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Organised by NatHealth as part of its Thought & Leadership series, the session saw a riveting discussion on the future of biotech and the evolving global landscape with the Covid vaccines.

Moderated by Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals, the session centred on the novel coronavirus and ways to tackle it, in addition to discussing the Covid vaccines. The session also saw the participation of Mr Siddhartha Bhattacharya, Secretary General, and Preetha Reddy, President at NatHealth and Vice Chair at Apollo Hospitals, who began by saying, “The past ten months have been tumultuous for humanity. Genomics has been the key word and has made a huge difference with the vaccines. Bill Gates said that what we have done in two months could have taken two decades to achieve.”

Dr. William Haseltine, President at Access Health International, was then welcomed and asked to shed light on what would be the right thing to do, whether in the space of innovation, research, genomics or biotech. He said, “We know this is a new virus, which probably started circulating as early as October 2019. It manifested as an outbreak in Wuhan in a demonstrable way in December. Once it was recognised, the Chinese authorities took very strong measures to control the spread by instituting standard public health measures, which is a tribute to the Chinese government as they had sent people to Harvard School of Public Health for ten years to understand how to control a pandemic. They understood that SARS not only destroyed lives but had the potential to destroy economies. So, they had studied in great detail and implemented almost a textbook case of what to do and it worked in a spectacular way. China is the only country, apart from a few island countries, that instituted that kind of control and managed to quarantine 11 million people. That should’ve taught the world a lesson but it did not.”

Continuing on the topic, he said, “We are still minimising the danger. As a virologist, I’ve learned to look at what actually happens. The lesson from SARS and MERS is that viruses are out there and can adapt to humans. We didn’t do our research on those viruses and we weren’t prepared for the next one. Scientists got everything done, the vaccines were ready, but the money wasn’t there. Another thing we should’ve paid more attention to is that coronaviruses aren’t new and each of us has it every year – we call it the common cold. They keep coming back, like the flu, which is why I said that don’t count on population immunity because it doesn’t exist for these coronaviruses.”

Speaking about the early development of the vaccine and the role of innovation and technology in the process, Dr. Haseltine opined, “Everyone is celebrating how great science is, how we’ve solved this, but we haven’t. These kinds of vaccines work, but our emphasis on high science has led to some problems. For America, it has been a disaster to not rely on public health but high science. The same goes for diagnostics: we felt that we needed fancy ones whereas lateral flow anagen diagnostics work far better and the world still doesn’t have access to tests that we need. That was a fundamental mistake made.”

Elaborating on how he felt that testing for the coronavirus could have been different, Professor Haseltine expressed, “In the early days of detection, the CDC tests didn’t work, they were PCR-based tests. Once the virus was understood, simple antigen tests could have been developed, measuring the concentration of protein in saliva and nasal fluids. But we relied on a test which broke down and is very expensive. Antigen tests are very simple and cheap and can be self-administered and know who’s contagious. This should have been followed by making sure those people are isolated, but this is difficult as people avoid this due to lack of economic support. I believe if the tests are done, you pay people to stay home and have a realistic policy – or ensure that the country’s social system works for everybody.”

Giving an overview of the types of vaccines, their safety, efficacy and which one he would choose if given a choice, Professor Haseltine said, “I would take the simplest one, the killed vaccine, because, one, it has a huge safety record, and, two, it’s a whole virus ,which changes when it’s trying to escape and how the body reacts. The mRNA vaccines are unreliable and we don’t know the full story and adverse reactions. After this, I would prefer subunit vaccines, where you produce a piece of the virus and use it as the antigen. The vaccine I would not prefer is the adenovirus vaccine because it’s usable only once.”

Talking about the logistics, production and distribution across the globe, Dr. Haseltine said, “We know that in the global vaccine business, the two problems are cold chains and multiple doses. Another important component is whether you can get it to every community and to work with trusted community leaders. If this is lacking, people will be afraid to take it.”

Talking about the mutation of the virus, Dr. Haseltine said, “One thing we learned is that the cold coronaviruses come back every year, like the flu. Natural immunity doesn’t last long for these viruses, especially mucosal immunity, the type which stops things from getting into you and you passing it on. The Chinese were lucky because they got the weakest version of this virus. But by February it mutated and transferred across the world. Over the summer, it changed again in different ways to become more transmissible. The mutations are escaping our immunity and becoming more infectious. Another lesson is that vaccines will have to adapt. The virus is like a tree with branches: to deal with it, cut down the tree at the root with public health. This is a lesson we need to push pretty hard if we don’t want to get hit again and again by this tricky virus.”

On being asked about the equitable distribution of the vaccine between the haves and have-nots of the world, Professor Haseltine said, “This is very important. The lesson from all these viruses is that, if we don’t eliminate it everywhere, we don’t eliminate it anywhere. The world has now become small and we’re all connected but more people are required to help each other out.”

