Six inmates were killed and 35 others were injured when guards opened fire to control a riot at a prison on the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s capital, officials said Monday. Two guards were critically injured, they said.
Pandemic-related unrest has been growing in Sri Lanka’s overcrowded prisons. Inmates have staged protests in recent weeks at several prisons as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the facilities.
Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said inmates created “unrest” Sunday at Mahara prison, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of Colombo, and officials attempted to control the situation.
But “the unrest situation turned into a prison riot,” he said, adding that prisoners tried to take control of the prison and hundreds attempted to escape.
The inmates “reportedly destroyed most of the property including offices inside the prison,” Rohana said.
The guards opened fire, and the clash left six inmates dead and 35 injured, he said. Two prison officers were critically injured.
He said hundreds of additional police were deployed to help the guards and strengthen security around the prison.
An inmate was killed in similar unrest at another prison last week. Another died in March.
More than a thousand inmates in five prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two have died. About 50 prison guards have also tested positive.
Sri Lankan prisons are highly congested with more than 26,000 inmates crowded into facilities with a capacity of 10,000.
Senaka Perera, a lawyer with the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, said the inmates had been frustrated because their pleas for coronavirus testing and the separation of infected prisoners had been ignored by officials for more than a month.
Sri Lanka has experienced an upsurge in the disease since last month when two clusters — one centered at a garment factory and other at a fish market — emerged in Colombo and its suburbs.
Confirmed cases from the two clusters have reached 19,449. Sri Lanka has reported a total number of 22,988 coronavirus cases, including 109 fatalities.
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From a freshly baked "mood-boosting" pizza to the juicy sweet crab meat, food delivery has been a saviour for gastronomers in India amid Covid -- all thanks to cloud kitchens that are increasingly emerging as a safe bet these days.
A low-cost model, cloud kitchens are restaurants built around food delivery only rather than sit-down service. They are also known as ghost or dark kitchens, which work with online delivery apps for catering to customers.
Not only cloud kitchen startups are flourishing in the Indian capital and its outskirts, many big food and beverages companies are also turning towards the low-cost model due to the high demand for food delivery at doorstep.
"These days, people are reluctant to eat out. So, this new concept has come as a respite for food connoisseurs as well as housewives sick of cooking meal after meal at home. So, you get the best of both worlds at home," says Delhi-based culinary expert Seema Sharma.
"At the same time, restaurants, particularly in big cities, are lashing on to this concept to tide over the economic impact of Covid," she adds.
Agree restaurateurs, who have been hit hard by Covid and the consequent lockdown.
"We have recently tied up with two aggregators, Swiggy and Zomato, for food delivery at the doorstep of customers. This way, we have managed to save our business as well as the livelihoods of our employees," says Reeta Arya of 'China Wok' in central Delhi.
In Delhi's wealthy suburb of Gurgaon, a number of eateries have also adapted the cloud kitchen model. 'Flavours of Italy', popular for its hand-tossed pizzas, for instance, has not only tied up with aggregators but also started its own delivery fleet to cater to customers.
"Covid forced us to revisit our business model, In August, we shifted to the low-cost ghost kitchen model. Our sky-rocketing sales, thanks to our pizzas, have compelled us to get our waiters to drive deliveries. We are also saving on overheads," says co-owner Rishi Singh.
Not only established eateries, few enterprising individuals have also turned the Covid crisis into an opportunity by starting startups -- 48-year-old Meena Rathi, founder of 'Home Food at Home', being one of them.
"Till three months back, I was only cooking food for my husband and children. Now, I have started a cloud kitchen at home and catering to the breakfast needs of many. My aim is not just earning money, but to give fellow housewives a breather from kitchen duties," she says.
In fact, as per the latest survey of Zomato, the food and beverages industry in Delhi and adjoining cities has recovered nearly 80% of its revenue from the pre-Covid phase, by turning to home deliveries.
Moreover, the survey claims to have found that eateries in residential areas are doing 50% better business by delivering food than those in commercial areas as people have switched their expenditure from eating out to home delivery.
"For any foodie, food is the most frequently indulged pleasure. Thanks to food delivery apps and cloud kitchens, we gastronomers continue to enjoy restaurant foods at home. Indeed it's the best of both worlds for me and my wife," says Sunny Chandra, an IT professional.
While e-commerce pundits are predicting that cloud kitchens would thrive even in a post-Covid world, industry analysts are a bit apprehensive.
"Covid has definitely triggered a shift in consumer behaviour, particularly in the food and hospitality sector. But this trend might not sustain in a post-Covid world when people would love to venture out instead of ordering at home," says Romesh Tyagi, an industry analyst.
The Serum Institute of India has responded to "malicious and misconceived" allegations by preparing a Rs100 crore defamation suit against a Covishield coronavirus vaccine trial participant who claimed to suffer a "virtual neurological breakdown" after being administered a dose, reports NDTV.
