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UK PM aide’s row overshadows plans to ease lockdown

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Boris Johnson

London, May 25 (IANS) Pressure was mounting on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act over his senior aide Dominic Cummings’ lockdown trip, as the cabinet is slated to met on Monday to discuss plans to ease the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Cummingss, the former Vote Leave chief who was the architect of Johnson’s Brexit strategy, is facing calls to resign after it emerged that he travelled from London to his parents’ home in Durham with coronavirus symptoms during the lockdown, reports the BBC.

Speaking at Sunday’s Downing Street briefing, Johnson said he believed Cummings had “no alternative” but to make the journey at the end of March for childcare “when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus”.

The Prime Minister said he held “extensive” discussions on Sunday with Mr Cummings, who he said “followed the instincts of every father and every parent – and I do not mark him down for that”.

However, the BBC report said that the Prime Minister was finding it difficult to shift the political focus away from his key adviser.

Speaking to the BBC, Acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said that the row over Cummings was “preventing the government from getting on and doing its job, and doing it better”.

He said that Johnson should sack Cummings “so the government has more credibility in what it says about public health”.

“The instruction the Prime Minister gave us all to stay at home has been breached by his top adviser and that’s what you can’t get away from in this story, its pretty simple.

“I hope the prime minister will come to his senses, recapture his judgement and reinstall authority on this crisis by acting,” he told the BBC.

Meanwhile, some of the scientists that advise ministers were also concerned that Johnson’s decision to back Cummings would undermine the message on controlling the virus.

Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology who has advised the government on behavioural science during the pandemic, told the BBC that trust was vital to maintaining public health measures, adding: “You can’t have trust if people have a sense of them and us, that there’s one rule for them and another rule for us.”

Also responding to the row, Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, said Johnson was treating people “as mugs” and the Bishop of Bristol, the Right Reverend Vivienne Faull, accused the Prime ,inister of having “no respect for people”.

Disaster

Preliminary trial success, Covid vax could be out by Dec: Bangladeshi scientist

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covid-vaccine

Dhaka : Claiming success in preliminary animal modelling trial of Covid-19 vaccine, Globe Biotech Limited has claimed to be the first company from Bangladesh to have a Covid-19 vaccine under development. It says it is aiming for a December 2020 availability of the vaccine in the market.

They received the result after conducting the preliminary trial on five rabbits from June 10 to June 28, says Dr Asif Mahmud, Assistant Manager and incharge of Research and Development, Globe Biotech Limited, in an exclusive interview to IANS.

Earlier, he led the team to claim success in preliminary trial for the vaccine in national capital Dhaka on Thursday afternoon.

Excerpts from the interview of scientist Dr Asif Mahmud

Q: Globe Biotech is a research company in Bangladesh. Is it a branch of any MNC in the world?

A: No, in fact, Globe Biotech Limited is a Biological Drug Discovery Company in operation in Bangladesh since 2015. The project was started by our CEO Kankon Nag and COO Dr Nazneen Sultana. We have prepared 18 bio similar. We are also working on our own Nobel drug. After completing the animal trials of 6 bio similar, we have applied for Ethical Approval through our PRO at the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) in Dhaka. We have that ability and experience to invent a vaccine against this pandemic. Under the supervision of our CEO and COO, after a Covid-19 patient was reported in Bangladesh on March 8, we shifted our focus to SARS-Cov2 and started 3 new projects. Number one — we will do kit development; number two — we will do vaccine development for the country; and in the last — the biological molecule development.

Q: Is the research by Globe Biotech independent? Or is your research done under the supervision of any other country?

A: Globe Biotech is researching independently. Under the supervision of our CEO and COO, both of whom supervised the team from Canada. They are experienced in this matter. Dr Kankon was directly involved in the HIV vaccine project. He is using that experience here. We are conducting research under their direct supervision. A 12-member scientific group started research on March 18 under the leadership of both.

