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India’s Delhi to create plasma bank for treatment of COVID-19 patients



The local government in Indian capital city – Delhi Monday said it will create a plasma bank for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The announcement was made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. He urged people who have recovered from the COVID-19 infection to come forward and donate plasma to help other patients.

“The plasma bank will start operation in the next two days. I appeal to COVID-19 recovered patients to donate their plasma,” Kejriwal in a video address said.

The plasma bank will be set-up at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Science in the city. According to Kejriwal anyone who needs plasma will need a recommendation from a doctor.

Plasma therapy is one of the most discussed methods of treatment for COVID-19 and involves the transfusion of plasma from a convalescent coronavirus patient to a critical patient. The blood of a recovering patient is rich in antibodies produced by the body to fight the virus, which are expected to help the critical patient recover, Kejriwal said.

Clinical trials in plasma therapy started in Delhi in April.

India‘s top health research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) last month said there was no robust evidence to support plasma therapy as coronavirus treatment.

Delhi has the second-highest number of infections in India with 83,077 COVID-19 cases and 2,623 fatalities till date.

India’s federal health ministry said on Monday morning that 380 new deaths due to COVID-19, besides 19,459 more positive cases, were reported across the country, taking the number of deaths to 16,475 and total cases to 548,318.


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Google to invest $10bn in India



Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday said it will invest 10 billion dollars in India over the next five to seven years as the internet giant looks to boost its presence in one of its biggest growth markets.

Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai launched the Google for India Digitization Fund through which it will be making the investments in the country.

“We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments.

“This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” he said at the company’s annual event in India held online.

According to the company, the investments will be focused on enabling affordable access to information, building new products, empowering businesses for their digital transformation and leveraging artificial intelligence in health, education and agriculture.

With the world’s second-largest population, India also has the second-largest digital market and is a focus region for Google.

Several of its products and services including YouTube and Android are popular in the country.

India’s online population is expected to reach 650 million by 2020 with over 450 million Smartphones in active use in the country.

With the new investments, Google was looking at working alongside the Indian government’s “Digital India” initiative, said Pichai, who also held discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Several United States technology majors are eyeing the Indian market.

In April, Facebook announced a 5.7-billion-dollar investment in Reliance Jio Platforms to digitise over 60 million small businesses.

In January, Jeff Bezos said Amazon would invest an additional 1 billion dollars in India, bringing Amazon’s total committed investment in the country to 6.5 billion dollars.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ekemini Ladejobi (NAN)

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Science & Technology

Alphabet’s Google commits $10 billion to India



Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday said it will spend around $10 billion in India over the next five to seven years through equity investments and tie-ups, marking its biggest commitment to a growth market.

“This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, said on a webcast during the annual ‘Google for India’ event.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Indian company allowed to market biologic therapy for Coronavirus patients



India’s Biocon has received approval from the country’s drug regulator to market, Itolizumab injection, to treat cytokine release syndrome (CRS) in moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in COVID-19 patients, a company statement said.

In 2013, Biocon had launched Itolizumab, an anti-CD6 IgG1 monoclonal antibody biologic therapy for treating chronic plaque psoriasis, which it has now repurposed for treating COVID-19 patients.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been observed to induce an overreaction of the immune system, generating a large number of cytokines that can cause severe damage to the lungs and other organs.

The virus can cause, in the worst scenario, multi-organ failure and even death.

The approval of Itolizumab, from the drug regulator is based on the results from the successful conclusion of a randomised, controlled clinical trial at multiple hospitals in Mumbai and New Delhi, the statement said.

India, ranked third after the United States and Brazil for the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, has 283,407 active cases with 22,123 deaths reported so far.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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General news

India asks court to stymie potential challenge to Chinese app ban



India’s government has petitioned a state court to stop any of the Chinese companies whose 59 apps it recently banned from obtaining an injunction to block the order, according to two sources and the legal filing.

