Coronavirus news – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com Connecting Regions of Asia. Wed, 10 Nov 2021 18:23:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9 https://theeasternlink.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cropped-external-link-symbol-32x32.png Coronavirus news – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com 32 32 'Har Ghar Dastak': Mansukh Mandaviya to meet state, UT health ministers to review COVID-19 vaccination https://theeasternlink.com/har-ghar-dastak-mansukh-mandaviya-to-meet-state-ut-health-ministers-to-review-covid-19-vaccination/ https://theeasternlink.com/har-ghar-dastak-mansukh-mandaviya-to-meet-state-ut-health-ministers-to-review-covid-19-vaccination/#respond Wed, 10 Nov 2021 18:23:29 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/har-ghar-dastak-mansukh-mandaviya-to-meet-state-ut-health-ministers-to-review-covid-19-vaccination/

PM Modi had urged the health workers to reach every house with passion “Har Ghar Tika, Ghar Ghar Tika (Vaccination jab at the doorstep at every house) Courtesy – www.dnaindia.com

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PM Modi had urged the health workers to reach every house with passion “Har Ghar Tika, Ghar Ghar Tika (Vaccination jab at the doorstep at every house)


Courtesy – www.dnaindia.com

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Third wave of COVID-19 to hit India soon? https://theeasternlink.com/third-wave-of-covid-19-to-hit-india-soon/ https://theeasternlink.com/third-wave-of-covid-19-to-hit-india-soon/#respond Tue, 02 Nov 2021 07:27:38 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/third-wave-of-covid-19-to-hit-india-soon/

There is no denying the fact that the number of daily COVID-19 cases is falling in India with each passing day, but there is still fear of third wave of coronavirus hitting the country after the end of festive season. As Diwali and some other festivals are round the corner, people are not following COVID-19 […]

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There is no denying the fact that the number of daily COVID-19 cases is falling in India with each passing day, but there is still fear of third wave of coronavirus hitting the country after the end of festive season. As Diwali and some other festivals are round the corner, people are not following COVID-19 protocols at market places and are not wearing masks properly.

On the other hand, the cases of the AY.4.2 variant, a sub-lineage of the Delta variant of OVID-19, have already started surfacing in some states, raising fear that COVID-19 third wave would hit India soon of we fail to follow the COVID-19 guidelines. 

Here’s the update about the current situation of coronavirus in India:

WHAT IS THE AY.4.2 SUBVARIANT?

According to experts, the AY.4.2 belongs to Delta variant family which was first identified in India in October 2020. The Delta variant was largely responsible for deadly second wave of coronavirus in the country. 

The AY.4.2 subvariant was first reported in the UK in July this year. Researchers claim that although AY.4.2 is more infectious than Delta variant, it is not as deadly as Delta variant.

WHO on  AY.4.2 SUBVARIANT

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of AY.4.2 variant cases is increasing across the globe. The WHO recently said that a total of 26,000 cases have been detected of the AY.4.2 variant so far.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said, “The global number of reported cases and deaths from Covid-19 is now increasing for the first time in two months, driven by an ongoing rise in Europe that outweighs declines in other regions. It’s another reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. The virus will mutate and continue to circulate unless it is controlled.”

Why India should worry?

India faced a deadly second wave of Covid-19 in April and May this year but Covid-19 cases have now reduced significantly. However, the Centre and states are not taking things lightly and are urging the people to wear masks and maintain social distancing amid the festive season. It is feared that the number of COVID-19 cases would increase after Diwali.


Courtesy – www.dnaindia.com

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As fear of new AY.4 variant of COVID-19 rises, scientist makes BIG claim https://theeasternlink.com/as-fear-of-new-ay-4-variant-of-covid-19-rises-scientist-makes-big-claim/ https://theeasternlink.com/as-fear-of-new-ay-4-variant-of-covid-19-rises-scientist-makes-big-claim/#respond Tue, 26 Oct 2021 06:39:30 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/as-fear-of-new-ay-4-variant-of-covid-19-rises-scientist-makes-big-claim/

Amid the rising cases of the new COVID-19 variant in parts of India, many people are concerned about the rise of the third wave of the pandemic, and the severity of the new variant. Answering these questions, scientists have made a big claim in this regard. Rakesh Mishra, former director of the Centre for Cellular […]

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Amid the rising cases of the new COVID-19 variant in parts of India, many people are concerned about the rise of the third wave of the pandemic, and the severity of the new variant. Answering these questions, scientists have made a big claim in this regard.

Rakesh Mishra, former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), has said on Monday that there is no evidence to suggest that AY.4, a sub-lineage of the Delta variant of the COVID-19, has a higher infectivity rate than Delta, and it is not a new variant.

Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO) of the state B S Saitya, as per media reports, said that six people in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore have been infected with the AY.4 lineage. He further added that all six people were fully vaccinated and had recovered from the infection.

Mishra, while talking to PTI, said, “There is no evidence or observation to suggest that there are more vaccine breakthrough or re-infections or more infectivity due to AY.4. At the moment, it does not look like it.” He stated that AY.4 is not a variant, but a sub-lineage of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which drove the second wave of the pandemic in India.

Mishra, who is now the director of the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society in Bengaluru, has said that observing all the COVID-19 protocols is still very essential for everyone as the virus is yet to reach the pandemic stage once again.

INSACOG, a genome-sequencing consortium, said in its recent bulletin, “Recent relative expansion of the AY.4 lineage, compared to B.1.617.2, in INSACOG data should be seen in the light of global evidence regarding no substantial difference between the Delta lineages so far.”

