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Amazon fires: Our house is burning, says Macron

Earlier on Thursday, Bolsonaro had said that the country was not equipped to fight the fires, reports the BBC.

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Amazon fires

Paris, Aug 23 (IANS) French President Emmanuel Macron has said the record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest is an “international crisis” that needs to be on the top of the agenda at the upcoming G7 summit, the media reported on Friday.

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20 per cent of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days,” Macron, the host of this weekend’s G7 summit of some of the world’s most advanced economies, tweeted on Thursday night.

Satellite data published by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) has shown an increase of 85 per cent this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region, the BBC reported.

The figures and satellite images showing most of the state of Roraima, in northern Brazil, covered by smoke have shocked many Brazilians and triggered a global Twitter trend under the hashtag #prayforamazonia.

The figures suggest that there have been more than 75,000 fires so far this year for the whole of Brazil, compared with just over 40,000 over the same period in 2018.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro responded to Macron’s tweet saying that the French leader was using the issue for “political gain”.

Bolsonaro, who has been blamed by conservationists for the Amazon’s plight, saying that he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land, added that he was open to dialogue about the fires if it was “based on objective data and mutual respect”, but hit out at the calls for it to be discussed at the G7 summit, which Brazil is not participating in.

“The French President’s suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset, which does not belong in the 21st century,” he wrote on social media.

Earlier on Thursday, Bolsonaro had said that the country was not equipped to fight the fires, reports the BBC.

“The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?,” he asked reporters as he left the presidential residence on Thursday. “We do not have the resources for that.”

The President has suggested that NGOs might have started fires as revenge for his government slashing their funding.

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Little data to predict Indian strain of coronavirus less virulent

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coronavirus hospital

Hyderabad, April 5 : There is very little data available at this stage to suggest that Indian strand of coronavirus is less virulent compared to the countries suffering large numbers of fatalities, a top Indian scientist said.

“There is very little data available, and at the same time it is difficult to predict that it is less virulent and different from strains prevailing in countries which have serious problems,” Rakesh K Mishra, Director at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), told IANS in an interview.

The head of the premier research institute believes that making any prediction now will be only imagination as there is no scientific basis for the same.

His reaction was sought on views being expressed by some members of the scientific community that Indian strand of the virus is less virulent compared to China, Europe or the US and hence the country has not seen many fatalities.

He also does not agree, at least at this stage, that India will escape the situation which other countries are going through.

“That is something we should not believe because we are several weeks behind countries which are having a bad time currently. We have to see the trend in the next 4-5 days. At present we are testing a few samples while those countries are doing a large number of tests,” he said.

As of April 4, India had over 3,000 cases and 75 deaths. Globally, the virus has killed over 62,000 people and more than a million have been infected.

Will India be able to prevent community transmission?

“We are not sure whether we are going to prevent it. There is a big chance because the number of patients is not increasing so much. The next few days will be important. If a large crowd with symptoms does not come to hospitals, it will be good but we have to wait and see for the next few days. At the moment, I will not conclude that we have managed to stop this. I don’t think we could conclude at that,” Mishra said.

Mishra is of the view that India needs to effectively implement lockdown and social distancing to make sure that large numbers of people with symptoms do not come to hospitals.

CCMB, one of the leading labs under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is engaged in research related to coronavirus by sequencing the genome of the virus from a large number of samples.

The institute, which is already conducting coronavirus tests, hopes to have some data next week with sequencing of at least 20 genomes. However, for a comprehensive picture it needs to do sequencing of 100 or odd genomes.

“Large scale genome sequencing of the virus will tell us source of these infections. We will know which route it is coming, whether lateral mode of infection has started, how fast it is changing and if circulating Indian type is very different which will help in vaccine and drug development efforts.

“After that, once we start getting samples from hospitals with patient details including information on symptom severity, prognosis, etc., we will be able to connect the viral genome information to its pathological implications. That will be useful in management of this disease,” he said.

