The global death toll from Covid-19 is fast approaching the grim milestone of two million. The total caseload has also surpassed 93 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The Covid death toll and caseload stood at 1,991,997 and 93,051,654, respectively, as of Friday morning, as per the latest data released by the US-based university.
The US remained the worst-hit country, with 388,529 deaths and 23,308,712 cases.
The New York death toll from Covid has reached 40,435, while California has seen 32,106 deaths so far, as per the data.
On Thursday, New Jersey expanded vaccinations to people between 16 and 65 with certain medical conditions — including up to 2 million smokers, who are more prone to health complications, reports AP.
The U.S., meanwhile, recorded 3,848 deaths on Wednesday, down from an all-time high of 4,327 the day before, according to Johns Hopkins University. The nation’s overall death toll from Covid has topped 385,000.
President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a USD 1.9 trillion coronavirus plan Thursday, which includes speeding up vaccinations. Called the “American Rescue Plan”, the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration.
More than 11.1 million Americans, or over 3% of the U.S. population, have gotten their first shot of the vaccine, a gain of about 800,000 from the day before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. The goal of inoculating anywhere between 70% and 85% of the population to achieve herd immunity and conquer the outbreak is still many months away.
Brazil has the world's second-highest Covid death toll, after the US, and is experiencing a second wave of outbreaks, with cases and deaths on the rise since December.
The South American nation's Covid death toll reached 207,095 on Friday, according the health ministry.
India's Covid tally rose to 10,512,093 on Friday, with deaths surging to 151,727.
Situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s Covid-19 fatalities soared to 7,849 on Thursday, as the health authorities confirmed 16 more deaths and 813 new cases in 24 hours.
The national caseload stands at 525,723, with 470,405 recoveries, according to a handout from the Directorate General of Health Services.
As per the latest data, the daily infection rate has dropped to 4.9 percent.
The overall infection rate stood at 15.38 percent, the DGHS said, noting that 89.48 percent of the patients have recovered till date.
So far, 3,418,114 tests have been carried out – 16,608 in the last 24 hours. The mortality rate is 1.49 percent, according to the handout.
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8 and the first death on March 18.
Bangladesh urgently needs to produce skilled migrant workers through reskilling and up-skilling considering the long-term development of the country.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud said this on Thursday.
“The migrant workers sent more than $20 billion in remittance in the last six months of 2020 even amid the pandemic,” the former foreign minister said.
“Now that Covid-19 has changed the demand side in the labour migration sector, we have to educate and train our workers in line with that. Language skill should be a priority.”
Anisul also said major changes should be brought about in this sector. “We have to identify new markets for our migrant workers instead of only depending on the Middle Eastern countries. Our workers have to be trained in the right way so that they can survive in the global market.”
The former minister was addressing the virtual regional multi-stakeholder consultation on the “13th GFMD on the Future of Human Mobility: Innovative Partnerships for Sustainable Development” jointly organised by Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, Bangladesh Civil Society for Migration and Migrant Forum in Asia.
“Around 6-7 lakh people of our country go abroad every year in search of work. We have to set up more training institutes for migrant workers where the teaching of foreign languages will be a priority,” Anisul said.
Parliamentary Caucus on Migration and Development Chair Barrister Shamim Haider Patwary said freedom to bargain is crucial for migrant workers. “But Bangladesh has fallen behind in this area.”
“Also, migrant workers should be equipped with technological knowledge. We have to protect them at all levels as our economy depends on them. So, we need a partnership for reskilling and up-skilling.”
“And workers should be sent abroad based on quota. The people of char and remote areas should get priority,” Shamim said.
The consumer rights groups and business operators on Thursday demanded an end to the government’s interference in the price fixing process of liquified petroleum gas (LPG).
They urged for determining a single regulator to play the role of watchdog in ensuring a fair price of the LPG at the consumer level by protecting both the interest of the consumers as well as the operators of the business.
They made the call while participating in public hearing convened by the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) at BIAM Auditorium in the city.
