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Despite being one of the most densely populated states in India, Uttar Pradesh has managed to keep its number of Covid-related deaths low, thanks to the administration’s timely and proactive strategy of contact tracing and scaling up the state’s health infrastructure.



With only 33 deaths per million (dpm) due to Covid-19, Uttar Pradesh has a lower dpm than the national average and one of the lowest among large states in the country. This statistic is even more striking as the state’s population density is among the highest in the country. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, UP’s low death rate as well as high recovery rate has been a mystery to data scientists and experts.

Gautam Menon, professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University, was quoted by IndiaSpend in November as saying, “We just do not know why states like Uttar Pradesh have seen such few cases.” While the IndiaSpend article raised concerns of underreporting by the state, a report by SBI Research published in November ranked Uttar Pradesh among the states that have managed the Covid-19 situation “quite well”, as compared to Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, which have “done badly”.

Recovery Rate and Death Rate Due to Covid in Top 5 states with high population density

Recovery Rate and Death Rate from Covid in Top 5 most populous state 

So, what explains UP’s exceptional performance and what can other states learn from it? It seems the SBI report hit the nail on the head. The state government’s clear, calculated and timely response to the pandemic seems to be a major factor in its performance. This was also acknowledged by the WHO country representative, Dr Roderico Ofrin, in November, when he stated that, “The UP government’s strategic response to Covid-19 by stepping up contact tracing efforts is exemplary and can serve as a good example for other states”.


As part of the contact tracing strategy, around 70,000 frontline workers were deployed across the state to trace high-risk contacts (HRC) of all Covid-19 cases. An assessment of the quality of contact tracing of 58,000 positive cases across 75 districts in UP revealed that around 93% of HRC were traced and tested. This was done with technical support provided by the WHO. To put this in context, let us look at the quality of contact tracing in Maharashtra, the state with the second largest population in the country, after UP. As reported to the media by an official of the Maharashtra government in September, across 31 districts, the average number of contacts of Covid patients traced stood at 10, against the ICMR mandated norm of 20. This number went down to just 5-6 in districts like Satara, Ahmednagar, Amravati, and Palghar. To be fair, contact tracing is a herculean task that requires multiple permutations and probability assessments along with a dedicated frontline workforce, more so in large states. Still, the difference in the quality of contact tracing in the two most populous states is striking.

Also Read: Andhra Pradesh’s mystery illness

Part of UP’s contact tracing strategy included state-wide surveillance to continuously identify and monitor patients with Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI). The Chief Minister, who had ordered the sealing of the state’s inter-state and international borders even before the nationwide lockdown, set up a taskforce of eleven senior officers called “Team-11” at an early stage to plan and review the measures being taken to manage Covid-19. The taskforce helped the administration in proactively identifying likely issues of public concern due to the lockdown restrictions and taking adequate measures before those issues got out of hand.

The provision of a doorstep delivery mechanism for daily needs was a key outcome of these efforts of Team-11, as were other proactive measures to quickly increase the state’s testing capacity and health infrastructure. While the state had just one lab and a testing capacity of 60 on March 22, it now has 234 labs, including 131 government ones, testing around 1.7 lakh samples every day. On October 1, UP became the first state in India to have completed 1 crore Covid tests, out of which 42% were RT-PCR. Similarly, while the state had no Covid hospitals in March, it now has 674 with the number of available beds standing at 1.5 lakh.

The Integrated Command and Control Centre set up by the CM as part of the office of the State Relief Commissioner has worked as a key focal point when it comes to the management of new cases. Apart from contact tracing, testing and home visits, the ICCC utilised the CM helpline for Covid patients as well as an online portal called UPCovid19tracks to ensure the tracking of patients longitudinally in real time. This helped the government in adapting its responses to a continuously changing situation. Similar ICCCs have been set up at the district level to streamline relief measures locally.

This multi-layered, comprehensive administrative mechanism to tackle the pandemic has been supplemented with a series of relief measures for returning migrants from other states, people who have lost their livelihood as well as other marginalised groups. The available data from state government sources indicate that around 40 lakh migrants came back to UP after the lockdown. As part of the relief measures,

– 6.7 crore food packets were distributed to the returning migrants along with one-month ration kits.

