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Covid-19: US Congress passes largest relief package in history

The highlight of the package, which amounts to almost 10 per cent of the US gross domestic product, is an outright payment of $1,200 each to most adults in the US and $500 each for children.

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New York, March 27 : Displaying uncharacteristic political solidarity, the US Congress has voted the largest ever economic stimulus package worth about $2 trillion to rescue the nation from the clutches of the Covid-19 pandemic.

After months of confrontation and invective capped by President Donald Trump’s impeachment, the two parties came together to vote the recovery package unanimously on Friday in the House of Representatives, after the Senate had passed it unanimously.

President Trump has said that he will sign it as soon as he gets it.

The highlight of the package, which amounts to almost 10 per cent of the US gross domestic product, is an outright payment of $1,200 each to most adults in the US and $500 each for children.

It includes aid for businesses, allocation for medical efforts against the coronavirus, food assistance and help for states and local governments.

The voting in the House came on a day when the US had recorded 86,012 cases, surpassing China where the pandemic began. In a bleak economic picture, 3.3 million officially registered as unemployed, while there is also a large number of others who have not yet applied for unemployment insurance benefit, many of them from the informal sector.

It was done by voice vote as many representatives were stuck in their constituencies either because of self-quarantine or cancellation of flights.

After the Senate had earlier passed the legislation for the package after more than a week of haggling between the White House and the Democrats, Trump said in a change of tone: “I want to thank Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.”

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thanked Republican Senate leaders, with whom she has been at odds on various issues.

Later she said: “We are like families and have our differences” but know what is important and come together.

The apolitical Commerce Secretary Steven Mnuchin negotiated the package with the Democrats because of the toxic relations Trump and Republican leaders had with the Democrats.

High drama preceded the passage of the relief package legislation, even as the nation beaten down economically by the movement restrictions waited for help.

While the initial block came from Democrats, who wanted to ensure that the assistance given to corporations were not used buoy their stock prices or for management payouts, and wanted to increase benefits to workers, the final hurdle came from four Republican Senators opposing extension of unemployment benefits.

Forceful action by Trump and the party leadership made them back down.

In the House, a lone Republican representative threatened to block the voting using procedural tactics. Trump came down hard on him, calling for his expulsion from the party.

In a tweet, Trump even agreed with Democratic Party leader John Kerry who had used an unprintable epithet to describe Representative Thomas Massie.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

Cities

Earthquake of magnitude 4.1 strikes Jammu and Kashmir

They said while the tremors caused panic among people, there were no reports of any loss of life or injury or damage to property.

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Earthquake Strong

Srinagar, Jan 16 : An earthquake of magnitude 4.1 hit Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, but there was no report of any damage, officials said.

At 10:01 pm, the earthquake struck at a latitude of 33.03 degrees north and a longitude of 75.93 degrees east — 93 kms east of Katra, they added.

The depth of the earthquake was 10 kms, the officials said.

They said while the tremors caused panic among people, there were no reports of any loss of life or injury or damage to property.

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Covaxin consent form says vax administered without ph-3 trial

The vaccine is first offered to the healthcare workers, frontline workers and those above 50 years of age, followed by the below-50 population with comorbidities, and finally to the remaining population based on disease epidemiology and vaccine availability.

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COVAXIN Corona Covid vaccine

New Delhi, Jan 16 : Amid the vaccinaton drive against Covid-19, it has emerged that there is a separate consent form for those who are administered the ‘Covaxin‘ vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech.

The form says that “In phase-1 and phase-2 clinical trial ‘Covaxin’ has demonstrated the ability to produce antibodies against Covid-19, however the clinical efficacy of Covaxin is yet to be established and it is still being studied in phase-3 clinical trial, hence it is important to appreciate that receiving the vaccine does not mean that the other precautions related to Covid-19 should not be followed.”

The form says that in case of any adverse and serious condition, the receiver will be provided utmost care at the health centre and in case of casuality the compensation will be provided by Bharat Biotech.

“The compensation for serious adverse event will be paid by sponsor BBIL if the SAE is proven to be casually related to the vaccine,” it said.

Serious concerns were raised in certain quarters including by opposition parties and Congress leader Manish Tewari has questioned the efficacy of ‘Covaxin’ while the Prime Minister has warned people not to believe in “rumours”.

The world’s biggest vaccination drive come almost a year after the first coronavirus case was detected in India, and since then the deadly virus has claimed over 1.5 lakh lives and infected one crore people. The first case came to the fore on January 30, 2020 in Kerala.

Two vaccines — the Oxford vaccine ‘Covishield’ manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and indigenously developed ‘Covaxin’ by Bharat Biotech — will be administered to priority groups. So far, the central government has procured 1.1 crore Covishield and 55 lakh Covaxin vaccines at a cost of Rs 200 and Rs 206 per dose, respectively.

In Delhi, which has 81 vaccination sites, ‘Covaxin’ has been allotted to six Centre-run hospitals while 75 Delhi government and private hospitals will receive ‘Covishield’.

The vaccine is first offered to the healthcare workers, frontline workers and those above 50 years of age, followed by the below-50 population with comorbidities, and finally to the remaining population based on disease epidemiology and vaccine availability.

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Disaster

Magnitude 6.7 Earthquake Hits Russia-Mongolia Border Region

The quake was at a depth of 10 kilometers

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AN earthquake of magnitude 6.7 struck the Russia-Mongolia Border Region on Tuesday, the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences said.

The quake was at a depth of 10 kilometers, it added.

The epicenter of the earthquake was registered 277 kilometers southwest of the city of Angarsk, in the Russian Irkutsk region, and 30 kilometers from the Mongolian city of Turt, Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik reported. https://bit.ly/2XtgrJs

There were no immediate reports of damage or victims, the report said.

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