Another bulletin of the consortium has mentioned that the Delta variant and its sub-lineages continue to be the main Variants of Concern in India, however, the matter regarding AY.4 continues to be monitored and correlated clinically.

(With agency inputs)


Courtesy – www.dnaindia.com

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Covaxin likely to get emergency approval after WHO committee’s meeting today https://theeasternlink.com/covaxin-likely-to-get-emergency-approval-after-who-committees-meeting-today/ https://theeasternlink.com/covaxin-likely-to-get-emergency-approval-after-who-committees-meeting-today/#respond Tue, 26 Oct 2021 05:50:30 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/covaxin-likely-to-get-emergency-approval-after-who-committees-meeting-today/

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has scheduled a meeting of its technical advisory committee today, October 26, to decide on the much-awaited emergency use listing of India’s COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, which is developed by Bharat Biotech. WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan stated that the advisory committee of the global health body will be meeting on […]

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has scheduled a meeting of its technical advisory committee today, October 26, to decide on the much-awaited emergency use listing of India’s COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, which is developed by Bharat Biotech.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan stated that the advisory committee of the global health body will be meeting on Tuesday to discuss the approval for the emergency use listing (EUL) for Covaxin, which has already been delayed by several weeks now.

Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech, which is the company that developed Covaxin, has been awaiting the EUL for the COVID-19 shot for months now. The Expression of Interest (EOI) for the emergency use approval of Covaxin was submitted by the company on April 19, 2021, after which WHO demanded more data from the company.

An official from WHO said last week that the evaluation of a vaccine can at times take several months, and it has to be ensured that the right advice is given to the world regarding the pandemic, even if it takes a couple of weeks more.

WHO has asked all the countries to recognize the vaccines that have been given the emergency use listing during the pandemic. Executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme Dr Mike Ryan had said, “But it is also very important that WHO, when it makes a recommendation like that, is making that globally.”

While talking about recommending Covaxin for emergency approval, the WHO stated that they “cannot cut corners” during the process. As per reports, some additional data is required before the global health body finally awards the approval.

Covaxin was developed by Bharat Biotech as a part of the inoculation drive against the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Covaxin became one of the six vaccines that were approved by the Drugs Controller General of India, which included Covishield and Sputnik V, among others.


Courtesy – www.dnaindia.com

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Over 70 crore vaccine doses administered, 10 crore jabs in 13 days https://theeasternlink.com/over-70-crore-vaccine-doses-administered-10-crore-jabs-in-13-days/ https://theeasternlink.com/over-70-crore-vaccine-doses-administered-10-crore-jabs-in-13-days/#respond Wed, 08 Sep 2021 03:43:15 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/over-70-crore-vaccine-doses-administered-10-crore-jabs-in-13-days/

The vaccination drive across India has picked up pace over the past few months and achieved several significant milestones till now. In recent news, the government has informed that over 70 crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country till now. The Union Health Ministry, on Tuesday, commended the fast pace of the vaccination […]

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The vaccination drive across India has picked up pace over the past few months and achieved several significant milestones till now. In recent news, the government has informed that over 70 crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country till now.

The Union Health Ministry, on Tuesday, commended the fast pace of the vaccination drive in the country during the past few days and appreciated the efficiency and effort of the health workers in making the vaccination drive across the country a success.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Twitter, “Soaring higher on COVID-19 vaccination under PM (Prime Minister) @NarendraModi ji’s leadership. 70,00,00,000 vaccine doses administered to date, Congratulations to all the health workers and people for this momentous achievement.”

India has now crossed the 1 crore mark thrice in the last 11 days when it comes to the vaccination drive. Over 1.13 crore vaccine jabs were administered on Tuesday, September 7, as per the official data. The health ministry further stated on Twitter how the pace of the vaccination drive has been increasing.

In the data accompanying the tweet of the ministry, it is stated that India administered the first 10 crore vaccine doses in 85 days, while crossed the 20-crore mark in the next 45 days. The country took 29 days to reach the 30 crore milestone, and so on.

Pointing out the increasing pace of the vaccination drive, the data states that it only took India only 13 days to reach 70 crores from 60 crores, which means that it administered over 10 crore doses in just a short span of 13 days.

In a statement issued by the health ministry earlier, it said, “Sustained and collaborative efforts by the Centre and the States/UTs continue the trend of less than 50,000 Daily New Cases that are being reported for 72 consecutive days now.”




Courtesy – www.dnaindia.com

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Covid-19 Vaccine Seems No More A Mirage! https://theeasternlink.com/covid-19-vaccine-seems-no-more-a-mirage/ https://theeasternlink.com/covid-19-vaccine-seems-no-more-a-mirage/#respond Thu, 02 Jul 2020 04:37:00 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=5486

July 1, 2020: In just about two months or so from now, India could become the first country to commercially produce and market its own robust vaccine that will provide immunity against Covid-19, thanks to efforts at the privately-owned Serum Institute of India in the western Indian city of Pune, some 150-kms east of the […]

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July 1, 2020: In just about two months or so from now, India could become the first country to commercially produce and market its own robust vaccine that will provide immunity against Covid-19, thanks to efforts at the privately-owned Serum Institute of India in the western Indian city of Pune, some 150-kms east of the country’s commercial hub Mumbai.

Ever since it emerged late last year from Wuhan, China, Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories and, as of July 1, had infected 10,591,222 people and killed 515,022 victims. It is also ravaging the global economy, and has prompted a race to develop and market a vaccine.

