Latest Goa Breaking News & Headlines

Water war: Amit Shah never consulted Goa on Mhadei diversion, say BJP mantris
Times of India | 5 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:45 am
Times of India
5 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:45 am

PANAJI: Two days after Union home minister Amit Shah said water-sharing issue between Karnataka and Goa was “resolved” by his party to allow diversion of water to Karnataka in consultation with the Goa government, two BJP ministers of the Pramod Sawant-led government came down heavily on Shah and said it was “condemnable and unacceptable” and no discussion had taken place on water diversion.“I condemn the Union home minister’s statement tooth and nail. We are not against in-basin use of Mhadei’s water. But we are against the water being taken outside its basin by Karnataka for use. It may be anybody, if they speak of out-of-basin use of water of the Mhadei, I will condemn it,” state environment minister Nilesh Cabral said on Monday.State water resources minister Subhash Shirodkar also said Shah’s statement was “unacceptable” and no discussion had taken place on diverting the Mhadei water to Karnataka when the Goa delegation had met the home minister.The ministers’ remarks come close on the heels of widespread anti-BJP sentiment on the Mhadei issue with gram sabhas across the state accusing the government of saying one thing and doing another. Cabral, who is also the law minister, said if the Centre did not support Goa, the state has plenty of legal options still available. He said that the House panel formed in Goa will be meeting Shah in Delhi shortly and will ask him when such a consultation was made with Goa.Goa has filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop Karnataka from carrying out construction activities based on the detailed project report (DPR) approved by the Centre to divert water from the Mhadei. The petition is likely to come up for hearing on February 13.“The Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal has only given permission to Karnataka to use water for drinking. Now, the statement made (by Shah) is that the water will be used for irrigation. We don’t know what this is,” said Cabral.“I have come here today (Saturday) to tell you that BJP, by finding a solution to the long-pending fight between the two states (Goa and Karnataka), provided the Mhadei water to Karnataka, which will be beneficial to farmers across many districts of Karnataka,” Shah had said at a public rally at Kittur in Belagavi district.Cabral reiterated that chief minister Pramod Sawant had not held any discussion whatsoever with Shah over diverting the Mhadei water in Karnataka’s favour.“I am backing the CM 100% on this. He has not made any such statement (before Shah) and he will not make it. I don’t know how Amit Shah is making this statement,” said Cabral.He said the Goa delegation had earlier gone to meet the home minister in keeping with the legal provision wherein the home minister holds negotiations to resolve any dispute existing between two states.“We don’t have any elections here, so I am condemning his (Shah’s) statement. We have two options. We can resolve it with the support from the central leadership. And if we don’t get support, we have the legal route. We will go to the courts. Ultimately, the judiciary will take all angles into consideration and decide,” said Cabral.“I do not accept the home minister’s statement. When we met him, no such discussion took place. He told us that there are BJP governments in Goa and in Karnataka and that our interests will be taken care of,” said WRD minister Subhash Shirodkar.

Water war: Amit Shah never consulted Goa on Mhadei diversion, say BJP mantris
Study by Goa Medical College doctors finds 12.7% road accidents due to alcohol consumption
Times of India | 6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:06 am
Times of India
6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:06 am

PANAJI: A study on road traffic accidents (RTAs) conducted by two doctors from the Goa Medical College and covering 440 cases found that a large number of drivers—13.04%—drove without a licence and that a sizeable number had consumed alcohol, thus placing themselves and others at risk.As per the study, the use of alcohol within six hours before the accident was noted in 38 (12.7%) of the victims who were in the driver’s seat. It also found that 234 (65.4%) had not used a seat belt or worn a helmet and that 350 (79.5%) suffered grievous injuries as opposed to 90 who sustained simple injuries.‘A Study of Road Traffic Injury Victims at the Tertiary Care Hospital in Goa’ by Dr Abhishek Bicholkar and Dr Jagadish Cacodkar was published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in 2022.The study has attempted to highlight the root causes of RTAs and to study injury patterns in victims. It found that 40 victims (9.1%) reported regular use of alcohol, while 32 reported smoking.As many as 90 (23.6%) victims did not own the vehicle involved in the accident. It either belonged to a friend, relative or employer. A majority, 134 (30.4%) were in the age group of 30-40, whereas more than half were in the 20-55 age bracket, a key wage-earning and child-raising group.As many as 114 (25.9%) were in the 20-30 age group. Also, the majority, 322 (73.2%) of the victims were men and 118 (26.8%) women. More than half the victims were married, and 144 were single. Other victims were either widows, divorcees, or separated from their spouses. The loss of a breadwinner or head of the household in a road accident, an injury, or a disability can be catastrophic to a family and often lead to a lower standard of living, and drives them deeper into poverty, the study noted.Also, 46 victims reported an obstruction on the road, which caused the accident. Most of the hurdles were in the form of animals crossing the road or cattle sitting on the road. Movable dividers lying across the road, a pedestrian, road construction debris, or other objects such as fallen tree branches accounted for some of the accidents. The study concluded there was a need to increase awareness among road users and the community regarding road safety. Government authorities should ensure consistent and strict implementation of traffic rules and accelerate the implementation of road-safety preventive measures, the study stated.

Study by Goa Medical College doctors finds 12.7% road accidents due to alcohol consumption
Corjuem Fort to get amphitheatre after Rs 2.8 crore restoration
Times of India | 6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:00 am
Times of India
6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:00 am

PANAJI: Parts of the centuries-old Corjuem fort in Aldona, which had weakened from growth of vegetation, will be restored by dismantling and rearranging the affected stones. The restoration work, which began in January 2021, is estimated to cost around Rs 2.8 crore.“Currently we are doing other work at the fort such as raking of joints and pointing. The cleaning of vegetation requires a dry climate because when we open the structure and rearrange they must get properly dried. The right temperature must therefore be ensured,” said assistant superintendent archaeologist Varad Sabnis.The department of archaeology is also constructing a pathway around the fort so that visitors can circle around the structure and take in the external views. “There is scope for a circumambulatory path and as a result we have added that feature. The bastion and other features of the fort are better viewed from the outside,” he said.The directorate intends to set up an amphitheatre in the fort which will feature a seating arrangement made from plinths. This space will be used to host cultural festivals and events with the backdrop of the fort.“The basic purpose for which these forts were built are outdated. We can no longer use them to fight wars. We therefore need to bring life to these forts with adaptive reuse of the fort which will not affect its heritage value,” Sabnis said.The Corjuem fort was built in 1550 and was originally the property of the Bhonsle rulers of Sawantwadi. However in the time of Viceroy Caetano de Mello e Castro the fort was annexed part of the Portuguese administration of Goa. The fort was declared as a protected monument under the Goa, Daman and Diu Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1978, 1 of 1979 and its rules 1980.

