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Bill Gates warns ‘deadlier pandemic’ if vaccine goes to ‘highest bidders’

There are at least 21 vaccines currently under key trials, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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San Francisco, July 12 : Microsoft founder Bill Gates has warned about a deadlier pandemic if successful drugs or a COVID-19 vaccine, when developed, go first to the highest bidders and not reach the common people who need it the most.

Addressing a remote COVID-19 conference hosted by the International AIDS Society on Saturday, Gates said democratizing the vaccine must be the goal, reports CNBC.

“If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidder, instead of to the people and the places where they are most needed, we”ll have a longer, more unjust deadlier pandemic,” he said.

“We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors,” Gates added.

There are at least 21 vaccines currently under key trials, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The fear is that once the vaccine is developed, the rich and the powerful people would grab it first.

However, despite encouraging preliminary data coming from some research labs, a Covid-19 vaccine is nowhere near while new corona cases are mounting in several countries including in India.

No vaccines have yet started their large and critical Phase-III trials in the US.

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said that AstraZeneca”s coronavirus vaccine candidate is currently the most advanced vaccine in terms of development.

AstraZeneca”s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, developed by researchers from the Oxford University, will likely provide protection against the disease for one year, the British drug maker”s CEO told Belgian radio station Bel RTL recently.

The vaccine developed at the Oxford Jenner Institute is currently on trial in the UK, where over 4,000 participants have enrolled and additional enrollment of 10,000 participants is planned for the clinical trial. The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine has been licenced to AstraZeneca.

“Global cooperation, a resolve to invent the tools and get them out where they”re needed most is critical,” said Gates at the virtual event.

Gates in May said the vaccine development may take at least nine months to two years.

“Most of the drug candidates right now are nowhere near that powerful. They could save a lot of lives, but they aren”t enough to get us back to normal,” the Microsoft co-founder wrote in his GatesNotes blog.

In the absence of an “almost perfect drug to treat COVID-19”, it becomes imperative that every person on the planet gets vaccinated against coronavirus.

“Realistically, if we”re going to return to normal, we need to develop a safe, effective vaccine. We need to make billions of doses, we need to get them out to every part of the world, and we need all of this to happen as quickly as possible,” he said.

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Air India extends contentious LWP scheme’s deadline to September-end

Air India has extended the deadline for its controversial Leave Without Pay (LWP) scheme, which has been drawing strong protests from pilots and cabin crew.

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New Delhi: In a circular issued on Thurday, Air India said that the scheme was introduced on July 14 and it “has now been decide to extend the last date of applying under the scheme till September 30, 2020”.

The scheme was circulated on July 14 and the pilots have been protesting that it “confers disproportionate powers” on the Chairman and Managing Director to pass an order requiring an employee to go on a compulsory leave without pay for a period of six months or for two years, and extendable upto five years.

Airline employees, across the board from pilots to service engineers, are protesting pay cuts and the LWP scheme in Air India. The company is also on the block for privatisation.

Air India has justified the cut in allowances of existing employees by citing the precarious financial position due to Covid-19.

“By ‘rationalising’ the allowances only, pilots and cabin crew are hit worst as it forms 80 per cent of our gross pay. Doesn’t the difficult financial condition of the airline warrant a contribution from the management too, based on their actual cost to company or just flying crew alone?” the pilots said in the letter.

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) and the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) have accused Air India of spreading “deliberate misinformation on social media” and questioned the “duplicitous” and “misleading” tweets by Air India.

“Air India has recently posted some duplicitous tweets that are misleading the general public,” the pilots’ associations said.

In a recent tweet, Air India said: “Recent decisions of Air India Board regarding rationalization of staff cost were reviewed in a meeting at @MoCA_goi this evening. The meeting reiterated that unlike other carriers which have laid off large number of their employees, no employee of Air India will be laid off.”

To this, the pilots responded: “A lay off means settlement of arrears, gratuity, PF and retrenchment compensation by law. Management is trying to dodge this by introducing Compulsory Leave without Pay for up to 5 years to send employees on exile.”

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India’s July wholesale inflation falls 0.58%, food prices soar

On Thursday, another set of data showed that a substantial rise in food prices lifted India’s July retail inflation to 6.93 per cent from 6.23 per cent in June.

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New Delhi, Aug 14 : Sequentially higher food prices accelerated India’s annual rate of inflation based on wholesale prices to (-) 0.58 per cent in July from (-) 1.81 per cent in June, official data showed on Friday.

However, on a year-on-year (YoY) basis, the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) data furnished by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry showed a decelerating trend during July 2020, as inflation had risen to 1.17 per cent during the corresponding period of the previous year.

“The annual rate of inflation, based on monthly WPI, stood at (-0.58 per cent)(Provisional) for the month of July, 2020 (over July, 2019) as compared to (1.17 per cent) in the corresponding period of the previous year,” the Ministry said in its review of ‘Index Numbers of Wholesale Price in India’ for July.

