OXYGEN LEAK KILLS 24 IN NASHIK HOSPITAL AS FRESH COVID-19 CASES NEAR 3 LAKH - The Daily Guardian
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OXYGEN LEAK KILLS 24 IN NASHIK HOSPITAL AS FRESH COVID-19 CASES NEAR 3 LAKH

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray calls the incident ‘shocking and painful’ and orders a high-level inquiry; India records 2,023 deaths and 295,041 new infections.

Preeti Sompura

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At least 24 patients died at the government-run Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, after their oxygen supply was disrupted by a leakage in the main storage tank.

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope rushed to Nashik and said about the incident, “As per information available with us, patients who were on ventilators at the hospital in Nashik have died. The leakage was spotted at the oxygen tank which was supplying oxygen to these patients. The interrupted supply could be linked to the deaths of the patients in the hospital.”

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray called the incident “shocking and painful” and ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident and also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased.

Zakir Hussain Hospital is a dedicated Covid hospital with over 150 patients either oxygen-dependent or on ventilators. A cork in the oxygen tank had malfunctioned which led to a reduction in pressure in the oxygen pipeline which goes straight to the Covid wards. It took an hour for technicians to plug the leakage.

Heart wrenching visuals showed families trying to help the patients as they gasped for breath.

Senior BJP leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis conveyed condolences and said, “Priority should be given to assist and shift patients. The truth will come out after an inquiry, but immediate steps are needed to avoid such incidents in the future.”

News of this tragedy comes amid the current surge in the demand for oxygen supplies which has been triggered by the staggering spike in cases of Covid-19 in India. On Wednesday, 2,023 deaths due to the virus and 2,95,041 new infections were recorded nationwide, worsening the oxygen crisis in the country.

Only the United States had a slightly higher one-day rise of 297,430 cases in January this year, though its tally has since fallen sharply. India’s 2,023 deaths were also its highest in the pandemic.

Hospitals in Delhi and elsewhere have warned authorities about dwindling supplies of medical oxygen. Max Healthcare, the largest private sector healthcare provider in the national capital, stated that some of its hospitals had barely two hours’ worth of oxygen left.

“For the last few days the hospital has been facing serious difficulties in procuring adequate and regular supplies of oxygen,” it said in a statement. “Presently, most of the hospitals in the network are working on dangerously low levels of oxygen supply, which can lead to a very serious adverse patient incident,” the statement added.

In Uttar Pradesh, crowds of people with empty oxygen cylinders were seen at refilling facilities as they struggled to save severely Covid-stricken relatives in hospitals.

Some people in Haryana also attempted to loot an oxygen tanker, forcing authorities to increase security. “From now, I’ve ordered police protection for all tankers,” Haryana health minister Anil Vij told news agency ANI.

Adding to the sense of alarm, the Serum Institute of India, which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine as Covishield, informed that it can raise its monthly output to 100 million doses from 60-70 million only by July, not the end of May, as per its previous timeline. There are concerns that this delay could slow down India’s vaccination drive, especially now that the Centre has announced that vaccines would be offered to all adults, starting May 1.

India has so far administered 13,01,19,310 doses of the Covid vaccines, which despite being the most in the world after the United States and China, is still inadequate relative to its population of 1.35 billion people.

The total cases of Covid-19 in India stands at 1,56,16,130 currently, including 21,57,538 active cases. As many as 1,32,76,039 recoveries have also been reported so far, out of which 1,67,457 were reported in the last 24 hours. The death toll stands at 1,82,553.

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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.

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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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