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People throw caution to the wind as Covid cases drop

India records 85% decline in daily infections since 7 May, but experts fear that gains from lockdowns may be squandered by unruly crowds in public places.

Aishvarya Jain

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A day after major cities in several states relaxed curbs on movements following a sharp decline in Covid cases amid a devastating second wave of infections, there was alarm over the way crowds thronged railway stations, shopping malls and other public places, triggering fears of the gains from the lockdowns being squandered by unruly crowds throwing all caution to the winds.

Since the highest recorded peak on 7 May, the Ministry of Health has announced an 85 percent drop in daily Covid-19 cases. “We are witnessing this situation after 75 days, thus indicating an overall decline in infection rate,” said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health. He also stated that there are just 5,000 ongoing Covid cases in 20 states and UTs across the country.

India reported 60,471 new Covid-19 cases in last twenty-four hours, the lowest in 75 days, and 2,726 deaths in the last 24 hours. The overall number of coronavirus cases in the country has now reached 2,95,70,881, with 3,77,031 deaths. There are currently 9,13,378 active cases, with 2,82,80,472 patients having recovered. The five most affected states are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively. Tamil Nadu recorded 11,805 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the caseload to 23,78,298, while 267 deaths took the toll to 30,068. Meanwhile, 23,207 people were discharged, taking the overall tally to 22,23,015 leaving 1,25,215 active infections.

Meanwhile, as several states announced easing of curbs, people are back on roads, with visuals of many individuals openly flouting Covid protocols.

After a five-week lockdown, authorities in Delhi have fully re-opened shops and malls, and allowed restaurants to have 50% seating. Suburban rail networks can run at 50% capacity, and offices have been partially reopened.

“Delhi’s top #mall saw a footfall of 19,000 people last weekend, as soon as it reopened. Have we gone totally mad?” Ambrish Mithal, a doctor with a Max HealthCare hospital in New Delhi said on Twitter. “Wait for #COVID19 to explode again, and blame the government, hospitals, country.”

The national capital reported 228 fresh Covid-19 cases, 12 fatalities and 364 recoveries in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 14,31,498, toll to 24,851 and recoveries to 14,03,569. There are 3,078 active cases in Delhi and the positivity rate is 0.32%.

As restrictions are lifted in big cities, migrant workers have begun returning from the countryside. In Bengaluru, media reported large crowds of workers at railway stations. “Unfortunately, citizens equate the government’s response to reopening, as a victory,” Dr Vishal Rao, a member of the expert committee on Karnataka’s Covid task force, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine is more effective than any other vaccination against the Delta version of the virus, which was initially found in India. “Sputnik V is more efficient against the Delta variant of coronavirus, first detected in India than any other vaccine that published results on this strain so far—the Gamaleya Center study submitted for publication in an international peer-reviewed journal”.

Dr V.K. Paul, Member-Health, Niti Aayog, said the Delta plus variant has been around since March. This is a variant of interest, but not yet one of concern. We have to assess its presence through INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia).” WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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BILL AND MELINDA GATES ARE OFFICIALLY DIVORCED

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WASHINGTON: The divorce between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates has been finalised. As per CNN report, filing with the King County Superior Court in Washington made the move official. Melinda French Gates filed the petition for divorce in King County, Washington.

Bill and Melinda announced in May that they would be ending their marriage after 27 years, saying, “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

However, the duo said they will continue to work together at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Meanwhile, the foundation said last month that the organisation was planning a two-year trial period to see if the pair could continue working together effectively.

“If after two years either decide they cannot continue to work together as co-chairs, French Gates will resign her position as co-chair and trustee,” CEO Mark Suzman said. In the weeks following the initial announcement of the divorce, Bill faced allegations of questionable workplace conduct in the early years at Microsoft.

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BLINKEN ANNOUNCES US REFUGEE ADMISSIONS PROGRAMME FOR AFGHAN NATIONALS

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a US refugee admissions programme Priority 2 designation for Afghan nationals on Monday. The US is weeks away from completing military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Blinken, during a press briefing, said, “The State Department is announcing a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States, but who do not qualify for special immigrant visas. We’ve created a Priority-2 or P-2 designation, granting access to the US refugee admissions program for many of these Afghans and their family members.”

He said that even as the US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the US will remain deeply engaged with the country.

