India's role in production of vaccine critical in containing covid-19: Bill Gates

Agencies
September 15, 2020

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Washington, Sept 15: Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has said India's willingness to play a "big role" in manufacturing Covid-19 vaccine and allow it to supply to other developing countries will be a critical part in containing the coronavirus pandemic globally.

In an exclusive interview to PTI, Gates, whose foundation is focusing on fighting the pandemic, called it the "next biggest thing" the world has been confronted with after the World War.

The Microsoft co-founder said the world is looking to India for large scale production of Covid-19 vaccine once it is rolled out.

"Obviously, all of us want to get a vaccine out in India as fast as we can, once we know that it's very effective and very safe, and so the plans are coming into focus that sometime next year, it's very likely that roll-out will take place and take place in fairly big volume," he said.

"The world is also looking to India for some of that capacity to be available to other developing countries. Exactly what that allocation formula looks like will have to be figured out," Gates added.

Scientists and pharmaceutical companies globally are racing against time to find a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic which has killed about 9,32,000 people and infected around 24 million. Some of the vaccine candidates have entered the third and final phase of testing.

"This is not like a world war, but it's the next biggest thing after that that we've ever had," he said.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world's largest charities, has been involved in global efforts to contain the pandemic. In India, the foundation has entered into a partnership with the Serum Institute to accelerate the manufacturing and delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.

"India's willingness to play a big role in the manufacturing and to allow some of those vaccines to go to other developing countries will be an absolutely critical part of that," said Gates.

"India will be helping to make sure we have equity. We have a model that shows that getting the vaccine out to those who need it the most will save half the lives that you'd lose if you only send it out to the rich countries," he said.

In the telephonic interview, the Microsoft co-founder who has donated billions of dollars to fight poverty and diseases, talked extensively about India's strength in production of vaccines and referred to companies like Serum Institute, Bio E and Bharat Biotech.

"We've been brokering the idea of taking a vaccine and manufacturing it in India, even if it comes from AstraZeneca, Oxford or Novavax or Johnson & Johnson. We've publicly talked about the arrangement where a Serum will be able to make very high volume of the AstraZeneca and the Novavax vaccine," said Gates.

"There's discussions with Bio E, their connection with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and whether they'll be able to ramp that up," he said.

Gates also said that the foundation has been having "great discussions" with India's NITI-Aayog, adding the ICMR is looking at the regulatory aspects of the Covid-19 vaccines.

"I'm actually very impressed with how our discussions with the government on these issues and the companies, including the Western companies collaborating with these new companies, that's all gone very well," Gates said.

The American business magnate said he was optimistic that by the first quarter of next year, that several of these vaccines will reach the phase three emergency licence approval.

"We still could be disappointed in that. But we have a variety of constructs and the early data from the phase one and phase two, for example the antibody levels, looks pretty promising for quite a few of these vaccines," he said.

He said the focus should be to keep the cost of the vaccines low and it should be ensured that they can be made in very high volume.

"We have to remember that even once a vaccine is approved, the bar for that vaccine in terms of the effectiveness was set as 50 per cent, and so we still may want to continue with other vaccines to get higher effectiveness," he said.

Gates also complimented India's digital cash transfer scheme.

"Getting payments out through digital cash transfers, that has been a fantastic thing, and obviously, India has done that at a scale that no other country ever has," he said.

"The whole Aadhaar digital financial system in India has proven to be once again a huge asset," he said, adding it can be extended to all the countries of the world.

The philanthropist also referred to the foundation's annual Goalkeepers report saying it normally takes stock of the ongoing progress on things like economic growth, literacy, child survival and average lifespan.

"This year's report, unfortunately, we're unable to say that there's been progress. In fact, we talk about the setback, and one way we dimensionalise that for like vaccine coverage globally, which went from 84 per cent to 70 per cent, is we say that's a 25-year setback," he said.

Asked whether India's economic downturn will impact implementation of social welfare schemes, Gates said the foundation is a huge believer that investments in health pay off very strongly.

"It's tragic that all health activities have been so disrupted, and that will lead to increased deaths from other diseases, not just COVID," he said.

"In fact, in many places, and I'm not sure if India will be included in this, but there's a chance that there would be more deaths from other diseases because of the health disruption than from COVID itself," he said.