Corjuem Fort to get amphitheatre after Rs 2.8 crore restoration
50,000 women screened for breast cancer in Goa, 24 test positive
Times of India | 6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:51 am
Times of India
6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:51 am

PANAJI: The state screened 50,019 women for breast cancer till December 2022 of which 24 tested positive for the disease.The target is to screen two lakh women for breast cancer over a period of two years, health minister Vishwajit Rane told reporters on Monday at an event organised to celebrate the completion of 50,000 screenings. The screenings were conducted under ‘Swasth Mahila, Swasth Goa’ an initiative of Yuvraj Singh’s YouWeCan Foundation, supported by the Goa government, the SBI Foundation and UE Lifesciences.The purpose of the exercise, said Rane, is to facilitate early detection so that treatment can be started as early as possible.In Goa, among all cancers, the incidence of breast cancer is high among the above-30 female population. “Around 40% of patients are diagnosed in advanced stages due to lack of screening,” said director of health services Dr Geeta Kakodkar.The Goa Medical College’s (GMC) department of surgery treats an average of 25 breast cancer cases a month. “There is also a steep rise in gastrointestinal cancers, and the GMC has developed a special endoscopy unit. Also, a complex ‘whipples’ procedure is performed on patients suffering from pancreatic cancer,” said GMC dean, Dr S M Bandekar. Every month, on average, around 130 cases of solid organ tumors are operated on and 186 cancer patients are treated at the GMC.Bandekar said that preparations to start a surgical oncology unit have been completed.Stating that Goa is the only state in the country that provides free cancer treatment, Rane said, “Recently, a young boy from Sattari underwent 25 sessions of chemotherapy at the GMC. Had the facility not been available at GMC, the treatment would have cost him around Rs 9 lakh.” Kakodkar said that a rise in cancer has also been seen due to tobacco consumption. Tobacco cessation centres at the North and South district hospitals provide counselling and pharmacotherapy. Awareness programmes are also conducted, said Kakodkar.

50,000 women screened for breast cancer in Goa, 24 test positive
Goa: Citizens allege river diversion and coal handling linked, protest at MPA
Times of India | 6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:44 am
Times of India
6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:44 am

VASCO/MARGAO: Citizens protested outside the Mormugao Port Authority (MPA) on Monday demanding that the MPA stop coal operations and immediately shift to green cargo and cruise tourism. They said that a large number of steel and power plants, which are water-guzzling industries, have been proposed near the Malaprabha river basin, and that coal handling in Goa and the diversion of the Mhadei are linked.The protesters said that the Mhadei is being diverted only to benefit these steel plants and not for the farmers or drinking water purposes for locals, as is being falsely portrayed. The coal used by these steel plants is being transported from MPA to Karnataka via the rail network, they alleged.“If coal handling is stopped in Goa, the water consumed by steel plants, which is much more than the diversion proposed, will be available for farmers in Karnataka. If coal handling is allowed in Goa, the diversion of the Mhadei at Kalsa and Bandura and, subsequently, the diversion of other rivers flowing across state borders is inevitable,” the protesters stated in a memorandum to the MPA chairperson. A large number of citizens held a peaceful rally under the banner of United Vascokars and Goans. “The coal transportation is purely for the steel plants and the profit of private corporations. There is no benefit for Goa,” the citizens stated in their memorandum to the MPA. “The Mhadei water crises will be resolved only when coal handling and transportation are stopped at MPA,” said green activist Abhijit Prabhudesai. The protesters condemned the state government for its failure to protect the state’s interests.

Goa: Citizens allege river diversion and coal handling linked, protest at MPA

Goa Tourism News

Goa: Citizens allege river diversion and coal handling linked, protest at MPA
Times of India | 6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:44 am
Times of India
6 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:44 am

VASCO/MARGAO: Citizens protested outside the Mormugao Port Authority (MPA) on Monday demanding that the MPA stop coal operations and immediately shift to green cargo and cruise tourism. They said that a large number of steel and power plants, which are water-guzzling industries, have been proposed near the Malaprabha river basin, and that coal handling in Goa and the diversion of the Mhadei are linked.The protesters said that the Mhadei is being diverted only to benefit these steel plants and not for the farmers or drinking water purposes for locals, as is being falsely portrayed. The coal used by these steel plants is being transported from MPA to Karnataka via the rail network, they alleged.“If coal handling is stopped in Goa, the water consumed by steel plants, which is much more than the diversion proposed, will be available for farmers in Karnataka. If coal handling is allowed in Goa, the diversion of the Mhadei at Kalsa and Bandura and, subsequently, the diversion of other rivers flowing across state borders is inevitable,” the protesters stated in a memorandum to the MPA chairperson. A large number of citizens held a peaceful rally under the banner of United Vascokars and Goans. “The coal transportation is purely for the steel plants and the profit of private corporations. There is no benefit for Goa,” the citizens stated in their memorandum to the MPA. “The Mhadei water crises will be resolved only when coal handling and transportation are stopped at MPA,” said green activist Abhijit Prabhudesai. The protesters condemned the state government for its failure to protect the state’s interests.

Goa: Citizens allege river diversion and coal handling linked, protest at MPA
Tatas for major expansion in Goa, set to pump in Rs 300 crore
Times of India | 7 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:18 am
Times of India
7 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:18 am

PANAJI: Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), the hospitality arm of the Tata Group, has prepared a robust expansion roadmap for Goa, and intends to invest around Rs 300 crore in new properties in the state. The company is looking to add to its existing portfolio of 23 hotels in Goa by opening up several new resorts over the next two to three years.Among the new projects IHCL intends to set up is a “super luxury dream project” at the Fort Aguada and Taj Holiday Village, Sinquerim.“There are a lot of projects in the pipeline that we want to showcase in the next few years. One of our dream projects is going to come up at the Fort Aguada and Taj Holiday Village. We want to pump in a lot of money into the state,” senior vice-president, IHCL-Goa, Vincent Ramos, told TOI in an exclusive interview.Currently, IHCL operates 23 resorts and homestays in the state, and has emerged as the largest hospitality chain in Goa’s tourism sector. IHCL operates resorts under a group of brands, which includes Taj, SeleQtions, Vivanta, Ginger, and homestays under the ama Stays & Trails brand.Led by IHCL’s chief executive officer and managing director Puneet Chhatwal, IHCL aims to have around 1,700 rooms in Goa under its portfolio by December 31.“Goa has been the largest market. Goa’s expansion has been the largest in our portfolio, and it has been the fastest. We are growing in other states, but not as aggressively as the way we are growing in Goa, and that is why you can see the huge profits,” said Ramos.In 2021-22, amidst the pandemic, IHCL raked in a profit of Rs 160 crore just from Goa. The state contributed 45% to IHCL’s topline in 2021-22, but going forward, this is expected to settle at around 40%.Despite Covid-19 acting as a dampener on tourism and travel, IHCL saw sustained demand from domestic and international travellers for Goa. The opening of Goa’s second international airport at Mopa has also prompted the Tata Group to place large bets on North Goa.“We are expanding exponentially in Goa. SeleQtions, Ginger, and ama Stay & Trails will witness new additions. Right now, our investment in the hotels that are in the pipeline and the ones that have been recently opened up would be around Rs 300 crore,” said Ramos.Asked if IHCL has identified plans to set up a resort next to the greenfield airport, Ramos said that the company would certainly like to be the first mover. “We are looking at potential opportunities around the new airport, however, nothing has been confirmed yet,” he said.Ramos said that the company is in close discussions with the government and local partners to set up the new resorts. He said that over the next 24 months, IHCL will focus on the Ginger brand, which has proved to be a success for the company. “Ginger is our success story in Goa because we make 60% of our profit there,” he said.Given the rapid expansion plans for the state, IHCL is well en route to strengthen its position as the largest hospitality chain in Goa.

