chennai l wednesday l june 23, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 18 l LATE CITY EDITION Pfizer vax in final stages of getting India approval The US pharmaceutical giant is close to inking an agreement with the Centre, its CEO Albert Bourla disclosed on Tuesday Will contribute significantly to the pool Indemnity cover IS the sticking point “We are in the very, very final stages of finalising this agreement. First, we need to get approval of this vaccine in India to be able to import,” Bourla said. Though Covishield will continue to be the backbone of India’s vaccination drive against Covid-19, “getting the additional mRNA vaccines from us and also from Moderna will contribute significantly,” he said ■ ■ It’s not clear if the government has approved Pfizer’s request for indemnity, which is a cover against lawsuits. Health ministry is in favour of providing it to draw more vaccine manufacturers If Pfizer gets indemnity, the Serum Institute of India may step up the pressure on the government for a similar protection for it, too 7 bn doses Pfizer will manufacture cumulatively by next year-end 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 Delta Plus is India’s next big headache Covaxin efficacy 78% in final phase 3 trial Declared variant of concern; is highly infectious; alert issued in MP, Maharashtra and Kerala; experts warn it could trigger a new wave S u m i S u k a n ya D u t ta @ New Delhi The Centre on Tuesday declared the Delta Plus strain of the coronavirus a variant of concern (VoC) and asked Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh – where 22 such cases were detected – to take immediate measures to curb the virus spread. The suggested steps include preventing crowds and intermingling of people, and widespread testing. Of the 22 cases detected so far, 16 are from two districts of Maharashtra (Ratnagiri and Jalgaon) in clusters and six more isolated cases in two districts each in Kerala (Palakkad and Pathanamthitta) and Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal and Shivpuri). According to experts, spread of the Delta Plus variant, if not arrested forthwith, may lead to another wave in no time. There are also fears that this mutant version of the virus may be resistant to the vaccines available in India, though this is yet to be established. “There is an indication that the Delta Plus variant may be more apt to cause severe Covid-19 and is also looking better designed to evade monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for the infectious disease. These facts definitely are causing a lot of anxiety,” said an expert. According to a health ministry statement, the Delta Plus variant has these characteristics – increased transmissibility stronger binding to recep, tors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response. In its advisory, the Centre asked the three states to send adequate samples of positive persons promptly to the designated laboratories of Covid genomic surveillance network Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Jab-o-meter Take your shot June 21 80,95,314 doses June 22 53,86,951 doses Total doses: 29,40,42,822 Consortia (INSACOG) so that the clinical epidemiological correlations can be made. Among the other crucial measures are prompt tracing and vaccine coverage on a priority basis. INSACOG, a network of 28 laboratories in the country has , attached the Delta Plus variant with increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response, the Union health ministry announced. Apart from India, this variant has been identified in eight other countries – the US, the UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, China and Russia. Scientists working with INSACOG explained that the Delta Plus variant was formed by further mutation in the delta or B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in India, which was largely responsible for the ferocious second Covid wave. On Monday, Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope had said the spread of Delta Plus variant had been detected in 6-7 districts in the state but the Centre on Tuesday associated just two districts in the state with the variant. E x p r e ss N e w s S e r v i c e @ New Delhi Holding back doses for the big bang day? A whopping 88 lakh Covid-19 vaccination doses were administered on Sunday, but a closer look suggests states were perhaps accumulating their doses over last week to arrive at the big number. Take Madhya Pradesh, which topped the list with 17.14 lakh doses. Its figures for Saturday, Friday and Thursday were just 692, 22,006 and 14,862, respectively Full report: P9 NCLT nod for Kalrock-Jalan bid for Jet Air ‘draft ports bill a bid to USURP STATE POWERS’ aRSHAD KHAN @ New Delhi @ Chennai The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has given approval to the Kalrock Capital and Murari Lal Jalan consortium’s bid for Jet Airways, eight months after the lenders had given a go ahead to its resolution plan. According to the resolution plan of Kalrock Capital and UAE-based NRI Murari Lal Jalan, which was approved by the Committee of Creditors in October 2020 by 97% vote share, around `1,100 would be paid in tranches in five years. The resolution professional of J e t A i r w ay s – A s h i s h Chhawchharia – had received claims of `44,000 crore out of which he admitted claims of around `15,400 crore. Resolution Professional Ashish Chhawchharia said he is hopeful of the airline reviving and that if everything goes well, Jet Airways could return to the skies by the end of 2021. continued on: P10 NATIONWIDE june 21 june 22 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths tamil nadu Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths 53,256 78,190 1,422 42,640 81,839 1,167 june 21 june 22 7,427 15,281 189 6,895 13,156 194 EX P RE S S NEW S S ERVICE Taking strong exception to the Union government’s bid to dilute State governments’ control over minor ports, through the Draft Indian Ports Bill, 2021, Chief Minister MK Stalin on Tuesday wrote to his counterparts from eight coastal States and one Union Territory. He urged the Chief Ministers of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, and Puducherry to oppose the Bill unitedly during the Maritime State Development Council’s (MSDC) the meeting, on June 24. Recalling the recent actions, initiated by the Government of India on management of minor ports, hitherto managed and regulated by State governments, Stalin pointed out