We have taken some 76 genome sequences under consideration, wherein we found that a sequence (numbered 614) has a mutation point that they have used for amino acid bonding.

Q: Which method did you follow for the research you are undertaking? And how do you make sure it will work to protect people from Covid-19?

A: We went for the SPR method for the tests. Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) is a phenomenon where electrons in the metal surface layer are excited by photons of incident light with a certain angle of incidence, and then propagated parallel to the metal surface. It is an optical technique utilised for detecting molecular interactions. Actually, we have set a vaccine target. We have analysed the sequences from all the databases we have worldwide, including the sequences in Bangladesh. We set the target by our analysis. We have modified that target according to our needs. We have set multiple targets.

We have placed multiple delivery systems in consideration.

By applying the delivery system we have done an animal trial on rabbits.

By this we have got a very good antibody titer. And those antibodies have shown strong binding affinity with our antigen. We have additional candidates, some of which we have presented to the press. But the company is yet to apply for a patent or any publication; and before the patent is ensured it would not disclose the data received from the trial. We have said that we need to convert the data from the preliminary animal trial into a regulated animal trial. That we will do within the next 6 to 8 weeks. Then we will apply for Ethical Approval.

Q: This 6 to 8 weeks period, to get proof of animal trial? Or, for trial on humans?

A: No, we have already got proof of antibody generation in the preliminary animal trial. Now, it needs to be converted to a regulated animal trial. Because, for human trial, we have to submit it to the regulatory body for Ethical Approval. Regulated trials will require some further characterisation. Then, we will apply for human trials.

Q: Did you inform about your research to the drug administration of the country?

A: Not yet. There is no role of the regulatory body now. When we do a regulated animal trial, of course, we go to the regulatory body.

Q: What are your expectations? When will the vaccine be released?

A: We have already formulated the regulated animal trial guidelines and the tests would be concluded within four to six weeks. Thereafter, the company will seek Ethical Approval from the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) in early September, when the data from the Regulated Animal Trial reaches us within 6 to 7 weeks.

And then, we will apply for market authorisation to the regulatory authority in December within three months after completing the phases 1, 2 and 3. If everything goes smoothly, we expect to be able to bring our vaccine to the market by December.

Q: If you get government support, do you think success for you can be faster or smoother?

A: Obviously! This will be the first discovery of this vaccine in Bangladesh. The first task always comes with more obstacles and hindrances. We will remove the obstacles with the support of the government and will bring the vaccine to the market in due course.

(Sumi Khan can be contacted at [email protected])

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Middle East

More advanced equipment to replace damaged part of Iran n-site

Natanz, located some 250 km south of Tehran, includes underground facilities buried under some 25 feet of concrete, which offers protection from airstrikes.

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Iran Nuclear Power Plant

Tehran, July 6 : A new and more advanced structure will be built at Iran”s Natanz nuclear facility to replace the one damaged in a recent fire “incident”, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said on Monday.

“Necessary arrangements have been made to rebuild the damaged shed at Shahid Ahmadi Roshan (Natanz) nuclear facility and a bigger shed with more advanced equipment is to replace it,” the spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi said.

More centrifuge machines were supposed to be produced at the damaged shed, Kamalvandi said, adding that parts of measurement and precision tools in the shed were destroyed and damaged in the “incident”, reports Xinhua news agency

The “incident” has not caused hindrance in Iran”s enrichment work, although it may slow down development and manufacture of advanced machines in the medium term, he said.

“We would make up for this slowdown through round-the-clock work and diligent efforts of our colleagues at the organization.”

On July 2, Iran announced that the fire at the Natanz nuclear facility caused no damage to the establishment, but it affected one of the structures for storing stock items.

The next day, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) saidthat the country”s experts had determined the main cause of “incident” and would announce it at an “appropriate time”.

Natanz, located some 250 km south of Tehran, includes underground facilities buried under some 25 feet of concrete, which offers protection from airstrikes.

The facility is a Fuel Enrichment Plant covering 100,000 square meters.

