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UN offers help to India in dealing with Assam floods

India has generally declined international assistance to deal with natural disasters.

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Stephane Dujarric

United Nations, July 20 : The United Nations offered on Monday to help India deal with the Assam floods, if required.

Stephane Dujarric, the Spokesperson for Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said: “Nearly four million people have been displaced in the state of Assam in India and neighbouring Nepal due to heavy flooding from monsoon rains, with the death toll at 189. The United Nations stands ready to support the Government of India, if required.”

He said that “in Nepal, authorities have urged people living along riverbanks and low-land areas in the Terai region to move to safe sites due to the possibility of floods. Access is the biggest challenge, with search-and-rescue efforts being hampered by landslides in remote areas. The World Food Programme is working on reaching impacted communities, with helicopters being the only viable option at present.”

According to Assam officials, the death toll from the deluge is 85, while around 2.4 million people in 24 of the state’s 33 districts continue to be distressed.

India has generally declined international assistance to deal with natural disasters.

Dujarric said that according to the World Meteorological Organisation, locusts continue to be a serious threat to food security in parts of India, Pakistan and East Africa because of climate change linked to human activity.

“WMO said that extreme weather events and climatic changes such as increases in temperature and rainfall over desert areas, and the strong winds associated with tropical cyclones, provide a new environment for pest breeding, development and migration,” he added.

India’s Agriculture Ministry said last week that warms of immature pink locusts and adult yellow locusts are still active in Rajasthan’s Barmer, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Pali and Sikar districts and Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur and Bahraich districts.

It said that 79 control teams with spray equipment-mounted vehicles and over 200 Central government personnel, 50 technical officers and 22 drivers are working on locust control operations while 15 new Ulvamast sprayers have also reached India from Britain, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, in Haryana, the government has stepped up efforts to control locust swarms after warnings of potential intense attacks in several districts after Wednesday.

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

Disaster

Serum Institute CEO has a question for govt: ‘Will it have Rs 80k cr to give each Indian Covid vaccine’

Serum Institute of India has the licence to produce and market two of the leading vaccine candidates, one being developed by AstraZeneca and the Oxford University, and the other one by US company Novavax.

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Covid 19 Vaccine

New Delhi: Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawala Saturday asked if the government will have Rs 80,000 crore available over the next one year to buy and distribute the Covid-19 vaccine.

Terming it as “next concerning challenge” that needs to be tackled, Poonawala tweeted, “Quick question; will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that’s what @MoHFW_INDIA needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India.”

He also tagged the prime minister’s office in his tweet. “I ask this question, because we need to plan and guide, vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution,” he added.

SII, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has the licence to produce and market two of the leading vaccine candidates, one being developed by AstraZeneca and the Oxford University, and the other one by US company Novavax. The Oxford University vaccine is currently undergoing phase-II and phase-III trials in India. Earlier, the institute had announced that it will make the Oxford vaccine available at USD 3 for low-and-middle-income countries including India.

Apart from bringing some of the leading contenders of a coronavirus vaccine to India, the Serum is developing its own vaccine as well. It is partnering with SpyBiotech, a spin-off of Oxford University, for this purpose. Their vaccine candidate has entered into combined phase-I/phase-II clinical trials, which are being done in Australia. The trials began in the first week of September.

Meanwhile, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that as the largest vaccine producing country of the world, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help people across the world. “As the largest vaccine producing country of the world, I want to give one more assurance to the global community today. India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis,” PM Modi said.

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Another earthquake jolts Jammu and Kashmir

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Earthquake Strong

An earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter Scale jolted Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. According to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS), the tremors were felt at 12:02 pm today.

The epicentre of the earthquake was yet not known.

There were no immediate reports of any loss of life or damage to property due to the earthquake.

More to follow…

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WHO Board to get 1st update from Covid panel on Oct 5-6, report next year

A diplomat said it is improbable that the independent panel set up by the WHO would be severely critical of the WHO’s handling of the disease in context of China

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Xi Jinpin and UN Chief

The independent panel on Covid-19 announced by World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in July will submit its first update to the world body’s executive board at its meeting on 5-6 October.

The panel was set up at the World Health Assembly against the backdrop of sharp criticism aimed at the WHO chief and Beijing for their handling of the contagious virus that is believed to have originated in China’s Wuhan. Beijing locked down domestic travel in the early weeks of the infection but allowed flights to freely leave the country, spreading virus across the globe.

At last count, John Hopkins University tracker of Covid-19 infections across the world indicates the virus has infected more than 31 million people worldwide and almost killed a million people. China, from where the disease started late last year, has reported only a small proportion of infections, less than even Oman’s 95,000 cases. The United States and India are among those hit hardest.

The US had led the demand for an independent review of WHO’s response that was seen to have let Beijing guide its hand in the early days of the pandemic. At the UN General Assembly this week, Donald Trump – who pulled out the US from the world health body over its handling of the disease – lashed out at China again and asked the UN to hold China “accountable” for unleashing “this plague” on the world.

Diplomats in New Delhi and Geneva, however, suggest that this is unlikely to happen. One of them said it was improbable that the independent panel – co-chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – would be critical of the WHO’s handling of the disease in context of China.

Already, Tedros and the independent panel have made it clear that the exercise was not a fault-finding exercise but an effort to improve the world’s response to the next pandemic.

“While we are clear that The Independent Panel must shed light on what has happened and why, this exercise is not a blame game” said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Panel at its first meeting last week, according to an official statement.

The panel’s co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said she hoped their report would lead to “bold, credible, robust and implementable solutions that ensure our world is better prepared for the next pandemic”.

The panel is scheduled to submit its final report before the next World Health Assembly (WMA) in May next year but will come up with regular updates for other meetings. Like when the WHO’s top policy-making body, the WMA, resumes its meeting on 9-14 November.

The US isn’t part of the panel. Preeti Sudan, a retired civil servant who was India’s Union health secretary when the coronavirus disease broke out, is a member of the WHO panel.

China has sent Zhong Nanshan, the pulmonologist who is credited by Chinese media for having spearheaded the country’s fight against the outbreak of a new coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

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