India last month outlawed dozens of Chinese apps, including ByteDance’s popular video-sharing app TikTok Alibaba’s (BABA.N) UC Browser and Tencent’s (0700.HK) messaging app WeChat, saying they posed a “threat to sovereignty and integrity”.

Chinese firms have faced hostility since a border clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers, with Delhi intensifying scrutiny of Chinese imports and any funding from China.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the filing said the government had presented a so-called caveat in the High Court of the western state of Rajasthan, suggesting it expects one or more of the companies to challenge the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s ban.

Such caveats are typically filed to prevent a ruling in favour of companies without hearing the government, Indian lawyers said.

The filing, which one of the sources said was presented on Friday, has not previously been reported.

“Let nothing be done till the applicants (government) are heard in the matter,” said the court filing signed by Additional Solicitor General of India Rajdeepak Rastogi.

The order to ban the apps was passed to safeguard “the interests of Indian mobile and Internet users and ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian Cyber Space,” said the filing, which was seen by Reuters.

It was not immediately clear why the government approached the court in Rajasthan and whether there were plans to file similar petitions elsewhere.

India’s IT ministry and the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Indian courts do not comment on cases.

Previously, China has expressed strong concern about the ban, which could hurt expansion plans and cost jobs, and said it may violate World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

None of the Chinese companies has yet mounted a legal challenge, with industry sources saying they were waiting for further clarity from the Indian government.

India’s IT ministry recently asked the companies associated with the 59 apps to answer a detailed questionnaire within three weeks on their business structure and data storage practices, the industry sources told Reuters.

The decision to ban the apps has jolted companies like ByteDance, which counted on India as an important growth market for TikTok and had plans to invest $1 billion in the country.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

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Nepal blocks Indian news channels over alleged misinformation



Nepal’s television service providers have blocked all Indian news channels except the public service broadcaster, Doordarshan television, due to accusations of misinformation.

“Most of the service providers in Kathmandu stopped airing the Indian news channels right after our decision, while some others blocked it today,” Dhruba Sharma, an operator of Max TV, told dpa on Friday.

Sharma said they blocked the Indian outlets in response to “a growing public outrage over the Indian media’s fabricated and highly offensive reports about Nepal.”

“We were receiving hundreds of calls every day from our users,” Sharma added.

In their recent coverage of the ongoing internal dispute in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, several Indian media outlets had described Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli as a Chinese puppet.

Other reports alleged Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, was “honey trapping” the prime minister.

Nepalese leaders from across the political spectrum have condemned the reports, accusing the media of trying to damage Nepal’s relationship with India.

The countries share a 1,880-kilometre-long open border and deep cultural and religious ties.

“The news stories and comments coming from the Indian media against the government and prime minister of Nepal are highly objectionable, thus condemnable.

“Such reports do not care about the basic ethics of journalism,” Bishnu Rimal, Oli’s chief advisor, tweeted on Thursday.

The blocking of news channels further strains Indian-Nepalese relations, after Kathmandu in May, unveiled a new map of Nepal with disputed territories also claimed by India.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)

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S/Korean CEO among 12 held for deadly gas leak in India



Twelve officials of a plastics plant in India, including its South Korean chief executive officer, have been arrested over a gas leak in May that killed 15 people, police said on Wednesday.

Senior police official Anand Reddy said that the officials of the LG Polymers plant have been charged with negligence leading to deaths.

“There are three South Korean nationals among those arrested,’’ Reddy said.

Toxic styrene gas escaped from the LG Polymers factory on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh state on May 7.

No fewer than 500 people from surrounding villages were injured and 15 died after inhaling the noxious fumes.

The plant is owned by South Korea’s LG Chem Limited and produced polystyrene and plastics.

However, there was no immediate response from the company on the arrests. In May LG Chem had said it was carrying out its own investigation into the accident.

The police have informed the South Korean embassy in New Delhi about the arrests.