Tatas for major expansion in Goa, set to pump in Rs 300 crore

Goa Political News

Water war: Amit Shah never consulted Goa on Mhadei diversion, say BJP mantris
Times of India | 5 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:45 am
Times of India
5 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 09:45 am

PANAJI: Two days after Union home minister Amit Shah said water-sharing issue between Karnataka and Goa was “resolved” by his party to allow diversion of water to Karnataka in consultation with the Goa government, two BJP ministers of the Pramod Sawant-led government came down heavily on Shah and said it was “condemnable and unacceptable” and no discussion had taken place on water diversion.“I condemn the Union home minister’s statement tooth and nail. We are not against in-basin use of Mhadei’s water. But we are against the water being taken outside its basin by Karnataka for use. It may be anybody, if they speak of out-of-basin use of water of the Mhadei, I will condemn it,” state environment minister Nilesh Cabral said on Monday.State water resources minister Subhash Shirodkar also said Shah’s statement was “unacceptable” and no discussion had taken place on diverting the Mhadei water to Karnataka when the Goa delegation had met the home minister.The ministers’ remarks come close on the heels of widespread anti-BJP sentiment on the Mhadei issue with gram sabhas across the state accusing the government of saying one thing and doing another. Cabral, who is also the law minister, said if the Centre did not support Goa, the state has plenty of legal options still available. He said that the House panel formed in Goa will be meeting Shah in Delhi shortly and will ask him when such a consultation was made with Goa.Goa has filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop Karnataka from carrying out construction activities based on the detailed project report (DPR) approved by the Centre to divert water from the Mhadei. The petition is likely to come up for hearing on February 13.“The Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal has only given permission to Karnataka to use water for drinking. Now, the statement made (by Shah) is that the water will be used for irrigation. We don’t know what this is,” said Cabral.“I have come here today (Saturday) to tell you that BJP, by finding a solution to the long-pending fight between the two states (Goa and Karnataka), provided the Mhadei water to Karnataka, which will be beneficial to farmers across many districts of Karnataka,” Shah had said at a public rally at Kittur in Belagavi district.Cabral reiterated that chief minister Pramod Sawant had not held any discussion whatsoever with Shah over diverting the Mhadei water in Karnataka’s favour.“I am backing the CM 100% on this. He has not made any such statement (before Shah) and he will not make it. I don’t know how Amit Shah is making this statement,” said Cabral.He said the Goa delegation had earlier gone to meet the home minister in keeping with the legal provision wherein the home minister holds negotiations to resolve any dispute existing between two states.“We don’t have any elections here, so I am condemning his (Shah’s) statement. We have two options. We can resolve it with the support from the central leadership. And if we don’t get support, we have the legal route. We will go to the courts. Ultimately, the judiciary will take all angles into consideration and decide,” said Cabral.“I do not accept the home minister’s statement. When we met him, no such discussion took place. He told us that there are BJP governments in Goa and in Karnataka and that our interests will be taken care of,” said WRD minister Subhash Shirodkar.

Water war: Amit Shah never consulted Goa on Mhadei diversion, say BJP mantris
Goa has a strong legal case on Mhadei: CM Pramod Sawant
Times of India | 7 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:21 am
Times of India
7 hours ago | 31-01-2023 | 08:21 am

PANAJI: Chief minister Pramod Sawant said on Monday that Goa has a strong legal case on the Mhadei issue, and that the state would work towards protecting the river.“Once again I am repeating that we are legally strong in the Mhadei fight, and soon you will see the results,” said Sawant. The Supreme Court is likely to hear the interlocutory application filed by Goa on February 13. The petition seeks to stop Karnataka from construction activities based on the detailed project report approved by the Centre to divert water from the Mhadei. tnn Sawant’s statement, after paying floral tributes at the martyrs’ memorial at Azad Maidan, comes in the wake of Union home minister Amit Shah’s declaration that the over three-decade-old Mhadei water sharing issue between Karnataka and Goa was “resolved” by his party to allow diversion of water to Karnataka with the help of the Goa government.Shah’s comments came even as the state is trying to stop the illegal diversion of the Mhadei by Karnataka. At the four-day winter session, after a seven-hour discussion, the Goa assembly unanimously approved a resolution urging the Centre to withdraw the approval granted to Karnataka for the Mhadei diversion.In view of Shah’s statement, village panchayats across the state condemned Shah’s statement. The opposition, too, has demanded that the House committee on Mhadei discusses the issue before it’s too late.The Union home minister on Saturday congratulated the Karnataka CM and the state leaders for having “done a great job by taking along the BJP government in Goa and quenching the thirst of Karnataka by providing Mhadei water”.“I have come here today (Saturday) to tell you that BJP, by finding a solution to the long-pending fight between the two states (Goa and Karnataka), provided the Mhadei water to Karnataka, which will be beneficial to farmers across many districts of Karnataka,” Shah said, addressing a public rally at Kittur in Belagavi district.Earlier, Sawant had led a delegation to Delhi to meet Shah and Union jal shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to press the state’s demand to withdraw the approval granted to the DPR. The state also demanded the formation of the Mhadei Water Management Authority to stop illegal diversion of water from the Mhadei basin by Karnataka.

Goa has a strong legal case on Mhadei: CM Pramod Sawant

Goa Election News

BJP will form next govt in Goa, says PM Modi after Pramod Sawant meet
Times of India | 10 months ago | 09-03-2022 | 10:48 am
Times of India
10 months ago | 09-03-2022 | 10:48 am

PANAJI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that the BJP would form the next government in the state, chief minister Pramod Sawant said after briefing the PM over political developments in Goa. The assembly results are scheduled to be declared on Thursday. “Modi told me that BJP will form the government,” Sawant told TOI from Delhi. Modi held the meeting with Sawant to review the political situation in the state. During the discussion, Modi took constituency-wise details about the number of seats BJP will secure in Goa. Sawant provided details to Modi on what the results would be, and how BJP would form the government. “We will form the next government in the state and in case we are short of a majority, independent MLAs will support BJP,” Sawant said. He added that if required, BJP would seek support of MGP. The CM told Modi that BJP is getting around 20 seats, and with the help of independent MLAs, BJP will form the government. Modi also deliberated on the possibilities of forming a coalition government just in case there was a fractured mandate. The meeting also discussed seeking support from independent MLAs or regional parties. All the exit polls on Monday have predicted a hung assembly in Goa. The election is crucial for BJP as well as for Sawant as both are facing anti-incumbency. BJP has contested all 40 assemblies for the first time, and it’s also the party’s first state election in the absence of their strategist, former chief minister Manohar Parrikar. Modi addressed the people of the state during the election campaign and had said “Goa has decided that this wave of development and good governance should not slow down. Under the young leadership of chief minister Pramod Sawant, this journey will continue in the same manner”. Sawant, BJP state president Sadanand Shet Tanavade and BJP’s Goa election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis held a meeting in Mumbai to discuss the formation of the next government. Fadnavis already held a meeting with senior MGP functionary Ramkrishna ‘Sudin’ Dhavalikar over the post-poll alliance. Dhavalikar had told Fadnavis that the MGP-TMC alliance would take a decision after the results. BJP had started approaching independent candidates who are likely to get elected in the assembly election, already hitting the drawing board to strategise how to form the next government.