Around the world, 11 companies are busy in this effort but a top source at Serum Institute claims at least two vaccines being produced/developed by it could be available by late September or early October.

“At Serum Institute, we now have about six vaccines (against Covid-19) at various stages of production/development and research,” said this source. Of these, two are noteworthy. One is a vaccine developed by University of Oxford which has, said this source, given the original ‘cell bank’ to Serum for commercial production. He continued: “We have already produced two million doses of this vaccine. We understand third stage trials are ongoing, with some 15,000 volunteers around the world, and results are likely later this month (July).”

Assuming the third stage human trials also yield positive results, Serum says around six million doses will have been contract manufactured by it for University of Oxford by late September or early October.

But Serum is more excited about the two vaccines it has developed in-house. “Unlike the Oxford (University) vaccine, both of our (proposed) vaccines were specifically developed against Covid-19,” he said, adding that one of these indigenous vaccines is also at the third stage of human trials, having successfully cleared the first two stages.

Serum expects success in this third stage trial also but has begun commercial production, at its own risk, assuming it will receive permissions from the (government’s) Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). Meanwhile, this vaccine has been administered also to some of Serum’s own employees and, we are told, “no one has shown any adverse reactions.”

By early October, he continued, about six million doses of this indigenous vaccine will be ready. Plans are to produce between 1 million and 1.5 million doses every month, subsequently. Our Serum source says the retail price of its locally developed vaccine could be Rs4500 (US$64). “We are trying to keep costs as low as possible so that that it can be widely administered in India,” he added. “Ours will be a single dose vaccine that will be effective for a minimum three years.”

Serum plans to market this vaccine in Asian and African countries – all relatively very price sensitive as compared to countries in Europe and North America. “Local companies (in Europe and North America) will market (their) vaccines in those markets.” No single company anywhere has the “formulation and filling” capacity for this vaccine, he pointed out.

In India, he continued, while the vaccine will most likely be administered free of cost through government channels, private healthcare providers will also have a significant role to play as, “the government by itself cannot reach everyone quickly.” Eventually, he presumes, the Covid-19 vaccine could be part of the government of India’s ongoing national immunisation programme.

Most probably, according to him, the government of India’s first priority will be to administer this vaccine to the elderly and very young who make up about 40% of the country’s population (1.3 billion) as well as to those now in (Covid-19) containment zones. Next could be those aged 35 and below, who are 60% of the population.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offce, he added, is directly monitoring Serum’s work on the Covid-19 vaccines. “We send an update to the PMO at 3AM every day,” he said.

Serum is also at work on a second such vaccine developed by it.  “Preliminary trials are over. We have sent it (the vaccine) to the laboratory and production will start as soon as we get permission.”

Separately, Serum is also developing a pharmaceutical product to treat Covid-19. “We are at the initial stage of R&D for this product,” he said. “Our approach is to isolate the (Covid-19) spike (in patients) and treat it.”

Serum Institute of India was set up in 1966 by horse racing enthusiast and stud farm owner Cyrus Poonawala to manufacture vaccines that were, till then, being imported. Serum’s website says it exports to 170 countries and is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, producing 1.5 billion doses annually against illnesses such as measles, polio, influenza. Forbes magazine estimated 79-year-old Poonawala’s net worth as US$11.5bn as of January 2020 and listed him as India’s 12th richest man in 2019.

Madhu Nainan , a senior Mumbai-based editor , is a regular contributor to Easternlink

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BIMSTEC On Course Despite Covid https://theeasternlink.com/bimstec-on-course-despite-covid/ https://theeasternlink.com/bimstec-on-course-despite-covid/#respond Sun, 07 Jun 2020 05:06:00 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=4687

The COVID-19 pandemic brings unprecedented challenges to the world including BIMSTEC countries. While the pandemic was initially a health crisis, it is fast becoming an economic crisis with humanitarian dimensions. Although the crisis has affected the whole world, responses have remained largely national, with the role of regional and international organisations remaining marginal. Indeed, the […]

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The COVID-19 pandemic brings unprecedented challenges to the world including BIMSTEC countries. While the pandemic was initially a health crisis, it is fast becoming an economic crisis with humanitarian dimensions.

Although the crisis has affected the whole world, responses have remained largely national, with the role of regional and international organisations remaining marginal. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies of the existing international and regional organisations to tackle calamities of such magnitude, now or in future. All of these organisations may have to undergo changes and adjustments to remain relevant in the post-COVID-19 era.

BIMSTEC’s mandate

BIMSTEC was established to strengthen economic and physical connectivity in the region through more trade, investment, travel and exchanges by leveraging geographical advantage and available resources. Side by side, BIMSTEC promotes common action to address vulnerabilities including climate change, natural disaster, drug trafficking, terrorism, transnational crimes and communicable diseases. In the most recent meeting of BIMSTEC Foreign Secretaries held in Colombo on Mar 3 2020,  areas of BIMSTEC cooperation have been consolidated into seven, each to be led by one Member State: Trade, Investment and Development led by Bangladesh; Environment & Climate Change led by Bhutan; Security together with counter-terrorism, disaster management and energy led by India; Agriculture & Food Security together with fisheries led by Myanmar; People-to-People Contact including culture and tourism led by Nepal; Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) including health led by Sri Lanka; and Connectivity led by Thailand.

BIMSTEC’s approach is to identify and implement development projects in the agreed areas of cooperation to bring additional benefits to the people of the region without substituting for the existing regional cooperation initiatives. With increased visibility and recognition of BIMSTEC, development partners including ADB, World Bank, UNDP, EU and other organisations are showing keen interest to support BIMSTECs project-based development cooperation. Member States have recently mandated the Secretariat to enter into a partnership with regional and international organisations for the implementation of BIMSTEC projects.

