The government of India is planning to kick off a vaccination drive on Jan. 16 to stem COVID-19 in the world’s second-most populous country.
The Health Ministry said Saturday that priority will be given to healthcare workers and others performing frontline duties during the pandemic, categories that together are estimated to include around 30 million people.
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They will be followed by individuals over age 50 and younger people with underlying health conditions, numbering around 270 million, the ministry said in a statement.
Last week, India’s drugs regulator gave emergency authorization for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and for another developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech.
The ministry said that both vaccines would be administered in two dosages.
With 10.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, India has the second-highest total behind the United States. Indian has reported almost 150,800 virus-related deaths during the pandemic.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal as he disclosed a list of high-tech weapons systems under development, saying the fate of relations with the United States depends on whether it abandons its hostile policy, state media reported Saturday.
Kim’s comments during a key meeting of the ruling party this week were seen as applying pressure on the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has called Kim a “thug” and has criticized his summits with President Donald Trump.
The Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying the “key to establishing new relations between (North Korea) and the United States is whether the United States withdraws its hostile policy.”
Kim said he won’t use his nuclear weapons first unless threatened. He also suggested he is open to dialogue if Washington is too, but stressed North Korea must further strengthen its military and nuclear capability to cope with intensifying U.S. hostility.
He again called the U.S. his country’s “main enemy.”
“Whoever takes office in the U.S., its basic nature and hostile policy will never change,” he said.
Biden, who will take office on Jan. 20, is unlikely to hold direct meetings with Kim unless the North Korean leader takes significant denuclearization steps.
Cheong Seong-Chang, a fellow at the Wilson Center’s Asia Program, said Kim’s speech showed he has no interests in denuclearization talks with Biden if he insists that working-level negotiations must sort out contentious issues first.
Kim didn’t cite any specific provocative U.S. actions. North Korea has previously called regular U.S. military drills with South Korea an invasion rehearsal, though the allies have repeatedly denied that.
The North Korean leader listed sophisticated weapons systems that he said were under development. They include a multi-warhead missile, underwater-launched nuclear missiles, solid-fueled long-range missiles and spy satellites. He said North Korea must also advance the precision attack capability on targets in the 15,000 kilometer (9,320 mile)-striking range, an apparent reference to the U.S. mainland, and develop technology to manufacture smaller nuclear warheads to be mounted on long-range missiles more easily.
“The reality is that we can achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula when we constantly build up our national defense and suppress U.S. military threats,” Kim said.
It’s unclear if North Korea is capable of developing such systems. It’s one of the world’s most cloistered countries, and estimates on the exact status of its nuclear and missile programs vary widely. In 2018, the South Korean government said North Korea was estimated to have up to 60 nuclear weapons.
“What they want to tell the U.S. is we’re developing the new strategic weapons that you can see as the most intimidating. Do you want to come to the negotiating table?” Choi Kang, vice president of Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said.
KCNA said Kim’s comments were made during the ruling Workers’ Party congress, the first in five years, from Tuesday to Thursday. He spoke for nine hours, the agency said.
The congress, the party’s top decision-making body, is being held as Kim faces what appears to be the toughest moment of his nine-year rule due to blows to his already-fragile economy — pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced the North’s external trade, a spate of natural disasters last summer and U.S.-led sanctions.
During his opening-day speech, Kim called the difficulties the “worst-ever” and admitted his previous economic plans had failed. In his other comments reported Saturday, he called for building a stronger self-supporting economy and reducing reliance on imports under a new five-year development plan.
Since taking power in late 2011, Kim, who turned 37 on Friday, has pushed the so-called “byungjin” policy of simultaneously seeking economic growth and the expansion of his nuclear deterrent. After claiming to have achieved the ability to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons, Kim launched high-stakes summits Trump in 2018, but their diplomacy later fell apart due to wrangling over the sanctions the following year.
During this week’s speeches, Kim said North Korea will further boost ties with China, its biggest ally and economic lifeline but slammed South Korea for continuing the drills with the U.S. and introducing modern weapons.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry responded that it hopes for the early resumption of North Korea-U.S. talks, saying the inauguration of a new president in Washington can serve as a good chance to improve their ties.
“Kim’s speech foreshows the North Korean-U.S. relations won’t be smooth in the next four years with Biden in office,” said Nam Sung-wook, an expert on North Korea at Korea University in South Korea. “We won’t likely see big events and spectacles (like the Kim-Trump summits) for the time being.”
Ten children died after a fire broke out at a special newborn care unit in India's western state of Maharashtra in the wee hours of Saturday.
