BHUBANESWAR l tuesday l december 22, 2020 l `7.00 l PAGES 12 l JEYPORE EDITION $ U.S. lawmakers reach deal on $900bn stimulus package Top Capitol Hill negotiators have sealed a $900-billion Covid-19 economic relief package for businesses as well as individuals Direct Benefits transfer to americans More stimulus measures on the cards The agreement, announced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction ■ ■ ■ The agreement came after months of battling and posturing Delays in finalising the pact prompted the House to pass a oneday stopgap spending bill to prevent a govt shutdown on Sunday “In 31 days, when Joe Biden enters the White House, more help will be on the way,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi | P9 2nd largest Stimulus package after the $2.3-tn pact announced in March 2020 CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOgGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI India too imposes U.K. flight ban Temporary restrictions from Tuesday midnight till December 31 as new Covid strain found 70% more transmissible than original one E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ New Delhi homeward bound A man carrying firewood returns home with his cattle on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar | Biswanath Swain BJD State Council Naveen asks people’s representatives to make property details public E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Bhubaneswar As the BJD confronts an unwanted shadow of corruption with an influential MLA arrested for being involved in a multicrore job scam, Chief Minister and party supremo Naveen Patnaik on Monday sought to reinforce his ‘zero tolerance to corruption’ principles, asking all people’s representatives to submit their property statements every year. All people’s representatives, sarpanchs, block chairpersons, Zilla Parishad presidents and vice-presidents, MLAs and ministers (including the Chief Minister) will submit property statements every year and they will be put in public domain, Naveen said while addressing the BJD State Council meeting here through videoconference. He stated that the property statements of people’s representatives and government employees will be submitted to the Lokayukta. “Fight against corruption will help us in our fight against all ills in the society May it be ine. quality poverty or injustice - in , fact, all maladies,” the Chief Minister said. Asking party MPs to set an example before the entire country by submitting property statements voluntarily he said, “Odi, sha will show the way to other states in this regard.” Government employees starting from those in the entry level up to the Chief Secretary will also file their statements every year, which will be put in public domain, he said and added, Odisha will be the first state to take such steps against corruption. Stating that Odisha launched a campaign against corruption from the very beginning, Naveen said strong and exemplary action have been taken against the cor rupt. He said, so far 91 officials have been dismissed from service for corruption. Pension of several corrupt officials has been also been stopped. The Chief Minister approved a resolution to provide reservation for students from government schools in State medical and engineering colleges. Referring to another resolution demanding a backward class survey, Naveen said this will be a milestone in ensuring social justice. He also advised that all resolutions adopted at the State Council meeting on women empowerment should be implemented. He said that resolutions which need government intervention for implementation will be sent to the ministers concerned. express read Wife joins TMC, BJP MP threatens to divorce her Kolkata: Sujata Mondal Khan, wife of BJP MP Saumitra Khan, switched over to the Trinamool Congress from the saffron camp on Monday, claiming she did not get her due recognition. Incensed by his wife’s action, Khan said he would be sending a divorce notice to Sujata | P8 India on Monday joined a slew of nations that temporarily barred flights from the UK to firewall themselves from a highly infectious strain of Covid-19 that was recently detected in Britain. The variant, called N501Y, is 70% more transmissible than the original Covid strain, and has already been found elsewhere, including Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia. The suspension of flights comes into effect from Tuesday midnight and will continue till December 31. The decision was taken following recommendations by the Covid-19 joint monitoring group and the Covid-19 national task force whose emergency meetings were held on Monday . As a measure of abundant caution, passengers arriving from the UK in all transit flights (flights that have taken off or those that will reach before the ban comes into effect) will be mandatorily subjected to RT-PCR tests on arrival to detect Covid-19 cases. Those testing positive will be under mandatory institutional quarantine. States have been advised to also monitor those who test negative; they need to remain in isolation for at least seven days at home. Mutated virus footprint First found in Kent in the UK on Sept 20, later in Wales and London. Also in Scotland in Greater Glasgow l 9 cases in Denmark l 1 each in the Netherlands and Italy l 4 in Belgium l 2 in Australia Flight stats Air bubble Arrangement exists between the 2 countries Virgin has four weekly flights each from Delhi and Mumbai, to London 60+ Weekly flights operated by Air India and other airlines, including Vistara, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic between India and the UK. British Airways has six Delhi-London and five Mumbai-London flights each week Vistara has one daily London flight from Delhi Sources in the health ministry said scientists and the ICMR have sounded out to keep a watch for any new strain of Covid in any part of the country even though the pandemic seem to have stabilised in most parts of India over the last several weeks. For his part, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said there is no need to panic yet. After Britain admitted the new strain was “out of control” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a stay- Union minister for Power R K Singh said consumers’ rights had to be laid down in Rules since discoms were acting as monopolies and users had no alternatives. to the UK per week. Also started the