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Johnson’s Brexit deal becomes law

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Boris Johnson

London, Jan 24 : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has become law after clearing all parliamentary hurdles and receiving royal assent, paving the country to exit the European Union (EU) on January 31, it was reported.

Some MPs cheered as Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans confirmed the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act had been given the Queen’s approval in a short announcement to the House of Commons on Thursday, reports metro.co.uk.

The Brexit bill still needs to be ratified by the EU but is expected to do so in time for the UK to leave as planned at 11 p.m. on January 31.

After more than three years of bitter disputes over how when and if Brexit would go ahead, the Prime Minister’s revised deal was finally approved by Parliament on Wednesday night.

The consent vote in the EU Parliament will take place on January 29.

Johnson is expected to formally sign the Withdrawal Agreement in the coming days.

Earlier, he had said that the country would now “move forward as one United Kingdom”, adding: “At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it.

“Now we can put the rancour and division of the past three years behind us and focus on delivering a bright, exciting future – with better hospitals and schools, safer streets and opportunity spread to every corner of our country.”

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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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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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Coronavirus in China to make drugs expensive in India: Report

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coronavirus test

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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