News

  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said America is looking at banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.

  • Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has rationalised the syllabus up to 30 per cent for classes 9 to 12 to make up for academic loss during COVID-19 lockdown.

  • India has one of the lowest COVID-19 cases per million in the world. Union Health Ministry said, according to World Health Organization Situation Report, India’s cases per million population is around 505 while the global average is at over one thousand 453.

  • India and the US have reaffirmed their commitment to work towards ensuring a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

  • Defence Minister Rajanth Singh has said, the construction of strategic roads, bridges and tunnels in the border areas will be expedited. Mr. Singh said, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is working vigorously towards this goal.

  • National Investigation Agency has arrested one more accused in connection with Pulwama terror attack case. The arrested person is a terror associate who harboured and extended logistic support to the JeM terrorists involved in the attack.

  • Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said that the Government is taking all possible measures to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce.

  • The Goa State Govt has granted permission to about 250 hotels to open in the State for Domestic Tourists from this month.

  • The University Grants Commission has revisited its earlier guidelines related to university examinations.

  • Indian COVID 19 vaccines are in the global race to end the coronavirus pandemic. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had written to 12 Medical Institutes in the country to start the first phase of Human Clinical Trials by registering volunteers.

  • Government today said a total of four lakh 39 thousand 947 people have recovered from COVID19 so far and the recovery rate has improved to 61.13 per cent in the country.

  • India and China have begun a long process of disengagement in eastern Ladakh after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday evening.

  • A Special Director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) will head the committee.

    "MHA sets up inter-ministerial committee to coordinate investigations into violation of various legal provisions of PMLA, Income Tax Act, FCRA etc by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust & Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust. Spl. Dir of ED will head the committee," Home Ministry said.

    These investigations are into alleged violation of legal provisions including the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Income Tax Act and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

  • Prices of copper and steel have surged and share prices for Chinese blue chips struck five-year highs, as state-funded infrastructure projects drove up production of cement, steel and non-ferrous metals.

    Railway investment, for example, soared 11.4% in April-June from a year earlier versus a 21% drop in the first quarter.

    Industries also gained from pent-up demand for autos and electronics. The property sector, a pillar of growth, also showed signs of rebounding, with real estate investment expanding and sales quickening.

    The industrial recovery is expected to help China’s economy post a positive growth rate in the second quarter after contracting for the first time in decades due to COVID-19.

    But analysts warn that factories could struggle to keep up momentum even as early as this quarter as pent-up demand wanes, exports struggle and heavy floods take their toll on industries and businesses in the Yangtze Delta.

  • New security legislation imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing requires the Asian financial hub to “promote national security education in schools and universities and through social organisations, the media, the internet”.

    The school anthem ban will further stoked concerns that new security laws will crush freedoms in China’s freest city, days after public libraries removed books by some prominent pro-democracy figures from their shelves.

    Authorities also banned protest slogans as the new laws came into force last week.

    Earlier on Wednesday, China opened its new national security office, turning a hotel near a city-centre park that has been one of the most popular venues for pro-democracy protests into its new headquarters.

    Both Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have said the new law is vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by the anti-government and anti-China protests that rocked the city in the past year.

  • Chile has witnessed around 15,459 cases of COVID-19 per million population, while US over 8,500, Brazil over 7,419 and Spain witnessed over 5,358 cases per million population. The WHO Situation Report also shows that India has one of the lowest deaths per million population. India’s cases of death per million population is around 14 while the global average is more than its four times, at 68.

    The Ministry said, India has ramped up the hospital infrastructure to adequately and effectively manage the cases. The preparedness included arrangement of oxygen support, ICU and ventilator facilities. As on Wednesday, there are over 1200 Dedicated COVID Hospitals, two thousand 611 Dedicated COVID Healthcare Centres and nine thousand 909 COVID Care Centres to look after COVID patients from those with very severe to very mild symptoms. Early detection and timely effective clinical management of COVID-19 cases have resulted in increasing daily recoveries.

    The Ministry said, due to coordinated efforts at all levels of the national and State governments for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 are showing encouraging results with consistently increasing gap between recoveries and active cases.

  • The landslide occured in Huangmei County in the early hours and efforts were being made to rescue the people, a daily said.

    From June 1 to July 7, accumulated rainfall in the regions of Hubei, Anhui, Zhejiang and Chongqing has reached the highest levels for this time of year since 1961, with rainfall in some places two to three times higher than normal, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

  • Elsewhere in the gym, cardboard partitions separate the 233 evacuees’ sleeping areas and another sign instructs them to check their temperature each morning, then sterilise the thermometers.

    The measures show what a thorny issue it is for Japan to deal with natural disasters in the time of coronavirus.

    Japanese authorities have been warning local officials for months to include coronavirus measures in their disaster preparations. Residents have been urged to seek shelter with friends or relatives if possible to avoid overcrowding evacuation centres.

    Kumomoto prefecture, where Yatsushiro is located, has had only 49 of Japan’s more than 20,000 coronavirus cases, according to public broadcaster NHK.

    That compares with close to 7,000 in Tokyo, where cases are on the rise again among its 14 million residents.

  • Brent crude futures fell 10 cents, or 0.2%, to $42.98 a barrel by 0417 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures dropped 12 cents, or 0.3%, to $40.50 a barrel, holding to the narrow range of the past few weeks.

    U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose last week, against expectations for a draw, although gasoline and distillate inventories fell more than expected, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed.

    Adding to pressure, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday that U.S. crude oil production is expected to fall by 600,000 barrels per day in 2020, a smaller decline than the 670,000 bpd it forecast previously.

    However, it also expected global oil demand to recover through the end of 2021.

    Abu Dhabi National Oil Co plans to boost oil exports in August, the first signal that OPEC and its allies, together known as OPEC+, are preparing to ease record oil output cuts next month, as per sources. Key ministers in the OPEC+ grouping are due to hold talks next week.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. coronavirus outbreak crossed a grim milestone of over 3 million confirmed cases on Tuesday as more states reported record numbers of new infections.

  • On the occasion, Dr Vardhan said, these guidelines will help policy makers and regulators to frame effective provisions for future novel nano-based products in the agri-input and food sectors of India.

    He said, it will also encourage the Indian innovators and industries to develop and commercialize new nano-based formulations and products in these sectors. He said, compared to bulk form of chemical inputs in crops, use of nano-nutrients can reduce nutrient run-off into ground and surface water and thus can reduce environmental pollution.

    The Agriculture Minister highlighted that the formulation of these ‘Guidelines’ is one of the most important steps for delineating quality, safety and efficacy assessment of the novel nano-formulations which can be commercialized. He said, these guidelines are also intended to provide transparent, consistent and predictable regulatory pathways for nano-based agri-input and food products in the country. He termed it as an excellent initiative, which has brought on board all the Departments and Ministries dealing with Nanotechnology, and nano based products.

    The Agriculture Minister added that the guidelines will pave the way for significant benefits for our mission on ‘Doubling Farming Income by 2022’ and ‘National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture.

