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‘No way’: China on WHO’s plans to revisit Covid lab leak theory

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Scientists from across the world have also called for renewed investigations into the origins of the pandemic that has claimed millions of lives globally

Beijing, July 22. China on Thursday accused the World Health Organisation of “arrogance” and a “disrespect for common sense” as it proposed a second phase investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, media reports said.

The WHO had, in March, concluded in a report that a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely”. Undermining the report, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, last week, stated that it was premature on the global health body’s part to rule out a potential link between the Covid pandemic and a laboratory leak. He asked China to be more transparent on the issue of data sharing.

In response, National Health Commission Deputy Minister Zeng Yixin stated that “clear conclusions from the first study should not be repeatedly investigated”, the South China Morning Post reported.

Zeng’s comments follow the WHO circular to its member states detailing its proposed next steps to advance the second phase of its efforts to trace the origin of the pandemic, which includes audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan.

“No way” Beijing can accept origin tracing study proposal which includes possible breach of laboratory protocols, he said, according to the Post.

The proposed study “places the hypothesis that ‘China’s breach of laboratory protocols caused the virus to leak’ as one of the research priorities,” Zeng was quoted as saying.

Moreover, none of the staff or postgraduates at the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology had been infected with the new coronavirus, he stated. There has also been no gain-of-function studies, referring to suggestions its research had made natural bat coronaviruses more infectious among humans, he added.

“So where did the virus leak due to violation of laboratory protocols (theory) come from?” Zeng told a press conference. “This phase 2 study of origin tracing is both disrespectful to common sense and contrary to science in some aspects. There is no way that we accept such an origin tracing study proposal.”

“For this point, I could sense the disrespect for common sense and the arrogance towards science that the programme reveals.”

Ghebreyesus last week said that getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the international team that traveled to China earlier this year to investigate the source of the pandemic.

Scientists from across the world have also called for renewed investigations into the origins of the pandemic that has claimed millions of lives globally.

China has, however, dismissed the Wuhan lab leak theory as “extremely impossible” and have accused the US of “political manipulation”.

Business

Air India goes to Tata Sons, Ratan Tata tweets, Welcome Back!

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New Delhi: Finally, Air India has gone to Tata Group which emerged the highest bidder. This was a much-awaited deal for the Government of India which wanted to sell this national career from a very long time. Welcome back, Air India, tweets Ratan Tata on Tata Sons winning the bid for Air India.
An SPV of Tata Sons – the holding company of conglomerate – has emerged as successful bidder, Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary to the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) — the government department responsible for privatisation, said.

The international service was among the first public-private partnerships in India, with the government holding 49 per cent, the Tatas keeping 25 per cent and the public owning the rest. In 1953, Air India was nationalised. The government is selling 100 per cent of its stake in the state-owned national airline, including Air India’s 100 per cent shareholding in AI Express Ltd and 50 per cent in Air India SATS Airport Services Private Ltd.

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Powerful earthquake in Japan injures 32, disrupts train services

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Tokyo, Oct 8: Authorities in Japan said on Friday that a powerful earthquake which jolted the country the previous day left 32 people injured, while also disrupting train services in the Tokyo area, affecting around 368,000 passengers in total.

The earthquake that struck the capital region at 10.41 p.m. on Thursday night reached upper 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in parts of Tokyo and Saitama prefecture, reports Xinhua news agency.

The last time that people in central Tokyo faced such an intense jolt was during the massive quake of March 11, 2011, which devastated northeastern Japan and triggered a tsunami and nuclear disaster.

According to East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), the strongest earthquake for the Japanese capital in a decade caused services on the Shinkansen bullet train and 16 local train lines cancelled or delayed from late night Thursday to about 3 p.m. (local time) on Friday, resulting in many late-night train passengers stranded and a commuter disruption in the morning.

JR East have resumed train services, but many passengers were forced to wait at stations due to delays.

After a train derailed in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, one of the areas hit hardest by the temblor, the operation of the Nippori Toneri Liner, a driverless guideway transit system in Tokyo, might remain suspended for several days, according to its operator.

The Japan Transport Safety Board has sent officials to investigate the derailment.

According to a tally by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, two in Saitama Prefecture and one in Chiba Prefecture sustained severe injuries among the 32.

Around 250 houses in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward briefly experienced power outages due to the earthquake, and water stoppages and leaks were reported in central Tokyo.

The earthquake also caused 28 cases of people being trapped in elevators in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures, but all cases have been cleared according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

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India to showcase its art, culture, tradition and business prospect in Dubai

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Dubai: India is out to showcase to the world its arts and culture, rich history and tradition and opportunities that exist for individuals and corporates with its biggest pavilion of the 192 participating countries in the Expo 2020 Dubai.

The six-month-long Expo kicked off on October 1 with Dubai expecting a large number of visitors despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the number of daily infections now well below 200 for the past week, the city has opened itself to the world. Most of the visitors are allowed to travel with a valid negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours.

However, India is still in the category that requires a valid negative PCR test certificate (with a QR code) for a test conducted within 48 hours, and a rapid PCR test report with a QR code for a test conducted at the departure airport within six hours of departure. The pavilion features a kinetic facade of 600 individual colourful blocks. The panels rotate and the facade presents a different look with each rotation, a unique representation of the country’s theme at the Expo, ‘India on the Move’.

The Indian pavilion was officially inaugurated by Piyush Goyal, Minister for Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and Textiles who said the Pavilion “shows an India on the move, it describes a new India rejuvenated, reinvented and revitalised, which can convert any adversity into an opportunity”.

As the country comes out a deadly second wave of the pandemic, India is eager to make an impression on the world and the Expo is a great platform. Aman Puri, Consul-General of India in Dubai, said: “India at Expo 2020 Dubai will present a new and dynamic India with its never-ending opportunities.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given us a clarion call for action to all stakeholders to give a renewed push to boosting exports and Expo 2020 will provide an important platform in driving forward this national agenda.”

While art and culture has always been a staple of India’s exhibitions in foreign countries, there is a big push for innovation and industries in Dubai. The India Innovation Hub, a specially designed mobile platform, was recently launched. It showcases innovations by Indian startups and corporates across various cutting edge fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning, mobility, robotics and space. As many as 15 states and eight Union Territories are taking part in the Expo, most of them displaying food, art & culture and business opportunities. Also, present and various ministries, like textile, space and energy, as well as some of the leading business houses like Tata, Reliance, L&T and Adani.

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