News Flash – 26 February 2020

National News



Eighteen Cases of H1N1 in City Since January, 8 this Month



Mumbai: Around 18 cases of influenza H1N1 have been detected in the city since January, including eight in February. The civic authorities said while there have been no deaths, confirmed cases have been reported from across the city. Incidentally, at least two travellers isolated for suspected coronavirus at Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli have tested positive for H1N1, initially termed swine flu. Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said while one has been treated and discharged, the other patient is undergoing treatment. Last week, software giant SAP had shut their office in Bengaluru after two employees tested positive for the virus. They had also temporarily closed their offices in Gurgaon and Mumbai for disinfection. BMC’s executive health officer, Dr Padmaja Keskar, said the cases are under control. On the concern of private physicians that cases are underreported, she said unless a patient is serious, there is no need to carry out a test. “Guidelines are clear. If the physician is sure of the symptoms, he/she can start treating the patient with oseltamivir,” she said. BMC data also shows that in February 2019, nearly 40 confirmed cases were reported. In 2019, Mumbai witnessed 451 cases and five deaths, a significant rise from 2018’s incidence of 25 cases and zero casualties. Civic health experts said since the occurrence of H1N1 in the city is cyclic, it is unlikely there will be a spurt this year.



Delhi World’s Most Polluted Capital, 21 Indian Cities in Top 30, Says Report

UNBREATHABLE: According to the World Air Quality Report 2019, India ranked fifth in the world’s most polluted countries, with Bangladesh taking the top spot, followed by Pakistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan.



New Delhi: New Delhi topped the list of most polluted capital cities in the world in 2019, according to a new report, which also revealed that 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities were in India. Ghaziabad, meanwhile, had the dubious distinction of being the most polluted city in the world. According to the World Air Quality Report 2019, compiled by IQAir, Air Visual, Ghaziabad was followed by Hotan in China, and then Gujranwala and Faisalabad in Pakistan. Delhi took the fifth place. The 21 Indian cities named in the list in the order of their ranking were Ghaziabad, Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Greater Noida, Bandhwari, Lucknow, Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Jind, Faridabad, Coraut, Bhiwadi, Patna, Palwal, Muzaffarpur, Hisar, Kutail, Jodhpur and Moradabad. As per the country-wise data, India ranked fifth in the world’s most polluted countries with Bangladesh taking the top spot, followed by Pakistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan.



The report, however, also mentions that Indian cities have shown improvement compared with last year. “Whilst cities in India, on average, exceed the World Health Organisation target for annual PM2.5 exposures by 500%, national air pollution decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019 with 98% of the cities experiencing improvement,” the report stated. Frank Hammes, IQAir CEO said, “While coronavirus is dominating international headlines, a silent killer is contributing to nearly seven million more deaths per year that is air pollution. The gap in air quality data in large parts of the world poses a serious problem, as what is not measured cannot be managed”. Avinash Chanchal, senior campaigner at Greenpeace India, said the steps being taken to control pollution were not sufficient. “In Delhi, be it bypass roads, shutting down of Badarpur power plant, shifting industries to PNG and BS-VI mandate have had result in reduction of pollution levels on an annual average basis, but the latest World Air Quality Report is an indication that the steps taken are not sufficient,” he said.



Over 150 Swine Flu Cases in just Two Months



New Delhi: The scare over swine flu isn’t limited to the Supreme Court, where five judges are said to be infected with the viral illness. Across Delhi, at least 152 positive cases of the influenza virus which took to epidemic proportions in 2009 and has since become a part of seasonal influenza have been reported in the last two months. There are no deaths reported though, as per the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) a central health body. Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo hospital said the sudden upsurge in cases could be due to a mutation of the virus. “All viruses change or mutate to adapt. We don’t know for sure but it’s possible that the H1N1 influenza virus has mutated, leading to higher rates of transmission,” he said. In the last two weeks, Chatterjee added, the hospital has admitted at least four to five persons suffering from severe symptoms of swine flu. “Most patients have mild symptoms like running nose, sore throat and fever. Admission is required in case of breathlessness or persons in extremes of age who need regular monitoring,” the doctor said. According to Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis CDoc, those with existing illnesses such as diabetes are being advised to take preventive vaccination.



