News Flash – 11 February 2020

National News



Report Symptoms of Coronavirus on 24×7 Helplines Set up by Government


Delhi: The health status of the 2,885 people is being monitored by a team of auxiliary nursing midwives, Dursawat added. Though there are no positive cases in Delhi yet, officials said isolation facilities have been created in nearly a dozen hospitals, including AIIMS, RML, Safdarjung and Lok Nayak, among others. “We have kept enough personal protection equipment and masks ready to ensure that the health workers involved in screening and treatment aren’t affected by it,” Dursawat said. Both the state and central governments have set up 24×7 helplines for people to report any person with history of travel to China and other affected countries who is experiencing symptoms of the disease. “It may not be possible for the government to trace all suspected or high-risk individuals in real time. People should be vigilant and responsible in reporting to the centralised helpline numbers if they fall in the category of high-risk individuals. This will include people with history of travel to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, among others, in the last two weeks, who are experiencing cough, fever or shortness of breath,” Dr Randeep Guleria, director of AIIMS, said.



Guleria said the risk of an outbreak in India cannot be ruled out completely. He said usually symptoms appear between two and 14 days of contracting the viral infection. However, in a country like India, where people often neglect government advisories, there is still anxiety on whether a possible outbreak would be controlled in time and preparations to check infection prove adequate. A senior official of a multinational company in Noida said he returned from China on January 20 with his colleagues. “I haven’t been approached by anyone for screening of coronavirus or been suggested isolation at home,” the 35-year-old said, adding that he has been going to his office daily after returning from China. Dr Guleria said, the good news is that India has had a head start in preparations since the outbreak happened elsewhere (in China). “Our system is alert to screen any potential carrier of the virus and test kits are available in ample numbers to timely diagnose positive cases and treat them,” he said.



Fire Guts Plywood Shop, Spreads Panic in Taltala

The fire at Taltala on Monday.



Kolkata: Fire broke out in a plywood godown-cum-shop in Taltala, off SN Banerjee Road, on Monday night. Though no loss of life was reported, 20 fire tenders were pressed into service as the warehouse is located in a densely populated neighbourhood opposite Taltala Bazar. Occupants of the residential building next to the shop had to be evacuated as the flames spread to their home. Some workers of the warehouse sustained minor injuries while trying to escape after the fire started, but none of these were burn injuries. According to locals, they noticed smoke billowing from the three-storey building on 8, Puran Chand Nahar Avenue around 8.30pm and immediately informed the fire brigade headquarters and the local police station. Fire fighters from Free School Street, which is barely two kilometres away, rushed in with nine fire tenders. But as the flames kept spreading, more fire tenders were called in. Pathologist Subir Dutta, who is in his 90s, and his octogenarian brother Samir Dutta, had to be rescued as the fire spread to their building next door. However, the firefighters managed to douse the flames, averting major damage. Witnesses said workers in the warehouse managed to escape after the fire broke out, but since the building had inflammable stacks of plywood, it turned into an inferno in no time. “We are trying to ascertain if the unit had fire safety measures in place,” said state fire minster Sujit Bose who visited the spot. It took firemen about two and a half hours to douse the blaze which, officials said, may have been caused by a short circuit from an electrical pump.



International News



WHO: Coronavirus Cases Outside China could be Spark for Bigger Fire

Monday marked the end of the Chinese New Year holidays that were extended due to coronavirus, but Beijing continued to be deserted.



Beijing: The World Health Organization said on Monday that the spread of coronavirus cases which had no history of travel to China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire” as people across China trickled back to work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday. The death toll from the epidemic rose to 908, all but two in mainland China, on Sunday as 97 more fatalities were recorded the largest number in a single day since the virus was detected in the city of Wuhan in December. The Diamond Princess cruise ship with 3,700 passengers and crew onboard remained quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, with 65 more cases detected, taking the number of confirmed cases from the Carnival Corp-owned vessel to 135. European stocks fell on concerns about the impact of the closure of factories in China, the world’s second largest economy, on supply chains for companies from Taiwan’s iPhone-maker Foxconn to carmakers Kia Motors and Nissan. Across mainland China, 3,062 new infections were confirmed on Sunday, bringing the total number to 40,171, according to the National Health Commission (NHC). An advance team of international WHO experts has arrived in China to investigate.



Wu Fan, vice-dean of Shanghai Fudan University Medical school, said there was hope the spread might soon reach a turning point. “The situation is stabilising,” she told a briefing when asked about the spread in Shanghai, which has had nearly 300 cases and one death. But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there had been “concerning instances” of transmission from people who had not been to China. “It could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” he told reporters. “But for now it is only a spark. Our objective remains containment”. The virus has spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people. The two deaths outside mainland China were in Hong Kong and the Philippines. The toll from the outbreak has now surpassed that of SARS, which killed hundreds worldwide in 2002/2003. Usually teeming Chinese cities have become virtual ghost towns after Communist Party rulers ordered lockdowns, cancelled flights and closed factories and schools. Ten extra days had been added to the Lunar New Year holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January. But even on Monday, many workplaces remained closed and many people worked from home. Few commuters were seen during the morning rush-hour on one of Beijing’s busiest subway lines. All were wearing masks.



Barrage of Mysterious Bomb Hoaxes Plagues Moscow

People are evacuated from a court in Moscow on Thursday following a bomb threat. On Wednesday, as many as 1,500 locations in the city received threats, including 30 courts and 150 educational institutions.



Moscow: Moscovites are mystified by a flood of bomb hoaxes forcing the evacuation of courts, schools and malls while authorities appear unable to find the culprits even after months of disruption to public life. The warnings of planted bombs, all of them false, have been sent to numerous Russian cities, but particularly targeted the capital, where around 16 million live and work, with up to 1,000 threats per day. Since November, almost 2 million people have been evacuated from buildings in Moscow, the Interfax news agency said citing sources. Yet, both the authorities and Kremlin controlled news media stay mostly clear of the topic. Yulia Grebenchenko, a local office worker, said her daughter’s school has been evacuated 13 times since December. The threats are always issued in the same way: a slew of emails are sent from encrypted providers to organisations and firms that according to the law must be inspected or evacuated. No one has calculated the cost of the upheaval, but the financial damage from a similar wave of phone bomb hoaxes in 2017 amounted to millions of dollars, officials said.



On a single day, February 5, 1,500 locations were affected including a church, some 30 courts, 150 educational institutions, 232 metro stations, more than a dozen clinics, 75 swimming pools and about 50 shopping centres, an “informed source” told Interfax. In January, the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB, and state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said two encrypted email providers based abroad had been blocked after being used to send false threats. They did not name suspects or give any leads or motive, nor did they issue any reassurance to the public. The Telegram messenger account of Saint Petersburg courts has posted scans of messages referring to a shadowy blackmail scheme involving Bitcoin virtual currency. They include demands for the return of 120 bitcoins ($1.2 million at the current rate) that were allegedly stolen by Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeyev using the now-defunct WEX cryptocurrency platform. The conservative oligarch has denied any involvement.

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