DelhiAmritsar-Birmingham sector on December 11 at-home lockdown, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Turkey, Israel and Bulgaria announced flight restrictions to the UK. Johnson is scheduled to travel to India for the annual Republic Day parade on January 26. Aviation regulator DGCA directed all airlines to ensure that passengers travelling from the UK do not board flights from anywhere outside the UK to come to India during the suspension period. P7 Odisha is home to 760 leopards: Survey E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Bhubaneswar The stripes may not be burning bright in Odisha, the rosettes are. Going by the latest report, leopard count in the State has more than doubled in four years. From 318 in 2014, it stands at approximately 760 now. The Status of Leopards in India 2018 released by Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Monday indicates a 100 per cent growth in leopard population in the State, if that is any consolation in view of rampant poaching of the large cats. The survey was done during the all India tiger estimation 2018 to estimate the number of leopards within forested habitats in tiger occupied states and it put the population in 727-793 range. Apart from being highly adaptive in nature, a major reason behind growth of leopard number in the State is that they have a larger prey base compared to tigers. Their reproduction rate is also higher than the tigers. “Leopards can survive on very adverse conditions as they can live even in degraded forests,” said a senior officer. In Odisha, they are concentrated in Rayagada-Kandhamal belt as well as Sambalpur, Sundargarh and parts of Angul. The Similipal and Satkosia tiger reserves are home to a very good number of leopards. As per the survey, leopards are widely distributed in the forest of Central Indian landscape. Odisha is at number four among eight states of Central India and Eastern Ghats that also include Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, in terms of leopard population. The report suggests that India at present has 12,852 leopards as compared to the 2014 census during which the number was around 7,910. Madhya Pradesh with 3,421 leopards tops the table in the entire country . Siddhanta Das, Sandeep Tripathi and Ajay Kumar Mahapatra were the Chief Wildlife Wardens from Odisha who were involved in the tiger and leopard status estimation P7 2017-19. Consumer’s king, discoms to pay for poor service Electricity consumers in India now have the right to uninterrupted quality power supply with , the Centre on Monday notifying the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules. The new guidelines also mandate distribution companies (discoms) to provide new connections within seven days in metro cities, 15 days in small towns, and 30 days in rural areas. Discoms that don’t meet these standards will have to pay consumers. 23 flights MAR K ETS SPOO K ED The S&P 500 Index headed to its worst drop in almost eight weeks, shedding 1.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 1.5%. Indian bourses witnessed bloodbath with Sensex plunging 1,406 points and Nifty going below 13,350 pts Right to electricity E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ New Delhi Air India has The rules stipulate that discoms must supply power on request from the occupier of any premises, and that minimum standards of service is consumers’ right. Also, discoms have to supply power 24x7, except for areas such as agriculture where continuous power is not required. Discoms are also required to put in place systems — preferably automated — for monitoring and restoring outages. According to power ministry officials, since Electricity is a sub- ject on the concurrent list, the new rules will have to be followed by discoms in all states. While the respective regulatory commissions may set standards of compliance, any violation of these standards is to result in the discom paying compensation to the customer. The amount to be paid for each type of standard violation will also be notified by the respective commissions. The compensation mechanism is also required to be automatic. New strain cannot dodge vaccines, claim experts S u m i S u k a n ya D u t ta & C h e ta n a B e l a g e r e @ New Delhi / Bengaluru Just as we thought the end of pandemic was in sight, a new mutation of SARS CoV 2 — detected in the UK — has brought fresh concerns. The discovery has also put a question mark over the Covid vaccines in the works. Will the vaccines be effective against the new strain? However, experts say the vaccines will be effective against the new strain as well. Virologists point out that viruses mutate all the time; while there is no need for panic, there is no room for complacency either. “Though the mutation is said to have caused havoc in the UK, we don’t have to panic,” said Dr T Jacob John, virologist and ex-professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore. “However, we may have to buy a couple of weeks to not let the virus enter and spread fast and burden our healthcare,” he added. Dr Gaurav Sharma, a DSTINSPIRE Faculty Scientist at IBAB, Bengaluru, pointed out that most mutations don’t change the virus biology, whereas some can modify the proteins and therefore their biological function, compared to the earlier mutation. “Coro- navirus, like the flu and measles viruses, is an RNA virus that is prone to mutate much faster. Researchers say this variant has high transmissibility 70% more than other known , strains. In this case, eight mutations are in the spike (S) protein of the virus, and two are worrisome as they can putatively alter the SARS-CoV-2 bi- Mutated 17 times Researchers in Britain have found that this particular strain have mutated 17 times, which is more than the number of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 that they know of ology and its infection patterns,” he said. Dr K Srinath Reddy a senior , member of India’s National Task Force on Covid-19, said the vaccines are tested for efficacy on a wide range of existing variants but “we have to be cautious and vigilant”. FARMERS’ MEETING tODAY TO TAKE A CALL ON TALKS WITH GOVT Protesting farmers claim they are ready for dialogue if the Centre comes up with a concrete solution. According to the farm union leaders, there is nothing new in the letter sent by the govt | P7
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