Omicron threat | Travel bans may do more harm than good, warns WHO

News Network
December 1, 2021

The World Health Organization has warned blanket travel bans will not prevent the spread of Omicron, as more countries rushed to impose curbs and the first cases of the new Covid strain were detected in Latin America.

In the week since the new virus strain was reported by South Africa, dozens of countries around the world have responded with travel restrictions -- most targeting southern African nations.

But the World Health Organization warned Tuesday that "blanket" travel bans risked doing more harm than good, just as Canada expanded its restrictions.

In a travel advisory, the WHO warned the bans could ultimately dissuade countries from sharing data about the evolving virus.

But it did advise that unvaccinated people vulnerable to Covid-19, including over-60s, should avoid travel to areas with community transmission of the virus.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was understandable for countries to seek to protect their citizens "against a variant we don't yet fully understand".

But he called for the global response to be "calm, coordinated and coherent", urging nations to "take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures".

The likely futility of broad travel restrictions was underscored as Dutch authorities reported that Omicron was present in the country before South Africa officially reported its first cases on November 25.

The new variant -- whose high number of mutations the WHO believes may make it more transmissible or resistant to vaccines -- was found in two Dutch test samples from November 19 and 23, with one having no travel history.

So far, well over a dozen countries and territories have detected cases, including Australia, Britain, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy and Portugal.

Latin America reported its first two cases Tuesday -- in people who travelled from South Africa to Brazil -- and a first case was confirmed in Japan, one day after it barred all foreign arrivals.

However, US President Joe Biden said the travel bans on just the southern African nations would stay in place, without referencing the other places where Omicron has been detected.

Asked how long travel restrictions that took effect Monday on South Africa and seven other southern African countries would remain, Biden said it "kind of depends".

"We're going to learn a lot more in the next couple weeks about the lethality of this virus, about how much it spreads, what we have to control it, etcetera," he told reporters.

Asked if any expansion of the travel restrictions to other countries could be made suddenly, as happened under former president Donald Trump, Biden said: "Unlike Trump I don't shock our allies."

In Asia, governments continued Wednesday to expand restrictions, including with Indonesia adding Hong Kong to its travel ban list alongside various African nations.

Hong Kong also added three more countries - Japan, Portugal and Sweden -- to its highest travel restriction category after Omicron cases were discovered in those nations.

While much is still unknown about the Omicron variant -- it could take weeks to determine whether and to what extent it is vaccine-resistant -- it has highlighted that the global fight against Covid-19 is far from over.

Omicron has emerged as much of the northern hemisphere was already bracing for a new winter wave of the pandemic -- leaving even nations with high vaccination rates struggling to contain rising infection numbers and prevent health services from being overwhelmed.

Governments, particularly in Western Europe, have already reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing, social-distancing measures, curfews or lockdowns -- leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.

Greece went ahead Tuesday in making vaccines compulsory for over-60s, while Norway will offer booster shots to all adults before Easter, as preferable to a lockdown.

Britain has set a target of delivering third jabs to all adults within two months.

While the European summer of fleeting Covid freedoms may be over, in the southern hemisphere, the Pacific island of Fiji ended 615 days of international isolation on Wednesday and reopened to tourists.

Traditional dancers in grass skirts welcomed waving holidaymakers from Sydney, the first of an expected flood of desperately needed tourists in the coming weeks.

Fiji Airways chief executive Andre Viljoen said it was a "momentous" occasion, where tourism accounts for about 40 percent of the economy.

"The international border reopening will reignite Fiji's economy," he told reporters.

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News Network
August 5,2022

Mangaluru: The Popular Front of India's state executive committee has demanded an impartial investigation into the serial murders that took place in the coastal districts of Karnataka recently.

A PFI statement said that recently, within a span of 10 days, 3 young men were murdered in coastal Karnataka. The BJP government, which should have taken all three murder cases seriously by giving them equal importance has failed in this regard.

The BJP has instead been giving excessive attention to the murder of their party worker while blatantly trivializing the Sangh Parivar orchestrated murders of two innocent Muslim men, the statement said.

Although it is incumbent for the police department to investigate murder cases in the state, out of the three murders, it has been announced that the investigation into Praveen's murder will be handed over to the NIA, due to the sole reason that he was a BJP worker, the PFI statement alleged.

The malicious intent of the state government to prey on the innocent youth of the Muslim community under stringent laws is evident through this. Therefore, the Popular Front's state executive committee has demanded that the state government should abandon its discriminatory attitude and facilitate equal and impartial investigations into all three cases, the PFI demanded.

The statement noted that the outrageous news being broadcast by a section of the media about the murders is provoking the people emotionally. Furthermore, this type of media narrative is creating a mentality of vindictive retaliation among the youth.

Even as the police investigation into the murder cases is progressing, the media has been actively engaging in smear campaigns against the Muslim community and people's organizations like the PFI, it said.

