kottayam l tuesday l december 22, 2020 l `7.00 l PAGES 12 l city 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 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 ■ 2nd largest More stimulus measures on the cards ■ ■ 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 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 Bars in Kerala to serve liquor from today following Covid norms E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ T’Puram LIQUOR OUTLETS 265 outlets under Bevco 36 outlets under Consumerfed 576 bar hotels 291 beer & wine parlours THE dine-in service at the bars in Kerala will be resumed on Tuesday. The state chief secretary issued the order on Monday after the Excise Department submitted a proposal to the state government. As per the order, bars, clubs, beerwine parlours, airport launch bars and toddy shops in the state will resume dine-in service from Tuesday strictly in compliance with Covid-19 protocol. The bars were closed nine months ago following a spike in Covid cases. Reducing the number of chairs and maintaining social distancing inside the bars were two of the key suggestions in the proposal. A detailed advisory regarding the norms to be followed will be issued soon. The government has also decided to allow normal functioning of outlets managed by Kerala State Beverages Corporation/Consumerfed from 10am to 9pm. The retail sale of liquor in bars will be stopped. The proposal also contains suggestions to limit the use of BevQ app, introduced by Bevco to manage virtual queue system in the time of the pandemic. Permission is also accorded to allow functioning of toddy shops in the state as per the provisions contained in the Kerala Abkari Shops Disposal Rules and strictly in compliance with the safety precautions as per Covid-19 regulations — Government order 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 Mutated virus footprint @ New Delhi 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. 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 60+ Air bubble Arrangement exists between the 2 countries Virgin has four weekly flights each from Delhi and Mumbai, to London 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- 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”. Mahesan death: Court asks police to arraign Vellappally, son & aide 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 E XPR E SS N E WS S E RVIC E @ Alappuzha Actor abuse case: Police to go ahead Kochi: Despite the young actor accepting the apology of the two youths who were arrested for allegedly molesting her at a shopping mall in Kochi, the city police will go ahead with case. Adhil, 24, and Ramshad, 25, were on Monday produced before the court on Monday. BIG MOMENT Jayachandran Nair, councillor from Kudappanakunnu division of Thiruvananthapuram Corporation who turned Covid positive, acknowledges the cheers of his supporters after being sworn in on Monday | B P Deepu Local body members sworn in across state The oath-taking ceremony of newly elected representatives of local bodies was held on Monday. District collectors administered oath to the senior most members of district panchayats and corporations. The elected members who tested positive for Covid-19 also took oath. 20 Congress workers join BJP in Cheranalloor. Claiming that he is a victim of faction feud in the Congress, Cheranalloor mandalam secretary Alfred T J joined the BJP along with 20 supporters on Monday. BJP Mandalam president P G Manoj Kumar welcomed them to the party. Samastha lambasts Pinarayi for remarks Samastha has lambasted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over his statement on IUML as an attempt to divide people on communal lines. In a scathing editorial in Samastha’s mouthpiece, ‘Suprabhatham’, on Monday, it termed the CM’s statement that “IUML seems to be trying to take control of UDF” as the continuation of CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s ‘Hassan-Kunhalikutty-Ameer’ comment, targeting Muslims communally. P2 The First Class Magistrate court here on Monday ordered the police to arraign SNDP Union general secretary Vellappally Natesan, his son Thushar Vellappally and their aide K L Ashokan in the death of Kanichukulangara SNDP union secretary K K Mahesan. The order was issued while considering a petition filed by Mahesan’s wife P Usha Devi. A close aide of Natesan and the treasurer of SNDP micro-finance project, Mahesan was found dead at the union office on June 24. He had left behind a suicide note which read, “I am sacrificing my life for all union leaders who have been and are being tortured by Vellappally Natesan and my UNDER PRESSURE? Branch committee members of the union had raised allegations of fund embezzlement by organisers of the micro-finance project The branch & union leaders had been exerting pressure on Mahesan regarding repayment of the amount collected from members friend K L Ashokan.” Though the accused were interrogated, the probe team did not find any evidence to incriminate them. “The legal battle will continue till we get justice,” said Usha Devi. C D Anil, counsel of Usha Devi, said the court asked Mararikulam police to register a case and file an FIR against the accused. “The complainant approached the court after the police refrained from registering a case, despite the suicide note clearly mentioning their names,” said the counsel. Mahesan ended his life when a Crime Branch investigation into a micro-finance fraud case in Mavelikkara SNDP union was under way. Crime Branch had summoned Mahesan many a time with regard to the case in May and June. A letter written by Mahesan -- accusing the Crime Branch of deliberately trying to arraign him in the case -- was then circulated in WhatsApp groups of SNDP. He had also called out Natesan in the letter. The legal battle will continue till we get justice — Usha Devi, wife of K K Mahesan Sr Abhaya case: Court to pronounce verdict today E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ T’Puram Right to electricity Consumer is king, discoms to pay for poor service E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ New Delhi 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 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. P4 BJP MP threatens to divorce wife Kochi: Probing the money laundering aspect behind the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is set to temporarily attach key accused Swapna Suresh’s bank lockers from which gold weighing 983 grams and cash worth I1 crore were seized. 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 express read Agency to attach Swapna’s assets Air India has New strain cannot dodge vaccines, claim experts consumers. 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. 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 subject 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. THE CBI special court here will pronounce its muchawaited verdict on the sensational Sister Abhaya case on Tuesday 29 years after she was found dead in the well of , Pius X Convent in Kottayam. The 19-year-old Knanaya Catholic nun, a member of the St Joseph’s Congregation, was a pre-degree student at BCM College in Kottayam when the incident happened. The local police and the Crime Branch had termed the incident as suicide and it took four CBI probes and a series of judicial interventions to cast away their theory The probe headed by then CBI Ko. chi unit DySP Nandakumar Nair concluded that Abhaya’s was a cold-blooded murder committed by two priests and a nun to cover-up their illicit relationship. The CBI finding was that Abhaya had gone to the kitchen of the convent for fetching water and happened to see Fr Thomas Kottoor, Fr Jose Poothrikkayil and Sister Sephy in a compromising position. Fearing for their reputation, Sephy bludgeoned Abhaya with an axe and threw her into ● More on P4 the well with the help of the two priests. rave party in Wagamon: 9 arrested A day after they busted a narcotics-fuelled rave party in a Wagamon resort, the police on Monday arrested nine persons in connection with the incident. The resort, the venue of the party, is owned by local CPI leader Shaji Kuttikad who has now been expelled from the party | P4
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