BJP will form next govt in Goa, says PM Modi after Pramod Sawant meet
IRBs misplaced cartridges recovered from Davorlim
Times of India | 11 months ago | 17-02-2022 | 07:07 am
Times of India
11 months ago | 17-02-2022 | 07:07 am

MARGAO: A bag containing 40 cartridges belonging to the Indian Reserve Batallion (IRB) that proceeded to Uttar Pradesh from Goa for election duty that was found misplaced on Tuesday, was recovered by Margao police on Wednesday from the roadside at Davorlim. Police sources said that about 900 IRB personnel had departed by an UP-bound train from Margao railway station on Tuesday evening. They were ferried to the Margao railway station by buses. However, it was after the train departed from Margao railway station that the “missing” bag containing cartridges came to their notice. The Railway police were soon alerted, who in turn contacted the Margao town police who launched a search exercise on the routes taken by the buses to ferry the IRB personnel to the railway station. The bag was finally recovered from a roadside at Davorlim on Wednesday. Police surmise that the IRB personnel left the bag containing cartridges after alighting from the buses to proceed to the railway station.

IRBs misplaced cartridges recovered from Davorlim
  • Missing live cartridges traced
  • Navhind Times

    Margao: In a major relief, the 40 live cartridges that were in the possession of IRB personnel headed for poll duty in Uttar Pradesh and had gone missing late on Tuesday night, were found in a gutter near Davorlim circle hardly half km away from the Margao railway station platform on Wednesday morning.Ten companies of IRBpolice personnel left by a train for Delhi from where they will travel to Uttar Pradesh. Four boxeswith each containing 10cartridgeshad gone missing. IRBpersonnel Nansekerhad made an application to the Margao police on Tuesday late night in which he had mentioned thatthe live cartridges in his possession had gone missing.He had reported that the cartridges went missing along the ring road between fire station and Davorlim circle. A search operation was conducted by police.Police teamengaged in the search operationhad visited the Konkan railway station area, checked the CCTV footagebesides parkingareaswhere buseshad dropped the IRBstaff, however, the cartridges were not found.However on Wednesday at around 10 a.m.,the four missing boxeswerefound in a gutter by LIB team of policewhich was also pressed into a search operation. It is still a mystery howthe live cartridges reached the gutter. Investigation is in progress. Police havekept the cartridges in custody after conducting legal formalities.


Goa Education News

‘Iker Guarrotxena has always helped FC Goa, now understands better what we want from him’
Times of India | 3 days ago | 28-01-2023 | 02:40 am
Times of India
3 days ago | 28-01-2023 | 02:40 am

Margao: Iker Guarrotxena scored a first-half hat-trick inside just 12 minutes to floor East Bengal and take FC Goa to the top three in the Indian Super League (ISL).Guarrotxena’s hat-trick was the third fastest after Ferran Corominas (7 minutes) and Bartholomew Ogbeche (11 minutes) and helped Goa register two wins in four days, results that will give the team much-needed breathing space in the battle for a playoff spot.No wonder coach Carlos Pena announced a three-day holiday for the team before they resume training on Monday.“This week is beautiful, the team effort huge in these two games,” Guarrotxena said after the 4-2 win against East Bengal at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda. “The win against Kerala gave us good energy, we worked hard during the week. The atmosphere here is beautiful and I think we deserved a win.”Goa were dominant in the first half, scoring three goals.After the change of ends, it was Brandon Fernandes’ terrific free-kick that had the stadium up on its feet. East Bengal scored two in the second session, both from headers, but Goa were not to be denied points with Guarrotxena the cynosure of all eyes.“Iker has helped the team since the start of the season,” said Pena. “At the start, he didn't score too many goals, but he worked a lot for the team. Now, he is having more accuracy. He’s understanding better what we want from him. I’m very happy for him because he is a hard worker and a nice person.”Guarrotxena is now the leading goal-scorer in the league with 10 strikes, one more than Lallianzuala Chhangte, Jorge Pereyra Diaz (both Mumbai City) and Cleiton Silva (East Bengal).His influence, though, goes beyond the goals.Like Pena explained, Guarrotxena’s commitment to the team’s cause, even when everything seems lost, can never be questioned. When the team is struggling, he tries to lift the mood by setting an example himself, running into the ground. If there’s a bad result, the first encouraging message is almost always from the Spanish forward.“He’s a born leader,” says Ravi Puskur, the club’s director of football. “His influence both on and off the field is very good. He never stops trying.”Guarrotxena is not your classic attacking midfielder who will slice open rival defences and make opponents quiver when he has the ball at his feet. He’s played most of his career as a winger, except in Australia and last season at UD Logrones where he was used as a floating number 10 or second striker.His 14 goals at UD Logrones in Spain last season caught Goa’s attention. After all, Guarrotxena had finished ahead of the first-choice striker in his team, Aridane Santana, a player not alien to Indian football after spells with Odisha FC and Hyderabad.Guarrotxena didn’t set the league on fire in the initial stages but has now scored five goals in the last three games.“It takes time for a new player to adjust to the team and surroundings, but having Iker play higher up the pitch has helped. He is now becoming a poacher, scoring from chances which are not clear cut,” said Puskur.With four games left to be played and Goa still uncertain of qualification, Guarrotxena’s form, and goals, could turn out to be decisive.

‘Iker Guarrotxena has always helped FC Goa, now understands better what we want from him’
40 yrs before Liberation, Mallikarjun institute stoked Liceum revolution
Times of India | 3 days ago | 28-01-2023 | 02:40 am
Times of India
3 days ago | 28-01-2023 | 02:40 am

Margao/Canacona: Forty years before Goa’s Liberation, a group of young people from Canacona aspired to have the intellectually liberating force of Liceum (higher secondary education) spread to the southern-most taluka.Their mission fructified on December 28, 1922, with the establishment of Centro Promotor de Instrucao de Canacona or Centre for Promotion of Education of Canacona (CPI). On September 3, 1923, the initiative got the stamp of approval from the then governor of Portuguese Goa, Dr Jaime Alberto De Castro Moraes. The CPI’s Institute Liceal Shree Mallikarjun, which later evolved into Shree Mallikarjun High School and Higher Secondary School, is celebrating its centennial year of inception.Governor P S Sreedharan Pillai will inaugurate the year-long celebration of the institution on Saturday.“That was a time when students of Canacona had to travel to Ponda using antiquated transport facilities,” said Vikas Desai, a former president of the institution. “They had to travel by bullock cart to Sanvordem via Quepem. From Sanvordem, they had to board a ‘vapor’ (ferry boat) that would take them across to Durbhat, from where they had to walk a few miles to the school.”In 1918-19, the influenza pandemic broke out which claimed the life of a young lad from Canacona. Struck by fear, the people of Canacona didn’t let their children travel to Ponda to school. “Fortuitously,” added Desai, “that led to the setting up of the institution.” Somnath Komarpant, a writer and former head of the department of Marathi, Goa University, is among the alumni of the school. Reminiscing about the days spent in the school soon after Liberation, Komarpant said that the school functioned from a structure sans walls and covered by tarpaulin sheets. The facilities were rudimentary. “But the dedication of our teachers was legendary,” said Komarpant, who made a special mention of his principal, H R Prabhu and Nayak Sir from Sadolxem, Kanta Bhaireli, Nanda Gaitonde and others. “Nayak Sir had to cross the river on a canoe to come to the school. And often when the only boatman was unavailable, Nayak Sir would himself row the canoe using a bamboo stick as an oar,” Komarpant said. “Such was his humility that he would bow to the students in his peculiar style soon after entering the classroom.” Expressing his gratitude to the school for sowing among the students the seeds of nationalism, Komarpant said he owes it to his teachers for “making a man” out of him.