  • The Minister said that rising to the clarion call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Culture Ministry is celebrating Sankalp Parva from 28th June to 12th July. He said Ministry expects all its Subordinate Offices, Academies, attached Institutions and affiliated Institutions to plant trees in its campus or in the surroundings wherever it is possible.
     
    He added that the Ministry recommends to plant five trees which have been identified by Prime Minister Modi and which represent the herbal heritage of our country. These trees are Bargad, Awla,  Peepal, Ashok and Bel. The Minister will plant trees at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and at Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya  Institute of Archaeology, Greater Noida on Wednesday.

  • Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale exchanged views on a number of regional and global issues of shared interests during the virtual foreign office consultations between the two countries on Tuesday. They reviewed the entire gamut of engagements under the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, including political, economic, commercial, regional and international cooperation.

    In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, they agreed to further strengthen the bilateral health partnership, including on pharmaceuticals and vaccine development. They agreed to remain in touch and move forward on the bilateral agenda through a range of mechanisms like the 22 ministerial that India will host later this year.
     
    Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale discussed ways to further enhance mutually beneficial trade and people-to-people ties, including through visa facilitation for students and professionals. Sources said the issue of F-1 visa students attending online-only classes in the US was raised during the meeting. They said the US side took note and said they will keep the best interests of the students in mind and try and mitigate impact. Sources also said that detailed implementation guidelines are yet to come out. 

  • In a series of tweets, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said, considering the importance of learning achievement, it has been decided to rationalize syllabus by retaining the core concepts.

    The Minister said, looking at the extraordinary situation prevailing in the country and the world, CBSE was advised to revise the curriculum and reduce course load for the students of Class 9th to 12th. 

  • He called upon developed country parties, once again, to do their part as envisaged under UNFCCC and Paris Agreement, for extending financial and technological support to developing countries. The Environment Minister said, the promise of one trillion dollars by 2020 has not been fulfilled so far, and expressed hope that in the remaining 5 months of 2020, the promised amount will be mobilized and delivered for further strengthening climate actions in developing countries.

    Highlighting India’s efforts, the Environment Minister said, India has achieved reduction of 21 percent in emission intensity of its GDP between 2005 and 2014, thereby achieving its pre-2020 voluntary target. He said, India’s renewable energy installed capacity has increased by 226 percent in last 5 years and stands at more than 87 Gigawatt. He said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has further announced the aspirational target of increasing renewable energy capacity to 450 GW.

    The minister further said that government has provided 80 million LPG connections in rural areas, providing them with clean cooking fuel and healthy environment.

    Highlighting India’s efforts towards cleaner fuel, the Minister said that India has also leapfrogged from Bharat Stage-IV to Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by 1st April this year which was earlier to be adopted by 2024. The Minister also highlighted how India had levied a coal cess of 400 rupees as, part of one of the most explicit green initiatives and this is now subsumed under Goods and Services Tax.

  • During the meeting, the state of forward connectivity to border areas was reviewed and the consistent need of boosting the ongoing projects and to expedite the construction of strategic roads, bridges and tunnels in the border areas was discussed. The BRO has worked incessantly even during the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 without affecting the progress of various projects.

    Despite unprecedented snowfall, breaking 60 year old record, all strategic passes and roads were cleared this year for traffic about one month before their average yearly opening dates.
     
    While lauding the BRO for its achievements, Defence Minister Rajanth Singh exhorted it to continue its work to achieve even greater laurels. The BRO has also inducted latest equipment and machines and has introduced modern construction methods after successful trials to expedite works on surfacing with cementations base, use of plastics, geotextiles, and various techniques for slope stabilisation.

    Trials have also been carried out successfully for indigenously produced modular bridges in collaboration. This will revolutionise the bridge laying capabilities in forward areas.  

  • "We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19," said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO.

    The WHO has previously said the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground.

    But in an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, published on Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.

    Because those smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air, the scientists are urging WHO to update its guidance.

    In a briefing on Tuesday in Geneva, Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO's technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive. She added that the possibility of airborne transmission in public settings - especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out.
     

  • A Bell helicopter has also been deployed in Rajasthan for use in Scheduled Desert Area as per the need. Indian Air Force has conducted trials in anti-locust operation by using an Mi-17 helicopter and the results are encouraging.

    IAF started participating in anti-locust operations from 5th of this month by deploying the Mi-17 helicopter for aerial spraying in Jodhpur district. This is first of its kind exercise in the history of locust control in India.

    The Ministry said, further, five companies with 15 drones are deployed at Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Nagaur and Phalodi in Rajasthan for effective control of locusts on tall trees and in inaccessible areas through spraying of pesticides.

    It said, presently 60 control teams with spray vehicles are deployed in State of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and more than 200 Central Government personnel are engaged in locust control operations.

    In addition, on Tuesday 20 spray equipments have reached India. The Ministry said, no significant crop losses have been reported in the States of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Haryana. However, some minor crop losses have been reported in some districts of Rajasthan.

  • Pompeo announced visa restrictions on Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party officials involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas.

    He said access to Tibetan areas is increasingly vital to regional stability, given the Chinese human rights abuses there, as well as Beijing's failure to prevent environmental degradation near the headwaters of Asia's major rivers.

    Pompeo said the US will continue to work to advance the sustainable economic development, environmental conservation, and humanitarian conditions of Tibetan communities in China and abroad. 

  • Secretaries of Ministries of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Power, Coal, Mines and Atomic Energy also attended the meeting. In 2019-20, the capital expenditure (CAPEX) by the 23 CPSEs stood at one lakh 66 thousand 29 crore against the target of one lakh 64 thousand 822 crore rupees, which is 101 per cent.
     
    FM said, CPSEs have a very important role in giving a push to the growth of the economy. She encouraged the CPSEs to perform better to achieve targets and to ensure that the capital outlay provided to them for the year 2020-21 is spent properly and within time. The Finance Minister said, better performance of CPSEs can help the economy in a big way to recover from the impact of Covid-19.
     
    FM stated that extraordinary situation requires extraordinary efforts and with collective efforts, we will not only perform better but also help the Indian economy to achieve better results. 

  • The Trump administration has notified Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization.

    The United States' notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the UN Secretary-General, as per sources.

    The spokesperson for Secretary-General António Guterres said he had received the notice and "is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met." Those conditions "include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations."

    President Donald Trump said he was halting funding to the organisation in mid-April and announced his intention to withdraw from the WHO in May.

    Trump consistently accused the organization of aiding China in allegedly covering up the origins of the virus and allowing its spread.

  • Bolsonaro, who repeatedly played down the risks posed by the virus which he termed "a little flu" and asserting that he would not be seriously affected by it, came out positive after undergoing the test - his fourth - on developing high fever, the BBC reported.

    His report came as he urged regional governors to ease lockdowns and diluted directions on face masks. In fact, the President has frequently appeared in public events without donning a mask, including the Independence Day celebration at the US Embassy last week.

    Brazil currently accounts for the second highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the world at 1,623,284 and 65,487, respectively, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Only the US has more cases and deaths.

    Despite the rising numbers, Bolsonaro, who had argued that other kind of flu had killed more people and his country's tropical climate would retard the spread, has argued that regional lockdowns are having a more damaging effect than the virus itself, and accused the media of spreading panic and paranoia.