Speaking of when people will be able to breathe easy, Dr. Haseltine said, “I have teams of people in China who’re travelling, enjoying life, but they can’t leave the country. Unless countries put in the effort to control the pandemic through public health measures, they won’t get back to normal in the foreseeable future because the vaccine will not do it. There’ll be other variants. Medicine can help the problem but not solve it. To cut it off from the root, we need to combine public health with other measures so it doesn’t exist on the planet anymore, not just in one country. We’re entering a period of vaccine euphoria, but next year it’ll be back like the flu. Another lesson is to pay attention when nature warns us. To get back to normal life, we need to do our best to take the institutions, our leadership, our governance, our social solidarity and science to tune them to their maximum efficiencies in order to have a normal life.”

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Raheem Sterling, center, celebrates after scoring goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London.



A thunderous goal from Raheem Sterling helped England defeat Croatia 1-0 in the Group D encounter of the ongoing European Championships here at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday. England managed to gain full three points from the match against Croatia and now the Three Lions will lock horns against Scotland on June 18 while Croatia will square off against Czech Republic on the same day.

The first half between England and Croatia saw no goals and as a result, the scoreline remained 0-0 at halftime. In the first half, England held on to the ball for 58 per cent of the match, while Croatia held on to it for 42 per cent. The deadlock was finally broken in the 57th minute as Raheem Sterling registered the goal for England. This was Sterling’s first goal at a major tournament. Kalvin Phillips made a stunning run as he beat two players and then he went on to pass the ball to Sterling, and he did not disappoint and successfully netted the ball into the goalpost.No more goals were possible in the match, and in the end, England went away with a 1-0 victory. Austria will lock horns against North Macedonia while in another match, Netherlands and Ukraine will be squaring off against each other.

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Mizoram man who headed world’s largest family dies



Ziona Chana, the man from Mizoram believed to head the world’s largest family with at least 39 wives and 94 children and 33 grandchildren, died on Sunday at the age 76.

Taking to Twitter, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Sunday bid farewell to him. “With heavy heart, Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion-a (76), believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children. Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!” he tweeted along with a group picture of the huge family.

Zion-a featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not in 2011 and 2013 for having the world’s largest family.

He reportedly lived with his family in a large 100-room, four-story building.

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We will be part of the next Union cabinet expansion: JD-U chief



Amid the speculations of the Union Cabinet expansion, R.C.P. Singh, National president of the NDA-ally Janata Dal (United) on Sunday said that JDU is part of the alliance of the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre and the party will be part of the Cabinet whenever there is an expansion.

“There is no confusion. We are a part of NDA. Whenever there will be an expansion in the cabinet in Centre, JD (U) will be part of it,” he said.

At present, the JD(U) has no representation in the Union Cabinet. the JD(U) contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP.

However, RCP Singh chose not to comment on the inclusion of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in the ‘cabinet expansion’.

Singh also mentioned that everything is good in the alliance in Bihar and there are no clashes in the NDA-led government in the state. “Everyone is together in the NDA in Bihar. The NDA government will complete its present term in Bihar. Everyone is working towards the development of the state,” the JD(U) chief said.

“The RJD is spreading rumours that nothing is good in the NDA to keep its MLA together. There is everything good in NDA but there are clashes in the RJD,” he added.

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First three desi nuclear attack submarines to be 95% made in India



In what would be a major boost for the submarine building capability within the country, the first three nuclear attack submarines to be built indigenously would be having 95 per cent Made in India content in them and it would further go up in the next three. The Cabinet Committee on Security is considering a proposal worth around Rs 50,000 crore for indigenously building three nuclear attack submarines which would be built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Visakhapatnam. This project is separate from the Arihant class project under which six nuclear-powered submarines are being built with the capability of launching ballistic missiles.

“The nuclear attack submarine project would be a big boost for the indigenous submarine capability as 95 per cent of it would be made in India. This would provide a big boost to the domestic defence sector including both private and public sector,” government sources told ANI.

For the six nuclear attack submarines, the planners are confident that they would be able to complete the project without any external help but if required, they may take help of one of its strategic partner countries, they said.

The project would also be very helpful for the economy as it is expected to generate a large number of jobs in the defence sector, the sources said.

The Navy and DRDO would first get a clearance for three of these boats and will have the option of building three more after the completion of this project. The Indian Navy proposal to have six indigenous nuclear attack submarines was one of the first few major defence modernisation proposals to have been cleared by the Narendra Modi government soon after it came to power in 2014.

Even though marred by some delays, India has been making big headways in the field of indigenous submarine building capability. The first Arihant class boat was commissioned a few years ago and the second one INS Arighat is also undergoing sea trials and is expected to be commissioned in near future.

India has plans of building 24 submarines including six nuclear attack ones which would give it long legs to operate in the Indian Ocean Region and will help it to keep its adversaries in check at long distances.