that the Draft Indian Ports Bill, 2021, aims at modifying the current management model of minor ports. “As per the existing Indian Ports Act, 1908, the powers to plan, develop, regulate and control the minor ports vests with the States concerned. However, the new draft Bill proposes to change this and transfer many of these powers to the MSDC, which has so far, been only an advisory body Further, many . powers currently exercised by States would be taken over by the Union government,” Stalin underscored. Stating that the present system has led to good development of minor ports by the States, the CM added that the move to bring in a new Bill would have long term adverse implications on the management of minor ports as States would not have any major role anymore. “We have taken up the issue with the Union Ministry for Ports and Shipping, strongly opposing such steps to reduce States’ autonomous role in regulation and management of minor ports,” he wrote. Stalin also proposed that his counterparts express objection to this new draft Bill and take joint action to prevent any move to dilute the powers already vested with the States. Earlier in the day, Stalin, while speaking at the State Assembly said that a resolu, tion will also be passed against the three farm laws and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Won’t allow any shale gas projects: Thenarasu Chennai: Minister Thangam Thenarasu on Tuesday told the Assembly that the State won’t give permission for any hydrocarbon, methane and shale gas projects. He said the ONGC’s proposal to seek clearance for digging wells in Ariyalur and Cuddalore districts were rejected by the TN Environment Impact Assessment Authority. ENS We have taken up the issue with the Union Ministry for Ports and Shipping, strongly opposing such steps to reduce States’ autonomous role in regulation and management of minor ports MK Stalin, CM Poll panel told to hold local body elections E x p r e ss N e w s S e r v i c e @ New Delhi The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission (TNSEC) to hold local body polls in the nine newly-formed districts by September 15. A vacation bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Aniruddha Bose ordered the State poll panel to issue a notification in this regard and said the process, including the declaration of results, must be completed by September 15. The top court was hearing an application filed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking an extension period of six months to hold local body elections in Kancheepuram, Cheng a l p a t t u , Ve l l o r e, Tirupattur, Ranipet, Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Tirunelveli, and Tenkasi. It took note of an earlier order, passed on December 6, 2019, and said that instead of four months given to hold the elections, the poll panel has taken a little over 18 months. The bench also noted that the tenure of the local bodies has expired in 2018-19 and since then, there are no new elected representatives. It said that if the order of the court is not complied with, then the poll body will be liable for contempt action. continued on: p4 Taking stock Later, Chief Minister MK Stalin and Ministers KN Nehru and KR Periakaruppan went into a huddle on the directive of the Apex court. However, no decision was announced An expert panel of the country’s drug regulator on Tuesday approved the phase 3 trial data of Bharat Biotech’s vaccine Covaxin, which has shown an efficacy of 77.8% in preventing Covid19 infection. This figure is similar to the 78% efficacy claimed by the company in April based on its second interim analysis of phase 3 data, which had also said that the vaccine developed using inactivated SARS-CoV-2 was 100% effective against severe disease. The company has been facing a barrage of criticism due to its long delay in publishing final data of the late stage trials that concluded on nearly 26,000 individuals in March. Sources in the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation said that the data from the efficacy trials will now be reviewed by the Drug Controller General of India after being approved by the Subject Expert Committee on Covid-19. The data has not yet been published in a peerreviewed medical journal. Bharat Biotech, which has developed the vaccine with support from the National Institute of Virology-ICMR, had said earlier this month that the final analysis of its efficacy trials will be made public only in July . Its April data showing 78% efficacy, which came after studying 127 symptomatic cases, was lower by 3% as compared to the first interim analysis figure it put out in early March, based on 87 symptomatic cases. Covaxin is yet to receive emergency use listing by the WHO due to incomplete data. NCP president Sharad Pawar (3rd from right) and Trinamool leader Yashwant Sinha (3rd from left) with other leaders at Pawar’s residence | Parveen Negi Oppn agrees Cong has to be in national front R i c h a S h a r m a @ New Delhi Representatives of a clutch of Opposition parties attended a meeting hosted at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence here on Tuesday but , the sense was a national front cannot be cobbled together to take on the BJP if the Congress is out of the frame. The meeting, the participants later claimed, was nonpolitical. Among the attendees were leaders from the Trinamool Congress, Left Front, Samajwadi Party RLD, National , Conference and Aam Aadmi Party. The Congress was not represented as some of its invited leaders excused themselves on personal grounds. Called under the banner of the Rashtra Manch floated by fo r m e r U n i o n m i n i s t e r Yashwant Sinha, the meeting discussed a wide array of issues, including the ongoing farmer agitation, spiralling fuel prices, unemployment, Covid situation and the economic slowdown. “The meeting was called by Yashwant Sinha, not Sharad Pawar. This was not a political meet. We called all like-minded people. We also invited Congress leaders. I called Vivek Tanha, Manish Tiwari, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Shatrughan Sinha for the meeting. They couldn’t come. It’s not true that we didn’t invite the Congress,” said NCP leader Majid Memon. The centrality of the Congress to be part of the national front, since it is in direct fight with the BJP in 200 Lok Sabha seats and is in a tough contest in 100 other seats, came up for discussion. Continued on: P10
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