Yacht Club. vEmpire’s ETH staking pool was incepted with 518.7 ETH and its value, as measured by the lowest equivalent asset floor, is now 1,021.5 ETH, almost doubling in value.
Meanwhile, vEmpire’s Metaverse staking options in Metaverses like Decentraland, Sandbox, Starl, and others allow investors to partake in early allocation and investment of valuable plots within Metaverses.
FOOD: HOT FROM THE PRINTING PRESS
“Proof of the pudding,” they say, “is in the eating”. And, “Seeing is believing,” tells another adage. But, how do you react when a 3-D printed snack or steak is served to you on a plate? 3-D was once supposed to be the next big thing in cinema. There was a time when one had to wear special disposable glasses to experience the magic of 3-D. The characters seemed to leap out of the screen- the villains targeting you, the poor spectator cowering in the seat. But the technology never caught on. Large 70 mm screens and Dolby surround sound created the illusion of depth and immersion much better.
There have been attempts to revive it with films like ‘Avatar’ but with very little success. It’s only the kids and, adults who refuse to grow up who value 3-D effects in immersive Virtual Reality.
Those addicted to Science Fiction have always been open to the idea of many more dimensions than length, width and height. But, no need to digress into abstract realms of physics and mathematics. Hasn’t our food always been three dimensional? As a matter of fact, the seductive drooling anticipation of flavours triggered by aromas, lingering taste summoned up by memories uncannily in unguarded moments remind us that the fourth dimension –time has much to do with our enjoyment of food. What then explains the exciting buzz about 3-D Printed Foods?
3-D printers made their appearance more than a couple of decades back as an innovative application of pneumatic extrusion technology and were hyped as an invention that would have applications in diverse areas from architectural design to medicine.
The first generation of 3-D printers worked with plastic threads that could be squeezed through a nozzle liquifying them through the application of heat. Subsequent passes of the nozzle added layers over the first layer. The design of the object was fed into the computer and the printer produce cost-effective parts or prototypes. It took quite some time before chefs in the kitchen and technologists in food companies discovered this tool.
Low hanging fruit was plucked first. Companies like Hersheys tried these machines to make sugar sculptures and chocolate mousses. Then the Italian companies joined the race with pasta printers. Spaghetti with different sauces came out of the printer in individual portions closely resembling the traditional stuff. However, the 3-D printer can’t meet the needs of all cuisines. 2013 witnessed the experimentation with in vitro meat farming via a 3-D printer. This was not confined to mock-vegan protein-based meats but composing chicken, beef, pork, etc from derivatives obtained in a sustainable humane manner. The Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology at Thanjavur is one of the few places where the topic is being researched in the Indian context. It has printed customized snacks savoury cookies as per the wishes of schoolchildren in the neighbourhood.
Those working in the labs here have the Indian context in sharp focus. Most Indians like to have their meals piping hot. Preparing an Indian meal involves more than turning meat patties or mother sauces. Vegetables complement cereals and lentils. 3-D food printers have a long way to go before they can dish out ‘combos’ we are used to. The spicing is multi-staged and nuanced. Food is first infused with spice pastes that are stir-fried. Then finished with ‘tempering’. These operations are not easy to replicate in a printer.
The softest plastic threads are much harder and stronger than edible ‘yarn’ obtained from vegetables and lentils. Even if this obstacle is surmounted the problem of fragility of 3-D printed food structured would remain. The challenge of replicating shape, colour, texture and taste in recipes in non-Western cuisines is complex. The optimists keep suggesting by-products for the 3-D food printer. These machines can be used for recycling peels and waste to produce food-grade packaging or easy to chew food for senior citizens who have difficulty in mastication. The greatest obstacle at present is the high cost of 3-D printers for domestic use. Even in the commercial domain, post-printing processing costs aren’t negligible. The slow speed of printing has also retarded the proliferation of this technology. Issues of toxicity and contamination of ingredients as they pass through the ‘assembly line’ of the printer persist and will have to be addressed to allay the fears of consumers.
Magic of 80s: Raj Babbar & Padmini Kolhapure talk about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar
In this exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List, Raj Babbar and Padmini Kolhapure spoke about their latest web series ‘Dil Bekaraar’ on Hotstar, which is set in the 80s.
Actors Raj Babbar and Padmini Kolhapure joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, the duo spoke about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar on Hotstar, which is set in the 80s.
Speaking about what attracted him to the show, Raj Babbar said, “My first priority is my work. I give a lot of time to a lot of things but I thought this is my identity. If I am known as Raj Babbar, it is because of Mumbai and the Hindi Film Industry recognised me as a performer. No matter where I go, people recognise me as an actor and then other adjectives on whatever I am. I realise that I should give priority to the actor side of me, which gave me this recognition and gave me a place in the society. That’s why I feel my first priority is my work.”
He added, “When I heard this story, I remembered a book that I had read sometime in the past. It was a bestseller at that time. It was called, ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’ and it stayed in the mind. When I heard this story, I felt very nice, a very interesting subject and I am doing a very beautiful role in it. I found the innocence of 80s, magic of 80s in this. That romance, the comedy, all of this is beautifully captured in this. The USP of the 80s that people used to think is evil is the corruption and the corrupt is the evil. These fiery girls, my 5 daughters, they are brilliant and also very fiery and ambitious. It is this very interesting thing, which attracted me. When I heard the narration and got to know that Padmini ji and Poonam ji are doing this, I said okay. I got this confidence that we will be in majority. Meher and Akshay are beautiful actors. They are very energetic people and it was fun working with them.”
When the same question was posed to Padmini Kolhapure, she responded, “The first attraction was Mr Habib Faisal. I have seen his work and he is a brilliant director. After working with him, I realised truly how meticulous he is. This script and this story demanded a lot of nuances to recreate the 80s era, which he has done brilliantly. He has lived that era and knows a lot about it. We have been there and done that so it wasn’t very difficult for Raj, Poonam or me to do this. More challenging probably for the youngsters because they don’t know what the 80s era was. I am sure that they would have had to work on every little thing. Second thing was the production house, so it was Smriti Shinde and Sobo films and then the OTT platform, which was Disney + Hotstar, so what better could I have asked for. You have Raj Babbar, Poonam Dhillon, Akshay, Seher, Aditya. This entire ensemble cast and to top it all, my role. It being a web series, it runs into a couple of episodes so it was not like I am playing a primary character in it but I am playing a very important role. It is a very colourful role, which I was quite amused while performing. Every time I would finish my role, I would just look back and laugh. I’d say to myself, what am I doing? It is really beautiful when you are an actor and performing such challenging roles. You realise what an actor you can be and what can come out. With a good director and co-actors, you can just create magic.”
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