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Beijing: China has set up a national research team of 14 experts has been set up to help prevent and control the latest novel coronavirus outbreak after 830 new cases were confirmed in the country, with 25 fatalities so far, authorities said on Friday.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said that the anti-virus research team is a part of the its emergency sci-tech project, which was jointly launched with the National Health Commission and other departments at a recent meeting, reports Xinhua news agency.

The project will offer sci-tech support on 10 research aspects, including virus tracking, virus transmission, detection methods, genome evolution and vaccine development.

Respiratory scientist Zhong Nanshan was appointed head of the team.

Zhong, also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, is renowned for his work in China’s fight against the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

The National Health Commission on Friday said that for the first time, a death was recorded in the province of Hebei, in the northeast, surrounding Beijing.

Until then all victims had been registered in the province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan, a city of about 11 million people and the epicentre of the outbreak.

The symptoms of the new coronavirus, called 2019-nCoV provisionally by the World Health Organization (WHO), are in many cases similar to those of a cold, but may be accompanied by fever and fatigue, dry cough and dyspnea (shortness of breath).

For its part, the WHO on Thursday decided against declaring an international emergency, although it asked China to increase surveillance in an epidemic that poses a “very high” risk nationally and internationally.

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UN chief visits Kartarpur gurdwara in Pakistan

Up to 5,000 Indian Sikhs have been allowed access daily through the corridor, with plans to eventually double the capacity.

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Antonio Guterres
File Picture of Antonio Guterres in Golden Temple Amritsar India.

Islamabad, Feb 18 : United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday visited Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district.

Pakistan’s Minister of Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri and other officials accompanied Guterras on the visit, during which the UN chief was briefed on the Kartarpur corridor.

Guterres said that the opening of the Kartarpur corridor is a “practical proof of Pakistan’s desire for peace and interfaith harmony”, Radio Pakistan reported.

Guterres also visited the community kitchen (langar) at the gurdwara, where he was served a traditional meal of rice and lentils. The kitchen caters to all Sikh pilgrims visiting the religious place, providing them free meals as per the Sikh tradition, Dawn reported.

The 4.1-km-long Kartarpur corridor has been built from Dera Baba Nanak town in Gurdaspur distict of Indian Punjab to Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan. It was inaugurated on November 9 last year to coincide with the celebrations related to the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak, is situated on the west bank of river Ravi in Shakargarh tehsil in Narowal district. It is around 125 km from Lahore.

Up to 5,000 Indian Sikhs have been allowed access daily through the corridor, with plans to eventually double the capacity.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, the UN chief also visited a school in Lahore where he administered polio drops to children.

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World

Travel chaos after technical failure at London airport

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British Airways

London, Feb 18 (IANS) Flights are continuing to be disrupted at Heathrow Airport on Monday due to a massive technical failure of the system handling check-in and flight information in all four passenger terminals.

At least 58 of the day’s arrivals — equivalent to 9 per cent — were cancelled on Monday due to a knock-on effect of the problem, which happened on Sunday, according to a media report, adding that a further 30 departing flights were also grounded from the country’s busiest airport, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“Following yesterday’s technical issue, Heathrow’s systems are stable and the airport is operating as normal. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused our passengers,” said a Heathrow spokesman.

All the flights affected Monday were operated by British Airways, the largest airline at the airport.

“The technical issue with Heathrow Airport’s systems has now been resolved. But after 10 hours of disruption across all terminals, we do expect to see a knock-on effect to today’s short-haul schedule,” said a British Airways spokeswoman.

The problems compounded the misery for British air passengers after Storm Dennis had caused hundreds of cancellations over the weekend.

Meanwhile, easyJet’s schedules were also heavily reduced, with flights grounded at airports such as Gatwick, Luton and Bristol, the newspaper said.

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India

Coronavirus in China to make drugs expensive in India: Report

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New Delhi, Feb 17 : The prices of generic drugs in India are likely to go up due to the country’s excessive dependence on the imports of active ingredients from China, which has been hit by the novel coronavirus epidemic.

While noting that Indian imports are highly dependent on China, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in its report on the impact of ‘novel coronavirus in China’ has said that the supply chain disruption caused by the lockdown placed in four provinces and around 50 cities of China has “significant ramifications for Indian industry”.

43 per cent of India’s imports from the world coming from China.

India sources about 65-70 per cent of active pharmaceutical ingredients and close to 90 per cent of certain mobile phone parts from China.

The world’s largest manufacturer and exporter, China also accounts for 45 per cent of India’s total electronics imports, one-third of machinery and almost two-fifths of organic chemicals and over 25 per cent of automotive parts and fertilizers.

Though the overall impact on Indian economy so far is “moderate”, the CII has said that sectors like pharmaceuticals, shipping, automobiles, mobiles and electronics have already been or likely to be impacted.

The Indian pharma industry heavily relies on imports of bulk drugs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient and intermediates), with 70 per cent of API coming from China. Imports from China have been on a steady rise over the years due to the low-cost advantage Chinese manufacturers have. India imported around Rs. 249 billion worth of bulk drugs last year, accounting for around 40 per cent of overall domestic consumption. Last year, India imported Rs. 174 billion of API from China while exporting only Rs. 16 billion worth APIs. The value addition in India is mainly through formulation, packaging and distribution.

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted supplies of pharmaceutical ingredients from China, resulting in shortages and potential price rise of generic drugs in India, the CII has said. “Indian pharmaceutical companies are now running close to exhausting their supply of APIs (usually have up to two months stock) and considering supply from other countries,” the report revealed, adding that the situation has not reached to any crisis yet as stocks and viable alternatives are still available.

Expressing concern about the delays in shipments between India and China, the CII has noted a sharp drop in the dry bulk cargo movement since last month.

“Realisation per day per vessel has declined by more than 75-80 per cent in dry bulk trade,” the report said.

If the shutdown in China persists, the CII predicts an eight to ten per cent contraction of Indian auto manufacturing in 2020.

“However, for the fledgling electric vehicle industry, the impact may be greater since India is dependent on Chinese battery supplies,” the CII said.

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