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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Krupaharini M
January 11,2022

mafazah.jpg

Loss, suffering, and death tallies entered the everyday vocabulary of COVID news and dinner table conversations. In this desensitised world, Mafazah Sharafuddin’s In Memoriam, with a poem by the same name as its headliner, comes as an enclave which wombs each of us to share the burden of these dark times. The poet is an enthusiastic final-year student of Journalism, Psychology, and English. 

With a staggering span of forty poems, this anthology published by The Alcove Publishers has a genealogy that sets it apart from the plethora of books being published every minute. What makes this anthology one-of-its-kind is that Mafazah’s experimental artwork, and not just poetry, is scattered across its pages. This artwork has travelled a long way to the pages of the anthology, from the ink of her pen onto the cursor of her computer. 

Candied words and ornamental language would not grasp the authenticity of emotions explored by this poet. The poetry and art in this anthology is grotesque, in-your-face, shocking, and helplessly black-and-white, just as the pandemic has been. Her works have the air of critically acclaimed composition, making In Memoriam an archive of groundbreaking originality.

This visual entry into her world-building is a sought-after experience after the success of her first anthology, Labyrinth of Emotions, which she got published at the age of sixteen. 

The poet shed any illusions of normalcy at the threshold to compile this book. To explore the erratic waves of emotions and paper cuts of the pandemic, the poet and artiste embraces the abnormal and breaks patterns of language and art. After all, would rule-obeying, syntactical art or poetry do justice to the perils of the pandemic generation? So, as the poet eloquently puts it, “The world falls apart, and all I can do is tell its story”. This anthology, then, is as much our stories, as it is hers.

Secure your copy in the below link before it is sold out. 

Paperback: In Memoriam

Kindle India: In Memoriam

Kindle International: In Memoriam

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News Network
January 6,2022

Bengaluru, Jan 6: Karnataka on Thursday recorded 5,031 Covid-19 cases and one death. The capital Bengaluru alone registered 4,324 infections taking the positivity rate to 7.5 per cent. However, the positivity rate of the state overall remained lower at 3.95 per cent. No new Omircon cases were detected in the state. The total Omicron count in Karnataka is at 226.

Earlier today, Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said that people need to be cautious for the next four to six weeks to control a possible third wave of Covid-19 and the spread of Omicron variant in the state.

“New COVID guidelines have been released after a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister. My appeal to the people is, four to six weeks is crucial. As we have observed worldwide, it is declining in five to six weeks. This wave will not be for too long, like in the first and second wave that was for three to four months,” Sudhakar was quoted as saying

Home Minister warns

With Congress deciding to go ahead with its 'padayatra' (march), demanding implementation of the Mekedatu project across the Cauvery river, despite the government's COVID-19 restrictions, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra on Thursday warned of action in case of violation of rules.

An unfazed Congress' state president D K Shivakumar and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Siddaramaiah reiterated that they will go ahead with the padayatra and said they are ready to go to jail, in case the government arrests them, reported PTI.

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News Network
January 13,2022

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Lucknow, Jan 13: Uttar Pradesh minister Dharam Singh Saini on Thursday resigned from the BJP, becoming the ninth MLA to break off ties with the saffron party just days ahead of the state assembly polls.

Earlier in the day, Dharam Singh Saini returned the security cover and residence allotted to him by the state government, which set off speculation that he was going to quit the BJP.

Dharam Singh Saini is the Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ayush, Food Security and Drug Administration.

The BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit has witnessed a string of defections over the last few days, starting with cabinet minister Swami Prasad Maurya. At the time, Maurya had said that many more legislators would follow suit.

He said he was resigning due to "gross neglect" towards Dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth and small traders. Over the following days, several other BJP MLAs Brajesh Prajapati, Roshan Lal Varma, Bhagwati Sagar, Mukesh Verma, Vinay Shakya among others, quit the party.

OBC leader Dara Singh Chauhan resigned on Wednesday from the Yogi Adityanath cabinet and appeared to be headed towards the Samajwadi Party. Chauhan said he had worked with dedication for the past five year but Dalits, the OBCs and the unemployed did not get justice from the BJP government.

Dharam Singh Saini is said to be a close aide of Maurya.

Earlier, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar claimed that one to two ministers would quit the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet daily and this figure would go up to 18 by January 20. Rajbhar has struck an alliance with the Samajwadi Party for the 2022 assembly elections.

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections will be held in seven phases. Polling will be held from February 10 and the counting of votes will take place on March 10. 

Earlier, Shikohabad MLA and backward caste leader Dr Mukesh Verma has resigned from the party. "Swami Prasad Maurya is our leader. We will support whatever decision he takes. Many other leaders will join us in the coming days," Verma said.

In his letter addressed to the state BJP president, Varma alleged that the Yogi Adityanath government, in the past five years, has failed to address the problems of weaker sections, youth, farmers, Dalits and OBCs.

He said small traders and businessmen had suffered in the regime.

OBC leader Dara Singh Chauhan resigned Wednesday from the Yogi Adityanath cabinet and appeared to be headed towards the Samajwadi Party.

A day earlier, as BJP leaders brainstormed in Delhi on the UP assembly polls, Swami Prasad Maurya, also a prominent Other Backward Class leader, had quit the state cabinet.

Three other BJP MLAs announced their resignation from the party, seemingly in Maurya's support.

Yet another BJP MLA, Avtar Singh Bhadana, quit the party on Wednesday and is joining the Rashtriya Lok Dal, an SP ally.

But two Uttar Pradesh MLAs – Naresh Saini from the Congress and Hari Om Yadav from the SP – joined the BJP on Wednesday, a welcome development for the ruling party as it deals with the sudden defections from its ranks.

Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan, (both ministers), Roshan Lal Varma, Brijendra Prajapati, Bhagwati Sharan Sagar, Vinay Shakya and Avatar Singh Bhadana resigned in past two days.

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