As the pandemic increasingly transforms itself into an economic crisis, the areas of cooperation identified by BIMSTEC appears to be equally relevant in the post-COVID-19 era; the only difference is that we will need to do the same work in a better way and at a faster pace.

Post-COVID-19 contours of BIMSTEC

Regional connectivity – physical and economic – is at the heart of BIMSTEC mandate. Like most countries of the world, BIMSTEC countries’ initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to restrict trade, travel and other forms of connectivity. It is heartening to see that they are increasingly opening up trade and transport connectivity to restore essential supply chains. In the post-COVID-19 periods, it will be important to resume all kind of connectivity initiatives in a way that can handle future disruption by a pandemic or other disasters in a better way.

In the area of transport connectivity, BIMSTEC with the support of ADB support completed BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistics Study (BTILS) of 2014, which identified 167 projects involving a cost of around $50 billion in order to address the missing links to establish greater physical and economic connectivity between South and South East Asia. Many of the projects in that study have already been completed or are in the advance stage of completion.

As a sequel to the earlier study, BIMSTEC and ADB are currently developing the “BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Master Plan” to address the remaining missing links and bottlenecks to have transport infrastructure ready for seamless connectivity surrounding the Bay of Bengal region and beyond. 261 projects of construction, expansion and modernisation of existing transport infrastructure involving an estimated cost of $120 billion have been identified in the draft Master Plan. Renewed emphasis has been given to develop a resilient regional transport connectivity system with particular focus on coastal shipping, waterways and railways. ADB is also carrying out analytical studies on three key priority areas, namely, financing for transport connectivity, trade facilitation and tourism promotion. The Work Bank has shown interest in supporting waterways connectivity in the BIMSTEC region. Discussion is ongoing with development partners to undertake a BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection Master Plan Study to establish a regional electricity grid to facilitate energy trade.

The COVID-19 crisis has underlined the need to develop an uninterrupted supply chain for food, medicines and other essential commodities. Trade facilitation measures including simplification of customs procedures will be very important to retain and further solidify supply chain in the region. BIMSTEC’s intra-regional trade, which is only 6% today, can and should be increased significantly. It will be necessary to expedite the conclusion of the pending BIMSTEC FTA and Customs Cooperation Agreement to increase trade volume within the region. BIMSTEC has begun to work with the OECD on two projects namely Support for Investment Policy Cooperation and Support for Enterprise Policy Cooperation in the BIMSTEC region to remain competitive and attract investment in the post-COVID-19 scenario.

Tourism and hospitality industry has become a big casualty of COVID-19. In this regard, BIMSTEC countries may promote regional tourism. BIMSTEC has undertaken a study on Tourism Promotion with Technical Assistance of ADB. It will also be important to ensure more effective and predictable ways to handle the movement of people including those engaged in business, medical treatment, cultural and religious tourism.

In the post-COVID-19 period, public health is expected to get renewed attention in the work of BIMSTEC. To begin with, Member States may enhance cooperation to produce skilled manpower in the health sector. Establishment of the regional value chain for pharmaceutical industries is also another area that may need renewed attention; with strong pharmaceutical industries in the BIMSTEC countries, especially in Bangladesh, India and Thailand, this seems achievable.

Evidently, the COVID-19 will not be the last calamity to befall our region. The economic gains registered by BIMSTEC countries are constantly being threatened by natural disasters, climate change, pandemics, poverty and economic disparity. Our collective resilience to these challenges will have to be raised through joint action. BIMSTEC Leaders have already given directions to develop plans of action to address climate change, disaster management and blue economy, which we intend to follow up in the right earnest.

By all indications, the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic will not go away within a short time. This may drastically increase the number of poor if we cannot create jobs for the returnee migrant workers and the vast workforce supported by the informal sector. This will be a time for the BIMSTEC Member States to create economic activities through more intra-regional trade, transaction and tourism. This will also be a time for the Member States to invest more to ensure human security. In all likelihood, the current crisis would render the global governance weaker, and regional organisations like BIMSTEC will need to take up greater responsibility for regional recovery and rehabilitation.
Courtesy – BDNews24

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Manipur’s Leading Rebel Group Questions ‘Mindless’ Lockdown https://theeasternlink.com/manipurs-leading-rebel-group-questions-mindless-lockdown/ https://theeasternlink.com/manipurs-leading-rebel-group-questions-mindless-lockdown/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 06:50:57 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=4183

Imphal 24 May 2020 :Manipur’s leading insurgent group Revolutionary Peoples’  Front (RPF) has questioned the rationale behind the prolonged lockdown  to contain the COVID-19 pandemic  in Manipur in view of the ‘huge livelihood problems caused to the poor, specially the daily wage earners.” A statement by Roben Khuman , Secretary Publicity of the RPF said that the COVID-19 which […]

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Imphal 24 May 2020 :Manipur’s leading insurgent group Revolutionary Peoples’  Front (RPF) has questioned the rationale behind the prolonged lockdown  to contain the COVID-19 pandemic  in Manipur in view of the ‘huge livelihood problems caused to the poor, specially the daily wage earners.”

A statement by Roben Khuman , Secretary Publicity of the RPF said that the COVID-19 which originated from Wuhan of China had spread to over 200 countries across the world. 

“Considering the lockdown as the only means to contain the COVID-19 pandemic was not working , as no medicine has been invented so far. However, as the Lockdown has entered four stages already and  it is time to ponder on how long it will continue,” the RPF said.