Covishield has been developed by SII using the 'master seed' of the AZ1222 vaccine , better known as the 'Oxford vaccine' developed by Oxford University scientists in collaboration with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca. for which the Bangladesh government signed a deal with SII to purchase 30 million doses earlier this month. It is currently undergoing a late-stage trial on 1600 participants in India.
In a statement to NDTV on Sunday evening, the Serum Institute said that while it sympathised with the volunteer's medical condition there was "absolutely no correlation with the vaccine trial and the medical condition of the volunteer".
"The allegations in the notice are malicious and misconceived. While the Serum Institute of India is sympathetic with the volunteer's medical condition, there is absolutely no correlation with the vaccine trial and the medical condition of the volunteer. The volunteer is falsely laying the blame for his medical problems on the COVID vaccine trial," the statement said.
"The claim is malicious because the volunteer was specifically informed by the medical team that the complications he suffered were independent of the vaccine trial he underwent. In spite of specifically being made aware of the same, he still chose to go public and malign the reputation of the company," the statement added.
The Serum Institute said it would seek damages in excess of ₹ 100 crore and would continue to defend itself from all such malicious claims.
Earlier a 40-year-old Chennai man, who was a volunteer for the third phase of the Covid vaccine trial conducted by the Serum Institute, claimed ₹ 5 crore as compensation for "a serious adverse event after being administered the under-trial vaccine".
He was administered the dose at Chennai's Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research (SRIHER) on October 1.
According to his legal notice, which was filed November 21, ten days later he began experiencing "severe headaches", "total behavioural change" and "irritation towards light and sound". Subsequently, the notice claims, he could not recognise or speak to anyone.
On October 26 he was discharged from hospital after suffering from "Acute Encephalopathy" that, the notice claims, was "an extreme side effect of the test vaccine.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh government on November 5, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Serum Institute of India Pvt Limited and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BPL) to get three crore doses of SARS-Cov-2 AZD 1222 (Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine).
As per the MoU, Serum institute will provide SARS-Cov-2 AZD 1222 (Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine) to Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BPL).
The Health Minister said, “Once the vaccine is developed, the Serum Institute will provide three crore doses of vaccine in the first phase, and BPL will bring it to Bangladesh.”
“We would be able to provide the vaccine to 1.5 crore people once it’s available in Bangladesh as two shots of vaccine is needed for one person,” he said.
The process to bring Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine will start in January next, said Zahid adding that a decision was taken in principle that Serum Institute will provide the vaccine at the same price they would procure.
The ministry has adequate funds for procuring vaccines and more will be sought from the Finance Ministry, if necessary, he said.
“Everyone won’t get the vaccine at a time as it’ll be distributed in groups. The country has all the preparations to fight the second wave of Covid-19,” Zahid Maleque said.
Protesting farmers on Sunday rejected the Indian government's offer to hold immediate talks if they ended their blockade of key highways they've held as they seek the scrapping of legislation they say could devastate crop prices.
The thousands of farmers will continue camping out on highways in Punjab and Haryana states until three new agriculture laws are withdrawn, Jaskaran Singh, a leader of the Kisan Union, or Farmers’ Union, told reporters.
The farmers say the laws could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply.
The government says the legislation brings about much needed reform agriculture that will allow farmers the freedom to market their produce and boost production through private investment.
“These reforms have not only served to unshackle our farmers but also given them new rights and opportunities," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday.
On Friday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar offered to hold talks with the farmers’ representatives on Dec. 3.
That followed a day of clashes with police, who used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to push them back as they tried to enter New Dehli.
The latest offer for talks was made by Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday. But he said the farmers would have to shift their protests to a government-designated venue in New Delhi and stop blocking the highways.
Singh, the farmer's representative, said he doubted the government really wanted to hold talks.
"We want the farm laws to be scrapped, that’s all,” he said.
Singh said more farmers would be joining the protest and blocking national highways in other states as well.
Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people. But farmers have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15% of gross domestic product, which is valued at $2.9 trillion a year.
Farmers often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.
At least 30 policemen were killed and over 20 others wounded after a suicide car bomb hit a military camp in Ghazni city, capital of Afghanistan's eastern Ghazni province on Sunday, a local official confirmed.
"Some 30 killed and 21 wounded were admitted to a main hospital in Ghazni city following an explosion this morning," Zahir Shah Nikmal, spokesman of provincial public health directorate, told Xinhua.
The number of casualties may change, he said.
"The targeted camp which belongs to the Public Protection Police Forces came under attack Sunday morning. The police officers manning the facility responded to attackers. So far, we have no more details, but we will try to get more information," local government spokesman Wahadullah Jumazada told Xinhua earlier.
The blast sent a column of thick smoke into the sky and triggered panic in Qala-e-Joz, an area on the outskirts of the city, the official said.
Additional security forces reached the site following the attack, the spokesman added.
In the meantime, spokesman of the Interior Ministry Tariq Arian told Xinhua that one suicide bomber was killed after detonating an explosive-laden vehicle roughly at 7:37 a.m. local time on Sunday along a road connecting Ghazni city to neighboring Dih Yak district.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local officials blamed Taliban militants for the attack.