UK coronavirus strain detected in at least 60 countries: WHO

Agencies
January 20, 2021

UK Coronavirus Strain Detected in At Least 60 Countries: WHO

Geneva, Jan 20: The UK coronavirus strain has been detected in at least 60 countries, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, 10 more than a week ago.

With the global death toll now well past two million, and new variants of the virus causing deep concern, countries across the world are grappling with how to slow infections until vaccines become widely available.

The South African strain, which like the UK one is believed to be more infectious, has now been reported in 23 countries and territories, the WHO also announced in its weekly update.

It added that the number of new deaths climbed to a record high of 93,000 over the previous seven days, with 4.7 million new cases reported over the same period.

The arrival of mass vaccination campaigns in the US and Europe had brought hope that the end of the pandemic was in sight; the European Union said Tuesday it was aiming to inoculate 70 percent of its adult population before the end of August.

But many EU countries -- and other nations including India and Russia -- have struggled to get their inoculation programmes off the ground.

The United States remains home to the world's worst outbreak in overall numbers, and US President-elect Joe Biden made clear he would be taking no chances following his inauguration on Wednesday.

Recent days have also seen a renewed focus on the initial outbreak a year ago, with China defending its handling of the virus on Tuesday after independent experts criticised the speed of its response.

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Agencies
March 2,2021

Trump 'gutted' immigration system, says Homeland Security Secretary | Zee  Business

Washington, Mar 2: New Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday alleged that ex-US president Donald Trump had dismantled the country's immigration system and it takes time to "rebuild it from scratch".

The previous Trump government hardened the immigration rules on those allowed to seek asylum in the US and advocated a merit-based immigration system to protect US workers.

"We are dedicated to achieving and, quite frankly, are working around the clock to replace the cruelty of the past administration with an orderly, humane, and safe immigration process. It is hard and it will take time, but rest assured we're going to get it done," Mayorkas told reporters at a White House news conference.

However, it is going to take time, because of the immigration system that the Biden administration has inherited from its predecessor, he said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary rued the "lack" of proper facilities to administer the humanitarian laws that the Congress had passed.

"Entire systems are not rebuilt in a day or in a few weeks. To put it succinctly, the prior administration dismantled our nation's immigration system in its entirety. When I started 27 days ago, I learned that we did not have the facilities available or equipped to administer the humanitarian laws that our Congress passed years ago. We did not have the personnel, policies, procedures, or training to administer those laws. Quite frankly, the entire system was gutted," Mayorkas alleged.

"In addition, they tore down the Central American Minors Program that allowed children to access laws of protection without having to take the perilous journey north. They cut off funding to the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. No planning had been done to protect the frontline personnel of the US Customs and Border Protection and other frontline personnel that address the needs of individuals coming to our border," he claimed.

"Contracts had been entered that were unlawful or against the interests of the United States Department of Justice, and that's just the tip of it. I must tell you that it pains me profoundly to say this today on March 1st, the 18th anniversary of the US Department of Homeland Security," the DHS secretary said.

It takes time to rebuild an entire system and to process individuals at the border in a safe and just way, Mayorkas said. "It takes time to build out of the depths of cruelty that the administration before us established," he added.

"What we're seeing now at the border is the immediate result of the dismantlement of the system. It takes time to rebuild it virtually from scratch. We have, though, already begun to design and in fact have begun to implement a new innovative way to address the needs of the population that was forced to remain in Mexico during the prior administration," Mayorkas told reporters.

A day earlier, Trump at an event in Florida had alleged that the Biden administration has put the national security at risk by opening up the borders to illegal immigrants.

"It took the new administration only a few weeks to turn this unprecedented accomplishment into a self-inflicted, humanitarian, and national security disaster. By recklessly eliminating our border, security measures, controls, all of the things that we put into place, Joe Biden has triggered a massive flood of illegal immigration into our country, the likes of which we have never seen before," Trump said.

"They're coming up by the tens of thousands. They're all coming to take advantage of the things that he said, that's luring everybody to come to America. And we're one country. We can't afford the problems of the world, as much as we'd love to. We'd love to help. But we can't do that," he said.