 The statement further said that in countries like South Korea, Japan, Spain, Singapore Cuba and Cambodia , proper health policy has been framed and relaxed the lockdown. 

Even in India too, certain areas mark as Red Zone has relaxed various sectors after the Lockdown 4 even as aviation, metro, mall, school, college, university and logistic has remain lockdown. Even the World health Organisation (WHO) has stated that we have to live with the virus.

“The ongoing lockdown has created extreme suffering to the workers. Had the government of Manipur taken up appropriate measures when it was green zone, some suffering could have been relieved. Lack of proper screening and proper quarantine center at Mao and Jiribam has created apprehension to the people,” the statement said.  Continuation of the lockdown without maintaining proper quarantine centers and conducting test is not a appropriate policy, the statement added.

The RPF said that following the lockdown for long will tarnish the work culture among the people of the state. It added that the COVID -19 pandemic should be taken as an opportunity to improve the economy of the state.

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India’s Vaccine Behemoth Bets On Producing Oxford-Researched Covid Vaccine https://theeasternlink.com/indias-vaccine-king-bets-big-on-oxford-university-coronavirus-treatment/ https://theeasternlink.com/indias-vaccine-king-bets-big-on-oxford-university-coronavirus-treatment/#respond Thu, 30 Apr 2020 05:16:05 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=3154

A leading candidate for a Covid-19 vaccine has shown promising results in animal trials, and is expected to see mass production in India within months. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest maker of vaccines by volume, said on Tuesday that it plans this year to produce up to 60 million doses of a […]

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A leading candidate for a Covid-19 vaccine has shown promising results in animal trials, and is expected to see mass production in India within months.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest maker of vaccines by volume, said on Tuesday that it plans this year to produce up to 60 million doses of a potential vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, which is under clinical trial in Britain.

While the vaccine candidate, called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19”, is yet to be proven to work against Covid-19, Serum decided to start manufacturing it as it had shown success in animal trials and had progressed to tests on humans, Serum Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said.

Six rhesus macaque monkeys were inoculated with the vaccine candidate at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana last month, according to The New York Times.

A leading candidate for a Covid-19 vaccine has shown promising results in animal trials, and is expected to see mass production in India within months.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest maker of vaccines by volume, said on Tuesday that it plans this year to produce up to 60 million doses of a potential vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, which is under clinical trial in Britain.

While the vaccine candidate, called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19”, is yet to be proven to work against Covid-19, Serum decided to start manufacturing it as it had shown success in animal trials and had progressed to tests on humans, Serum Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said.

Six rhesus macaque monkeys were inoculated with the vaccine candidate at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana last month, according to The New York Times.

Covid-19 vaccine trial starts in Oxford, but remdesivir treatment reportedly flops in China tests

The subjects were exposed afterwards to large quantities of the novel coronavirus, but all six remained healthy after more than 28 days, the newspaper reported, citing researcher Vincent Munster, who conducted the test.

More than 3 million people have been reported to be infected globally and over 210,000 have died from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

“They are a bunch of very qualified, great scientists [at Oxford] … That’s why we said we will go with this and that’s why we are confident,” Poonawalla told Reuters in a phone interview.

“Being a private limited company, not accountable to public investors or bankers, I can take a little risk and sideline some of the other commercial products and projects that I had planned in my existing facility,” Poonawalla said.

As many as 100 potential Covid-19 candidate vaccines are now under development by biotech and research teams around the world, and at least five of these are in preliminary testing in people in what are known as phase one clinical trials.

Poonawalla said he hoped trials of the Oxford vaccine, due to finish in about September, would be successful. Oxford scientists said last week the main focus of initial tests was to ascertain not only whether the vaccine worked but that it induced good immune responses and no unacceptable side effects.

Serum, owned by the Indian billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla, plans to make the vaccine at its two manufacturing plants in the western city of Pune, aiming to produce up to 400 million doses next year if all goes well, Poonawalla said.

“A majority of the vaccine, at least initially, would have to go to our countrymen before it goes abroad,” he said, adding that Serum would leave it to the Indian government to decide which countries would get how much of the vaccine and when.

Serum envisages a price of 1,000 rupees (US$14.70) per vaccine, but governments would give it to people without charge, he said.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office was “very closely” involved in the vaccine production and the company is hoping the government will help foot the cost of making it.

Over roughly the next five months, Serum will spend some 300 million to 400 million rupees (US$4.4 million to US$5.9 million) on making around 3-5 million doses per month, he said. “[The government] are very happy to share some risk and fund something with us, but we haven’t really pencilled anything down yet,” Poonawalla said.

Serum has also partnered with the US biotech firm Codagenix and Austria’s Themis on two other Covid-19 vaccine candidates and plans to announce a fourth alliance in a couple of weeks, he said.

Serum’s board last week also agreed to invest roughly 6 billion rupees (US$8.8 billion) on making a new manufacturing unit to solely produce coronavirus vaccines, Poonawalla said.

Courtesy – SCMP

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The Pandemic and the Global Economy https://theeasternlink.com/the-pandemic-and-the-global-economy/ https://theeasternlink.com/the-pandemic-and-the-global-economy/#respond Tue, 28 Apr 2020 10:39:44 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=3074

There are still many uncertainties about the COVID-19 pandemic: about the extent of its spread, its severity in different countries, the length of the outbreak, and whether an initial decline could be followed by a recurrence. But some things are already certain: we know that the economic impact of this pandemic is already immense, dwarfing […]

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There are still many uncertainties about the COVID-19 pandemic: about the extent of its spread, its severity in different countries, the length of the outbreak, and whether an initial decline could be followed by a recurrence. But some things are already certain: we know that the economic impact of this pandemic is already immense, dwarfing anything that we have experienced in living memory. The current shock to the global economy is certainly much bigger than that of the 2008 global financial crisis, and is likely to be more severe than the Great Depression. Even the two world wars of the twentieth century, while they disrupted supply chains and devastated physical infrastructure and populations, did not involve the restrictions on mobility and economic activity that are in place in the majority of countries today. This is therefore an unprecedented global challenge and requires unprecedented responses.