  •  The meeting was co-chaired by European Union, China and Canada to advance discussions on the full implementation of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to demonstrate continued political commitment to global climate action.

    Union Environment Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar, representing India said that our country has taken very significant steps for combating climate change and will continue its efforts in the future also. Shri Javadekar called upon developed country parties, once again, to do their part as envisaged under UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement, for extending financial and technological support to developing countries. “The promise of USD 1 trillion by 2020 has not been fulfilled so far, and I hope that in the remaining 5 months of 2020, the promised amount is mobilized and delivered, for further strengthening climate actions in developing countries.”, stressed the Environment Minister.

    Highlighting India’s efforts, the Environment Minister said that India has achieved reduction of 21% in emission intensity of its GDP between 2005 and 2014, thereby achieving its pre-2020 voluntary target.Further, India’s renewable energy installed capacity has increased by 226% in last 5 years and stands more than 87 Gigawatt.“The share of non-fossil sources in installed capacity of electricity generation increased from 30.5% in March 2015 to 37.7% in May 2020 and our Prime Minister has further announced the aspirational target of increasing our renewable energy capacity to 450 GW.”, pointed Javadekar.

    The minister further said that we have provided 80 million LPG connections in rural areas, providing them with clean cooking fuel and healthy environment. “India’s total forest and tree cover is 8,07,276 sq. km. which is 24.56% of the total geographical area of the country; More than 360 million LED bulbs have been distributed under UJALA scheme, which has led to energy saving of about 47 billion units of electricity per year and reduction of 38 million tonnes of CO2 per year.”, said the Environment minister.

    Highlighting India’s efforts towards cleaner fuel Javadekar said that India has also leapfrogged from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms by April 1, 2020 which was earlier to be adopted by 2024.The minister also highlighted how India had levied a coal cess of INR 400/- as, part of one of the most explicit green initiatives & this is now subsumed under Goods and Services Tax(GST).“Under Smart Cities Mission, first-of-its-kind initiative – Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework 2019 has been launched which intends to provide clear roadmap for cities and urban India towards combating climate change through adoption of both mitigation and adaptation measures.” told the Minister at the meeting.

    The fourth edition of the meeting was attended by Ministers and representatives of about 30 countries and was held virtually for the first time in view of the ongoing pandemic. The purpose was to ensure that progress is made on climate action.

  • In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of the annual gathering of the Media & Entertainment Industry is being held in a virtual mode, instead of its usual location by the Powai lake in Mumbai. 

    The Minister further remarked that the Covid pandemic has forced people to think of new ways to communicate. Virtual gatherings have become the new normal, but the partnerships forged are real”.  He said,  India enjoys  a huge cost advantage in content creation and the Indian content is being watched in over 150 countries worldwide.  The Minister called upon all stakeholders to work together to make progress and harness the soft power of India – media and entertainment.

    Delivering the key-note address, Minister of State for Finance, Anurag Thakur said the creative industry has a significant role to play in transforming India into a knowledge based economy. “From volume, the focus must shift to value creation” he added.

    Participating in a technical session, Secretary, Information & Broadcasting Amit Khare said,  in films, the role of the government should be that of a facilitator. “Different regulatory structures must be brought in sync to ensure less regulation” he added. Shri Khare also said that the Government was fully in support of granting infrastructure status to the Media & Entertainment Industry and added that some definitions need to be fine tuned.

    Niti Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant in his address said every crisis can be turned into an opportunity and India must identify 12-13 sunrise sectors in which it can leapfrog to become global champions to achieve sustainable high growth and create jobs.  He listed  Media & Entertainment industry as one of them.

    Expressing similar views, Uday Shankar, Chairman, Star and Disney India and a leading voice of the industry said “the M&E sector is an important part of the creative economy. It can create jobs and businesses and make India shine globally”.  He however, lamented the fact that Indian media industry, especially print, TV and digital remained disproportionately dependent on advertising revenue and said that the Covid pandemic has proven that this arrangement is a major set back.  He said “if the industry has to grow, it needs to shed its dependency on advertisement,”

    Sanjay Gupta of Google emphasized on the Covid induced disruption of the media and entertainment industry in the country. He said, the sector may shrink from $ 20 billion to $ 15 billion in  2020-21, but has the ability to bounce back as a ‘creative powerhouse.’  He called for simplification of the taxation framework and adoption of a light touch regulatory approach for industry to grow to its full potential. 

    FICCI Frames Virtual Summit , which will be on till 11th July, will see leading experts of the industry exchange views and ideas on various aspects of media and entertainment sector.  Italy is the focus country of FICCI-Frames 2020.

  • Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale on Tuesday exchanged views on a number of regional and global issues of shared interests on Tuesday during the virtual foreign office consultations between the two countries.

    "They reaffirmed their commitment to work towards ensuring a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific. They agreed on the need to deepen cooperation in the United Nations, especially during India's membership of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2021-2022," an External Affairs Ministry release said.

    The two senior officials reviewed the entire gamut of engagements under the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, including political, economic, commercial, regional and international cooperation.

    In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, they agreed to further strengthen the bilateral health partnership, including on pharmaceuticals and vaccine development.

    They agreed to remain in touch and move forward on the bilateral agenda through a range of mechanisms like the 2+2 ministerial that India will host later this year.

    Shringla and Hale discussed ways to further enhance mutually beneficial trade and people-to-people ties, including through visa facilitation for students and professionals.

  • The Nifty 50 settled just below the 10,800 mark. It rose 36 points or 0.33 per cent to close at 10,799.65 points against the previous close of 10,763.65.

    Healthy buying in financial, banking and IT stocks lifted the indices. The SP BSE IT Index rose by 2.10 per cent while the Banking and Finance indices settled 1.90 per cent and 1.73 per cent higher.

    The BSE Sensex closed at 36,674.52, higher by 187.24 points or 0.51 per cent from the previous close of 36,487.28.

    It had opened at 36,660.35 and recorded an intra-day high of 36,723.27 and a low of 36,271.09 points.

    Investment by foreign portfolio investors (FPI) was a major boost for the Indian indices. Net purchase by FPIs during the day stood at Rs 829.90 crore

    Domestic institutional investors (DII), however, were net sellers and the net value of the stocks sold by DIIs was Rs 784.47 crore.

  • "In anticipation of a return to competition in August, the rankings, which traditionally operate on a "Best 18" results basis over 52 weeks, will now cover a period of 22 months (March 2019 – December 2020). The rankings have been frozen since March 16, 2020, just days after the ATP Tour was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic," ATP said in a statement.

    Tennis was stopped in mid-March, with Wimbledon being cancelled and the French Open moved to September keeping in mind the health crisis.

    "The temporary changes to the rankings system have been made in consultation with the four grand slam tournaments and the ITF. Should the 2021 season be impacted by COVID-19, further adjustments to rankings will be considered," the statement further said.

    Also, the revised rankings will determine the singles qualifiers to the 2020 ATP Finals. As per norm, points earned at the season finale (as an additional 19th event) in 2019 will not count towards a player''s qualification for the 2020 event, ensuring a level playing field for 2020 qualification, it further said.

