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 11,2022

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Mangaluru, Aug 11: On the lines of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka Police have started attaching the properties of the persons accused of killing BJP Yuva Morcha activist Praveen Kumar Nettare.

However, no such action has been taken against murders of two Muslim men in Dakshina Kannada – Muhammad Fazil and Muhammad Masood. All three were murdered in the span of 10 days – July 19 to July 28. 

ADGP Alok Kumar confirmed on Wednesday that the process of attaching properties of the accused in Praveen murder case is on. The police along with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) will attach the properties of the accused persons, he added.

Kumar also said that the main accused in the case are yet to be arrested.

"We have complete information about the killers of Praveen. The accused persons' photos, information about their family members -- everything has been gathered. However, the main accused in the case are being given shelter. They have been shifted to different places," he said.

"We will hold meetings in different districts. Maintaining law and order in the Mangaluru region is our focus. Action will be taken against those who directly or indirectly helped the main accused persons, in coordination with the NIA. The process of issuing warrants via court is on," Kumar said.

When asked about the involvement of Popular Front of India (PFI) in the murder, Kumar stated that few accused persons do have links with the PFI.

"Investigation in this regard is progressing and information regarding the accused who have links with the PFI would be given soon," he stated.

Kumar added that all the seven arrested accused so far are local residents. Now, the focus is on who gave them the instruction to carry out the murder.

On July 26, bike-borne miscreants attacked BJP activist Praveen at Bellare town in Dakshina Kannada district outside his chicken shop and hacked him to death.

Following the murder, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had cancelled the celebrations of his one year in office. He visited Praveen's family and issued a cheque of Rs 25 lakh as compensation on behalf of the state government. The BJP had given Rs 25 lakh separately.

The incident had triggered a chain of protests by BJP workers all over Karnataka. The agitators had laid siege to Home Minister Araga Jnanendra's residence, causing severe embarrassment to the ruling party.

The probe had revealed that Praveen was targeted for launching a campaign against halal meat.

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News Network
August 6,2022

Mangaluru, Aug 6: BJP Yuva Morcha member Praveen Nettaru was killed by the local assailants and not Keralites, according to Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra. 

He also claimed that the assailants were in touch with people from Kerala. The assailants had used Kerala registration motorbike. 

Police have already arrested four persons in connection with the case. However, the police have not yet revealed what was the role of those four persons in the murder.   

The Home Minister also said that the main accused will be arrested within days.

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News Network
August 10,2022

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Patna/New Delhi: With Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) breaking ties with the BJP in Bihar, the National Democratic Alliance, or NDA, has suffered a small setback in Rajya Sabha.

Mr Kumar's Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), has five MPs including the Deputy Chairperson Harivansh in Rajya Sabha.

The NDA did not have majority in the upper house even when the JD(U) was part of it. Mr Kumar's JD(U) is the third party to leave the NDA in the last three years. Earlier, the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akal Dal quit the NDA. The Telugu Desam Party, or TDP, left before the general elections in 2019.

With JD(U) no longer with the NDA, the BJP-led national coalition will be more dependent on other neutral parties such as Odisha's Biju Janata Dal, or BJD, and Andhra Pradesh's YSR Congress Party, or YSRCP, to push crucial bills through the upper house.

The current strength of Rajya Sabha is 237. There are eight vacancies - four from Jammu and Kashmir, one from Tripura and three to be nominated. The majority mark is 119.

The NDA's current strength in Rajya Sabha is 115, which includes five nominated MPs and one independent.

After the JD(U) left the scene, the NDA's number has been reduced to 110, or nine short of the majority mark.

The government can nominate three more MPs before the winter session and BJP is likely to win the Tripura seat, whenever election takes place. Even then, the NDA's strength will be 114, which will still be short of the new halfway mark of 121.

The BJP will need the support of BJD and YSRCP - which has nine MPs each - on crucial bills.

In the recent presidential and vice presidential elections, however, the BJP got support of BJD, YSRC, TDP, Shiromani Akal Dal and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.

Here's how the numbers stack up for the NDA in Rajya Sabha: BJP 91, AIADMK 4, SDF 1, RPIA 1, AGP 1, PMK 1, MDMK 1, Tamil Manila 1, NPP 1, MNF 1, UPPL 1, IND 1 and nominated 5, whose total comes to 110.

Mr Kumar will take oath as Chief Minister of Bihar today at 2 pm. Rashtriya Janata Dal's Tejashwi Yadav will be the Chief Minister's deputy in the new "Grand Alliance".

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