40 yrs before Liberation, Mallikarjun institute stoked Liceum revolution
War stories, Translations, new age publishing and cook books dominate day 2 at GALF 2023
Times of India | 3 days ago | 27-01-2023 | 06:19 pm
Times of India
3 days ago | 27-01-2023 | 06:19 pm

War hero, Major General Ian Cardozo stressed the need for India to become the happiest country in the world. The war hero, who was under the spotlight for the second, consecutive day of the 11th Goa art and literature festival organised by the International centre of Goa in association with Goa Writers said, “India can easily become the most powerful country in the world. However, it may be a better idea for India to become the most happiest country in the world. This way, India would need to focus on eliminating poverty completely and ensuring that nobody remained poor and starving in our vast country.”The General who recounted multiple anecdotes from his soul-stirring autobiography, “Cartoos Saab” recounted the time when he saved a young soldier in the seas off Kerala, despite possessing only one leg himself. He also recounted the valour of the Gorkha soldiers, whom he considered the bravest in the world, when he cited the real life incident of how a brave Gorkha mother sent her youngest son to join her older son’s army regiment, even as she was told of her older son’s martyrdom. “I do not want our family tradition and line with the Indian army to be broken,” the Gorkha mother is quoted to have said.Earlier in the day, Nobel prize winning economist Abhijit Banerjee and his illustrator colleague Cheyenne Olivier regaled everybody about their cook book: “Cooking to save your life” Banerjee maintained that everyone on this planet could cook and even excel at it, if they applied their minds and learnt the basics properly.Translations to the foreTwo excellent sessions, the first with award winning author, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar in conversation with the festival co-curator, Vivek Menezes and the second featuring Kannada author, Vivek Shanbag in conversation with journalist Vinutha Mallya stood out for their deep insights.Hansda had the audiences in raptures as he read from his forthcoming translation from Hindi to English, where a small boy is witness to the death of an elephant as it is attacked mercilessly by a large pack of wild dogs.While Shanbag, an engineer by training credited his non-literature academic training for teaching him systems and methodology.New era publishingIn another excellent session featuring two, independent publishers Arpita Das Ribeiro and Trisha Niyogi in conversation with Margao based book store owner, Leonard Fernandes, the two lady publishers stressed the need for publishers to combine the latest audio-visual techniques with conventional printing to compete with the likes of popular OTT platforms.

War stories, Translations, new age publishing and cook books dominate day 2 at GALF 2023
Goa Police and Child Rights Commission organised training for PSIs on restorative care and justice for POCSO victims
Times of India | 4 days ago | 27-01-2023 | 01:55 pm
Times of India
4 days ago | 27-01-2023 | 01:55 pm

The Office of Superintendent of Police (Training) and Child Rights Commission launched a series of training for Police Sub Inspectors at GO’s Training Hall in presence of Sanjith Rodrigues, Secretary, GSCPCR, Sucheta B. Dessai, SP (Training), Peter F. Borges, Chairperson, GSCPCR and Child Welfare Committee, North Goa, and South Goa. The training will reach out to more than 260 PSIs from 19-24th January 2023. Sexual crimes against children have captured the stage fraor quite some time now with Goa too has witnessing a surge in the recent times. Very low conviction rate exists in the state with several POCSO cases ending in acquittals. There exists also a grim reality of a gross failure to support and rehabilitate the victims and their families in terms of victim compensation too. As a result of this, there are instances of victims and their families turning hostile, stop cooperating and loosing hope, said Sanjith Rodrigues, Secretary, GSCPCR and Special Secretary, Home The training revolved around need for convergence between police and child protection system to ensure adequate support services for children as provided in POCSO Rules 2020.While it is important to secure punishment for the perpetrator, focus should also be laid on restorative care and justice, said Peter F. Borges, Chairperson, Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, who led the training and called for multi-disciplinary approach on linking POCSO victims to the child protection system. He further stressed the need for curbing re-victimization which happens in the justice system process. Several factors and practices existing in the system makes the victim re-live the horrific experience, leading to further trauma due to their vulnerability. Esther Torres, Chairperson, CWC, North Goa, also highlighted the need to introspect and keep aside the persona biases which exist while handling the cases of child abuse. Adv. Viren Bhende, Member, CWC South Goa also spoke on the need for coordinated approach.

Goa Police and Child Rights Commission organised training for PSIs on restorative care and justice for POCSO victims
School annual Day held at at the BITS PILANI- Goa campus auditorium
Times of India | 4 days ago | 27-01-2023 | 01:44 pm
Times of India
4 days ago | 27-01-2023 | 01:44 pm

St. Andrew’s Higher Secondary School, Vaddem, Vasco celebrated its grand Annual Day cum Prize Distribution Function at the BITS PILANI- Goa campus auditorium,Zuarinagar - Sancoale. Bhagirath Shetye, Chairman of Goa Board, Secondary and Higher Secondary education was the Chief Guest with D M Kulkarni, Dean General Administration of BITS Pilani being the Guest of Honour, Fr Benson Colaco, Manager of St. Andrew Institute, Vasco was the special Invitee to grace the function. The other special guests represented the wide spectrum of intelligensia from Heads of different Higher Secondaries of Goa, PTA members, parents, well-wishers and students. The auditorium reverberated with over 2000 enthusiastic audience witnessing the spectacular show. The celebration got underway with a ceremonial march of the dignified entourage led by the school’s General Secretary, Ashish Pal and Cultural Secretary, Shrushti Naik, all marching to the beat of the scintillating live music by JAZZMATAZZ. The dignitaries were then accorded a warm welcome by the school Manager, Fr. Constancio Carvalho followed by the presenting of theschool report and its achievements by the Principal, Dr. Elvis Gonsalves. The formal program entailed the prize distribution for students excelling in academics and co- curricular activities followed by felicitating the long serving staff who had completed 25 years of dedicated and meritorious service to the DSE. The highlight of the evening was the crowning of Mr and Miss Andrews for the year 2022-23, which were bagged by Wesley D’sa and Gracina Colaco. The inaugural issue of the annual school magazine ‘ANDLIT’ was also released, which contains a collection of creative and enlightening literary articles of students and staff, aligning to the maxim - Beyond books, Igniting minds. The cultural program, MYSTICAL INDIA took the audience into a journey of cultural extravaganzawhere all the 920 students were given the opportunity to participate. The travel through some of the states of India showcased the vibrant, rich and living culture through skits, choral singing, mimes, fashion show, folk and classical dances. The depth of the performance, digital effects and the extraordinary depiction of mystical India took the audience through a dazzling journey which set to re-enforce India’s unity amidst diversity where the varied culture, beliefs, festivals etc immaculatelyfit into a jigsaw of an amalgamated country, India.