    In doubles, the 2020 doubles team rankings will continue to be used to determine the eight teams that make it to London.

  • The meeting was also attended by Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and other senior officials of the Ministry.

    The state of forward connectivity to border areas was reviewed and the consistent need of boosting the ongoing projects and to expedite the construction of strategic roads, bridges and tunnels in the border areas was discussed. The Border Roads has executed 30 per cent more works in financial year (FY) 2019-20 as compared to FY 2018-19.

    The BRO has worked incessantly even during the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 without affecting the progress of various projects. Despite unprecedented snowfall, breaking 60 year old record, all strategic passes and roads were cleared this year for traffic about one month before their average yearly opening dates. The Border Roads executed snow clearance works on 149 roads (of 3,965 kilometres) in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This ensured rapid and early movement of troops and logistics to forward areas.

    While complementing the BRO for its achievements, Raksha Mantri exhorted it to continue its work to achieve even greater laurels. The Border Roads has also inducted latest equipment and machines and has introduced modern construction methods after successful trials to expedite works on surfacing with cementations base, use of plastics, geotextiles, etc and various techniques for slope stabilisation. Trials have also been carried out successfully for indigenously produced modular bridges in collaboration with Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Limited (GRSE) under Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. This will revolutionise the bridge laying capabilities in forward areas.

    Rajnath Singh lauded the efforts of BRO for their contribution to national security.

  • The Indian Metrological Department has forecasted heavy to very heavy fall in the Northeast  for two to three days beginning July 9.

    Extremely heavy rainfall in the catchments of northern tributaries of Brahmaputra on 9th  and 10th July 2020 namely Sankosh, Manas, Beki, Dhansiri(N) is predicted which may cause severe inundation in the districts of Dhubri,Chirang, Baksa, Bongaigoan, Barpeta, Nalbari districts during 10th July onwards.

    Similarly, heavy to extremely heavy rainfall in the catchments of Southern tributaries namely, Lohit, Noa Dining, Burhidehing are likely to cause severe flooding in the districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh.

  • “Looking at the extraordinary situation prevailing in the country and the world, CBSE was advised to revise the curriculum and reduce course load for the students of classes 9 to 12.

    “To aid the decision, a few weeks back I also invited suggestions from all educationists on the reduction of syllabus for students and I am glad to share that we received more than 1.5K suggestions. Thank you, everyone, for the overwhelming response,” Nishank tweeted.

    “Considering the importance of learning achievement, it has been decided to rationalize syllabus up to 30 per cent by retaining the core concepts,” he added.

    Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16 when the central government announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

    A nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which came into effect the next day. While the government has eased several restrictions, schools and colleges continue to remain closed.

  • The announcement was made in the British Parliament by the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Monday. He said that this was the UK’s first autonomous human right’s sanctions regime that allows the government to impose sanctions on those involved in human rights abuses around the world.

    However, UK expressed its continued support to the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Responding to the sanctions imposed by the UK, the Myanmar Army Tatmadaw spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun denied allegations of human rights abuse. He said that these sanctions are politically motivated. 

     

    -Rajesh Jha/Dhaka

  • Announcing this on Tuesday, the State Minister of ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak told the official news agency BSS that the initiative has been taken to save the cattle farmers and traders from financial loss amid the Corona pandemic and also to stop further transmission of the infection in the country. 

    He urged people interested in buying and selling of the sacrificial animals to register over this platform. The Minister said that this is going to be the country’s biggest digital haat.

    The government is going to promote this haat through its website and social networking sites at its own cost. The site is free for use by the interested people. 

    The government has also decided to transport sacrificial animals from the north and west of the country to Dhaka and Chattogram through the rail route. The Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan made this announcment in Dhaka on Tuesday. He said based on demand, the service could be launched any day.

    The government of Bangladesh has been making efforts to ensure that cattle markets are regulated during the period ahead of Eid-Ul-Azha to avoid crowding and check the spread of Coronavirus in the country. 

     

    - Rajesh Jha/Dhaka

  • The child was kept on invasive ventilation for seven days. The timely life saving treatment administered by the pediatrician along with his team saved the child from this dreadful disease. The hospitalization, dedicated medical care and rehabilitation helped the boy recover from an extremely serious condition  (COVID-PIMS TS).

    The parents of the boy thanked the Frontline Warriors of Military Hospital, Jammu for bringing back joy into their lives and for always being there during times of need.

  • Pokhriyal said that the decision was taken to safeguard the principles of health, safety, fair and equal opportunity for students. At the same time, it is very crucial to ensure academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of students globally. He applauded the initiatives of UGC for constantly making efforts to address various issues related to teaching, learning, examinations, academic calendar etc. in the difficult times of COVID-I9 pandemic.

    In April 2020, the University Grants Commission constituted an Expert Committee to deliberate and make recommendations regarding the issues related to Examinations and Academic Calendar. Based on the Report of the Committee, the UGC had issued Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar on 29.04.2020. The Expert Committee was requested by the UGC to revisit the Guidelines and suggest options for examinations, admissions in the Universities/ Colleges and also for beginning of new academic session as the number of COVID cases is still increasing.

    The Commission in its emergent meeting held on 06.07.2020 accepted the Report of the Committee and approved the ‘UGC Revised Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for the Universities in view of COVID-19 Pandemic’.

    The highlights of the Guidelines are as under:

    • In view of the emerging situation related to COVID-19 pandemic in India, it is important to safeguard the principles of health, safety, fair and equal opportunity for students. At the same time, it is very crucial to ensure academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of students globally. Academic evaluation of students is very important milestone in any education system.  The performance in examinations gives confidence and satisfaction to the students and is a reflection of competence, performance and credibility that is necessary for global acceptability.
    • The terminal semester(s)/ final year(s) examinations be conducted by the universities/ institutions by the end of September, 2020 in offline (pen & paper)/ online/ blended (online + offline) mode.
    • The students of terminal semester/ final year students having backlog should compulsorily be evaluated by conducting examinations in offline (pen & paper)/ online/ blended (online + offline) mode as per feasibility and suitability.
    • In case a student of terminal semester/ final year is unable to appear in the examination conducted by the University for whatsoever the reason(s) may be, he/she may be given opportunity to appear in special examinations for such course(s)/ paper(s), which may be conducted by the university as and when feasible, so that the student is not put to any inconvenience/ disadvantage. The above provision shall be applicable only for the current academic session 2019-20 as a one-time measure.
    • The guidelines regarding intermediate semester/ year examination, as notified on 29.04.2020 will remain unchanged.
    • If need be, the relevant details pertaining to the Admissions and Academic Calendar in the universities and colleges shall be issued separately in place of those mentioned in the earlier guidelines issued on 29th April, 2020.
  • The $400 million operation comprises a loan of $381 million and a proposed Guarantee of up to $19 million. The agreement for the $381 million loan was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India and Mr Qaiser Khan, Acting Country Director (India), on behalf of the World Bank. The Guarantee instrument will be processed separately.

    Shri Khare said that the Ganga is India’s most important cultural, economic and environmental resource, and the government’s Namami Gange program seeks to ensure that the river returns to a pollution-free, ecologically healthy state. The new project will extend the Government of India and World Bank’s engagement in this critical national programme to make the Ganga a clean, healthy river.