CCMB is also growing the virus in cell culture in laboratory safety conditions to set up assay system for potential treatment options and also to use the virus for serological testing approach.

“Sequencing of large number of genomes of virus will be the key. If the virus is very very variable that means the vaccine will not work. In such a scenario, we will have to go for a drug,” he said.

ACCMB recently started lab testing as it has the capacity to handle such tests. “It is in full swing. We are going to accelerate. Right now we are able to do 150 to 200. Some logistics are required and can go up to several hundreds in the next 2-3 days,” Mishra said.

However, the main difficulty faced in the current system of testing is shortage of reagents.

“Alternate sources of reagents used for testing are available with small companies and start ups. They have approached CCMB for validation and we will be validating the same. In a couple of weeks some of these may become ready for production. Regulatory system and approving authorities, currently like ICMR, will have to give them a nod,” he said.

“Startups in this area can give us their products. We can check and validate it so that necessary permission can be taken for production for mass level testing which means testing tens of thousands of samples. We are hoping that this technology will have a tangible impact on Covid-19 testing,” Mishra said.

Mishra feels that so far India’s response to the problem has been good.

“India as a system has done very well by closing down the activities. It is a very good move. We could have done better if we had more labs testing in the beginning. In such times research institutions could have done things differently than closing down. Having said that labs which can this have been allowed to function like CCMB has been allowed,” he concluded.

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Three IAF personnel quarantined, 1 was found near Markaz

The congregation was organised by Mohammad Saad, the Tablighi chief, wherein workers from 41 countries took part and later went to different parts of India.

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Indian Air Force, ITBP Jawan

New Delhi, April 4 : Three Indian Air Force personnel, including one who had been near Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz — the headquarters of Tablighi Jammat, have been sent to home quarantine, sources said on Saturday.

Delhi Police had found a IAF Sergeant was near Nizamuddin Markaz during religious congregation. He was traced after his mobile phone was located over.

Police later informed the force and thereafter IAF Sergeant was placed in quarantine. It was also found that two IAF personnel came in contact with the Sergeant so both of them were also sent to quarantine as per standard operating procedures.

The religious congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin organised by Tablighi Jamaat sparked off nationwide search for its attendees with reports emerging from various states of new clusters of coronavirus infected people linked to the event.

The congregation was organised by Mohammad Saad, the Tablighi chief, wherein workers from 41 countries took part and later went to different parts of India.

It has been found that over 95 percent of the coronavirus cases reported over the last two days in India have been found to have links with the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi.

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Hospitals need PPE and poor need a package, not theatrics: Cogress to PM Modi

Venugopal said instead of addressing this unprecedented health crisis, the PM has come up with stage-crafted events like lighting lamps and clapping, one after another.

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Karnataka, K.C. Venugopal

New Delhi, April 4 : AICC General Secretary K.C. Venugopal said on Saturday that the spread of Covid-19 and consequent nationwide lockdown require practical interventions from the Prime Minister such as equipping hospitals and health centres, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), hazmat suits to health workers and increased testing, as well a comprehensive economic package to the state governments to deal with the emergency situation.

“Instead of addressing these crucial issues, the Prime Minister is coming up with mere dramatic acts simply to run away from his responsibilities and obligations,” said Venugopal.

He reiterated that people expected the Prime Minister to speak on pressing issues such as government’s efforts to curtail the virus transmission, initiating rapid testing, providing PPEs to the doctors, nurses and health workers.

“People across the country are reeling under the impact of the unplanned lockdown. They expect not a magic wand but a comprehensive and strategic approach from the PM to deal with the unprecedented migrant labour crisis, issues of daily wage workers, business community, people working in un-organized sector and the middle class”, he added.

Venugopal said instead of addressing this unprecedented health crisis, the PM has come up with stage-crafted events like lighting lamps and clapping, one after another.

“While motivation and unity is the need of the hour, the government’s response should not be limited to mere theatrics and rhetoric. It should rather focus on actions to motivate the people to face this unprecedented pandemic challenge”, he said.

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