School annual Day held at at the BITS PILANI- Goa campus auditorium

Goa Covid News

China’s latest source of unrest: Unpaid ‘zero Covid’ workers
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 17-01-2023 | 02:40 pm
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | 17-01-2023 | 02:40 pm

Written by David Pierson, Keith Bradsher and Muyi XiaoAfter China’s abrupt reversal of “zero Covid” restrictions, the nation’s vast machinery of virus surveillance and testing collapsed, even as infections and deaths surged. Now, authorities face another problem: Angry pandemic-control workers demanding wages and jobs.In the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, hundreds of workers locked in a pay dispute with a Covid test kit manufacturer hurled objects at police officers in riot gear, who held up shields as they retreated. Standing on stocks of inventory, protesters kicked and tossed boxes of rapid antigen tests on to the ground, sending thousands of tests spilling.In the eastern city of Hangzhou, witnesses said several workers climbed on the roof of a test kit factory and threatened to jump to protest unpaid furloughs. And at a separate test manufacturing plant in the city, workers protested for days over a wage dispute.The unrest this month highlights a little-noticed aspect of the social and economic fallout from China’s “zero Covid” policy U-turn. Mass testing was a cornerstone of China’s strategy of isolating the virus before it could spread. But Covid testing of any sort is no longer in high demand. Companies that manufactured test kits and analysed results in a lab are seeing their revenues plummet, leading to layoffs and pay cuts for their workers. One report suggested that mass testing in large cities accounted for about 1.3% of China’s economic output.The consequence has been a new source of turmoil that challenges the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to maintain stability amid high youth unemployment, a flagging economy and an explosion of Covid across the country. China said on Saturday that it had recorded nearly 60,000 fatalities linked to the coronavirus in the month since it lifted “zero Covid,” though experts said the actual death toll was likely much higher.The New York Times visited three Covid test making factories in Hangzhou where workers and residents confirmed that there had been labor protests in recent days. At one plant operated by a firm called Xinyue Biotech, a fire truck, an ambulance and a police van could be seen in the factory yard on Wednesday responding to a worker who had climbed on to the fifth-floor roof and threatened to jump to protest unpaid wages. The shuttered plant had been the scene of days of demonstrations, witnesses near the factory said.The Times also examined videos that have circulated on social media of protests in Hangzhou as well as Chongqing, where workers confronted the police in large numbers.The disputes in Chongqing and Hangzhou could portend more unrest to come. Many among China’s armies of “big whites,” low-level government workers charged with enforcing Covid restrictions and named after their signature white hazmat suits, have been let go, muddying an already volatile labor market.Factories across China are still strapped for cash amid the broader slowdown. Workers have next to no recourse to resolve their grievances other than to lash out, said Li Qiang, founder and executive director of China Labor Watch, a New York-based Chinese labor rights group.“These protests have been very violent because the channels to defend workers’ rights are very limited, while the trust toward the government and laws is low,” Li said. “It demonstrates that if a company ignores workers rights, especially the most vulnerable temporary workers, it will face serious consequences.”In Chongqing, protesters at a test kit manufacturer chanted “Pay me back” as they faced off with lines of police on Jan. 7. It was not immediately clear what sparked the dispute between workers and the test kit manufacturer, Zybio. Videos posted on social media leading up to the protests warned of labor agencies in the area exploiting job seekers by inflating how much work Covid test manufacturers were offering and how much they would pay.The Times verified the location of the Zybio protest videos by matching buildings in videos with online photos and satellite images of the industrial park. One clip showed protesters throwing plastic containers, stools and a traffic cone at police equipped with riot gear. The company did not respond to requests for comment, and several protesters contacted by The Times declined to be interviewed.In Hangzhou, protests flared after workers at the Acon Biotech plant were told at the start of this month they would be furloughed for two weeks because the company’s revenues had dwindled since “zero Covid” measures were dropped.One employee who participated in the protests, who agreed to speak only if not quoted by name given the political sensitivity of labor unrest, said workers were enraged by the furlough because it meant they could not earn money before the Lunar New Year, which starts this weekend.At one point, distraught employees threatened to jump off the roof of a company building. The workers were finally given 3,000 yuan, or roughly $445, apiece a week ago, and the bulk of the workforce then left for the holiday.Many Chinese testing companies had been amassing fortunes during nearly three years of stringent COVID containment measures. But the emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant made containing the virus all but impossible, and China abandoned the strategy in early December.Even without omicron, China’s strategy of mass testing was proving financially unsustainable. Many local governments — already under significant financial pressure from the slowdown and a dearth of land sales for real estate development — struggled to pay for the millions of free swabs that residents were ordered to take virtually every day.To fund testing and other pandemic controls, money was diverted from public projects in some provinces, while cities cut bonuses for officials and imposed pay cuts on civil servants. Several provinces and municipalities, including Guizhou in China’s southwest, began charging for the tests.Lab testing firms that earlier reaped huge windfalls began reporting that governments were late on payments, leaving them exposed to bad debt. Among them was Dian Diagnostics, a large testing company in Hangzhou, which reported in October that the amount of money it was owed had surged by nearly 80% compared with a year before.Shenzhen Hezi Gene Tech, another fast-growing testing firm, opened six new labs across China in October only to shutter half of them in the last few weeks. It was unclear if the closures were spurred by debt or a lack of business. The company did not respond to a request for comment.“The whole industry has been hit particularly hard with the elimination of mandatory testing in the country. The demand is no longer there,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, who argued that “zero Covid” had been partly prolonged because it served so many business interests.“They made a lot of money working for the government implementing ‘zero Covid,’” Huang said of labs and test manufacturers.Just how disruptive the collapse of testing and all the employment associated with Covid controls will be to China’s economy remains to be seen. The lifting of “zero Covid” will remove constraints on economic activity, and that could spur growth that would overshadow the loss of Covid-related businesses, said Taylor Loeb, a senior economic analyst for Trivium China, a consulting firm.“A lot of these jobs were never going to be long-term, stable employment opportunities,” Loeb said.To many migrant workers, the timing could not be worse. Employees are usually eyeing bonuses and counting their savings in the weeks leading up to Lunar New Year so that they can travel home for the holiday, settle debts and lavish their family and friends with gifts.In Hangzhou, a tense standoff between the police and hundreds of workers at an Alltest Biotech factory devolved into a shoving match Jan. 9, a video showed. Dozens of them were taken away by the police, several eyewitnesses said in interviews.Workers hired by a temporary employment agency on Alltest’s behalf had complained they were being paid less than permanent workers, according to an employee interviewed at the factory gate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. An employee who answered a phone at Alltest said operations had returned to normal, but declined to provide a name or discuss the unrest.