    The World Bank has been supporting the government’s efforts since 2011 through the ongoing National Ganga River Basin Project, which helped set up the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) as the nodal agency to manage the river, and financed sewage treatment infrastructure in several riverside towns and cities.

    Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga, said that the continuity provided by the Second National Ganga River Basin Project will consolidate the momentum achieved under the first World Bank project, and help NMCG introduce further innovations, and benchmark its initiatives against global best practices in river rejuvenation.

    “The government’s Namami Gange Program has revitalized India’s efforts to rejuvenating the Ganga,” Mr Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India. “The first World Bank project helped build critical sewage infrastructure in 20 pollution hotspots along the river, and this Project will help scale this up to the tributaries. It will also help government strengthen the institutions needed to manage a river basin as large and complex as the Ganga Basin.”

    The sprawling Ganga Basin provides over one-third of India’s surface water, includes the country’s largest irrigated area, and is key to India’s water and food security. Over 40 percent of India’s GDP is generated in the densely populated Basin. But the Ganga river is today is facing pressures from human and economic activity that impact its water quality and flows.

    “The Project will help expand the coverage of sewage treatment infrastructure to more towns in the Ganga Basin, and focus on making sure that these assets are operated and maintained efficiently in the long term,” said Xavier Chauvot de Beauchene, Lead Water & Sanitation Specialist and Shri Upneet Singh, Water & Sanitation Specialist, both co-task team leaders (TTL) for the SNGRBP. “The Project will also help NMCG develop state-of-the-art tools to help manage the river basin more effectively.”

    Over 80 per cent of the pollution load in the Ganga comes from untreated domestic wastewater from towns and cities along the river and its tributaries. The SNGRBP will finance sewage networks and treatment plants in select urban areas to help control pollution discharges. These infrastructure investments and the jobs they will generate will also help India’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.

    To ensure that these infrastructure assets function effectively and are well maintained, the Project will build on the innovative Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) of public private partnership introduced under the ongoing NGRBP, and which has become the solution of choice for sewage treatment investments in the Ganga Basin. Under this model, the government pays a private operator 40 percent of the capital cost to build a sewage treatment plant during the construction period; the remaining 60 percent is paid as performance-linked payments over 15 years to ensure that the operator runs and maintains the plant efficiently.

    The $400 million operation includes a proposed Guarantee of up to $19 million to backstop the government’s payment obligations for three Hybrid-Annuity-Model Public Private Partnership (HAM-PPP) investments on the Ganga’s tributaries. “This is the first-ever IBRD Guarantee for wastewater treatment and the first IBRD Guarantee in the water sector in India and is expected to help free up public resources in the current economic situation,” said Shri Satheesh Sundararajan, Senior Infrastructure Financing Specialist and co-TTL for the Guarantee.

    The $381 million variable spread loan has a maturity of 18.5 years including a grace period of 5 years. The $19 million Guarantee Expiry Date will be 18 years from the Guarantee Effectiveness Date.

  • The Chile has witnessed 15,459.8 cases of COVID-19 per million population, while Peru, US, Brazil and Spain have 9070.8, 8560.5, 7419.1 and 5358.7 cases per million population respectively.

    The WHO Situation Report also shows that India has one of the lowest deaths per million population. India’s cases of death per million population is 14.27 while the global average is more than its four times, at 68.29.

    The UK has witnessed 651.4 cases of COVID-19 related deaths per million population, while the metric for Spain, Italy, France and US is 607.1, 576.6, 456.7 and 391.0 respectively.

    India has ramped up the hospital infrastructure to adequately and effectively manage the cases. The preparedness included arrangement of oxygen support, ICU and ventilator facilities. As on 7th July 2020, there are 1201 Dedicated COVID Hospitals, 2611 Dedicated COVID Healthcare Centres and 9909 COVID Care Centres to look after COVID patients from those with very severe to very mild symptoms. Such level of preparedness has shown results in continuously improving the Recovery Rate and resulting in low Case Fatality Rate.

    Early detection and timely effective clinical management of COVID-19 cases have resulted in increasing daily recoveries. During the last 24 hours, a total of 15,515 COVID-19 patients have been cured, taking the cumulative figure of recovered cases among COVID-19 patients to 4,39,947 as of today.

    Coordinated efforts at all levels of the national and State governments for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 are showing encouraging results with consistently increasing gap between Recoveries and Active cases. As on date, there are 1,80,390 recovered cases more than the active COVID-19 cases. The recovery rate among COVID-19 patients has increased to 61.13% today.

    Presently, there are 2,59,557 active cases and all are under medical supervision.

    Enhanced focus on “Test, Trace, Treat”, further augmented with various measures has facilitated widespread COVID-19 testing by States/UTs. This has resulted in more than 2 lakh tests being conducted per day.  During the last 24 hours 2,41,430 samples have been tested. With this hike, the nationwide samples tested for COVID-19 stands at 1,02,11,092 as of now.

    The testing lab network continues to expand with more number of labs being added in various States/lUTs. With 793 labs in the government sector and 322 private labs, there are as many as 1115 labs in the country.

    These are:

    • Real-Time RT PCR based testing labs: 598 (Govt: 372 + Private: 226)

    • TrueNat based testing labs: 423 (Govt: 388 + Private: 35)

    • CBNAAT based testing labs: 94 (Govt: 33 + Private: 61)

  • The ASC Centre & College is a premier training institution of ASC and one of the largest support training wings of the Indian Army. It has in its folds two training centres, a college and two Records offices.

    Lieutenant General Basant Kumar Repswal, VSM is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, where he was awarded the President’s Gold Medal before being commissioned into the ASC on 15 December 1984 from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. An excellent sportsmen, he has excelled in all military courses, including in courses conducted for senior cadre officers at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, at the College of Defence Management in Secunderabad, at the National Defence College in New Delhi and another prestigious one in USA, achieving distinction in most.

    During his illustrious career, Lieutenant General Repswal, VSM has tenanted various regimental, instructional and staff appointments. He has commanded an ASC Battalion in intense counter insurgency operations in Northern Command, been the Brigadier ASC in the North East and Major General ASC in Eastern Command. He has also served as the Staff Officer Logistics in the United Nations Interim Force at Lebanon and as Staff Captain of the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan.

    Lieutenant  General  Basant Kumar Repswal was awarded the Vishist Seva Medal in 2016, besides various Commendation

  • The purpose of this MoU to conserve the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Genetic Resources (MAPGRs) at designated space of ICAR-NBPGR in long-term storage module (as per availability) in the National Gene bank and or at Regional Station for medium term storage module and acquire hands-on training on plant germplasm conservation techniques to the working group of NMPB.

    Both NMPB and ICAR-NBPGR are committed to serve the National interests through conservation of germplasm on long-term basis, safely and cost-effectively for present and future generations to ensure the social and economic security.

    The authorized institute NMPB and the ICAR-NBPGR on behalf of the ICAR would develop detailed modalities for seed storage of MAPGRs and submit periodic progress report to their respective organizations.