“The WPI for July, 2020 have been compiled at a response rate of 69 per cent , while the final figure for May, 2020 is based on the response rate of 86 per cent. These provisional figures of WPI will undergo revision as per the final revision policy of WPI.”

On a sequential basis, the expenses on primary articles, which constitute 22.62 per cent of the WPI’s total weightage, increased 0.63 per cent from (-) 1 .21 per cent in June 2020.

Furthermore, the prices of food items increased at a faster rate of 4.32 per cent from 3.05 per cent.

On Thursday, another set of data showed that a substantial rise in food prices lifted India’s July retail inflation to 6.93 per cent from 6.23 per cent in June.

On a year-on-year (YoY) basis, the CPI inflation more than doubled last month from 3.15 per cent recorded during July 2019.

Commenting on July’s wholesale inflation, Aditi Nayar, Principal Economist, ICRA said: “The considerable narrowing in the WPI disinflation in July 2020 relative to the previous month, was along expected lines, with a correction in the index levels for crude oil and mineral oils, further narrowing of the core disinflation and a rise in food inflation to a moderate level.”

“The surge in tomato prices and moderate rise in potato prices pushed up the vegetable inflation in July 2020, contributing to the uptick in the inflation for primary food articles to a four month high. While the inflation for pulses remained steady in double-digits, cereal inflation eased appreciably, to a mild 0.7 per cent in July 2020, offering a modicum of relief.a

According to Sunil Kumar Sinha, Principal Economist and Director – Public Finance, India Ratings & Research: “One of the key reasons for subdued wholesale inflation is the depressed prices of manufactured items. Manufactured items have 64.2 per cent weight in the wholesale price index. The average inflation witnessed in the manufactured items during the past twelve months is (-) 0.1 per cent due to the weak demand conditions in the economy.

“Although, the Covid-19 related countrywide lockdown was lifted in the month of June, partial or local or regional lockdown are still continuing thereby impacting the full demand and economic recovery. India Ratings and Research believes this in turn will keep the pricing power of the producers under check even going forward.”

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India’s consumer price inflation rises as food prices soar

As per the data, the CPI YoY inflation rate for vegetables and pulses jumped by 11.29 per cent and 15.92 per cent, respectively, in July.

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New Delhi, Aug 14 : A substantial rise in food prices lifted India’s July retail inflation to 6.93 per cent from 6.23 per cent in June, official data showed on Thursday.

On a year-on-year (YoY) basis, the CPI inflation more than doubled last month from 3.15 per cent recorded during July 2019.

The data furnished by the National Statistical Office (NSO) showed that India’s consumer food price index during the month under review rose to 9.62 per cent from 8.72 per cent reported for June 2020.

CFPI readings measure the changes in retail prices of food products.

“As the various pandemic-related restrictions were gradually lifted and non- essential activities started resuming operations, availability of price data has also improved,” the NSO said.

“The NSO collected prices from 1,054 (95 per cent) urban markets and 1,089 (92 per cent) villages during the month of July 2020,” it said.

The data showed that CPI Urban rose to 6.84 per cent in July from 6.12 per cent in June. The CPI rural increased to 7.04 per cent last month from 6.34 p er cent in June.

The data assumes significance as the Reserve Bank of India, in its recent monetary policy review, maintained the key lending rates on account of rising retail inflation.

The central bank’s target for retail inflation is set within a band of +/-2 per cent.

As per the data, the CPI YoY inflation rate for vegetables and pulses jumped by 11.29 per cent and 15.92 per cent, respectively, in July.

Furthermore, meat and fish prices rose 18.81 per cent and eggs became dearer by 8.79 per cent.

In addition, the fuel and light category under CPI rose by 2.80 per cent.

“Clearly, the larger concern is the impact of consistently high food inflation on core inflation through cost push factors; the relatively high figure for transport and communication is a reflection of high tax driven fuel prices and increase in telecom tariffs,” said Suman Chowdhury, Chief Analytical Officer, Acuite Ratings & Research.

“We believe that inflationary concerns may lead to a delay in further rate cuts and can raise the risks of stagflation. It is also expected to have an adverse impact on bond yields in the near term and may trigger the higher use of liquidity and yield management tools to optimise the cost of government’s borrowings.”

According to Devendra Kumar Pant, Chief Economist and Senior Director, Public Finance, India Ratings & Research: “Both industrial production and inflation trend suggests different monetary policy action.”

“Retail inflation breaching the MPC’s upper band of 6 per cent in seven out of last eight months makes task of the MPC difficult. India Ratings believes the MPC will watch inflation trajectory very carefully before taking a decision on further rate cuts.”

Brickwork ratings’ Chief Economic Advisor M. Govinda Rao said: “The spillovers of the hike in petrol prices are most likely to influence transportation costs adding to inflationary pressures going forward. We expect food inflation to soften in the coming months with easing supply constraints and better monsoon so far.”

“However, the core inflation at 5.5 per cent is a cause of concern, and it may remain at elevated levels as the demand picks up, but capacity utilisation does not increase commensurately.”

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