Another doctor said symptoms of swine flu are similar to common flu and even the novel coronavirus infection, increasing the fear in the public. Last year, Delhi had reported 3,627 cases of H1N1 of which 31 persons had died. The death toll across the country was 1,218 in 2019, the NCDC data revealed. The latest update on H1N1 situation in the country shows 884 people have been diagnosed positive for H1N1 over the last one-and-a-half-months in the country and there have been 14 deaths. Tamil Nadu reported the maximum cases (172), followed by Delhi (152), Karnataka (151) and Telangana (148). The union health ministry issued a statement in the wake of five SC judges testing positive for swine flu. It stated that the court rooms and residences of the judges were being sanitised. The ministry said H1N1 is a seasonal infection, which usually occurs every year with two peaks: once in January to March and the other between July to September. It advised people to maintain hand hygiene and avoid crowded places. “The symptoms of swine flu are similar to common viral illnesses. Patients feel lethargic, have high-grade fever and sore throat, among other symptoms. The treatment is mostly symptomatic,” said a doctor. He added that maintaining hygiene was the most important. “People should wash their hands at regular intervals with disinfectants. If there is prolonged fever, one must see a doctor and not ignore symptoms such as difficulty in breathing,” he said.



2 Tanzanians Held for Stealing Cash from ATM’s via Fake Cards

SCAMMER DUO: Alex Mendrad Mseke and George Genes Assey.



Bengaluru: Ramanagara district police arrested two Tanzanian youths based in Bengaluru for allegedly stealing cash from ATMs using duplicate debit cards. The accused Alex Mendrad Mseke, 24, of Yelahanka and George Genes Assey, 24, of Rajyotsavanagar near Kumaraswamy Layout had come to India in 2017 on a student visa. Mseke is pursuing B Pharma in a private college near Hennur, while Assey is an undergraduate student at a private college in Kumaraswamy Layout. Investigations revealed the accused would fix skimming machines and cameras at ATM kiosks in isolated places and steal credentials of cards whenever customers withdrew cash. “The duo has associates, who are also nationals of African countries. The gang used to steal money from ATMs to lead a lavish life in Bengaluru. We will nab the other suspects soon,” a police officer said. According to police, the accused stole Rs 40,000 in four transactions from the savings account of one Shivakumar in Canara Bank. He filed a complaint with Kudur police on October 31, 2019.



A police team headed by Magadi circle inspector Ravikumar RG learnt the money was withdrawn from an ATM kiosk in Yelahanka using a fake debit card. Police collected the CCTV footage and managed to arrest the duo last week in Bengaluru. Preliminary probe revealed Shivakumar had withdrawn money from a Canara Bank ATM at Mallasandra near Bagalagunte, north Bengaluru. The gang stole his card credentials using a skimming machine and PIN through a secret camera they had installed. Then they created a fake debit card and withdrew Rs 40,000 in four transactions in a short span of five minutes on October 31, 2019. “The accused confessed to having committed several similar offences and efforts are on to trace the victims. We produced Mseke and Assey before the court and took them into our custody for 10 days,” an investigating officer said. Police seized three fake debit cards, two passports, a laptop, three mobile phones, a car, two bikes, skimming machine and other items from the duo.



Conmen Hack Hospital’s Bank Account, Divert Rs.17 Lakhs After Cloning SIM



Bengaluru: Cybercriminals targeted the bank account of a Bengaluru hospital and siphoned off Rs 17 lakh after cloning the official sim card attached to it and adding unknown members as online banking beneficiaries. Spandana Nursing Home authorities have lodged a police complaint. Hospital sources said the online banking fraud came to light on February 19 after an official postpaid cellphone number attached to a bank account of the hospital chain stopped working. “On February 14, the Airtel sim was suddenly inactive with incoming and outgoing calls being barred. We desperately contacted the Airtel helpline requesting the service be restored, but in vain. After repeated efforts a representative even visited the Airtel kiosk the sim was functional on February 20,” said a senior executive from Spandana. While the sim was inactive, fraudsters managed to make 12 online transactions from Spandana Pharma’s Central Bank of India (CBI) account (Rajajinagar branch). They diverted Rs 17 lakh to unknown bank accounts through IMPS and NEFT. “We realised the money had been transferred only after the mobile number was restored. We got to know the culprits had cloned the number, hacked the account and added beneficiaries to it,” added the executive. Dr S Preeti, chief medical director of Spandana Pharma, filed the complaint with Yeshwantpur police last week.



