MADURAI TUESDAY DECEMBER 22, 2020 `7.00 PAGES 12 LATE 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 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 EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi EARLY CELEBRATIONS Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam distributing Pongal gift kits on Monday | P JAWAHAR POLL READY AIADMK GENERAL COUNCIL MEET ON JAN 9 be held on that day. The meet@ Chennai ing will be crucial as it’s expected to accord powers to PalanTHE AIADMK top-brass will iswami and Panneerselvam to kickstart its election campaign take any decision on alliance in Chennai with a massive pub- related issues. lic meeting at the The GC meeting YMCA Grounds in Meeting will would also ratify the Royapettah on Decem- help decide appointment of the 11ber 27, Sunday. Both on alliances member steering comEdappadi K Palanmittee and the seleciswami and O Pan- The meeting will tion of Palaniswami neerselvam will ad- be crucial as it’s as the Chief Ministeexpected to dress the public at the rial candidate for the gathering, as they pre- accord powers to 2021 elections. pare to capture the CM Palaniswami In a joint statement, and State Assembly for a the leaders appealed to t h i r d c o n s e c u t ive Panneerselvam the party cadre to folto take any term, and for the first low all Covid prevendecision on the time in the absence of tion norms while takformer Chief Minister alliance related ing part in the meeting, issues J Jayalalithaa. including wearing The leadership has masks and by followalso decided to hold the annual ing social-distancing. The pargeneral council meeting of the ty has also asked those attendparty on January 9 at Vanaga- ing the general council meeting ram, in the outskirts of Chen- to bring medical test results nai. The executive committee s h ow i n g t h e y a re C ov i d meeting of the party too, would negative. , EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE Conduct Assembly polls by April: AIADMK to EC E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ Chennai CONDUCT the Assembly elections in the third or fourth week of April, the ruling AIADMK appealed to the Election Commission on Monday This, . the party said, would spare the voters from the peak summer sun of May Both the . Dravidian majors urged the poll panel to ensure single-phase polling in the State. Usually, polling happens in the first or second week of May in the State and hence, the request from the ruling party to advance the process assumes significance. A high-level team of the Election Commission, headed by Umesh Sinha, Secretary met with rep, resentatives of various parties and discussed arrangements. AIADMK leader Pollachi V Jayaraman, who met the team, said, “The number of polling booths should be increased considering the Covid threat. The booths which have more than 1,000 voters should be bifurcated. The names of voters who have shifted their residences and those who died should be removed from the electoral rolls,” he added. Pointing out the lacunae in the guidelines for allowing postal ballots for voters above 80 years of age, DMK MP RS Bharathi said, if the EC decides to implement this in Tamil Nadu too, fresh guidelines should be issued. 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. EXPRESS READ Police firing case: Actor Rajinikanth summoned Thoothukudi: The one man commission, investigating the Thoothukudi police firing case, has summoned actor Rajinikanth to appear for an inquiry on January 19, 2021. This is the second time the actor has been summoned. Earlier, in February, the actor had sought an exemption stating his arrival would create problem 5 killed as tractor capsizes in Krishnagiri Krishnagiri: Five women were killed and ten more persons were injured, when a tractor carrying pilgrims to Dhabbakuli Lord Basaveswara Temple, capsized near Manjukondapalli on Monday. The deceased were identified as G Gowramma (60), M Mangala (23), D Kempamma (70), V Puttalingamma (65) and Eeramma (65) 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 MUTATED VIRUS FOOTPRINT First found in Kent in the UK on Sept 20, later in Wales and London. Also in Scotland in Greater Glasgow 9 cases in Denmark 1 each in the Netherlands and Italy 4 in Belgium 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. A quiet New Year this time as TN bans celebrations E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ Chennai THE State government has refused to grant permission for New Year celebrations this year as part of Covid preventive measures. A press statement from the government warned against huge gatherings at beaches and roads as part of the New Year revelry “The corona vi. rus, which has been brought under control through continuous efforts, can increase due to such gatherings,” it read. Hence, celebrations have been restricted in restaurants, hotels, clubs, resorts and other such places. A senior police officer said that the violators will be booked under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (Negligent Act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (Malignant Act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the IPC read with Section 3 of Epidemics Diseases Act and Section 51(b) of Disaster Management Act. The officer added that vigilant checking has been ordered throughout the city and advised the public to stay indoors during December 31 and January 1. The press release from the Government said that eateries and restaurants will function as usual but the celebrations will be restricted. On Monday, the State recorded 1,071 fresh Covid cases and 12 deaths taking the tally to 8,07,962 and toll to 11,995. 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 MARKETS SPOOKED 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 S E 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 has 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
Express Network Private Limited publishes thirty three E-paper editions of The New Indian Express newspaper , thirty two E-paper editions of Dinamani, one E-paper edition of The Morning Standard, one E-paper edition of Malayalam Vaarika magazine and one E-paper edition of the Indulge - The Morning Standard, Kolkatta.