– Around 53 lakh construction workers, street vendors and daily wagers were given INR 1,000 in the form of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

– Advanced pension was paid to around 86,71,781 senior citizens and disabled and destitute individuals.

– Under MGNREGS, over 17 lakh labourers were paid INR 25 crores in honouraria by the creation of 22.9 crore man-days.

– Additionally, around 40 lakh labourers underwent skill mapping and around 8 lakh MSMEs were made functional, employing over 50 lakh labourers.

– Around 25 lakh new jobs were created through 5.8 lakh new units.

This list of measures is long and commendable, but the nerve centre of UP’s Covid management success has been the state headquarter which seems to have equally emphasised anticipatory management and integrated networks for real time monitoring of a rapidly developing context. It is reasonable to say that the state government’s remarkably high operational efficiency seems to have made a sea of difference and there is much to learn for other states from it.

Neha Simlai is the founder-director of SPRF, a New Delhi-based policy think tank focused on social and political research. Jitendra Bisht is a senior analyst at SPRF.

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Three days before the US-Russia summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday said that the two countries need to engage in a constructive dialogue and establish mechanisms for interaction as there are areas in which Moscow and Washington can cooperate.

“[We need] to restore our personal contacts, relations, establish a direct dialogue, create really functioning mechanisms of interaction,” Putin said in an interview broadcast by the Smotrim.ru media outlet. The President noted that the US side is well aware that there are a number of areas that are of mutual interest, such as strategic stability, regional conflicts, environmental protection measures, and climate. “There are areas in which we can really work effectively,” Putin added.

In the process, President Putin said that Russia would be ready to hand over cyber criminals to the United States if Washington did the same for Moscow and the two powers reached an agreement to that effect.

The Russian leader said he expected the Geneva meeting to help establish bilateral dialogue and revive personal contacts, adding that important issues for the two men included strategic stability, Libya and Syria, and the environment.

Putin also praised Biden for having shown “professionalism” when the United States and Russia agreed this year to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty.

The White House has said Biden will bring up ransomware attacks emanating from Russia at the meeting. That issue is in the spotlight after a cyberattack disrupted the North American and Australian operations of meatpacker JBS USA.

A Russia-linked hacking group was behind that attack, a US source familiar with the matter said last week.

Asked if Russia would be prepared to find and prosecute cyber criminals, Putin said Russia’s behaviour here would depend on formal agreements being reached by Moscow and Washington.

Both sides would have to commit to the same obligations, he said.

“If we agree to extradite criminals, then of course Russia will do that, we will do that, but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will extradite the criminals in question to the Russian Federation,” he said.

“The question of cyber security is one of the most important at the moment because turning all kinds of systems off can lead to really difficult consequences,” he said.

With agency inputs

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12 killed, 138 injured in gas explosion in China



HUBEI: At least 12 people were killed and 138 were injured in a huge gas explosion in central China on Sunday, state media reported.

A gas pipe exploded in the Zhangwan district of Shiyan city, in Hubei province at about 6:30 am local time. The number of casualties is still being verified as the search and rescue operation is underway. According to the local authorities, 150 people have been pulled from the debris, and the injured are being treated at local hospitals.

Apparently, the explosion destroyed a wet market there and greatly affected nearby residents. “Hearing the loud bang, I immediately scrabbled beneath the table, thinking it was an earthquake,” a resident surnamed Liu, told the Global Times via phone.

Images are circulating on social media, which appeared to be from the scene, showed rescue workers in orange jumpsuits working through the wreckage of flattened houses.

The cause of the accident is under investigation, according to the city government, which informed on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

Rescue operation is underway and more details are awaited. ANI

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Amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia has once again barred foreigners to perform the Hajj, and set a limit of maximum of 60,000 pilgrims inside the Kingdom.

“Only 60,000 vaccinated residents and citizens living in the Kingdom will be allowed to perform this year’s Haj pilgrimage due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” the Ministry of Haj and Umrah announced in a statement cited by Gulf News on Saturday. The Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars. Every able-bodied Muslim who has affordability tries to visit it at least once in a lifetime.

“Against the backdrop of what the world is witnessing and due to the continuous developments of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the emergence of new mutations, Haj registration will be limited to residents and citizens from inside the Kingdom only,” the ministry also Twitted.