China’s latest source of unrest: Unpaid ‘zero Covid’ workers
Omicron sub-variant BF.7 found in several Covid-positive samples of int’l passengers: Mansukh Mandaviya
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 11-01-2023 | 10:40 pm
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | 11-01-2023 | 10:40 pm

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday said the Omicron sub-variant, BF.7, has been found in several of the 200 Covid-positive samples of international air passengers that have so far been genome-sequenced.More than 15 lakh international air passengers have so far been screened and 200 of them have tested positive for COVID-19, Mandaviya said on the sidelines of a book launch.The minister released a book titled “Braving A Viral Storm”, which has been authored by Aashish Chandorkar and Suraj Sudhir, at the Constitution Club here on Wednesday.“The genome-sequencing of the 200 samples showed that the BF.7 variant was present in several passengers. Our vaccines are effective against this sub-variant,” he said.The health ministry had, on January 9, said the sentinel-sequencing of 324 Covid-positive samples lifted from the community between December 29 and January 7 had revealed the presence of all the Omicron variants, such as BA.2 and its sub-lineages including BA.2.75, XBB(37), BQ.1 and BQ.1.1(5), among others.No mortality or rise in transmission was reported in the areas where these variants were detected, the ministry had said in a statement.Besides, XBB(11), BQ.1.1(12) and BF7.4.1(1) were the main variants detected in the positive samples of 50 international passengers that have so far been genome-sequenced

Omicron sub-variant BF.7 found in several Covid-positive samples of int’l passengers: Mansukh Mandaviya
COVID-19: Covovax to get approval as booster in 10-15 days, says SII CEO Adar Poonawalla
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | 09-01-2023 | 12:40 am
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | 09-01-2023 | 12:40 am

Serum Institute of India chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla on Sunday said its Covovax vaccine will get approval as a booster in the next 10 to 15 days, adding it works well against the Omicron variant of coronavirus.Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event at Bharti Vidyapeeth University here, Poonawalla, when asked about states and districts not getting Covishield vaccines, said there are ample stocks with the Union government for supply.“Covovax will be approved as a booster in the next 10-15 days. It is actually the best booster because it works very well against Omicron, more than Covishield,” said Poonawalla.He said everyone was looking at India, not just in terms of healthcare but because the country managed to take care of a huge and diverse population and also helped 70 to 80 nations during the COVID-19 pandemic.“This was all possible because of the leadership of our Central government, our state governments, healthcare workers, manufacturers, all of whom worked together with one common goal,” he said.Poonawalla was conferred the first Dr Pantangrao Kadam Memorial Award at the hands of NCP Chief Sharad Pawar and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in an event to mark Kadam’s birth anniversary.Appealing to students who wished to pursue education abroad, he said there was no place like India to fulfil dreams due to the presence of institutions like Bharti Vidyapeeth and others.“Even if you have to go abroad, come back as soon as possible,” he said.

COVID-19: Covovax to get approval as booster in 10-15 days, says SII CEO Adar Poonawalla
As ‘great migration’ kicks off under Covid shadow, China expects over 2 billion people to travel over next 40 days
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | 07-01-2023 | 05:40 pm
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | 07-01-2023 | 05:40 pm

China on Saturday marked the first day of “chun yun”, the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel known pre-pandemic as the world’s largest annual migration of people, bracing for a huge increase in travelers and the spread of Covid-19 infections.This Lunar New Year public holiday, which officially runs from Jan. 21, will be the first since 2020 without domestic travel restrictions. Over the last month China has seen the dramatic dismantling of its “zero-Covid” regime following historic protests against a policy that included frequent testing, restricted movement, mass lockdowns and heavy damage to the world’s No.2 economy. Investors are hoping that the reopening will eventually reinvigorate a $17-trillion economy suffering its lowest growth in nearly half a century.But the abrupt changes have exposed many of China’s 1.4 billion population to the virus for the first time, triggering a wave of infections that is overwhelming some hospitals, emptying pharmacy shelves of medicines and causing long lines to form at crematoriums. The Ministry of Transport said on Friday that it expects more than 2 billion passengers to take trips over the next 40 days, an increase of 99.5% year-on-year and reaching 70.3% of trip numbers in 2019.There was mixed reaction online to that news, with some comments hailing the freedom to return to hometowns and celebrate the Lunar New Year with family for the first time in years. Many others, however, said they would not travel this year, with worry of infecting elderly relatives a common theme.“I dare not go back to my hometown, for fear of bringing the poison back,” said one such comment on the Twitter-like Weibo.Also Read |BF.7 and BA.5.2: The Omicron sub-variants driving the China surgeThere are widespread concerns that the great migration of workers in cities to their hometowns will cause a surge in infections in smaller towns and rural areas that are less well-equipped with ICU beds and ventilators to deal with them. Authorities say they are boosting grassroots medical services, opening more rural fever clinics and instituting a “green channel” for high risk patients, especially elderly people with underlying health conditions, to be transferred from villages directly to higher level hospitals.“China’s rural areas are wide, the population is large, and the per capita medical resources are relatively insufficient,” National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said on Saturday.“It’s necessary to provide convenient services, accelerate vaccination for the elderly in rural areas and the construction of grassroots lines of defense.”INFECTION PEAK REACHEDSome analysts are now saying the current wave of infections may have already peaked.  Ernan Cui, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing, cited several online surveys as indicating that rural areas were already more widely exposed to Covid infections than initially thought, with an infection peak already reached in most regions, noting there was “not much difference between urban and rural areas.”On Sunday China will reopen its border with Hong Kong and will also end a requirement for travelers coming from abroad to quarantine. That effectively opens the door for many Chinese to travel abroad for the first time since borders slammed shut nearly three years ago, without fear of having to quarantine on their return.More than a dozen countries are now demanding Covid tests from travellers from China. The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that China’s Covid data underrepresents the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the disease. Chinese officials and state media have defended the handling of the outbreak, playing down the severity of the surge and denouncing foreign travel requirements for its residents.On Saturday in Hong Kong, people who had made appointments had to queue for about 90 minutes at a Centre for PCR tests needed for travel to countries including mainland China.Also Read |What is BF.7, the Omicron sub-variant driving the new surge in China?TREATMENT TO THE FOREFor much of the pandemic, China poured resources into a vast PCR testing program to track and trace Covid-19 cases, but the focus is now shifting to vaccines and treatment. In Shanghai, for example, the city government on Friday announced an end to free PCR tests for residents from Jan. 8.A circular published by four government ministries Saturday signaled a reallocation of financial resources to treatment, outlining a plan for public finances to subsidies 60% of treatment costs until March 31.  Meanwhile, sources told Reuters that China is in talks with Pfizer Inc to secure a license that will allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the U.S. firm’s Covid antiviral drug Paxlovid in China.Many Chinese have been attempting to buy the drug abroad and have it shipped to China. On the vaccine front, China’s CanSino Biologics Inc announced it has begun trial production for its Covid mRNA booster vaccine, known as CS-2034.  China has relied on nine domestically-developed vaccines approved for use, including inactivated vaccines, but none have been adapted to target the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and its offshoots currently in circulation.The overall vaccination rate in the country is above 90%, but the rate for adults who have had booster shots drops to 57.9%, and to 42.3% for people aged 80 and older, according to government data released last month. China reported three new Covid  deaths in the mainland for Friday, bringing its official virus death toll since the pandemic began to 5,267, one of the lowest in the world.  International health experts believe Beijing’s narrow definition of Covid  deaths does not reflect a true toll, and some predict more than a million deaths this year.

