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US Congress stalls over next move on coronavirus aid

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy declined to comment on the Democrats’ statement.

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Senate Republicans, who are pressing lawmakers to agree to $250 billion in additional small business aid, chose not to bring the measure forward during a brief Senate session after Democrats reaffirmed their own demands for broader legislation.

“It’s time for the Republicans to quit the political posturing by proposing bills they know will not pass either chamber and get serious and work with us towards a solution,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

The standoff began last week with a skirmish on the Senate floor, where Republicans failed to pass their narrower measure over Democratic opposition. Republicans then blocked a Democratic measure that included the same $250 billion but set aside some of the lending for community banks to aid minority-owned and rural businesses, and provided further aid to hospitals and a federal food program for the poor.

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy declined to comment on the Democrats’ statement.

But Republican Senator Dan Sullivan, who presided over a Monday proforma session lasting less than one minute, said the Republican bill is needed now because money for small business is beginning to run out.

“Will there be an opportunity to talk about the other programs? Yes, but a lot of us haven’t even spent any of the money at all,” the Republican lawmaker told reporters.

The Democrats’ latest push for broader legislation cited Republican President Donald Trump’s hopes of starting to reopen the U.S. economy on May 1, by underscoring the need for additional national coronavirus testing.

“We all desire an end to the shutdown orders so we can get Americans back to work and back to normal. However, there is still not enough testing available to realistically allow that to happen,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “It cannot wait.”

The United States has recorded more fatalities from COVID-19 than any other country, nearly 22,000 as of Sunday evening according to a Reuters tally.

The $250 billion in small-business loans would be in addition to $349 billion already allocated by Congress in a $2.3 trillion relief measure passed last month following an earlier partisan standoff.

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Ravi Shankar Prasad, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe opt for home quarantine

Shah tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday following which he was admitted in Medanta Hospital in Haryana’s Gurugram.

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New Delhi, Aug 3 : A day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah tested positive for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and was admitted in a private hospital, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also went into home quarantine as he had met Shah on Saturday.

Prasad, who is Union Law and Justice, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Minister, said in a tweet, “Friends! I’m absolutely fine. To follow protocol I have isolated myself at home for few days as I had met Amit Shahji on Saturday evening for an official meeting. I’m working from home and following daily routine including Yoga and exercise. Also reading books and enjoying classical music.”

Besides Prasad, BJP national Vice President and President, ICCR, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe also went into home quarantine on Sunday. Sahasrabuddhe was also present along with Shah on Saturday at a webinar organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to remember Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Shah tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday following which he was admitted in Medanta Hospital in Haryana’s Gurugram.

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‘Turkey’s number of severe COVID-19 cases under control’

Turkish health professionals conducted 40,247 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall number of tests to 4,885,916, he added.

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Corona cases in Turkey

Ankara, Aug 3 : Turkey’s number of serious ill COVID-19 patients seems to be under control, Turkish health minister said.

The COVID-19 cases increased by 987 in Turkey, raising the total diagnosed cases to 232,856, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The rate of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients is 8.5 per cent, the number of seriously ill patients is 582, he stated.

Meanwhile, 18 people died in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 5,728, Koca said, adding that a total of 978 patients recovered, raising the total recoveries to 216,494 in Turkey since the outbreak.

Turkish health professionals conducted 40,247 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall number of tests to 4,885,916, he added.

Turkey reported the first COVID-19 case on March 11.

Turkey and China have supported each other in the fight against COVID-19.

Chinese doctors and medical experts held video conferences with Turkish counterparts to share China’s experience in treating coronavirus patients, protecting medical workers, and controlling the spread of the virus.

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Mandatory BCG vaccination linked with slower Covid-19 growth

Mandatory BCG vaccination correlated with a flattening of the curve in the spread of Covid-19, the analysis showed.

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New York, Aug 2 : Adding to the growing evidence that early BCG vaccination may be helpful in taming the Covid-19 spread, scientists now claim that countries with mandatory BCG vaccination until at least the year 2000 tended to exhibit slower infection and death rates during the first 30 days of the outbreak.

By applying a statistical model based on their findings, the researchers further estimated that only 468 people would likely have died from Covid-19 in the US as of March 29 – which is 19 per cent of the actual figure of 2,467 deaths by that date – if the US had instituted mandatory BCG vaccination several decades ago.

Martha Berg, the study’s lead author from University of Michigan (U-M) and colleagues focused on changes in the growth rates of Covid-19 cases and deaths, while controlling for variables including diagnostic test availability, median age, per capita GDP, population size and density, net migration rate, and various cultural differences such as individualism.

Their findings suggest that national policies for universal BCG vaccination can be effective in the fight against Covid-19 – an association that merits clinical investigation.

“Available evidence demonstrates that BCG vaccination, typically given at birth or during childhood to prevent tuberculosis, can also help strengthen immunity against various other infectious diseases – perhaps including Covid-19,” the authors wrote in a paper published in the journal Science Advances.

To reach this conclusion, Berg and colleagues analyzed the day-by-day rate of increase of confirmed cases in 135 countries and deaths in 134 countries in the first 30-day period of each country’s outbreak.

Mandatory BCG vaccination correlated with a flattening of the curve in the spread of Covid-19, the analysis showed.

However, the authors caution that their results do not portray BCG as a “magic bullet.”

They found substantial variation in Covid-19 growth rates even among BCG-mandated countries, suggesting that additional societal variables likely have an effect on mandatory BCG vaccination’s effect on the spread of the disease.

In India, the Tamil Nadu government last month allowed a pilot project to study if the BCG vaccine will help reduce the mortality rate among elderly Covid-19 patients. The National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis will start the pilot programme.

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