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Cabinet approves India’s membership for EBRD

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Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley, Photo Tweeted bt @ANI

New Delhi, Nov 22 : The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday approved India’s membership for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), for which the required steps will be initiated by the Finance Ministry, an official statement said.

“Necessary steps will be initiated by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance to acquire the membership of the EBRD,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Membership of EBRD would enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests. India’s investment opportunities would get a boost. It would increase the scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, information technology and energy,” it said.

EBRD’s core operations pertain to private sector development in their countries of operation. The membership would help India leverage the technical assistance and sectoral knowledge of the bank for the benefit of development of private sector.

“This would contribute to an improved investment climate in the country. The membership of EBRD would enhance the competitive strength of the Indian firms, and provide an enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities and consultancy assignments,” the statement said.

“This would open up new vistas for Indian professionals on the one hand, and give a fillip to Indian exports on the other. Increased economic activities would have the employment generating potential. It would also enable Indian nationals to get the employment opportunity in the bank,” it added.

The minimum initial investment towards the membership of EBRD will be approximately 1 million euros. However, this assumption is based on India deciding to buy the minimum number of shares (100) required for obtaining the membership.

If India were to buy a higher number of bank shares, the financial implications could be higher. In-principle approval of the Cabinet at this stage is being obtained for joining the bank.

The issue relating to acquiring the membership of EBRD had been under consideration of the government.

With the country’s impressive economic growth over the years and enhanced international political profile, it was considered appropriate that India should expand its presence on the global developmental landscape beyond its association with the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank.

The decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) was taken earlier against this backdrop.

IANS

Cities

Gujarat: Five Covid-19 patients killed as fire breaks out at Rajkot hospital

Thirty other coronavirus patients undergoing treatment at the hospital were rescued, an official said.

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rajkot hospital fire

Rajkot, Gujarat: Five patients were killed after a fire broke out in the ICU of a designated Covid-19 hospital in Gujarat’s Rajkot in the early hours of Friday. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has ordered a probe into the incident.

Thirty other coronavirus patients undergoing treatment at the hospital were rescued, an official said. The fire is under control, however, the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

The fire broke out in the ICU of Uday Shivanand Hospital in Mavdi area, where 33 patients were admitted. Seven of the patients were admitted to the ICU, fire brigade official J B Theva said. “We rushed to the spot and rescued 30 patients after a call informing about the fire was received. Three patients died inside the ICU,” he said.

The rescued patients have been shifted to other COVID-19 hospitals, he added.

In August, eight coronavirus patients had died in a huge fire that broke out in the intensive care ward of Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad’s Navrangpura area.

PM Modi had condoled the deaths in his home state. “Saddened by the tragic hospital fire in Ahmedabad. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon. Spoke to CM @vijayrupanibjp Ji and Mayor @ibijalpatel Ji regarding the situation. Administration is providing all possible assistance to the affected (sic),” he had tweeted.

The Prime Minister’s office had also announced that an ex-gratia of ₹ 2 lakh each from PMNRF for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the hospital fire in Ahmedabad. ₹ 50,000 each for those injured due to the hospital fire.

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Health

Oxford vaccine viable even at 60-70% efficacy: Serum Institute

The PM visit will be followed by a visit by ambassadors and High Commissioners from around 100 countries, Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said.

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Vaccine Covid

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate, even at the lowest efficacy of 60-70 per cent, is a viable one against the novel coronavirus, the Serum Institute of India (SII) said on Thursday.

SII has partnered with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca for the manufacture and distribution of the vaccine candidate.

“Even though the lowest efficacy results are at 60-70%, it is a viable vaccine against the virus. That said, varied age groups with different dosage forms will result in slight variations and efficacy. We must be patient and not panic,” SII said in a statement.

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India trial results not in

The efficacy results of AstraZeneca were based on trials being conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil. It does not include the trials of the same vaccine being conducted by the Serum Institute in India. The results of the Indian trials are expected to come out in December.

The statement — a couple of days before PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the company — comes amid an acknowledgment on Wednesday by AstraZeneca of a key error in the dosage received by some of the study participants of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate AZD1222 (named Covishield in India).

According to partial results announced on Monday from ongoing trials in the UK and Brazil, the vaccine showed a striking difference in efficacy, depending on the amount delivered. A regimen of two full doses given a month apart was 62 per cent effective while participants who received half a dose of the vaccine in the first round and then the full dose a month later were found to be 90 per cent less likely to develop Covid-19. The average efficacy was pegged around 70 per cent.

But on Wednesday, according to reports, AstraZeneca admitted that the half dose was an error since some of the vials did not have the right vaccine concentration.