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Politics

US envoy admires Dalai Lama for seeking freedom for Tibetans

The globetrotting monk lives in exile along with some 140,000 Tibetans, over 100,000 of them in India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

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Dalai Lama

Dharamsala, July 6 : Reaffirming Washington”s continued support to the Tibetan cause, US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Ian Juster, on Monday greeted Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on his 85th birthday by admiring his tireless efforts to seek freedom for Tibetans and bringing an end to strife and hostility around the world.

“Your Holiness, it is a special privilege to know you and to be the chief guest at this celebration of your 85th birthday,” Juster said in a video message.

“The esteem in which you are held by the people of the United States is a demonstration of the deep and enduring affinity between Americans and Tibetans, beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who sent you the gift of a pocket-watch when you were a young boy.

“Successive US administrations of both political parties have admired your tireless efforts to seek freedom for Tibetans, preserve the Tibetan culture and bring an end to strife and hostility around the world,” Juster, who had called on the Dalai Lama at his official palace here in May 2018, said.

“The presentation to you in 2007 of the Congressional gold medal by your friend President George W. Bush stands as the preeminent demonstration of the high regard in which you are held in the United States of America.

“In the words of President Bush during the presentation ceremony in the US capital, ”You are a universal symbol of peace and tolerance. A shepherd for the faithful and the keeper of the flame for his people. This is why all of us are drawn to a noble and spiritual leader who lives a world away”,” the US Ambassador said.

“I believe the warm feelings between Americans and Tibetans spring in part from the recognition that your”s is a just and noble struggle. A struggle to secure for your people the same self-evident and unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that our founding fathers enshrined in the “Declaration of Independence”.

“You may have read these words on the walls of the Jefferson memorial when you visited that landmark in 1991.

“We like to think that these words may have had some influence on Your Holiness when you created a democratic framework for your own people. Your abdication in 2011 of temple authority in favour of the elected-Central Tibetan Administration extended to thousands of Tibetans around the world the right to chart their own destiny.

“We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the Central Tibetan Administration which helps support the health, wellbeing and prosperity of Tibetans who have sought refuge in India,” he said.

“For the American people, your work is in many ways a continuation of the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

“Your unwavering sense of purpose calls to our minds the words of Dr. King in his letter from Bermingham jail when he wrote that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of leaders and you.

“Your Holiness epitomise this type of leadership. We are also proud of the role the US Embassy in New Delhi, in its own modest way, has played in nurturing the affinity between our peoples.

“This includes our reception in 1946 for the delegation of the Tibetan government that congratulated my country on the end of World War II. To the late Gene Smith whose work at the Embassy”s Library of Congress Office rescued thousands of priceless Tibetan texts from the depravations of China”s Cultural revolution,” Juster said.

“We know how much remains at stake for your people and we look forward to more years of your leadership in the service of freedom for Tibetans and their survival of Tibetan culture and identity.

“I would like to close by returning to President Roosevelt, whose gift to you in some manner may have led us here today. Confronting a different era when the world seems locked in conflict, President Roosevelt remarked in a final message to the American people, ”If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the signs of human relationships, the ability of all peoples of all kinds to live together and work together in the same world at peace”.”

“I can think of no one who better exemplifies these words than Your Holiness. Like the era of President Roosevelt, we too are living in challenging times, in our case due to the pandemic.

“Yet this celebration today of your 85th birthday and your life”s work gives us great hope for the future and the promise of a more peaceful world. Happy birthday to you, Your Holiness and many happy returns,” Juster added.

The Dalai Lama, who believes in the “middle-path” policy that demands “greater autonomy” for the people in Tibet, is viewed by the Chinese as a hostile element who is bent on splitting Tibet from China.

The globetrotting monk lives in exile along with some 140,000 Tibetans, over 100,000 of them in India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

The Tibetan exile administration, known as the Central Tibetan Administration and headed by democratically elected Lobsang Sangay, is based in this northern Indian hill town.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])

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