"Perhaps worst of all, Joe Biden's decision to cancel border security has single-handedly launched a youth migrant crisis that is enriching child smugglers, vicious criminal cartels, and some of the most evil people on the planet," Trump said.

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Agencies
February 26,2021

Washington, Feb 26: Chinese short-video making app TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over privacy violations in the US.

According to a report in The Verge, the lawsuit claimed that the platform collected "highly sensitive personal data" to track users and put them to target advertising.

"While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we'd like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community," a TikTok spokesperson was quoted as saying in the report on Thursday.

In 2019, TikTok settled a $1.1 million lawsuit over alleged children's privacy allegations.

TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, reached a settlement with a group of parents who alleged that the company collected and exposed the data and personal information of minors.

In the same year, the company paid $5.7 million to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations that musical.ly (now called TikTok), failed to gain parental approval for young users.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons said that Musical.ly "knew many children were using the app but they still failed to seek parental consent before collecting names, email addresses, and other personal information from users under the age of 13."

According to the report, as part of the fresh settlement, TikTok has agreed to avoid "several behaviours" like storing biometric information, collecting GPS or clipboard data, and sending or storing US users' data outside the country.

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Agencies
February 26,2021

Win.jpg

New Delhi, Feb 26: The COVID-19 vaccination sessions will not be held this Saturday and Sunday in view of the Co-Win digital platform transitioning from Co-Win 1.0 to Co-Win 2.0 as India gears up to inoculate people above 60 years and those over 45 years with comorbidities against the infection from March 1.

All states and UTs have been already informed about this transition, the Union Health Ministry said.

The Co-Win software was created for real-time monitoring of COVID-19 vaccine delivery.

The nationwide COVID-19 inoculation drive to vaccinate healthcare workers was launched on January 16 by the prime minister. Vaccination of frontline workers started on February 2.

"The country wide vaccination exercise is being exponentially expanded to include those above 60 years of age and those above 45 years with co-morbidities, from March 1.

"On this Saturday and Sunday (Feb 27 and 28), the Co-Win digital platform will be transitioning from Co-Win 1.0 to Co-Win 2.0. In view of this, COVID-19 vaccination sessions will not be scheduled during these two days. The states and UTs have been already informed about this transition," the ministry said.

According to official sources eligible beneficiaries would be able to register themselves on the Co-Win platform from Monday itself after the transition.

There will also be a walk-in provision for beneficiaries to get themselves registered at the session site itself to get vaccinated.

Everyone above 60 years of age and those over 45 years with comorbidities will be able to get COVID-19 vaccine from March 1 for free at government facilities and for a charge at many private hospitals, the government said on Wednesday.

"Eligible beneficiaries would be able to register themselves on the Co-Win platform from March 1 itself.There will also be a walk-in provision for the beneficiaries to get themselves registered at the nearby session site to get vaccinated," said R S Sharma, Chairman of Empowered Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Administration.

He said the new version of the Co-Win platform will be GPS enabled and beneficiaries will have the option to choose the inoculation session sites both at the government and private facilities.For those who would walk in, there will be volunteers to help those who are not tech-savvy to get registered.

One will also have the option to get inoculated in a state different from the one he or she is a resident of.

People aged above 45 will have to upload and provide a medical certificate mentioning their comorbid conditions. The government is yet to specify the conditions which be included in the over-45 age group with comorbidities.

"The Co-Win will be able to take registrations and appointments from multiple applications including Arogya Setu or any other application such as a common service app," Sharma said.

One will just have to register in with the mobile number and receive an OTP with which his or her account will be created. One can get their family members also registered on the account.

The second phase of the world's largest vaccination drive will start from Monday in which anybody above 60 years, that may not be less than 10 crore people in the country, and 45 years plus with co-morbidities will be given vaccines in 10,000 government medical facilities and also over 20,000 private hospitals, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday.

"Whoever goes to the government centre will be administered vaccine free of cost. Indian government will pay for them. The government will purchase the necessary doses and will send them to all the states," Javadekar said.

Those who want to get vaccination from private hospitals will have to pay, but the amount will be decided by the health ministry within the next three-four days as they are in discussions with manufacturers as well as hospitals, he said.

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