In its statement, SII said there were no concerns about the trial in India.

“The Indian trials are running smoothly with strict adherence to all the necessary processes and protocols. So far, there are no concerns. However, we are going through the data that is available and will make a further statement, if needed,” the statement said.

Phase 3 trials are underway across 17 sites in the country and data on the Indian trials should be out in a month or so, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier told The Indian Express.

While scientists and experts say a vaccine with efficacy of 60 per cent and above is good, they have, however, raised concerns over the company’s communication strategy.

When contacted, Dr Gagandeep Kang, virologist and professor of Christian Medical College, Vellore, said, “You need to be absolutely straight upfront and transparent. We have learnt that the low dose in the Oxford study with higher efficacy was an accident. To first say that low dose gives 90 per cent efficacy and later say that the dose was an error creates doubt about the process that is unnecessary.”

Saying she “trusted the researchers at Oxford”, Kang said, “Usually when the researchers at Oxford work on vaccines, they go all the way through Phase 1 and sometimes through Phase 2 of the trial on their own. I understand that in this case, they were advised to not do everything on their own and as early as possible link up with a large vaccine company. Oxford started to work with AstraZeneca and this error in dosing may have happened in that switch from doing early phase studies themselves and the later trials with AstraZeneca. This would need to be informed to the regulators and in the trial registry.”

However, none of this is any reason to dismiss the vaccine, she said. “This is not a vaccine that should be put in the dustbin just because of 60 per cent efficacy. It is a good vaccine that has exceeded the WHO and FDA benchmarks. There is a lot more data to come and we will learn more when it does,” she said.

Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel said he was intrigued by the results. “As a scientist, I am now thinking what sort of response would one get if the first dose was even smaller – half of what they give — whether by design or accident, I don’t care. Would one get an equal or better response then?” Dr Jameel told.

Calling the results a “blessing in disguise”, he said, “The advantage is that if half or quarter dose gives a better response, then there would be twice as many vaccine doses to vaccinate people. That is a big plus. Many scientific discoveries have happened serendipitously,” he said.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Serum Institute of India “to understand the process of vaccine production and distribution”. Officials said the PM would reach around 1 pm and depart around 2.30 pm.

The PM visit will be followed by a visit by ambassadors and High Commissioners from around 100 countries, Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said.

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India

Trade Strike Shuts Down Some States, Partial In Others

25 crore join strike against Centre’s new farm and labour laws

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nationwide strike

Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana witnessed complete shut down on Thursday and normal life was partially affected in many other states as more than 25 crore workers participated in the nationwide strike, according to central trade unions.

The day-long countrywide strike has been called by a joint platform of ten central trade unions to protest against the central government’s new farm and labour laws, among other workers-related issues, as well as to raise various demands.

Various independent federations and associations are also part of the joint platform.

“The states of Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana have reported complete shutdown. Tamil Nadu reported complete shut down in 13 districts, while the industrial strike continues in the rest of the districts. Punjab and Haryana have reported that the state road transport buses have not left their depots in the morning,” a joint statement issued by the trade unions said.

Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh reported 100 per cent strike, including at BALCO, the statement said.

Normal life was affected in West Bengal and Tripura, and sporadic incidents of clashes were reported in West Bengal, according to reports.

Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC) and Self-Employed Women”s Association (SEWA) are part of the joint platform.

Others are All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).

BJP-aligned Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is not participating in the strike.

Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) General Secretary Harbhajan Singh Sidhu told PTI that the number of workers who joined the nationwide agitation on Thursday exceeded the expected number of 25 crores.

He also said that coal mine workers along with those from defence, railways and other public sectors are also supported the strike.

Scheme workers, electricity employees, domestic workers, construction workers, beedi workers, hawkers, vendors, agricultural workers, self-employed in rural and urban India are holding demonstrations at various places, even defying police restrictions, the statement said.

At many places, the auto and taxi drivers have remained off the roads. Railway and defence employees have held demonstrations in support of the strike at their respective places of work.

As per the statement, operations of financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies have also been affected.

Besides state government and central government employees, those from the Income Tax Department and other PSU workers are participating in the strike in a big way, the unions claimed.

“Reports of successful strike in coal and copper mines, including other mineral resource mines, have been received. The employees of postal, telecom and steel sector were also in action and gramin dak sevaks observed 100 per cent strike,” the statement said.

In several places, oil sector unions also observed the strike. Workers also resorted to picketing in some parts of the country.

Further, the statement said that the total number of workers who have joined the strike at over 25 crores exceeds the number of those who participated in a similar strike on January 8.

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