“While the offence is non-bailable, the arrested men can apply for bail under special provisions,’’ Reddy said.

“If found guilty the men face a maximum punishment of seven to 10 years in jail.”

The leak at the LG Polymers plant took place as it prepared to reopen after over 40-day nationwide lockdown due to the new coronavirus.

Investigations showed the gas leaked from a silo containing the chemical compound called styrene.

Styrene fumes can affect the lungs and nervous system causing breathlessness, nausea, fatigue and dizziness.

Long exposure can result in irregular heartbeats and coma.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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3 docked over alleged possession of Indian hemp in Osun



Three men, Olaoye Kazeem, Abimbola Ajayi and Toheeb Shaibu, were on Tuesday arraigned in an  Ile-Ife Magistrates’ Court in Osun for alleged possession and selling of  20kg Indian hemp.

Kazeem, 28;  Ajayi, 32 and Shaibu, 27, are facing a charge of illegal possession of Indian hemp.

The Prosecutor, Insp Sunday Osanyintuyi, told the court that the defendants committed the offence on July 5 at 4:15p.m. at Atenda, Sabo area of Ile-Ife.

Osanyintuyi said that the defendants were caught  with 20kg of a substance suspected to be Indian hemp.

He said that the defendants were also members of a secret society called Aye Confraternity and often  disturbed the peace of Ile-Ife.

Osanyintuyi said the defendants conducted themselves in a manner that was likely to breach public peace by selling Indian hemp.

The prosecutor said that the offence contravened Sections 3 and 4 of the Indian Hemp Act, Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and 62(A), 63(B) and 249(d) the Criminal Law of Osun , 2002.

The Defence Counsel, Mr Okoh Wonder and Mr M.A. Gilbert, applied for bail of their clients in the most liberal terms.

The Magistrate, Mr A.A. Ayeni, however,  ordered that  the defendants be remanded in Ilesa Correctional Centre.

Ayeni adjourned the case till Aug. 4 for mention.


Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)

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7 dead, 4 injured in India factory fire



At least seven people were killed and four more suffered burns in a fire at a factory in northern India on Sunday, police said.

The blaze reportedly broke out at a plant that makes candles and sparklers in Ghaziabad district, some 60 km from national capital New Delhi.

“The fire gutted the factory. We have retrieved seven bodies from the scene and are identifying the victims,” local police officer Prabhat Kumar said by phone.

Broadcaster NDTV citing witnesses as saying the dead victims were all workers at the unit.

Rescue teams were searching for survivors and any other bodies at the site, police said.

Accidents and fires are fairly common at Indian factories, where safety standards are often disregarded.

Last Wednesday, at least six workers were killed and 17 others suffered burns after an explosion at a thermal power plant in south India.


Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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India’s first COVID-19 vaccine may be launched by Aug. 15



Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is likely to launch the first COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 15 in partnership with Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturing company Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL), a letter said on Friday.

“It is envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by 15th August 2020 after completion of all clinical trials.

“BBIL is working expeditiously to meet the target, however, final outcome will depend on the cooperation of all clinical trial sites involved in this project,’’ a letter by ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava to institutes said.

ICMR has selected a dozen institutes for clinical trials of the indigenous COVID-19 vaccine (BBV152 COVID vaccine).

The institutes have been asked to step up clinical trials as it is a “priority project” and “meet the given timelines without any lapse.”

“The vaccine is derived from a strain of SARS-CoV-2 isolated by ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune.

“ICMR and BBIL are jointly working for the pre-clinical as well as clinical development of this vaccine,’’ the ICMR said in a letter.

The institutes selected for the clinical trial are in Visakhapatnam Rohtak New Delhi Patna Belgaum (Karnataka) Nagpur Gorakhpur Kattankulathur (Tamil Nadu) Hyderabad Arya Nagar Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh)and Goa.

So far, no vaccine has been approved for commercial use against COVID-19.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India has reached 625,544 and the death toll rose to 18,213.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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