    Medicinal Plants are regarded as rich resources of traditional medicines and are being used for thousands of years in the health care system. India has rich diversity of medicinal Plants (MPs) resources. The natural resources are gradually getting depleted due to various developmental activities in its habitat.

    There is a need to conserve these natural resources and make sustainable utilization of them. The conservation of plant genetic resources is an integral part of biodiversity conservation.

    The purpose of conservation is to make sustainable development by protecting and using natural resources in ways that do not diminish the variety of genes and species or destroy important habitats and ecosystems.

  • The U.N. chief said it’s too early to fully assess the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on terrorism, but all these groups seek to exploit divisions, local conflicts, failures in governing, and other grievances to advance their aims.

    Guterres told the launch of United Nations Counter-Terrorism Week that the Islamic State group, which once controlled a vast swath of Syria and Iraq, is trying to reassert itself in both countries, “while thousands of foreign terrorist fighters battle in the region."

    “The pandemic has also highlighted vulnerabilities to new and emerging forms of terrorism, such as misuse of digital technology, cyber attacks and bio-terrorism," he said.

    Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, told the virtual meeting that a global understanding of the pandemic’s implications on counter-terrorism efforts across the world is needed.

    “It is true that, in some places, the crisis has led to a reduction of terrorist activity, mainly due to the mobilization of state security services," he said. “But in other regions, terrorism and human suffering caused by it continue unabated."

    Former American diplomat Richard Haas, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believes COVID-19 “will add to the challenges of counter-terrorism."

    “It will perhaps create an environment where more countries become weak or fail," he said, and recruitment for terrorist organizations will quite possibly go up.

    Tunisia’s U.N. Ambassador Kais Kabtani, who chairs the U.N. Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee, said its recent report on COVID-19 described how the pandemic may have temporarily limited operations of terrorist groups because of lockdowns and travel restrictions — but also how groups including the Islamic State are exploiting increased social isolation and online use “to spread their propaganda through virtual platforms. "With global attention focused on tackling the pandemic, Kabtani said, terrorist groups are also seeking to capitalize “by undermining state authority and launching new attacks."

    The report by the committee’s executive directorate said the global population, including over 1 billion students, is spending more time on the internet as a result of COVID-19.

    “The increase in the number of young people engaging in unsupervised Internet usage – particularly on gaming platforms – offers terrorist groups an opportunity to expose a greater number of people to their ideas, although the relationship between online activity and radicalization to violence is not fully understood," the experts' report said. “The reported rise in cyber crime could also lead to increased connectivity between terrorist and criminal actors."

    The U.N. experts said a wide variety of terrorist groups have already integrated COVID-19 into their propaganda “to exploit divisions and weaknesses among their enemies" including by intensifying hatred for certain groups, “resulting in racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant hate speech."

    “These narratives have been fused with an array of new or existing conspiracy theories, particularly by the extreme right, including through the linkage of 5G technology to the spread of the virus," the experts said.

    On the negative side, they said the pandemic in addition to limiting the movement of terrorists may disrupt their supply chains making it difficult for them to get food, medicine, money and weapons.

    With the overwhelming global focus on COVID-19, the experts said terrorists may seek “even more `attention grabbing’ targets or techniques — as with the May 2020 attack on a maternity hospital in Afghanistan."

  • Disclosing this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in a Press Release on Monday said that these Bangladeshi nationals were lured by human traffickers to Vietnam.

    After it came to the notice of the Bangladesh embassy in Hanoi, it arranged for a repatriation flight for them on July 2. While eleven illegal immigrants took the flight back to Dhaka from Hanoi, 27 of them refused to return asking the government to pay the fare.

    These people went live on social-media making derogatory comments against Bangladesh. They are now threatening in the social media that if their demands are not met they will similarly occupy all Bangladesh embassies abroad.

    The statement said that the Bangladesh government does not have a provision to pay for the airfare of returning illegal workers.

    According to the release, a certain quarter is trying to tarnish Bangladesh’s recent success in controlling human trafficking by threatening to attack Bangladesh missions abroad involving illegal Bangladeshi migrants.

    In the recently released US State Department report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP), Bangladesh has been upgraded to tier-2 for its efforts to check illegal migration from the country.

    Speaking about the incident, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told the official news agency BSS that a new organisation named ‘Prabashi Odhikar Parishad’ is involved in patronising these illegal migrants. He said that those people who illegally go abroad should also be sent behind bars along with the traffickers as both are responsible for tarnishing the image of Bangladesh abroad.

     

     

    Rajesh Jha/  Dhaka

  • Spot gold was almost unchanged at $1,784.06 per ounce by 0453 GMT, just $4.90 shy of a near eight-year high hit last week. U.S. gold futures edged 0.1% higher to $1,794.30.

    “The proliferation of new COVID-19 cases globally has added to lingering nerves, with investors preferring to hedge that risk via gold, even as they load up on equities again,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA.

    Meanwhile, growing expectations of an economic rebound in China and better-than-expected U.S. services sector data lifted investor sentiment towards riskier assets.

    Indicative of sentiment, speculators increased their bullish positions in COMEX gold and silver contracts in the week to June 30. Elsewhere, palladium dropped 1.1% to $1,918.87 per ounce, while platinum gained 0.7% to $818.66.

    Silver eased 0.1% to $18.18.

  • The minimum temperature recorded was 27 degree Celsius and the maximum is expected to be 33 degrees.

    Mumbai will have a generally cloudy sky with heavy rain. Minimum temperature  recorded was 25 degree Celsius and maximum will be 29 degrees.

    In Chennai, the minimum temperature recorded  was  28 degree Celsius and the maximum will be   34 degrees. It will have a generally cloudy sky with light rain.

    In Kolkata, the minimum temperature  recorded  was   27 degree Celsius and the maximum will be 33 degrees. It will have a generally cloudy sky with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers.

    Chandigarh will see a generally cloudy sky with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers. The minimum temperature recorded in the city was  26 degrees Celsius and the maximum will be 33 degrees.

    Dehradun will have a generally cloudy sky with a few spells of rain or thundershowers. The Minimum temperature  recorded was 25  degree Celsius and the maximum is expected at 33 degrees.
           
    In Hyderabad, rain or thundershowers would occur towards evening or night. The minimum temperature was recorded at 22 degree Celsius while the maximum will be around 28 degrees.
           
    Bengaluru experienced a minimum temperature of 20 degree Celsius while maximum will be 28 degrees. The city will have a generally cloudy sky with light rain or drizzle.
           
    Ahmedabad will have a generally cloudy sky with light rain. Minimum temperature in the city was recorded at 25 degree Celsius while the maximum will be around 36 degrees.
           
    In Bhopal rain or thundershowers would occur towards afternoon or evening. The minimum temperature was recorded at  23 degree Celsius while the maximum is expected to be 31 degrees.
           
    Patna will have a generally cloudy sky with light rain.  Minimum temperature was recorded at 27 degree Celsius while the maximum will be around 33 degrees.
           
    Guwahati is likely to witness a generally cloudy sky with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers. The minimum temperature in the city was recorded at 26 degree Celsius while the maximum will be around 33 degrees.