Seven children have been rescued from the hospital located in Bhandara district, 896 km from Mumbai, said a surgeon of the civic hospital.
The short circuit is believed to be the cause of the tragedy as per preliminary investigations, said a local police official.
Indian revolutionary Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's niece Chitra Ghosh, whose meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi led to the declassification of the "lost" leader's files more than five years ago, has passed away in the eastern city of Kolkata. She was 90.
Both the Indian President and the Prime Minister Friday condoled the death of Chitra, an eminent academician, who, family members said, died of cardiac arrest on Thursday.
President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted his condolence message: "Prof Chitra Ghosh, a respected scholar and niece of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose dedicated her life to academics and contributed in the fields of social work and human rights, especially women empowerment."
Modi also took to Twitter to condole her death. "Professor Chitra Ghosh made pioneering contributions to academics and community service. I recall my interaction with her, when we discussed many subjects, including declassification of files relating to Netaji Bose. Saddened by her demise."
Netaji's nephew and India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leader Chandra Kumar Bose tweeted what he claimed "a historic picture -- my father Amiya Nath Bose and my aunt - Chitra Ghosh with Jawaharlal Nehru (first Indian PM) at our residence at 1 Woodburn Park, Kolkata, which was a venue for many conferences during the freedom movement".
Revered by Bengalis for defiant patriotism, Netaji was an Indian nationalist whose attempt during World War II to rid India of the British rule with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan left a troubled legacy.
In 1941, Bose escaped from his Calcutta (now Kolkata) home where he was under house arrest at the time. Passing through a treacherous route via Afghanistan, he first reached Germany and met Hitler to request military help in ousting the British from India. From there, he travelled to Japan to get Tokyo's help in forming the Indian National Army, a militia.
Bose disappeared at the end of World War II, after last being seen at Taihoku airport.
Responding to a right to information query, the Indian Home Ministry said in 2017 that "after considering the reports of various commissions, the government has arrived at the conclusion that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose died in a plane crash on August 18, 1945".
However, many of his followers still believe that Netaji came back to India as a Hindu monk, while some are of the opinion that he went into self-imposed exile in Siberia.
India's cricket board chief Sourav Ganguly, affectionately known as 'Dada', was discharged from hospital on Thursday, some five days after he underwent an angioplasty surgery following a mild heart attack.
Saurav left the eastern Indian city of Kolkata's leading private hospital, Woodlands, around 10.30 am (IST), after his family members completed the necessary formalities. "He is fit and fine. His family has been briefed about the medicines he needs to take daily," a doctor said.
The former Indian skipper's discharge was deferred by a day as he himself had opted to extend his stay in the hospital.
The 48-year-old was rushed to the private hospital on Saturday morning, after he complained of acute chest pain and dizziness while working out at a gym. Later that day, he underwent angioplasty after three tiny blockages were detected in his coronary artery.
On Tuesday, India's leading cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty, who flew down to Kolkata from the southern city of Bengaluru, said Saurav could run a marathon and fly a plane "as his heart is as strong as it was when he was 20", after examining him at the hospital.
"This event will not affect his lifestyle or life span. He is going to lead a normal life like anybody else. Sourav can participate in a marathon, fly a plane, or even get back to cricket if he wants as his heart has not suffered any damage," he had said.
During his interaction with Saurav, Dr Shetty said, he had requested the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India to influence the country’s sports bodies to ensure sportspersons go for mandatory cardiac and body check-ups at least once in two years.
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"Ganguly’s event has shaken the world raising a question as to how a 48-year-old athlete like him, who does not drink, smoke, or has any other vices, is a fit man, can have a heart attack. A preventive health check-up could have prevented the event," he told the media.
“Irrespective of how strict you are with your lifestyle, irrespective of how athletic you are, you can still have a heart attack if you do not go for a preventive heart check-up at regular intervals,” the cardiac surgeon added.
Last week, Ganguly had cleared the air about him joining politics ahead of the assembly elections in his home state of West Bengal.
Post his meeting with state Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, rumours were going the rounds that he could be India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's chief ministerial face in the assembly polls in West Bengal, currently ruled by Banerjee's regional Trinamool Congress party.
However, Dada had told the media, "If the Governor wants to meet you, you have to meet him. So let us keep it like that."
Considered one of the best captains in international cricket, Ganguly quit international cricket in 2008 but continued playing in the multi-billion-dollar cricketing tournament Indian Premier League for a few more years.
He scored more than 18,500 runs in Tests and one-day internationals. Last year, Dada was elected as the president of BCCI, the world's richest cricketing body.