Gold, Rs.18L Stolen in Tirupur Bank Heist


Tirupur: A day after the daring robbery at the State Bank of India’s branch near Palladam came to light, police and the bank authorities are staring at more questions than answers. On Tuesday, police were yet to figure out the exact quantum of gold jewels stolen by the burglars at the Kallipalayam branch of the bank. After gathering information from the bank authorities and the depositors, they could only arrive at a rough estimate, which is a massive 800 to 1,000 sovereigns of gold and Rs.18 lakhs in cash. Police are also trying to find out how many men were involved in the heist, their identity and whether the loot was done in one night or two nights during the weekend holiday. The burglars had bent the window grill and gained entry into the bank. The heist came to light on Monday morning when the staff came to work. The burglars had broken the CCTV cameras and took away the hard disks containing the footage. “The public need not worry. We have formed six teams. We will soon nab the culprits and recover the stolen jewels and cash,” said SP Disha Mittal. Police said there were 110-odd safety lockers in the bank where customers kept their valuables. Of these, 27 lockers were broken open by the burglars and the jewels stolen. In addition, Rs 18.5 lakh was stolen from the bank’s cash chest, police said.



“The bank has details of gold ornaments pledged by the customers. But those were not stolen. The valuables in the safety lockers maintained by the customers were taken away. So, we had to summon the customers and collect details of the gold jewels they had kept in those lockers,” a police officer said. “We had to verify if there are any discrepancies in the claims of the customers too,” he said. The inquiry with customers is still on and the exact value of the stolen goods would be arrived at soon. Several depositors had gathered in front of the bank and staged a protest on the Tirupur-Palladam road. One of them, identifying himself as Sivanesh from Thottathupalayam, said he had kept 70 sovereigns of gold jewels in the locker and it was now missing. On Tuesday, Coimbatore range DIG G Karthikeyan, Tirupur SP Disha Mittal, and Palladam DSP Murugavel visited the spot and conducted inquiries with the public and bank authorities. Police said they have collected CCTV footage from a mill in the vicinity showing two men moving near the bank building on Sunday night. But their faces were not clear. Also, police suspect that they could have struck at the bank on Saturday night and then again on Sunday night since it was difficult to break open the window, drill holes in 27 lockers and decamp with the ornaments in one night.



International News



Italy Sees 27% More Coronavirus Cases, Spain Quarantines Hotel

Military officers in face masks guard Duomo cathedral in Milan, Italy.



Rome: Italy reported a 27% increase in the number of coronavirus cases on Tuesday and an infected doctor forced a hotel to be quarantined in Spain’s Canary Islands, evidence that the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe is spreading with travellers to and from the afflicted north. However, China appears to be getting the new coronavirus under control. Chinese officials reported 508 new cases and 71 deaths as of Monday, a slower pace than in previous days. Global cases of the virus have passed 80,000, the vast majority in China. Italy Premier Giuseppe Conte defended the measures Italy has taken to contain the outbreak and predicted a stabilising of numbers soon, but he acknowledged that the rise in cases the most outside Asia was “worrisome”. “Obviously I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” he said before a meeting with a visiting WHO mission. “But we trust that with the measures we’ve implemented there will be a containing effect in the coming days”.



Italy has closed schools, museums and theatres in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo. But Italy hasn’t yet identified the source of the outbreak and overnight reported a 27% increase in positive cases from 222 to 283, including in regions outside the north. Seven people have died, all of them elderly, suffering from other ailments, or both. The southern island of Sicily reported its first positive case from a woman vacationing from Bergamo, in Lombardy. Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, well south of the epicenter. Croatia, meanwhile, confirmed its first case in a man who had been to Milan, the capital of Lombardy. And Austria confirmed two cases in a couple who travelled from Bergamo to their home in Innsbruck last Friday. Switzerland also reported its first case of new coronavirus on Tuesday. “It’s confirmed,” a spokeswoman for Switzerland’s federal health office said. In the Canary Islands, meanwhile, a doctor from the north tested positive in a Tenerife clinic and was placed in isolation. The H10 Adeje Palace hotel where he was staying was locked down, and its 1,000 tourists prevented from leaving, according to Spanish news media and town officials in Adeje.

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