    In the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the minimum temperature was recorded at 26 degree Celsius in Jammu while the maximum will be around 36 degrees. The sky will be partly cloudy with the possibility of rain or thunderstorm or duststorm.

    In Srinagar, the minimum temperature was recorded at 17 degree Celsius while the maximum will be around 34 degrees. The city will have mainly clear sky becoming partly cloudy towards afternoon or evening.
           
    In Gilgit, the sky will be mainly clear becoming partly cloudy towards afternoon or evening. The minimum temperature was recorded at 16 degree Celsius while the maximum will be around 33 degrees.
             
    The sky in Muzaffarabad will be mainly clear becoming partly cloudy towards afternoon or evening. The city witnessed a minimum temperature of 22 degrees Celsius while the maximum temperature will be around 39 degrees.

  • “I don’t want to get out in front of the President (Donald Trump), but it’s something we’re looking at,” Pompeo said in an interview.

    U.S. lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

    The app, which is not available in China, has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience and has emphasized its independence from China.

    Pompeo’s remarks also come amid increasing U.S.-China tensions over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s actions in Hong Kong and a nearly two-year trade war.

    TikTok, a short-form video app owned by China-based ByteDance, was recently banned in India along with 58 other Chinese apps.

    Media reports suggest that TikTok would exit the Hong Kong market within days, deciding to do so after China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.

  • Active Cases - 2,59,557

    Cured/Discharged- 4,39,947

    Deaths - 20,160

    Migrated - 1 

  • In a comment piece that takes direct aim at the World Health Organization for its reluctance to update its advice, researchers recommended new measures including increasing indoor ventilation, installing high-grade air filters and UV lamps, and preventing overcrowding in buildings and transport.

    "There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (microdroplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale)," wrote the authors, led by Lidia Morawska of the Queensland University of Technology.

    "Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people."

    The new paper appears in the Oxford Academic journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

    When an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they expel droplets of various sizes.

    Those above five to ten micrometers -- which is less than the width of a typical human head hair -- fall to the ground in seconds and within a meter or two.

    Droplets under this size can become suspended in the air in what is called an "aerosol," remaining aloft for several hours and traveling up to tens of meters.

    There has been a debate in the scientific community about how infectious microdroplets are in the context of COVID-19.

    For the time being the WHO advises that the potential for infection from an aerosol occurs "in specific circumstances" mainly in hospitals, for example when a tube is placed down a patient's airway.

    On the other hand, some studies of particular spreading events suggest that aerosolization and microdroplet transmission can happen in a variety of settings.

    The air flow from an air conditioning unit appeared to waft the coronavirus to several tables in a Chinese restaurant in January where patrons became infected, according to a study that appeared in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    Another study that appeared in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the virus was spread by microdroplets from people singing during a choir practice in Washington state in March.

    Fifty-three people fell ill at that event and two died.

    That is in addition to the fact that bars jam-packed with people have also emerged as hotspots of contagion, with droplets of all sizes believed to contribute to the spread.

    Cath Noakes, a professor of environmental engineering for buildings at the University of Leeds, who contributed to the paper, said COVID-19 doesn't spread in the air as easily as measles or tuberculosis, but is a threat nonetheless.

    "COVID-19 is more likely to be 'opportunistically' airborne and therefore poses a risk to people who are in the same room for long periods of time," she added.

    The WHO advice is out of step with both the US CDC and its European counterpart.

    "We are aware of the article and are reviewing its contents with our technical experts," the WHO said in response to the new commentary.

    The authors recognized that the evidence for microdroplet transmission was "admittedly incomplete," but argued that the evidence for large droplets and surface transmission was also incomplete yet still formed the basis for health guidelines.

    "Following the precautionary principle, we must address every potentially important pathway to slow the spread of COVID-19," they wrote.

    Put another way, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," said Julian Tang, an associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester who contributed to the commentary.

    "The WHO say that there is insufficient evidence to prove aerosol/airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is happening. We are arguing that there is insufficient proof that aerosol/airborne transmission does not occur," he said.

  • At the start of a week of virtual International AIDS Conferences, the UN said the world was already way off course in its plan to end the public health threat even before COVID-19. Although AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 60 percent since the peak of the HIV epidemic in 2004, in 2019 around 690,000 still died from the illness.

    Around 1.7 million people were infected last year, and there are now close to 40 million people living with HIV worldwide.

    The UN's annual report said that the 2020 target of reducing AIDS-related deaths to fewer than 500,000, and new HIV infections to under 500,000 will now be missed.

    Millions of people had died in recent decades despite the existence of effective treatments, it said, calling on the world to learn lessons from the AIDS epidemic in its COVID-19 response.

    "Like the HIV epidemic before it, the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing our world's fragilities -- including persistent economic and social inequalities and woefully inadequate investments in public health," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

    Key populations at high-risk of HIV/AIDS are being put in further danger as lockdowns and distribution of medicines leaves them "even more vulnerable than usual", the report said.

    Research released Monday showed the pandemic was already impacting access to preventative medicine (PrEP) among at communities at risk. At one Boston medical centre, a survey of more than 3,500 patients on the PrEP programme showed that lapses in picking up repeat medication had risen 278 percent in the first four months of 2020.

    Year on year, the overall number of patients receiving PrEP had fallen 18 percent, the research showed.

    World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the findings were "deeply concerning".

    "We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease," he said.

    One model run in conjunction with the WHO showed that if COVID-19 measures disrupted HIV treatment programmes for six months it could leave an additional 500,000 people dead.

    The WHO said it had conducted an additional international survey showing that 73 countries had warned they are at risk of running out of antiretroviral medicines as a result of the pandemic.

    Twenty-four countries reported having either a critically low stock or disruptions in the supply of the life-saving medicines. In addition, initial data from lockdowns around the world show spikes in abuse and domestic violence.

    Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS executive director, said women and girls were especially vulnerable to sexual violence during lockdowns, and therefore at elevated risk of contracting HIV. "We know that women who experience such violence are 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV than women who have not experienced violence," she said.

    "Successful pandemic responses must be rooted in human rights, be evidence-based, community-led and fully funded. We must learn the lesson once and for all."

  • In a letter to the Union Higher Education Secretary, it said that the final Term Examinations are to be compulsorily conducted as per the UGC Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for the Universities and as per the Standard Operating Procedure  approved by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

  • The pause at leading online social network Facebook and its popular messaging service WhatsApp would remain in place "pending further assessment" of the new national security law, and would include "formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

    "We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions," the spokesperson said.

    Twitter and Google said that they too would not comply with information requests by Hong Kong authorities in the immediate future. "Like many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law," Twitter said.

    "Twitter cares and is committed to protecting the people using our service and their freedom of expression."

    China last week imposed the security law on the restive city of around 7.5 million people, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The law stipulates that trials can be held behind closed doors without juries, with offenders subject to a maximum of a life sentence.

    The legislation, which has sent a wave of fear through the territory, has criminalized dissenting opinions such as calls for independence or autonomy.

    "Last Wednesday, when the law took effect, we paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities, and we'll continue to review the details of the new law," a Google spokesperson said.