This very severe economic impact largely stems not from the pandemic itself, but from measures that have been adopted across the world to contain it, which have ranged from relatively mild restrictions on mobility and public gatherings to complete lockdowns (and clampdowns) that have brought to a halt most economic activity. This has meant a simultaneous attack on demand and supply. During lockdowns, people (especially those without formal work contracts) are deprived of incomes and joblessness increases drastically, causing huge declines in consumption demand that will continue into the period after the lockdown is lifted. At the same time, production and distribution are halted for all but essential commodities and services—and even for these sectors, supply is badly affected because of implementation issues and inadequate attention to the input-output linkages that enable production and distribution. Previous regional and global crises have not entailed this near-cessation of all economic activity. The deadly combination of collapses in both demand and supply is why this time is truly different and has to be dealt with differently.

World trade in both goods and services is already collapsing. The WTO expects trade to fall anywhere between 13 and 32 percent over 2020. But even these dismal projections could well be underestimates, because they implicitly rely on relatively rapid containment of the virus and the lifting of lockdown measures by late summer. Exports of goods—other than those deemed “essential”—have effectively ceased; travel has declined to a tiny fraction of what it was, and tourism has also stopped for the time being; various other cross-border services that cannot be delivered electronically are contracting sharply. Trade prices have collapsed and will continue to decline. In the month leading up to March 20, 2020, primary commodity prices fell by 37 percent, with energy and industrial metals prices falling by 55 percent.

Within countries, economic activity is contracting at hitherto unimaginable rates, bringing about not only a dramatic immediate collapse but the seeds of future contraction as negative multiplier effects start playing out. In the United States alone, around 22 million people lost their jobs in four weeks, with GDP estimated to contract by 10 to 14 percent from April to June. Elsewhere the pattern is no different, probably worse, as most countries are facing multiple forces of economic decline. The IMF predicted on April 14 that global output will fall by 3 percent in 2020, and as much as 4.5 percent in per capita terms—and this is based on the most optimistic projections.

These collapses in economic activity necessarily affect global finance, which is also in disarray. The classic point about financial markets being imperfect not only because of asymmetric but also incomplete information is being borne out in practice: these markets are all about time, and now we must painfully accept that no one can know the future, even a few months ahead. Financial bets and contracts made just a few months ago now appear completely implausible to sustain. Most debts are clearly unpayable; insurance claims will be so extreme as to wipe out most insurers; stock markets are collapsing as investors realize that none of the assumptions on which earlier investments were made are valid anymore. These negative forces together amount to humongous losses that could threaten the very viability of the global capitalist order (an order that was already struggling to show any dynamism over the past decade).

Unequal Effects

In an already very unequal world, this crisis already has and will continue to sharply increase global inequality. A large part of this is because of the very different policy responses in most developing countries (other than China, the origin of the pandemic, which has managed to contain its spread and revive economic activity relatively quickly) as compared to advanced economies. The sheer enormity of the crisis has apparently registered with policymakers in the developed world, who have (probably temporarily) abandoned all talk of fiscal austerity and suddenly appear to have no problem simply monetizing their government deficits. It is likely that the global financial system would have collapsed in the panic that arose in the third week of March without massive intervention by the major central banks of the developed world—not just the U.S. Federal Reserve but the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and others.  

The “exorbitant privilege” of the United States as the holder of the world’s reserve currency obviously gives it greater freedom to prop up its own economy. But other developed countries are also putting forward fairly large fiscal packages, from 5 percent of GDP in Germany to 20 percent in Japan, in addition to various other expansionary and stabilizing measures through their central banks.

By contrast, most developing countries have much less leeway to engage in such policies, and even those larger developing economies that could do so appear to be constrained by the fear of financial markets punishing them further. This is terrible: their economic challenges are already much greater than those in the developed world. Developing countries—many of which have yet to experience the full force of the spread of the virus—have been hit by a perfect storm of collapsing global trade, falling remittances, sharp reversals of capital flows, and currency depreciation. In just the month of March, capital flight from emerging market assets was an estimated $83 billion, and since January nearly $100 billion has flown out—compared to $26 billion after the 2008 financial crisis. Portfolio investment is down by at least 70 percent from January to March 2020, and spreads on emerging market bonds have risen sharply. Currencies of developing countries have mostly depreciated sharply, other than in China. The foreign exchange crunch is generating serious problems in servicing external debt, which is harder to do because of shrinking foreign exchange inflows and rising domestic costs for servicing them. By early April, eighty-five countries had approached the IMF for emergency assistance because of severe problems in meeting foreign currency payment obligations, and that number is likely to rise.