“We’ll continue to work toward an Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live in safety and security, and we will continue our support for Afghan institutions, and for the gains that the Afghan people have made over the past 20 years,” said Blinken.

“We will keep engaging intensely in diplomacy to advance negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban, with the goal of a political solution, which we believe is the only path to lasting peace. And we’ll keep working closely with countries in the region, which all have a stake in a stable, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan,” he stated.

Blinken said that Afghans who work with the United States or the International Security Assistance Force at some point since 2001 are facing acute fears of persecution or retribution that will likely grow as coalition forces leave the country.

He further added that “We have a special report the responsibility to these individuals. They stood with us. We will stand with them. Over the past 13 years, the State Department has issued more than 73,000 Special Immigrant Visas to eligible Afghans who have helped the United States, and also to their families. We’ll continue to welcome Afghan immigrants and refugees as our neighbours in gratitude for helping us, despite the danger. We won’t forget it.”

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AFGHAN PRESIDENT GHANI’S TIME HAS RUN OUT: TALIBAN

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KABUL: Taliban said that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s “time has run out” on Monday. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, while reacting to Ghani’s remark that the ongoing war is an external intrigue imposed on the people of Afghanistan, accused the President of lying and spreading false information.

A tweet by Mujahid said that his (Ghani’s) time is over and the announcement of warfare will not survive him. “Speech by @ashrafghani is nonsense, an attempt to control his fears & dire situation. Nation has decided to pursue & bring national traitors to justice. Declarations of war, accusations & lies cannot prolong Ghani’s life, his time has run out, God willing,” said Mujahid. 

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INDIA WANTS PEACEFUL RELATIONS, ONUS IS ON PAKISTAN: TIRUMURTI

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WASHINGTON: India’s Permanent Representative to United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti said that India desires to have peaceful and normal relations with Pakistan but in an atmosphere free from terror.

The Indian Ambassador to the UN informed that issues between the two countries should be resolved in an atmosphere free from terror, hostility, and violence and the onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment. “Pakistan should take credible and verifiable action not to allow any territory under their control to be used for cross border terrorism against India,” said Tirumurti. He also informed that India wants to keep a spotlight on counter-terrorism.

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US-China seek alignment of Afghan interests: Ned Price

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said that China’s interest in Afghanistan could be ‘an alignment of interest’ when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan.

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) interest in Afghanistan could be “an alignment of interest” when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan, said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday. “There’s an alignment of interest in at least some areas when it comes to what we seek, what China seeks and what the broader international community seeks in Afghanistan,” Price told ANI on being asked what is US’ assessment of meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Taliban delegation led by its Chief Negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Experts say thay although the US might once have fiercely resisted Chinese attempts to increase their influence inside Afghanistan, now Washington’s priority appears to keep away a civil war. Spokesperson Price also affirmed that is in no one’s interest to see Afghanistan descend into an all-out civil war. “It is in everyone’s interest to see a solution to the conflict that is just as durable as Afghan-led, and Afghan Owned,” he concluded.

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AMID COVID PANDEMIC, PMGKY REDUCES WORRIES OF THE POOR: PM MODI

Abhijit Bhatt

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Gandhinagar: Annotsav Day was celebrated on Tuesday on the occasion of the completion of five years of the Rupani government, as part of which a state-level program was organized in Dahod district in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a virtual dialogue with the beneficiaries of the grain welfare scheme. He asked whether the beneficiaries of Dahod and Rajkot have any problem in taking up the scheme or not. Modi said in a dialogue with the beneficiaries that the poor would get free foodgrains till Diwali. Modi praised the performance of the Gujarat government.

Prime Minister’s Poor Welfare Food Scheme is being praised all over the world. More than Rs 2 crore is being spent by the government under this scheme. The aim is that not a single person in India goes to bed hungry. Under this scheme, ration cardholders are being given double the amount of foodgrains than before. The plan is to run till Diwali.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday addressed the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana and said this scheme has reduced the worries of the poor and increased their confidence. Three and a half crore beneficiaries in Gujarat are getting the benefit of free foodgrains. “I commend the Gujarat government for this. Preference is given to workers from other parts of the country. Workers have benefited from this scheme. Gujarat is the first to offer the benefit of One Nation One Ration Card,” said the Prime Minister.

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