The first six conventional boats are already under construction in Mumbai under the Kalavati class project while the tender for the next six with greater capability would be issued soon after recent clearance by the Defence Ministry. There is a plan to build six more conventional submarines under the Project 76 but it will take a long time to be initiated.


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Currently, many dabbawalas are jobless, some of them have returned to their villages while others had to find new ways to earn their livelihood. According to the members of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, many bicycles can be seen outside railway stations in this lockdown but there are not as many dabbawalas.

The pandemic has brought a halt to their lives. Only some of them are working and delivering dabbas in hotels and hospitals while the rest are earning their livelihood through other means. Some dabbawalas have become auto drivers or are selling vegetables to earn money.

Mumbai’s 130-year-old dabba delivery system has over 5,000 dabbawalas like Kailash Shinde who now operates and provides dabbas for hotels and travels from Andheri to Malad to Borivali and Bandra.

Since trains are being used only for essential services, dabbawalas face a lot of problems in travelling. Due to the lockdown, the places have been shut where they used to deliver dabbas.

Subhash Talekar, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Association says “we demanded the state government to allow us to travel in local trains as essential workers are being allowed. We should also get a nod to commute in trains as it gets difficult to go by any other vehicle to far off places. Lockdown has affected our economy drastically”

A dabbawala told us how this lockdown has impacted his life. Kailash lives in a chawl system in Andheri with his wife and two children. The pandemic and the lockdown have caused a lot of damage to dabbawalas. Kailash showed us his house and opened up about the difficulties he is facing due to the lockdown. 

He says, “Before the lockdown, I had a team of 18 people and used to earn from Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 from one house and had over 400 orders. But after the lockdown, I have a team of only three people and fewer orders. Now we get only Rs 5000 to Rs 6000 in which we have to survive as the money is divided among three people.”

Kailash and his wife earn to manage somehow and give good education to their children. His wife also works to support her husband and family, yet this is not enough.

Due to the pandemic, Kailash had to face commuting hurdles as half of the money earned goes into travelling. In an emotional appeal to the government, he says, “I request the government to look into the matter and allow us to travel in trains as the lockdown has greatly affected our economy. If trains are opened for dabbawalas, then it will be a ray of sunshine for them from the dark clouds of lockdown.”

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Experts find no proof of 3rd wave hitting kids hard, but states in no mood to take chance



With 80,834 Covid-19 reported cases in the last 24 hours, India continued its declining trend of new infections and reported the lowest single-day count in 71 days, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Sunday.

The new cases pushed the Covid case tally in the country to 2,94,39,989. India has been witnessing a continuous fall in the active caseload and the current active number of Covid cases stands at 10,26,159 with a net decrease of 54,531 cases in the last 24 hours.

The weekly positivity rate further dropped to less than 5 per cent and currently stands at 4.74 per cent while the daily positivity rate stands at 4.25 per cent today. It has remained less than 10 per cent for 20 consecutive days now.

Despite the downward trend, most states seem to be gearing up for the anticipated third wave, especially on creating infrastructure for paediatric wards, given the buzz that the coming wave might hit kids particularly hard. In view of the pandemic, the states have kept the health budget of 8-14 % for the current year. The Delhi government allocated Rs 9,934 crore or 14% of the total budget to health. CM Arvind Kejriwal on 12 June cautioned that the chances of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were quite real, while he asserted that his government was preparing on a “war-footing” to combat it.

The Kerala government allocated Rs 2,800 crore to deal with the health emergency. The third wave of Covid-19 is expected to arrive in October, necessitating a larger budget for Covid mitigation.

Bihar has kept Rs 13,264 crore on health this year. The health department has focused its attention on arranging beds with medical facilities for children who, experts fear, could be mostly affected in the third wave. Currently, there are 816 beds for children in the nine medical college hospitals in the state. Of these, only 225 have oxygen facilities.

Uttar Pradesh allocated 5.5 per cent of its total expenditure for health. CM Yogi Adityanath said that the state is now preparing for a probable third wave. Paediatric ICUs in district hospitals and mini-PICU in community health centres were being operationalised. A new 20-bed PICU has been planned for Deoria and a mini-PICU in Laar.

Incidentally, as the states gear up to ramp up their paediatric wards, a new report says that there’s no substantial evidence to suggest that children will be more affected or have greater illness severity in the anticipated third wave.

The Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force prepared the report after convening an experts group comprising leading paediatricians from the country to examine the issue of ‘paediatric Covid-19’ in India. It said that the infection’s symptomatology in children in India appears to be globally comparable.

“Most children with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, and amongst those symptomatic mild infections are predominant. Most children have fever with respiratory symptoms, and often present with gastrointestinal symptoms and a typical manifestation compared to adults. The proportion of symptomatic children increases as age increases as does the severity in such age groups,” the report started.

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