These external pressures, which are already together much greater than anything experienced during the Great Depression, have come to bear on economies that are already struggling with the terrible domestic economic consequences of their virus containment strategies. The burden of these processes has fallen massively upon informal workers and self-employed people, who are being deprived of their livelihoods and falling into poverty at very rapid rates. Seventy percent of workers in developing countries are informal and are unlikely to be paid at all during lockdowns in which they are forced to be inactive. Workers with formal contracts have also started losing their jobs. The International Labour Organization estimated in early April that more than four out of every five workers in the world are facing the adverse impacts of the pandemic and associated policy responses, and most of them reside in the developing world. Women workers are more likely to be disproportionately adversely affected: more likely to lose jobs and experience major pay cuts, more likely to be rationed out of labor markets when jobs do become available, more likely to suffer during lockdowns because of enhanced possibilities of domestic abuse, and more likely to suffer from inadequate nutrition in a time of household food shortages.

In many countries, livelihood losses are associated with dramatic increases in the extent of absolute poverty and growing hunger, even among those previously not classified as poor. Indeed, the re-emergence of hunger on a global scale is likely to be an unfortunate legacy of the pandemic and the containment measures that resulted. To add to all of this depressing news, most states in developing countries will not be able to indulge in the necessary levels of deficit financing (by borrowing from central banks) to enable the required increases in public expenditure, because of foreign exchange constraints and greater surveillance of financial markets over their deficits.

The Aftermath

This, unfortunately, is just the beginning. What of the aftermath, when the pandemic is brought under control? It bears reiterating that after a seismic shock of this magnitude, economies across the world will not simply be able to carry on as before, picking up where they had left off before this crisis. Over the coming year, many things are likely to change, including global reorganization of trade and capital flows. International trade will remain subdued for a while. Most commodity prices will also remain low, because global demand will take some time to pick up. This will affect commodity exporters’ revenues, but it need not provide much advantage for commodity importers because of the overall deflationary pressures stemming from depressed demand.

On the other hand, the breaking of supply chains could well lead to specific shortages, including of some essential items, generating cost-push inflation especially in developing countries. Cross-border capital flows will be volatile and unstable, and most developing countries will struggle to attract sufficient secure capital on terms that would make it beneficial to add to domestic savings and meet trade financing costs. The steep currency depreciations that have already occurred are unlikely to get completely reversed and could even accelerate further, depending upon what strategies are pursued in both developed and developing countries. These falling currency values, higher margins on interest paid, and rising yields on bonds will all continue to make debt servicing a massive problem. Indeed, most developing country debt will be simply unpayable.

In addition to problems in domestic banks and non-bank lenders because of likely large-scale defaults, there will be massive problems in insurance markets, with the failure of some insurance companies and rising premiums that could be a disincentive for most medium and small enterprises to be insured at all. Travel and tourism revenues will also be significantly curtailed over the medium term, as the earlier confidence underlying such travel will have eroded. Similarly, many migrants will have lost employment. Demand for foreign labor is likely to decline in many host countries, so remittances will also decline. All of this will continue to put pressure on government finances especially (but not only) in the developing world.

Averting Catastrophe

This litany of horrors is well within the realm of the possible. The saving grace is that these outcomes are not inevitable: they depend crucially on policy responses. The terrible consequences described above are predicated on international institutions and national governments not taking the measures that could ameliorate the situation. There are both national and global policies that could help, but they must be implemented quickly, before the crisis generates even more humanitarian catastrophe. It is essential to ensure that the policy responses do not (as they currently do) increase national and global inequalities. This means that recovery strategies must be reoriented away from handouts to large corporations without adequate regulation of their activities, and toward enabling the survival, employment, and continued consumption demand of poor and middle income groups, and the survival and expansion of tiny, small, and medium enterprises.

There are some obvious steps that the international community needs to take immediately. These steps rely on the existing global financial architecture—not because this architecture is just, fair, or efficient (it is not), but because, given the need for a speedy and substantial response, there is simply no possibility of constructing meaningful alternative institutions and arrangements quickly enough. The existing institutions—especially the International Monetary Fund—have to deliver, which requires that they shed their pro-capital bias and their promotion of fiscal austerity. 

The IMF is the only multilateral institution that has the capacity to create global liquidity, and this is the moment when it must do so at scale. An immediate issue of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), which are supplementary reserve assets (determined by a weighted basket of five major currencies), would create additional international liquidity at no extra cost. Since a fresh issue of SDRs must be distributed according to each country’s quota in the IMF, it cannot be discretionary and cannot be subject to other kinds of conditionality or political pressure. At least 1 to 2 trillion SDRs must be created and distributed. This will have a huge impact in ensuring that global international economic transactions simply do not seize up even after the lockdowns are lifted, and that developing countries are able to engage in international trade. Advanced economies with international reserve currencies are much less likely to need to use them, but they can be a lifeline for emerging markets and developing economies, providing additional resources to fight both the pandemic and the economic disaster. They are much better than depending on the IMF to provide loans, which often require conditionalities. (Insofar as additional emergency loans from the IMF are required, they must also be provided without conditionality, as purely compensatory financing for this unprecedented shock.) The issuance of more SDRs is also preferable to allowing the U.S. Federal Reserve to play the role of sole stabilizer of the system. The Fed’s swap lines are currently providing central banks of a few chosen countries with dollar liquidity as it becomes scarce in this crisis. But this is not a norm-based multilateral allocation; these swaps reflect the strategic national interests of the United States, and therefore reinforce global power imbalances.

One reason why there has been only limited issue of SDRs so far (the last increase was after the 2008 crisis, but to the tune of only around 276 billion SDRs) is the fear that such an increase in global liquidity would stoke inflation. But the world economy has just experienced more than a decade of the largest increases in liquidity ever due to “quantitative easing” by the U.S. Fed without inflation, because global demand remained low. The current situation is only different because it is more acute. If additional liquidity is used to invest in activities that would ease the supply shortages likely to come up because of lockdowns, then it could also ease any cost-push inflation that might emerge.

