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Roll out wage support plan for construction workers: Sonia

The Congress leader said that that wage welfare boards have collected cess of Rs 49,688 crore till March 2019 but spent only Rs 19,379 crore till that time.

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Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, March 24 : Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi has demanded unveiling of a welfare plan by the Centre for the unorganised sector, especially construction workers, in wake of lockdown forced by the spread of the coronavirus.

“Considering the extraordinary situation, I request you to consider advising the state building and other construction welfare boards to roll out emergency wage support for the construction workers who are in distress,” Sonia said in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

She pointed out that several countries, including Canada, have announced wage subsidy measures as part of their economic response plan amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Congress leader said that that wage welfare boards have collected cess of Rs 49,688 crore till March 2019 but spent only Rs 19,379 crore till that time.

Sonia Gandhi said that lakhs of workers, mostly migrants, were facing hard in the absence of alternate sources of income.

Lakhs of people are returning to their native states, hometowns and villages, including 44 lakh construction workers.

Party leader Kapil Sibal also demanded financial help for the poor rendered jobless due to coronavirus scare in the country, demanding at least Rs 10,000 each to them.

He said that though the shutdown is ‘positive’, many people were out of work, such as migrants, those working in the unorganised and other sectors, agricultural labour, unemployed, and daily-wagers, who should be provided Rs 10,000 each through Direct Benefit Transfer to overcome the crisis.

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Punjab to go for Covid-19 rapid antigen testing

On successful completion of the pilot rapid antigen project, which will cover a minimum of 1,000 tests, such testing would be done on the migrants coming back to the state in the wake of reopening of industries and for work in the paddy fields.

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Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh, July 3 : Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday gave the go-ahead for launching a pilot project for Covid-19 rapid antigen testing from the coming week, as well as e-registration for people entering the state to ensure strict monitoring of those coming from the high-risk NCR region.

On successful completion of the pilot rapid antigen project, which will cover a minimum of 1,000 tests, such testing would be done on the migrants coming back to the state in the wake of reopening of industries and for work in the paddy fields.

The state will procure rapid antigen testing kits to scale up its Covid testing capacity, which is even now higher than the Central government’s mandate of 140 tests per million per day in regions with positivity factor of less than 10 per cent.

With positivity rate of just two per cent, Punjab is already conducting 242 tests per million a day as part of its strategy to check further spread of the pandemic.

Notwithstanding the Centre’s revised guidelines replacing home quarantine for domestic travellers with self-monitoring, the Chief Minister ruled out any such move in Punjab in view of the large number of people coming to the state every day from Delhi and the NCR, where cases were currently spiralling.

He also made it clear that no vehicle should be allowed to enter Punjab without a stringent monitoring mechanism in place.

Amarinder Singh was reviewing the Covid situation and preparedness in the state with senior government and health officials, through video conference.

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Except for Sindh, Pakistan Covid situation improving: Asad Umar

He also urged citizens to remain mindful of the fact that an improvement was only being seen because they were following precautionary measures.

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pakistan coronavirus

Islamabad, July 3 : Pakistan’s Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Asad Umar on Friday said that while the country”s overall coronavirus situation was getting better, there was a significant lack of improvement in Sindh, particularly in the provincial capital Karachi.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the Minister said that the the number of deaths, patients admitted to hospitals and patients on ventilators has gone down, Dawn reported.

Crediting this development to citizens following precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus, Umar said if this continues, the country”s situation will continue to improve.

“However, there is only one area where we are not seeing that much improvement, which is in Sindh, especially Karachi,” he said.

He maintained that to address this, the National Command and Operation Centre team held a meeting with the provincial chief secretary and the provincial health minister and was working on a way to replicate the results in Sindh as in the rest of the country.

He also urged citizens to remain mindful of the fact that an improvement was only being seen because they were following precautionary measures.

“Don”t take this to mean that the pandemic is going away on its own and you can do whatever you want,” he cautioned, adding that a lapse in following preventive measures could cause the number of cases to rise again.

“I had earlier warned that our cases could reach 1.2 million by July end if we don”t take action or follow preventive measures. But because people are following precautionary measures and the administration is also taking action (things have been improving),” Umar added.

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Fauci slams lack of unified US response; remains hopeful for vaccine

Asked about how he navigates White House politics, Fauci said his method hasn”t changed since he first stepped into the White House back in the 80s.

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Anthony Fauci

New York, July 3 : America’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci tore into the lack of a unified, national response to the coronavirus and warned that a “devil may care” interpretation in wide swathes of America to the re-opening effort is working to the country’s “detriment”.

Speaking at an online Harvard Business Review event Thursday afternoon, Fauci repeated his hope today for a “safe and effective” vaccine by the end of 2020 or by the first quarter of next year. That timeframe, Fauci said, “would be a success”.

Early preliminary data on “several” vaccine candidates are pointing to predictable immune response, Fauci said. “They can induce the kind of response we can predict to be protective”

Explaining his view of “success”, Fauci said America would “gladly accept” a vaccine where the person who gets the shot gets exposed, maybe infected but doesn”t get sick enough to need medical attention.

Responding to questions on a second wave, a visibly concerned Fauci said America is still in its first wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are still in the first wave. Take a look at the curve. It went up, flattened out and now going right back up.”

Infections per day in the US have soared to an all-time high of 50,700, more than doubling over the past month, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Fauci has warned in the past week that 100,000 cases per day won”t be a surprise if things continue in the current trajectory. Much of the sunbelt is now rolling back reopening plans in response to the latest surge in caseload, the highest the US has seen since the domestic outbreak began in January.

Fauci”s comments come 24 hours after US president Donald Trump shifted his stance on masks, saying he likes them because it makes him look like the Lone Ranger and would wear one if he were in a “tight situation”.

Trump has long resisted being photographed in a mask although recommendations to mask up came in early April, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Trump”s U-turn comes after the virus has roared into Republican strongholds with 75 per cent of new infections coming from states Trump won in 2016.

Asked about how he navigates White House politics, Fauci said his method hasn”t changed since he first stepped into the White House back in the 80s.

“I”m going to tell the truth and a lot of times, that”s going to be something that person doesn”t want to hear. So you”ve got to be aware of the fact that that person might not ask you back. And what happens if you do that, what happens is that people know that you”re not being partisan one way or the other, you just tell the truth. People respect you and they do ask you back.”

The US leads the world”s coronavirus caseload, with more than 2.7 million people sick and more than 128,000 dead since the first virus-linked fatality in early February this year.

Public health experts continue wringing their hands at the lack of national guidance on preventive measures as zig zag messaging and wild summer parties have sparked an alarming resurgence of COVID-19 in nearly half of the 50 states.

(Nikhila Natarajan is on Twitter @byniknat)

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