Passengers wearing protective face masks leave upon arrival at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport after India cancelled all flights from the UK over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Mumbai.(REUTERS)
Passengers wearing protective face masks leave upon arrival at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport after India cancelled all flights from the UK over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Mumbai.(REUTERS)

Covid-19: What you need to know today

The new strain is the predominant one in the UK, especially London; there have been 70 flights a week from the UK to India since May; and until last Monday, when it was tightened, the screening process for passengers arriving in India was a sham.
By R Sukumar | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 30, 2020 06:12 AM IST

Six cases of Covid-19 caused by Sars-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 (or B.1.1.7 as some are calling it) have been diagnosed in India. All six are patients who flew in from the UK over the past week, who tested positive for the virus, and whose samples were then sent for genome sequencing which confirmed the presence of the mutant strain – it has up to 23 mutations – of the coronavirus that was first sequenced in the UK in September. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone (over the past week, I’ve repeatedly emphasised that there is a high likelihood of the variant already being in India). The new strain is the predominant one in the UK, especially London; there have been 70 flights a week from the UK to India since May; and until last Monday, when it was tightened, the screening process for passengers arriving in India was a sham (it had started off well, but, over time, came to rely more on documentation and self-declaration and less on the actual screening itself).

The identification of the new strain here should spur health authorities in India to aggressively trace all those who travelled to India from the UK over the past month (at the least). Some of them may be asymptomatic carriers who have passed on the virus to others. The contact tracing process is hampered by human stupidity – at least some of the people who have travelled into India from the UK, it emerges, have provided false addresses or phone numbers; some recent travellers are believed to be keeping their phones switched off so that they cannot be reached (see page 11). This is behaviour that is potentially harmful not just to themselves and the people in their immediate vicinity (friends and family), but the public at large.

Click here for complete Covid-19 coverage

Dispatch 233, on December 28, explained that researchers in the UK have found out that the new strain is 56% more infective than the old one. It isn’t known whether the mutant strain causes more severe cases of Covid-19 or results in more fatalities, but this is actually irrelevant. The mere fact that the variant is more infective is enough: this logically means more cases of the coronavirus disease. Even assuming that the rate of hospitalisations and deaths does not change at all for the new variant (and is exactly the same as it is for Sars-CoV-2), the higher number of cases (caused by the higher infectiveness of the variant) will mean more hospitalisations and more deaths. And even assuming the proportion of hospitalisations that turns into severe cases remains constant, it means an increase in the number of severe cases. Indeed, because the higher infectiveness means more infections, which means even more infections, and so on, in a classic exponential progression, the new strain leads to a scenario which results in more deaths than even an increase in the case fatality rate would. That’s all the more reason for health authorities here to trace and isolate, something that most states have become pretty careless about, with the number of daily new cases falling. India ended Monday with just around 270,000 active cases, according to the HT dashboard (the US has 7.7 million).

Also Read | Where India stands in global Covid-19 spread

India is the 21st country to have identified the new variant of the virus. The others are: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Israel, Canada, Lebanon, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, and France. There is another strain, which shares some characteristics of B.1.1.7 that has been identified in South Africa and Nigeria. Over the course of the week, the last of the year, more countries will identify the UK strain in people testing positive, just as India itself will see more cases caused by the new strain. It’s a year-end challenge that the country should negotiate carefully.

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A boy sells a water pot for summer days at Sahakar nagar in Pune, India, on Sunday, February 28. (Rahul Raut/HT photo)
A boy sells a water pot for summer days at Sahakar nagar in Pune, India, on Sunday, February 28. (Rahul Raut/HT photo)

High maximum temperatures to persist for another 4-5 days: IMD

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Smriti Sinha
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 08:17 AM IST
A feeble Western Disturbance as a cyclonic circulation over north Pakistan is persisting. Under its influence, isolated rainfall/snowfall is likely over Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan, Muzaffarabad, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand on March 3 and 4
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A health worker (L) takes a mouth swab sample from a journalist for a Covid-19 nucleic acid test.(AFP)
A health worker (L) takes a mouth swab sample from a journalist for a Covid-19 nucleic acid test.(AFP)

Covid-19 LIVE: Tokyo to seek an extension of emergency, says report

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 08:00 AM IST
As the vaccination drive in underway, more than 265 million have been immunised against the Covid-19.
Rahul Gandhi interacted with economist Kaushik Basu and shared what he thinks of Emergency, his father's assassination.
Rahul Gandhi interacted with economist Kaushik Basu and shared what he thinks of Emergency, his father's assassination.

