CHENNAI TUESDAY JANUARY 05, 2021 `7.00 PAGES 18 LATE CITY EDITION ALIBABA FOUNDER JACK MA MISSING FOR TWO MONTHS The billionaire has been under the Chinese government’s scrutiny since the suspension of his Ant Group’s $37-bn IPO SKIPPED FINAL EPISODE OF HIS OWN SHOW CHINESE AUTHORITIES AFTER MA’S EMPIRE Curiously, the abrupt suspension of the IPO came a month after Jack Ma publicly criticised Chinese regulators for “lagging the times”. While Ma has not been seen in public for the past two months, reports say he did not even show up for the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes, and an Alibaba executive had taken his place ■ ■ Ant Group IPO, which was to be simultaneously listed on Shanghai and Hong Kong bourses on November 5, 2020 and was touted as the world’s biggest — was halted 48 hours before going public China’s regulatory authorities are probing Alibaba, which has been asked to rejig its lending and other consumer finance operations $11 bn LOSS SUFFERED BY MA IN PAST THREE MONTHS, ACCORDING TO BLOOMBERG 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 Different Oxford jab dosing for tests and actual rollout in India S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA @ New Delhi Ministers and farmers union leaders pay tribute to farmers who died during the protests, at the beginning of their 7th round of talks in New Delhi on Monday | PTI Talks fail again on repeal pitch, next meet on Fri Both sides refuse to yield, unions say they are unifocal on withdrawal of three laws EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi/Chandigarh THE seventh round of talks between the Centre and farmers ended in a stalemate on Monday as both sides stuck to their positions on the issue of repeal of the three contentious farm laws. While the two sides agreed to meet again on Friday, the farmers said they would hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss ways to intensify their protest. Sources said the talks began with the government categorically stating the laws cannot be repealed but amendments can be made, if needed. The unions rejected this saying their demand of repeal of the farm laws is non-negotiable. The government, then, attempted to hold discussions on the MSP, but the protesters would have none of it as they insisted the government must first address their demand to repeal the objectionable laws. The bitterness continued during the lunch that followed, with the farmers refusing to break bread with the ministers. “You eat your food, we will eat ours,” sources quoted the union leaders as saying. This is in a sharp contrast to the camaraderie displayed on December 30, when agriculture minister Narendra Tomar and commerce minister Piyush Goyal shared the food brought by the farmers. “The government repeated everything and asked us for a point-wise discussion. Our demand is that there can no negotiations on repealing the new laws,” f ar m leader Harmeet Kadiyan said. “The government claimed many farm organizations were supporting the laws while we mentioned that an RTI has revealed the laws were passed without discussion with any farmer organization. We will go ahead with our programmes scheduled between January 6 and 20,” he added. Sources said it was Minister of State for Industries Som Parkash who convinced the farm union leaders to agree to meet again on January 8. After the meeting, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, “The fact that the farmers are talking to us shows that they trust the government. We are hopeful all issues would be resolved after the next meeting.” Harinder Singh Lakhowal of BKU Punjab said the only agenda for the January 8 meeting is the repeal of laws. Hannan Mollah of All India Kisan Sabha said, “The agitation will not be withdrawn until laws are repealed.” A day after the drug regulator greenlighted Covishield, a vaccine against Covid-19 produced by Serum Institute of India that could be the mainstay of the country’s immunisation drive at least initially, it emerged that the approval was for a dosing regimen that has not tested in India so far. In the phase 2 and 3 trial design of the vaccine, originally developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University two doses were , given 28 days or four weeks apart in India. But the regulator accorded permission for the second dose to be administered 4-12 weeks apart in its letter to the company . Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin were granted restricted emergency use (REU) authorisation in India on Sunday. “The second dose should be administered between 4 to 6 weeks after the first dose,” the Drug Controller General of India’s letter said. “However there is data available for administration of the second dose up to 12 weeks after the first dose from the overseas studies,” the letter added. Experts pointed out that by allowing duration flexibility of up to 12 weeks, the regulator just followed the UK permission model to AstraZeneca’s vaccine. “Clearly, a lot of rules have been relaxed in granting the REU to the vaccine and this may also be one of them,” said an ICMR scientist who did not WHY REGULATORY NOD TO VACCINES IS UNDER PUBLIC SCRUTINY COVISHIELD Serum Institute of India submitted immunogenicity data of only about 185 people from phase 2 trial wish to be named. “Normally, vaccines or drugs are approved under the same dosing schedule under which they have been tested in the country .” In the UK, the regulators decided to give the Oxford vaccine to people as one shot, followed by another up to 12 weeks later to extend protection to as many people as possible. But experts questioned the decision since there isn’t sufficient evidence to extend the time between injections to 12 weeks. In India, SII presented to the regulator only the immunogenicity data from 185 of the proposed 400 volunteers as part of its phase 2 trial and no efficacy data from phase 3 trial, as per publicly available information. No efficacy data from the vaccine’s phase 3 trial in India Dosing schedule with 4-12 week gap permitted but the vaccine has been tested at a gap of only four weeks in India so far COVAXIN Current enrolment for phase 3 trial is around 22,000 but no phase 3 efficacy data available or submitted The regulator said that the rollout of the vaccine will be in ‘clinical trial mode’ but there is no explanation yet on what it means A claim is being propagated that the Whole-Virion inactivated vaccine will be effective against mutations but this is not being supported by any evidence Fierce fightback by Bharat Biotech, says it doesn’t deserve the backlash EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi BHARAT Biotech’s head Krishna Ella, whose Covaxin has been approved for restricted use as a Covid-19 jab, hit out at critics on Monday, including competitor Serum Institute of India’s (SII) chief Adar Poonawalla, saying his firm did not deserve the backlash. Poonawalla on Sunday had said that vaccines by only Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca had proven efficacy while all other vac, cines including Covaxin, were “safe, just like water”. Addressing a virtual press conference, Ella said his company had carried out “200 per cent honest clinical trials”, had an established track record of producing 16 safe and efficacious vaccines, and was transparent with all data. As for Poonawalla’s barb, he said, “Covaxin has shown less than 10% adverse reactions, while others have 60-70% adverse reactions. AstraZeneca was giving 4g paracetamol to volunteers to suppress such reactions. We haven’t given paracetamol to any volunteer,” ANI quoted him as saying. I don’t know what is back up, there is no back up. People should be responsible in giving statements like these — Krishna Ella critiquing AIIMS, Delhi boss Randeep Guleria’s remark Amid concerns regarding Covaxin’s efficacy, Ella said it is safe and the company is conducting trials in more than 12 countries apart from India. Taking a nationalistic pitch, he said, “I don’t know why Indian companies are targeted by everyone in the world.” Tearing apart Poonawalla’s claim that his risk in stockpiling 500 million doses of Covishield had paid off, Ella said it was his company that had actually taken the biggest risk. WIKILEAKS UK judge blocks extradition of ‘suicidal’ Julian Assange to US EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE RIDING THE CAMPAIGN WAVE CM Palaniswami and deputy CM Panneerselvam being greeted by supporters at Karungulam, while they were on their way from Thoothukudi to Cheranmahadevi on Monday Ahead of Pongal releases, TN permits 100% seating occupancy in theatres Consultation again on reopening schools Cricket bodies closely monitor hotel clusters Chennai: The Tamil Nadu School Education Department has once again decided to seek stakeholders’ feedback by January 8 to decide if schools can be reopened for students in Classes 10 and 12 after Pongal holidays | P2 Chennai: The BCCI and TN Cricket Association are closely monitoring developments at Hotel Leela Palace that has become a Covid cluster. Three teams playing the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s are currently stationed there | P3 O M JASV I N M D, B H U VA N ES H C H A N D A R @ Chennai NEARLY 10 months after the sombre mood set in, thanks to the pandemic and the lockdown that followed, theatres in the State have now been opened in full capacity for the general public. The relaxation, announced on Monday, comes after requests were made by the TN Theatre Owners’ Associa- tion to the State government, with later reports suggesting that actor Vijay had met with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, regarding the same. It may be noted that Vijay’s upcoming film, Master, is slated for a theatrical release on January 13, along with the Silambarasan-starrer, Eeswaran. The official order by the gov- ‘OBSCENE & EMBARRASSING’ Crowd awaiting Stalin treated to ‘record dances’ E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ Tiruchy THE stage was set, and hundreds of DMK cadre had assembled in Pettavaithalai on the Tiruchy-Karur border on Sunday evening to hear their leader, MK Stalin, speak. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 5 pm, but Stalin had not arrived. Finally, after four hours, they barely caught a glimpse of the DMK chief, before he left without as much as a wave or ‘vanakkam’. Instead, before Stalin’s vehi- cle came and left the venue, the assembled cadres were treated to live “record-dance” performances for about four hours. While a few youngsters were seen dancing along, most functionaries were taken aback by the “obscenity” of it. “The dance numbers were embarrassing,” said a group of women who came from the Perugamani village. “We had even brought a few young women along to listen to “We were not paid any money either by the Gates Foundation or the government but we still thought it was our moral responsibility to work on a Covid-19 vaccine and produced 20 million doses under risk manufacturing,” he said. SII has entered into a partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to deliver up to 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for India and other low- and middle-income countries. our leader’s speech. They should have arranged some cultural programmes that go with the party ideology. There are many good speakers in the DMK, they could have had a pattimandram (debate).” Most women functionaries, who had been waiting since 5 pm, left as soon as the dance numbers started. Turning up at the spot at 9 pm, en route to Thiruvarur after attending a ‘makkal grama sabha’ in Karur, Stalin accepted shawls from functionaries, while being seated inside his vehicle. Not only did he not address the gathering despite repeated requests, he did not even wave at the crowd. Ironically only the previous , day in Coimbatore, Stalin had made a sarcastic mention about ‘record dances’ at AIADMK’s events, without an inkling that the very next day his own party functionaries would organize a four-hour performP4 ance to welcome him. ernment stated, “In order to create awareness among the spectators, precautionary measures for Covid shall be screened during the showtime.” Additionally the order demanded , for a strict enforcement of standard protocols, such as usage of face masks and sanitisers. While several people in the film fraternity have welcomed the move, it has also drawn flak from public health experts, who opined that it might lead to a surge in Covid cases. Producer G Dhananjayan said: “We have been working towards this for a long time now; the industry should thank Vijay for being the catalyst. When political rallies are allowed with thousands in attendance, what’s wrong in opening a theatre, that can host P2 only a fraction of that?” EXPRESS READ Group C, D employees to receive Pongal bonus H5N1 in 4 states, Kerala to cull 40,000 birds Chennai: The State government on Monday announced Pongal bonus for regular and temporary employees of Group C and D categories. Orders were issued to grant ad hoc bonus, equivalent to 30 days of salary and subject to a ceiling of `3,000 | P4 Kochi: The Kerala government said it will cull 40,000 domestic birds after an outbreak of bird flu was reported from Kottayam and Alappuzha districts. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have also reported cases of bird flu I-T dept conducts searches at Zee Group offices Mumbai: Income tax officials on Monday conducted a search and survey at the offices of media firm Zee Group for alleged tax evasion. Confirming the development, a company spokesperson stated, “Officials from the tax department have visited our offices, with certain queries. Our officials are providing all the required information”. A British court on Monday junked the US’ plea to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, citing the risk of suicide if the 49-year-old Australian is sent to US custody where he could face up to , 175 years in jail for publishing classified military information and diplomatic cables. “I have decided that extradition would be oppressive and I order his discharge,” District Judge Vanessa Baraitser at the Old Bailey court in London said in her ruling. Assange was diagnosed in December 2019 with recurrent depressive disorder, which was sometimes accompanied by hallucinations and thoughts of suicide, the judge said. Since he was arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in April 2019, Assange has been held in London’s HMP Belmarsh prison. He was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail back in 2012. Although he served the whole sentence, he was not released as the extradition case was going on. The US has said it would appeal judge Baraitser’s ruling. This means Assange is not likely to be freed from prison right away . Assange’s lawyers argued he was acting as a journalist. The US claims Assange conspired with an army analyst to access a classified military computer. Assange has denied this charge and claimed there is no evidence to show anyone’s safety was put at risk.
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