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News Network
October 31,2020

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Moscow, Oct 31: Retired mixed martial arts champion Khabib Nurmagomedov on Friday denounced French President Emmanuel Macron as a "brute" and invoked God's wrath against him.

Nurmagomedov, one of the world's most popular Muslim athletes, issued the strongly-worded statement against Macron for his defence of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed based on the right of freedom of expression.

"May God mutilate the face of this brute and that of all his followers who offend the feelings of over 1.5 billion Muslims under the slogan of free speech," the 32-year-old world lightweight champion wrote in an Instagram post after announcing his retirement earlier this week.

"May God humiliate them in this life and the next," added Nurmagomedov, who hails from Russia's southern Muslim-majority region of Dagestan.

His post, accompanied by a picture of Macron with a black shoe print across his face, has racked up more than 1.9 million likes on his account that has 25 million followers.

On Friday, several dozen protesters gathered outside the French embassy in Moscow with posters and caricatures of Macron. They were seen burning a photo of the French leader.

Macron defended freedom of expression and condemned Islamist violence this month after an extremist beheaded a teacher in a Paris suburb who showed pupils caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson on free speech.

Macron's stance on the cartoons as well as comments on Islam have prompted a backlash across the Muslim world.

After a knife-wielding man killed three people at a church in southern France on Thursday, Macron vowed the country "will not give up on our values".

Earlier this week, the leader of Russia's Muslim-majority republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, accused the French leader of provoking Muslims and compared him to a "terrorist".

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News Network
October 22,2020

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Baghpat (Uttar Pradesh), Oct 22: Sub-inspector in Uttar Pradesh Police, Intesar Ali, has been suspended and sent to the police lines, and all this for keeping a beard without permission.

Ali had been warned thrice to shave off or seek requisite permission for the same.

However, the policeman did not seek permission and continued to keep the beard.

SP Baghpat Abhishek Singh said that as per the police manual only Sikhs are allowed to keep a beard while all other policemen have to remain clean-shaven.

“If any police personnel want to keep a beard, he has to seek permission for the same. Intesar Ali was repeatedly asked to seek permission but he did not comply and kept the beard without permission,” the SP said.

Ali joined the police force as sub-inspector and was posted in Baghpat since the past three years.

He told reporters that he had applied permission to keep a beard but got no response.

 

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News Network
October 28,2020

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New Delhi, Oct 28: Bihar recorded a 53.54 per cent polling in the first phase of assembly polls on Wednesday, according to a release by the Chief Electoral Officer Bihar.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora earlier addressed a press conference here and said the final figures will come later on the basis of all the votes cast by the electorate.

"Till 5 pm the voter turnout in Bihar phase one election was 52.24 per cent. In 2015 elections, Phase one turnout was 54.94 per cent and in Lok Sabha elections it was 53.54 per cent. The voting is still underway in some places and the final figures will be out soon," Arora said.

The CEC said 12 out of the 16 districts where polling was held are affected by left Wing Extremism (LWE).

He said that the polling time had to be extended in 12 polling stations owing to the late start of the process.

He thanked the voters, political parties and the local administration for the smooth conduct of elections.

"I thank the voters of Bihar who came out to vote in these times, all political entities who showed maturity in the conduct of elections and the local administration which made such extensive arrangements keeping COVID-19 in mind," Arora said.

The CEC said that it was important to conduct free, fair, and safe elections.

He also urged the voters to turn up in even greater numbers in phase two and three of the elections to choose the government they wanted in the state.

Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain that the overall functioning of the EVMs had been very satisfactory today barring some problems in the Jamui constituency.

"The failure today has been only 0.22 pc in the ballot units. From 41,689 ballot units, only 0.22 pc had to be replaced. It was 0.25 pc in the control units among the 31,371 control units and 1.28 per cent of VVPATs had to be replaced out of 31,371," he said.

"At Jamui, due to longer time taken for replacement in 12 polling stations the polling time had to be extended to 7 pm. Apart from this, no other complaints of any kind were received with respect to working of EVMs and VVPATs," he added.

Eighty-nine cases of violations were registered under sections of IPC and NDMA Act related to violation of COVID-19 norms in the first phase of polls, another official said.

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