The second important international measure is dealing with external debt problems. There should immediately be a moratorium or standstill on all debt repayments (both principal and interest) for at least the next six months as countries cope with both the spread of the disease and the lockdown effects. This moratorium should also ensure that interest payments do not accrue over this period. It is obvious that very few developing countries will be in any position to service their loans when foreign exchange inflows have effectively stopped. But in any case, if everything else is on hold in the global economy today, why should debt payments be any different?

A moratorium is a temporary move to tide these countries over during the period when the pandemic and the closures are at their peaks. But eventually substantial debt restructuring is likely to be necessary, and very substantial debt relief must be provided especially to low-income and middle-income countries. International coordination would be much better for all concerned than the disorderly debt defaults that would otherwise be almost inevitable.

Within nation-states, the institution of capital controls would enable developing countries to deal at least partly with these global headwinds by stemming the volatility of cross-border financial flows. Such capital controls must be explicitly allowed and encouraged, in order to curtail the surge in outflows, to reduce illiquidity driven by sell-offs in emerging markets, and to arrest declines in currency and asset prices. Ideally, there should be some cooperation among countries to prevent any one country from being singled out by financial markets.

The aftermath of this crisis is also going to require a revival of planning—something that had almost been forgotten in too many countries in the neoliberal era. The collapse of production and distribution channels during lockdowns means that defining and maintaining the supply of essential commodities is of critical importance. Such supply chains will have to be thought through in terms of the input-output relationships involved, which in turn requires coordination between different levels and departments in governments as well as across provinces—and possibly at the regional level as well.

The pandemic is likely to bring about a change in attitudes to public health in almost all countries. Decades of neoliberal policy hegemony have led to drastic declines in per capita public health spending in rich and poor countries alike. It is now more than obvious that this was not just an unequal and unjust strategy but a stupid one: it has taken an infectious disease to drive home the point that the health of the elite ultimately depends on the health of the poorest members of society. Those who advocated reduced public health spending and privatization of health services did so at their own peril. This is true at a global scale as well. The current pathetically nationalist squabbles over access to protective equipment and drugs betray a complete lack of awareness of the nature of the beast. This disease will not be brought under control unless it is brought under control everywhere. International cooperation is not just desirable but essential.

While pushing for these major strategies for national governments and international organizations, we need to be conscious of some concerns. One is the fear that governments across the world will use the opportunity presented by the pandemic to push for the centralization of power, with significantly increased monitoring and surveillance of citizens, and increased censorship and control over information flows to reduce their own accountability. This has already started in many countries, and fear of infection is causing many people across the world to accept invasions of privacy and forms of state control over individual lives that months ago would have been seen as unacceptable. It will be harder to sustain or revive democracy in such conditions. Much greater public vigilance is required both at present and after the crisis has ended.

There is also a fear that the increased inequalities thrown up by this crisis will reinforce existing forms of social discrimination. In principle, a virus does not respect class or other socio-economic distinctions. But there are well-known negative feedback loops between the squalor associated with income poverty and infectious diseases. In our unequal societies, poor and socially disadvantaged groups are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 and more likely to die from it, because people’s ability to take preventive measures, their susceptibility to disease, and their access to treatment all vary greatly according to income, assets, occupation, and location. Perhaps even worse, COVID-19 containment policies within countries show extreme class bias. “Social distancing” (better described as physical distancing) implicitly assumes that both residences and workplaces are not so crowded and congested that the prescribed norms can be easily maintained, and that other essentials like access to soap and water are not limited. The fear of infection during the pandemic has brought out some more unpleasant forms of social discrimination and prejudice in many countries, from antipathy to migrants to differentiation on the basis of race, caste, religion, and class. At a time when the universality of the human condition is highlighted by a virus, responses in too many countries have been focused on particularistic divisions, which bode ill for future progress.

Despite these depressing possibilities, it is also true that the pandemic, and even the massive economic crisis it has brought in its wake, could also bring about some changes in attitudes that point to a more hopeful future. Three aspects of this deserve comment.

The first is the recognition of the essential nature and social significance of care work and the greater respect and dignity accorded to paid and unpaid care workers. This could result in societies increasing the number of paid care workers, providing required training for them because of greater appreciation of the skills involved in such labor, and offering these workers better remuneration, more legal and social protection, and greater dignity.

Second, the wider realization among the public of the real possibility that unthinkable events can occur and unimaginably dreadful processes can be unleashed by our ways of life may also bring home the reality of climate change and the disasters it will bring in its wake. This could make more people conscious of the need to change how we live, produce, and consume, before it is too late. Some of the less rational aspects of global supply chains, especially in the multinational food industry (which has encouraged produce from one part of the world to be shipped to another part of the world for processing, before coming back to places near its origin to be consumed), will be questioned and could decline in significance. Other changes in lifestyle and consumption and distribution patterns could follow.

Finally, on a more philosophical level, existential threats like pandemics encourage more recognition of the things that really matter in human existence: good health, the ability to communicate and interact with other people, and participation in creative processes that bring joy and satisfaction. These realizations could encourage the first steps toward civilizational shifts that lead to the reorganization of our societies. There is an opportunity to move away from dominant assumptions about individualistic utility maximization and the profit motive to more caring and cooperative social frameworks.

( Jayati Ghosh is professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru university, New Delhi, the executive secretary of International Development Economics Associates (Ideas) and co-recipient of the International Labour Organisation’s 2010 Decent Work Research prize  )

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