Such behaviour on the part of the media is not just harmful to a healthy society but is also against the ethics of journalism. On this account, the executive committee demands that the media must stop such slanderous campaigns and take steps to ensure peace and harmony in the district, the statement said.

All the three victims belonged to poor families. In this regard, it was the state government's responsibility to provide equal compensation to all the affected families. But Chief Minister Bommai, who visited Praveen's house and gave Rs 25 lakh as compensation, did not visit Masood's residence in the same village and nor did he announce any compensation for his family, the statement said.

The PFI noted that similarly, neither government representatives nor the representatives of the people have visited Fazil's family and no compensation has been given to them.

The murders of a migrant worker from Kerala, Masood, BJP Yuva Morcha president Praveen Kumar Nettare and daily wage labourer Mohammad Fazil from Mangalpet in Dakshina Kannada district have ignited a debate on the communal divide and targeted killings by communal forces.

The investigation has revealed that Masood was killed in a road rage case and police arrested all the 8 accused within 24 hours. Praveen was killed for campaigning for a ban on halal meat and Fazil was killed in retaliation for Praveen's murder. The police have arrested all the main accused in Fazil's case.

The ruling BJP is pointing fingers at the PFI and the SDPI for creating a communal divide and inciting communal violence. Both the organisations have denied their involvement in the murders and challenged the BJP to prove its charges.

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News Network
August 8,2022

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Lucknow, Aug 8: Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Devendra Singh Yadav's car was hit by a truck and was dragged for more than 500 meters in Uttar Pradesh's Mainpuri district.

Yadav is the SP district president in the area. He did not suffer any serious injury.

A video of the freak accident shows Mr Yadav's vehicle being dragged for some distance before coming to a stop. As soon as the vehicle stopped, many people present on the road rushed to the spot to try and rescue the Samajwadi Party leader.

The incident took place near Bhadawar House in Mainpuri Sadar Kotwali area on Sunday night when Mr Yadav was on his way to his residence via Karhal Road. He was alone in the car during the incident.

Mr Yadav is the Samajwadi Party district president of Mainpuri.

According to the police, the truck driver was from Itawa.

"Samajwadi Party leader's car was hit by the truck after which it was dragged for more than 500 meters. The truck driver from Itawa has been arrested. The investigation is underway," said Kamlesh Dikshit, SP Mainpuri as quoted by a news agency.

Following the accident, Mr Yadav lodged a complaint at Mainpuri Sadar Kotwali police station. The police registered a case and arrested the truck driver.

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News Network
August 3,2022

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Mangaluru/Udupi, Aug 3: A red alert has been declared in twin coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi after the Indian Metalogical Department (IMD) predicted extremely heavy rain, an official in the know of the development said on Wednesday.

As per the IMD predictions, on July 3, 4 and 5, there is likely to be heavy to very heavy rain ranging at isolated places in these coastal districts.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai asked the DCs to take measures to restore road connectivity in Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts. He also asked the authorities to conduct an immediate joint survey of the houses destroyed.

A red alert indicates heavy to extremely heavy rains of over 20 cm in 24 hours, while orange alert means very heavy rains from 6 cm to 20 cm of rain. A yellow alert means heavy rainfall between 6 and 11 cm.

Volunteers await rescue kits

Meanwhile, over 300 volunteers have been trained under the ‘Aapda Mitra’ scheme to serve the people in distress during floods, rainfall and natural calamities in the twin districts. However, the government has so far not provided any rescue kits or gear or equipment to these volunteers.

Volunteers are entitled to get kits worth Rs 10,000 comprising a raincoat, torch, first-aid box, lifejacket and a rope to help them handle emergencies and take part in rescue operations in dangerous locations.

Without the required equipment or gear being made available, volunteers would find it difficult to perform timely duties and help rescue those in distress.

Trains affected 

Meanwhile, heavy rain of around 403 mm in five hours, between the Murdeshwar-Bhatkal section in Karwar region, under Konkan Railway, has resulted in disruption of train services.

According to Konkan Railway authorities, waterlogging and soil slippage has occurred, resulting in disruption of train services in this region. Restoration work is under progress, and efforts are being made to restore services at the earliest. 

Due to the above situation, trains on the Konkan Railway route have been regulated and short terminated, and one train was cancelled. The services were restored at 3 pm.

Train No. 06602, Mangaluru Central- Madgaon Junction special train on Tuesday, was short terminated at Udupi station, and train No. 06601 Madgaon Junction-Mangaluru Central special train on Tuesday, was cancelled. Six trains were regulated. 

They are, train No. 11098 Ernakulam Junction-Pune Express journey, that commenced its journey on Monday, was regulated at Bhatkal station; train No.16595 KSR Bengaluru Station- Karwar Express on Monday, was regulated at Shiroor station, among other train services.

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