As ‘great migration’ kicks off under Covid shadow, China expects over 2 billion people to travel over next 40 days
  • China's ‘great migration’ kicks off under shadow of Covid
  • The Indian Express

    China on Saturday marked the first day of “chun yun”, the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel known pre-pandemic as the world’s largest annual migration of people, bracing for a huge increase in travelers and the spread of Covid-19 infections.This Lunar New Year public holiday, which officially runs from Jan. 21, will be the first since 2020 without domestic travel restrictions. Over the last month China has seen the dramatic dismantling of its “zero-Covid” regime following historic protests against a policy that included frequent testing, restricted movement, mass lockdowns and heavy damage to the world’s No.2 economy. Investors are hoping that the reopening will eventually reinvigorate a $17-trillion economy suffering its lowest growth in nearly half a century.But the abrupt changes have exposed many of China’s 1.4 billion population to the virus for the first time, triggering a wave of infections that is overwhelming some hospitals, emptying pharmacy shelves of medicines and causing long lines to form at crematoriums. The Ministry of Transport said on Friday that it expects more than 2 billion passengers to take trips over the next 40 days, an increase of 99.5% year-on-year and reaching 70.3% of trip numbers in 2019.There was mixed reaction online to that news, with some comments hailing the freedom to return to hometowns and celebrate the Lunar New Year with family for the first time in years. Many others, however, said they would not travel this year, with worry of infecting elderly relatives a common theme.“I dare not go back to my hometown, for fear of bringing the poison back,” said one such comment on the Twitter-like Weibo.Also Read |BF.7 and BA.5.2: The Omicron sub-variants driving the China surgeThere are widespread concerns that the great migration of workers in cities to their hometowns will cause a surge in infections in smaller towns and rural areas that are less well-equipped with ICU beds and ventilators to deal with them. Authorities say they are boosting grassroots medical services, opening more rural fever clinics and instituting a “green channel” for high risk patients, especially elderly people with underlying health conditions, to be transferred from villages directly to higher level hospitals.“China’s rural areas are wide, the population is large, and the per capita medical resources are relatively insufficient,” National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said on Saturday.“It’s necessary to provide convenient services, accelerate vaccination for the elderly in rural areas and the construction of grassroots lines of defense.”INFECTION PEAK REACHEDSome analysts are now saying the current wave of infections may have already peaked.  Ernan Cui, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing, cited several online surveys as indicating that rural areas were already more widely exposed to Covid infections than initially thought, with an infection peak already reached in most regions, noting there was “not much difference between urban and rural areas.”On Sunday China will reopen its border with Hong Kong and will also end a requirement for travelers coming from abroad to quarantine. That effectively opens the door for many Chinese to travel abroad for the first time since borders slammed shut nearly three years ago, without fear of having to quarantine on their return.More than a dozen countries are now demanding Covid tests from travellers from China. The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that China’s Covid data underrepresents the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the disease. Chinese officials and state media have defended the handling of the outbreak, playing down the severity of the surge and denouncing foreign travel requirements for its residents.On Saturday in Hong Kong, people who had made appointments had to queue for about 90 minutes at a Centre for PCR tests needed for travel to countries including mainland China.Also Read |What is BF.7, the Omicron sub-variant driving the new surge in China?TREATMENT TO THE FOREFor much of the pandemic, China poured resources into a vast PCR testing program to track and trace Covid-19 cases, but the focus is now shifting to vaccines and treatment. In Shanghai, for example, the city government on Friday announced an end to free PCR tests for residents from Jan. 8.A circular published by four government ministries Saturday signaled a reallocation of financial resources to treatment, outlining a plan for public finances to subsidies 60% of treatment costs until March 31.  Meanwhile, sources told Reuters that China is in talks with Pfizer Inc to secure a license that will allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the U.S. firm’s Covid antiviral drug Paxlovid in China.Many Chinese have been attempting to buy the drug abroad and have it shipped to China. On the vaccine front, China’s CanSino Biologics Inc announced it has begun trial production for its Covid mRNA booster vaccine, known as CS-2034.  China has relied on nine domestically-developed vaccines approved for use, including inactivated vaccines, but none have been adapted to target the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and its offshoots currently in circulation.The overall vaccination rate in the country is above 90%, but the rate for adults who have had booster shots drops to 57.9%, and to 42.3% for people aged 80 and older, according to government data released last month. China reported three new Covid  deaths in the mainland for Friday, bringing its official virus death toll since the pandemic began to 5,267, one of the lowest in the world.  International health experts believe Beijing’s narrow definition of Covid  deaths does not reflect a true toll, and some predict more than a million deaths this year.

Avoid panic on Omicron sub-variant XBB 1.5, focus on genome sequencing: Experts
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | 03-01-2023 | 05:40 pm
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | 03-01-2023 | 05:40 pm

Top experts have reiterated the need to be vigilant and avoid panic as the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention indicates that the Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.5 has led to a rise in cases in the US.Experts have stressed the need for a higher genome-sequencing in the country as INSACOG (Indian SARS CoV2 Genomics Consortium) data has shown up five positive samples for the XBB.1.5 sub-variant. Says noted virologist, Dr Gagandeep Kang, “XBB.1.5 is now more than two-third of all cases in the USA. Since XBB and further sub-lineages have evolved in immunised populations, we should expect them to be able to infect more easily and that is what they are doing. Infection with BA.5 seems to give some protection against infection with XBB. There is not much difference with severe disease, so we can expect a fair number of infections. Severe disease will continue in known risk groups.”The XBB.1.5 variant of Covid is actually a sub-variant of XBB. It is a combination of BA.2.75 and BA.2.10.1 and was first reported in India.It is considered more contagious than BF.7, which is driving the current spate of infections in China. It has a greater immune-escape potential.According to Sanjay Pujari, member of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) task force, “the XBB.1.5 is a recombinant of the Omicron’s BA.2 sub-variants. This has originated in the USA and the rate of transmission (RT) is 1.8.Reports are indicating that most hospitalisations are in the elderly population and those who have not taken the booster dose vaccination. So far in India all five cases had mild illness and have recovered well.” He points out that one cannot generalise how geography-specific sub-variants will behave and hence genomic surveillance is important.Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, coordinator for genome sequencing in Maharashtra, explains that in the USA, a descendant of XBB — that is XBB.1.5 — is replacing the previously dominating BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 sub lineages. Currently XBB.1.5 is growing in New York ahead of others. “We have already seen in Maharashtra that XBB is the most dominant variant and has not allowed BA.5 and its sublineages like BQ.1 to dominate. XBB already has greater immune evasiveness than others and adds more mutations. For example XBB.1.5 ,” says he.In Maharashtra, no case of the XBB.1.5 sub variant has been recorded so far. Over the last several months, the state has already reported 270 cases of the XBB and top surveillance officer Dr Pradeep Awate told The Indian Express that there has not been a significant rise in cases. These are sublineages and overall the infection has been a mild one.Dr Shashank Joshi, noted endocrinologist and diabetologist at Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai, argues for vigilance as there seems to be no clinical correlation in terms of hospitalisation and deaths. “There should be no panic at all as all these are Omicron sub-lineages. However it is important to keep a check on cold, cough and respiratory illnesses which are common this time of the year,” he adds.

Avoid panic on Omicron sub-variant XBB 1.5, focus on genome sequencing: Experts