“Muslims between the ages of 18-65 and are fully vaccinated, or those who received their first dose at least 14 days prior, those who are vaccinated and have recovered from a Covid-19 infection are allowed to register,” the ministry added.

This is the second year in a row that Saudi Arabia limits the Haj pilgrimage to Muslims inside the Kingdom. However, only 10,000 Muslims were allowed to perform Hajj last year.

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The US and Japan have been deepening their engagement with Taiwan to help guard it against a growing threat from China. The move has out Beijing in tight spot.

J. Michael Cole, writing in The National Interest said that the regime in Beijing, which continues its effort to isolate Taiwan internationally, is now in the difficult position of having to express its discontent over coronavirus response while avoiding overreaction that could create the rationale for even closer relations between Taiwan and other countries. Taiwan has had a fairly positive past month in terms of its engagement with, and support by, regional partners.

Beijing’s setbacks began back in April, with the joint statement between US President Joe Biden and his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which “underscore[d] the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”

Such direct reference to Taiwan by a Japanese prime minister had not been heard for more than half a century, reported The National Interest. This was followed the next month by a similar statement, this one by President Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which again “emphasise[d] the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.

The unprecedented reference to Taiwan by a South Korean leader also signalled those countries within the region were becoming increasingly alarmed with China’s destabilising behaviour—particularly the high number of intrusions by aircraft from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and Navy into Taiwan’s southern Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), wrote Cole.

Four days before the Biden-Suga joint statement, a total of twenty-five PLA aircraft–14 J-16 multi-role fighters, four J-10 multi-role fighters, four H-6K bombers, 2 Y-8 anti-submarine planes, and one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control plane–entered Taiwan’s ADIZ, a new high since the PLA began intensifying its military activity in the region in 2020, reported The National Interest.

But now, China is in a tight spot as Taiwan is receiving more attention from allies. One strategic mistake Beijing may have committed earlier this year was its refusal to reduce its military activity around the Taiwan Strait during the transition period in Washington, wrote Cole.

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WHO chief asks China to cooperate with probe into Covid-19 origins



Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Ghebreyesus has called on China to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 amid renewed call to further probe the virus.

Dr Tedros made these remarks after taking part in the Group of Seven (G7) summit by video conference on Saturday, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

The WHO Director-General hoped there would be better cooperation and transparency when the next phase of the probe into the virus’s origin is underway. “As you know we will need cooperation from the Chinese side,” he said. “We need transparency to understand or know or find the origin of this virus…after the report was released there were difficulties in the data sharing, especially in the raw data.”

He further said that the preparations for the probe’s next steps were underway and that the issue of the origin of the virus was discussed by G7 leaders on Saturday, WSJ reported.

Earlier this week, the US and the UK had extended support to a “timely, transparent and evidence-based independent process” for the next phase of the WHO-convened study of Covid-19 origins. “We will also support a timely, transparent and evidence-based independent process for the next phase of the WHO-convened COVID-19 origins study, including in China, and for investigating outbreaks of unknown origin in the future,” a joint statement said after US President Joe Biden met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.

This comes amid growing calls for a timely, transparent, and evidence-based independent process for the next phase of the WHO-convened origin study.

Recently, the calls to investigate further the origins of the virus have intensified. President Biden has also ordered a fresh US intelligence inquiry into the origins of the pandemic.

The origin of novel coronavirus that caused havoc around the world has remained a mystery even after 1.5 years the first case of infection was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Now, scientists and world leaders are calling for further investigations to figure out whether the virus originated naturally or leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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In a veiled criticism of the Dragon, Group of Seven (G&) leaders called on China to respect human rights in its Xinjiang region, allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, and refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilise the East and South China Seas, Reuters reported quoted a draft version of the G7 summit communique.

“We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the G7 said in a communique that was almost finalised.

Before the G7 criticism emerged, China cautioned G7 leaders that the days when “small” groups of countries decided the fate of the world were long gone.

The G7 also said they underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues”.

“We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions.”

“We also call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 Covid-19 origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China,” the communique, which is almost finalised, said.

“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said.

“We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”

Beijing has repeatedly hit back against what it perceives as attempts by Western powers to contain China, and says many major powers are still gripped by an outdated imperial mindset after years of humiliating China.

UN experts and rights groups estimate over a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang.

China denies all accusations of forced labour or abuse. It initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres and are designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had “graduated”.

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