    Digital rights group ProPrivacy called Facebook's move "a win for both digital privacy and human rights in the region." "With the stakes so high, and the punishments so severe, it is great news to see big tech companies like WhatsApp pushing back in favor of democracy and freedom of expression," the group said.

    However, it noted the move could lead to WhatsApp being blocked in Hong Kong, as it has been in mainland China.

  • The encounter began in the early hours between security forces and terrorists in the area that falls under Pulwama. 

    More details are awaited.

  • The 38-year-old, who has undergone two knee surgeries this year, had already announced he will not play again until next year.

    This week was scheduled to be the second week of Wimbledon, where Federer has won a record eight men's singles titles, but the tournament was cancelled for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    "Personally, it has been very pleasant to stay in the same place for a long time, I hadn't experienced that for more than 25 years," Federer said at the launch of the "Roger Center Court" running shoes created by Swiss brand On. "But of course I miss Wimbledon, of course I would like to be there currently playing on Centre Court for a place in the second week.

    "Clearly, one of my big goals, and that's why I do recovery work every day and work so hard, and why I'm preparing for a 20-week physical preparation block this year, is because I hope to play at Wimbledon next year."

    Federer said the coronavirus lockdown gave him the chance to recuperate following surgery, but said he will have to be "patient" as he waits to return to the court. "Combined with my operations, it was an important moment for me, (to know) if I wanted to continue," he said.

    "It's very easy to say but it's a long way to come back, you have to be patient, it also was a time for reflection. "We were in the mountains, isolated, we didn't see anyone, I didn't see my parents for almost three months, we were very serious and strict."

    The ATP and WTA Tours are set to resume in August despite a raft of professional players having contracted COVID-19.

    Federer could have lost his record of most men's Grand Slam singles titles by the time he returns, with his old rival Rafael Nadal just one behind on the all-time list.

    The US Open will be the first Grand Slam following the restart, getting underway behind closed doors in New York on August 31, before the French Open starts, with fans allowed to attend Roland Garros, on September 24.

    The Swiss star will also be hoping to claim Olympic singles gold for the first time next year at the postponed Tokyo Olympics in Japan, with the final to be played a week before his 40th birthday. Federer is out of the rest of the tennis season through injury.

  • "Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States," US Immigration and Custom Enforcement said in a statement.

    "Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status," ICE said. "If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings."

    ICE said the State Department "will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States."

    F-1 students pursue academic coursework and M-1 students pursue "vocational coursework," according to ICE.

    Universities with a hybrid system of in-person and online classes will have to show that foreign students are taking as many in-person classes as possible, to maintain their status.

    "The cruelty of this White House knows no bounds," tweeted Senator Bernie Sanders. "Foreign students are being threatened with a choice: risk your life going to class-in person or get deported," he said.

    Most US colleges and universities have not yet announced their plans for the fall semester.

    A number of schools are looking at a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction but some, including Harvard University, have said all classes will be conducted online.

    Harvard said 40 percent of undergraduates would be allowed to return to campus -- but their instruction would be conducted remotely.

    There were more than one million international students in the United States for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE).

    That accounted for 5.5 percent of the total US higher education population, the IIE said, and international students contributed $44.7 billion to the US economy in 2018.

    The largest number of international students came from China, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

    According to Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, who works as the policy counsel at the Washington-based think tank American Immigration Council, the new rule is "almost certainly going to be challenged in court."

    He explained on Twitter that foreign students will likely struggle to continue their studies while abroad, due to time differences or a lack of access to technology or academic resources.

    President Donald Trump, who is campaigning for reelection in November, has taken a bullish approach to reopening the country even as virus infections continue to spike in parts of the country, particularly the south and west. With more than 130,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, the United States is the hardest-hit country in the global pandemic.

    In June, he froze until 2021 the issuing of green cards -- which offer permanent US resident status -- and some work visas, particularly those used in the technology sector, with the stated goal of reserving jobs for Americans.

     

  • Saudi Arabia has said it will allow only around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom to participate in this year's hajj, scheduled for the end of July, a far cry from the 2.5 million who attended the five-day pilgrimage last year.

    Foreign residents, aged between 20 and 65 who have no previous health ailments such as diabetes and heart conditions, are allowed to register on https://localhaj.haj.gov.sa., the hajj ministry said. The registration process will be open until Friday, it added.

    Saudi citizens will make up the remaining 30 percent of the pilgrims, with the ritual restricted to medical professionals and security personnel who have recovered from the virus, the ministry said.

    "They will be selected through the database of those who have recovered from the virus," the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

    The pilgrims will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in Mecca and are required to quarantine at home after the ritual, according to health officials.

    Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it would hold a "very limited" hajj, a decision fraught with political and economic peril as it battles a coronavirus surge.

    The decision to exclude pilgrims arriving from outside Saudi Arabia is a first in the kingdom's modern history and has sparked disappointment among Muslims worldwide, although many accepted it was necessary due to the health risks involved.

    Saudi Arabia has so far reported more than 213,000 coronavirus infections -- the highest in the Gulf -- and nearly 2,000 deaths.

  • The move comes as pressure mounts to kickstart the country's ailing economy after nearly four months of coronavirus restrictions that have devastated key industries such as tourism.

    Kenyatta said in a televised address that "international air travel into and out of the territory of Kenya shall resume effective 1 August 2020."

    He also announced that a ban on movement in and out of the capital Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and northeastern Mandera, would be lifted from July 15. However, a curfew from 9pm to 4am will remain in place for another 30 days.

    Kenya has recorded just over 8,000 cases of the virus and 164 deaths -- the highest official figures in East Africa -- and has seen a steep increase in numbers in recent weeks, with a fatality rate of 2.09 percent.

    Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe on Sunday warned "our healthcare facilities risk being overwhelmed". Fewer than 200,000 people have been tested in the population of 47 million people.

    In June, Kenyatta had said that before lifting restrictions, the country would need to have contained infections with numbers headed downwards; the health care system must be prepared to deal with a surge in infections; and the capacity for surveillance and contact tracing must be in place.

    He said Monday that experts looking at those conditions determined "we have not met the irreducible minimum 100%". However, they agreed "we have reached a reasonable level of preparedness across the country to allow us to reopen," he said.

    Kenyatta also warned the reopening was "conditional".

    "Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to the lockdown," he said. Kenyatta also announced that places of worship will be allowed to reopen, but with a maximum of 100 people attending.

    He urged citizens to continue to implement social distancing, and to avoid travel as much as possible, asking them to, "exercise cautious optimism and avoid reckless abandon."

    Like many nations in East Africa, Kenya took swift action to combat the coronavirus, closing its borders on March 25 when it had only 25 cases, shutting schools and imposing a curfew while advising people to work from home. The restrictions were a blow to millions of poor in the city who live hand to mouth.

    "Jobs have been lost, businesses have closed and livelihoods endangered. And this is the sorry state of things the world over," said Kenyatta.

    In recent weeks Nairobi has become busier, with traffic jams returning to the streets of the capital and restaurants re-opening. Masks are obligatory in the country, but Kagwe has warned of increasing laxity which he said could "spell disaster in coming days".

    "We have observed that many of our people are going about their everyday activities as if we are in normal times," he said Sunday, citing overloaded public transport and house parties.