India’s covid crisis is 'beyond heart-breaking': WHO chief

Agencies
April 27, 2021

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Apr 27: The World Health Organization chief voiced alarm on Monday at India's record-breaking wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, saying the organisation was rushing to help address the crisis.

"The situation in India is beyond heartbreaking," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

He spoke as India battles a catastrophic coronavirus wave that has overwhelmed hospitals, with crematoriums working at full capacity.

A surge in recent days has seen patients' families taking to social media to beg for oxygen supplies and locations of available hospital beds, and has forced the capital New Delhi to extend a week-long lockdown.

"WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies," Tedros said.

He said the UN health agency was among other things sending "thousands of oxygen concentrators, prefabricated mobile field hospitals and laboratory supplies".

The WHO also said it had transferred more than 2,600 of its experts from various programmes, including polio and tuberculosis, to work with Indian health authorities to help respond to the pandemic.

The country of 1.3 billion has become the latest hotspot of a pandemic that has killed more than three million people worldwide, even as richer countries take steps towards normality with accelerating vaccination programmes.

The US and Britain rushed ventilators and vaccine materials to help India weather the crisis, while a range of other countries also pledged support.

Global surge

Since the virus that causes Covid-19 first surfaced in China in late 2019, the disease has killed more than 3.1 million people out of at least 147 million infected, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

Tedros on Monday lamented that global new case numbers have been rising for the past nine weeks straight.

"To put it in perspective," he said, "there were almost as many cases globally last week as in the first five months of the pandemic."

The United States remains the worst-affected country, with some 572,200 deaths and over 32 million infections, followed by Brazil and Mexico.

But India, in fourth place, has in recent days been driving the global caseload.

The country, which has recorded over 195,000 deaths, registered 2,812 new deaths and 352,991 new infections on Monday alone -- its highest tolls since the start of the pandemic.

"The exponential growth that we've seen in case numbers is really, truly astonishing," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, told reporters.

She warned that India was not unique, pointing out that a number of countries had seen "similar trajectories of increases in transmission".

"This can happen in a number of countries ... if we let our guard down," she said. "We're in a fragile situation."

Covax hit

Meanwhile, the Indian crisis has taken a toll on the Covax programme aimed at providing equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, with a particular focus on 92 poorer nations.

Prior to the surge, India was exporting tens of millions of AstraZeneca shots made domestically by the Serum Institute through Covax, which is co-run by the WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

But once cases started surging, New Delhi froze exports -- including to Covax -- to prioritise India.

This has left Covax short 90 million doses that had been intended for 60 low-income countries in March and April, the WHO and Gavi said.

"Those have not been made available given the crisis in India. Now they're being used domestically," Gavi chief Seth Berkley told the briefing.

Covax, he said, was "looking at other options" while waiting for the supplies to resume.

Among other things, the Covax partners have appealed to countries that have excess vaccine doses to share them with the programme.

Berkley said that it was "early days" on those discussions, but so far France, New Zealand and Spain had vowed to share some of their doses.

To date, some 40.8 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed to 118 countries and territories through Covax.

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News Network
June 15,2021

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Hubballi, June 15: A Hubballi-bound Indigo plane suffered a tyre burst while landing here, airport authorities said on Tuesday.

However, all the passengers and crew members were safe.

In an official statement, Indigo Airlines said, "IndiGo ATR operating 6e-7979 from Kannur to Hubballi reported Tyre Burst at Hubli upon arrival yesterday (Monday) evening. All passengers and crew are safe. Aircraft is currently under maintenance checks at Hubballi."

According to an official at the airport, the plane had touched down first 8.03 pm on Monday but due to crosswind, it took off immediately and went around. It landed again at about 8.35 pm.

"Probably due to hard landing and crosswind, the tyre burst," the official said.

All passengers were disembarked at the airport itself and the runway was cleared by 2 am on Tuesday.

"The flight operations are now normal. We have informed the ATC about the incident," the official added. 

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News Network
June 7,2021

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Bengaluru, June 7: An explosion in a molten plastic paint machine near the underpass of the second terminal of the Kempegowda International Airport caused injury to six workers early Monday, the police said.

According to the airport police, two of the six workers, Ajay Kumar and Siraj are critical after suffering over 40 per cent burns.

The others were identified as Avinash, Goutam, Prashanth, Nagesh -- all have been admitted to Victoria Hospital.

The police said that the workers were using thermoplastic road marking machine to paint the zebra crossing and signages on the roads leading upto the airport terminal.

The exact cause of fire is still not known but prima facie investigations have revealed that a "substantial amount" of paint vapour and mist could have been released causing the accident.

"Perhaps storage of paint material, overspray could have drift into surrounding areas, mixing with the air and accumulating in enclosed or unventilated areas leading to a blast," the police explained.

The blaze spread to the underpass in no time. "Security guards rushed to the spot after hearing the workers' cries and took them to hospital. Fire-fighters soon arrived at the scene but it wasn't before two hours that they doused the flames," the police said.

This is the first fire accident to have happened during the construction of the airport's second terminal, which has been going on for the past few years.

The police said that they have registered a complaint against the company under contract for negligence and failure to take precautions for the safety of workers.

The Kempegowda International Airport, the third-biggest airport in India, began constructing a garden terminal called T2 to accommodate the increasing passenger traffic in 2019 but due to prolonged lockdown and outbreak of pandemic in March 2020, the project is likely to be completed in 2022 second quarter instead of March this year.

The terminal will feature trees, small gardens and ponds with local species of plants. It is expected to serve approximately 25 million passengers a year.

The terminal's design is inspired from Bengaluru's ubiquitous tag as a 'Garden City'.

Passageways throughout the terminal will connect the passengers with nature. The ceiling at the entrance, check-in and security area will feature hanging bells.

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Agencies
June 12,2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in advance of his June 16 meeting with United States President Joe Biden, said relations between the US and Russia are at a nadir.

“We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin told NBC News in an interview broadcast Friday with an English translation of his remarks.

Putin and Biden will meet in Geneva next week and Biden, upon arriving in the United Kingdom for his first overseas trip as president Wednesday, warned Putin he would send a clear message to him during their meeting.

“We’re not seeking conflict with Russia,” Biden said. “We want a stable and predictable relationship … but I’ve been clear: The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities.”

The leaders’ first in-person meeting comes as relations between Washington and Moscow are strained over several issues, including alleged Russian cyberattacks against the US and the detention of Alexey Navalny, a critic of the Kremlin.

Praise for Trump

In the NBC interview, Putin praised former President Donald Trump as “an extraordinary individual, talented individual,” and called Biden “radically different”.

“Well even now, I believe that former US President Mr Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become US president,” Putin said.

“He is a colourful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn’t come from the US establishment, he had not been part of big-time politics before, and some like it, some don’t like it, but that is a fact.”

Putin added that Biden “is radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics.”

“That’s a different kind of person, and it is my great hope that yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements, on behalf of the sitting US president.”

US officials see next week’s face-to-face meeting between Putin and Biden as an opportunity to tilt the relationship away from what they view as former President Trump’s fawning overtures to Putin.

Russian officials told the Reuters news agency they regard the summit as an opportunity to hear from Biden directly after what one source close to the Russian government said were mixed messages from the US administration that took office on January 20.

Asked by NBC about Biden calling him a killer in an interview in March, Putin said he had heard dozens of such accusations. “This is not something I worry about in the least,” Putin said. 

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