Emergency was a mistake, says Rahul Gandhi; talks about father, Prabhakaran

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 07:42 AM IST
"It was more painful to see my father walking towards his death, as a so knowing that he is not going to come out of what he is fighting," Rahul Gandhi said on his father's death.
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A man holds the flags of India and the US. (REUTERS)
A man holds the flags of India and the US. (REUTERS)

India-US ties greatest testament to Gandhi-King legacy, says Indian diplomat

PTI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 06:46 AM IST
Consul General of India in Chicago Amit Kumar said this at the first Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable Summit organized by the US Congressional Multi Advisory Task Force of Congressman Danny K Davis in cooperation with Metropolitan Asian Family Services on February 26.
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In many participating countries, it is the first time that large-scale polling of public opinion has ever been conducted on the topic of climate change.(Pixabay)
In many participating countries, it is the first time that large-scale polling of public opinion has ever been conducted on the topic of climate change.(Pixabay)

Climate crisis to cost $100 billion to Indian firms in next 5 years: Report

By Jayashree Nandi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 06:16 AM IST
The report, titled “Building Back Greener”, said the numbers were based on responses by 42 of 220 Indian companies that responded to investor requests and disclosed climate data.
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Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.(ANI)
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.(ANI)

Delhi Assembly session next week: Govt may table state budget on March 9

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 05:47 AM IST
  • For 2020-21, Delhi had pegged budgeted revenue receipts (excluding borrowings) at 55,309 crore. Revised estimates for the year will be mentioned in the upcoming budget (2021-22) and actual revenue receipts for the year will reflect in the budget after that.
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A couple waits to get their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai.(Satish Bate / HT Photo)
A couple waits to get their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai.(Satish Bate / HT Photo)

Long wait times, glitches in Co-WIN slow vaccine drive

By Rhythma Kaul, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 05:41 AM IST
Close to five million registrations — which officials estimate could include 10 million people — took place in the 24 hours after the government began accepting sign-ups.
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“What do you think? Is a woman a chattel that we can pass such an order? Is a wife a chattel that she can be directed to go with you?” asked an SC bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta while hearing the man’s petition.
“What do you think? Is a woman a chattel that we can pass such an order? Is a wife a chattel that she can be directed to go with you?” asked an SC bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta while hearing the man’s petition.

Wife not husband’s chattel, can't be forced to live with him, says Supreme Court

By Utkarsh Anand, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 05:31 AM IST
At the core of the dispute is an April 2019 order on restitution of conjugal rights, passed in favour of the man under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) passed by a family court at Gorakhpur.
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The December 2 order required states and Centre to install high-definition CCTVs with night vision, audio recording and storage facility of a minimum period of 12 months to 18 months. (HT Illustration).
The December 2 order required states and Centre to install high-definition CCTVs with night vision, audio recording and storage facility of a minimum period of 12 months to 18 months. (HT Illustration).

SC tells states to install CCTVs in police stations, probe agencies in 5 months

By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 12:55 AM IST
  • Court-appointed amicus curiae senior advocate Siddhartha Dave prepared a chart indicating unsatisfactory response from states as well with some proposing to achieve compliance of Court’s December 2, 2020 order by end of 2023.
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The Supreme Court. (HT archive)
The Supreme Court. (HT archive)

SC backs taxpayers in software royalty case

By Utkarsh Anand, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 12:25 AM IST
  • The judgment, which involved approximately 500 crore in tax revenue, will impact companies such as IBM India Ltd, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Hewlett Packard India, Mphasis Ltd, Sonata Software Ltd, and GE India, among others.
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A police team in the village in Anoopshahar area of Bulandshahr district where the girls' body was found.(HT PHOTO)
A police team in the village in Anoopshahar area of Bulandshahr district where the girls' body was found.(HT PHOTO)

5 days after 12-year-old girl disappeared in UP’s Bulandshahr, body found in pit

By S Raju
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 12:02 AM IST
  • The girl's family lodged a complaint three day after she went missing.
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Experts say that one develops immunity against the virus 14 days after the second shot of the vaccine which is taken after a minimum of 28 days of the first shot. (ANI PHOTO) (Image used for representation).
Experts say that one develops immunity against the virus 14 days after the second shot of the vaccine which is taken after a minimum of 28 days of the first shot. (ANI PHOTO) (Image used for representation).

Barely 22 days after taking first jab of vaccine, medico dies of Covid-19

PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 12:01 AM IST
  • Shubhendu Shubham, 23, a 2016-batch student of Patna’s Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH), had taken the first shot of Covaxin in the first week of February, but tested positive for the viral infection later last month before he could take the second shot
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Civil society members and corporators from Srinagar during a candle light protest outside Krishna Dhaba, whose owner's son Aakash Mehra succumbed to injuries, 11 days after he was shot.(ANI)
Civil society members and corporators from Srinagar during a candle light protest outside Krishna Dhaba, whose owner's son Aakash Mehra succumbed to injuries, 11 days after he was shot.(ANI)

Srinagar market desolate after death of eatery owner's son in militant attack

By Ashiq Hussain
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 11:13 PM IST
  • For the past 13 days, the Durga-Nag market at Dalgate in Srinagar has been desolate and locals and traders in grief
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The Election Commission of India.(HT File Photo)
The Election Commission of India.(HT File Photo)

PM Modi’s photo on vaccination certificate violates model code, TMC tells ECI

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 10:36 PM IST
  • TMC’s leader in the Rajya Sabha Derek O, Brien asked the Election Commission to stop the Prime Minister "from taking unfair advantages and undue publicity at tax payer’s cost during the conduct of elections".
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Congress members burn an effigy of senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad during a protest, in Jammu on Tuesday.(PTI)
Congress members burn an effigy of senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad during a protest, in Jammu on Tuesday.(PTI)

Ghulam Nabi Azad becomes catalyst in rift in Congress unit in J-K

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 09:52 PM IST
  • Ghulam Nabi Azad detractors and supporters in the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Committee accused each other of acting at the behest of the BJP.
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