BERC was forced by a High Court order to hold the public hearing to avert a content motion filed by the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB).
BERC Chairman Abdul Jalil presided over the hearing session while other members of the commission were present.
In the hearing, a BERC technical evaluation committee (TEC) presented its report on both private companies’ proposals and also public companies’ proposal.
The TEC suggested fixing the price of a 12kg LPG container of private company at Tk 954 as highest and Tk 758 as lowest against the current price of Tk 1,259. It recommended fixing price of state-owned company’s 12.5kg container at Tk 902 through giving a cross subsidy of Tk 300 from the current price Tk 600.
Although the TEC made the recommendations, the BERC will take the final decision and fix the price.
Managing Director of state-owned LP Gas Limited Fazlur Rahman and also top executives of six other leading private LPG companies — Omera, Jamuna, Uni, Energypac, Beximco, and Promita — made their joint presentation in the hearing while BERC Deputy Director Quamruzzaman presented the TEC report.
Prof M Shamsul Alam, Advisor of the CAB, Ruhin Hossain Prince of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Mohiuddin Ahmed of Bangladesh Mobile Phone Consumers Association, among others, took part in the public hearing.
“Interference of Energy Division in LPG price fixing process is clear violation of the BERC Act 2003 which gives a clear mandate to the energy watchdog to fix the prices of 25 petroleum items including this LPG,” said Prof Alam.
He said the regulatory body was forced to hold the public hearing to re-fix the LPG price after facing a contempt of court proceeding following a writ petition by the CAB.
“But still, prices of 24 other items are being determined by the Energy and Mineral Resources Division,” he said adding that this creates a conflict of interest as the state-owned companies are doing the same business of the items.
CAB representatives questioned BERC’s unwillingness to fix the prices of the downstream petroleum products.
Also read: BERC moves to set LPG price at retail level
Prof Alam also opposed the recommendations of TEC to raise the price of 12.5 kg LPG container of the state-owned companies from current Tk 600 to Tk 900.
It will be unwise and unjust to raise the LPG price of state-owned LPG Company Limited on the ground of bringing a rationality between the public and private companies’ product prices, he said.
If it happens, the state-owned company’s LPG will face the similar fate of state-owned sugar mills as those remains unsold, he added.
Rather, if the BERC wants to bring a rationality in the prices, it should take measures to reduce the price of the LPG sold by private companies, he argued.
State-owned LGP Company Limited’s Managing Director Fazlur Rahman said that his company produces LPG from local condensates of gas fields.
He also disagreed with the proposal of the TEC to raise the LPG price of the company.
Private LPG operating company representatives said that they have to import the entire LPG from abroad through small vessels due to lack of adequate navigation facilities for which they count a huge cost of over $100 as freight charge which ultimately pushes up their costs.
They said giving an LPG container to consumer free of cost also raises their prices of the product. They also alleged that they have to take licenses from 24 authorities to set up an LPG business.
Concluding the hearing, BERC Chairman Abdul Jalil said all the concerned parties are requested to send their additional proposals and arguments by January 21 and and after analysing, the commission will come out with its final decision within a given timeframe set by the BERC Act.
Health minister Zahid Maleque on Thursday reassured the people that there won’t be any problem in storing and distributing Covid-19 vaccines.
“Bangladesh currently has the capacity to store up to 150 million vaccines. So, there won’t be any issues when 40-50 million doses come from India,” he told the media after a meeting of the ministry on vaccination and distribution.
Minister Maleque is fully prepared for the vaccination drive. “Vaccination will be carried out from the public hospitals,” he said.
“Each government hospital has been prepared to preserve 425,000 doses. Another 71,000 doses can be stored in the five-six ice freezers at the hospitals,” the minister said.
Initially, 7,344 teams, each with six health workers, have been prepared for vaccination drive, according to Maleque.
He said the Directorate General of Drug Administration will strictly monitor the vaccination process to prevent irregularities. A ‘vaccine bulletin’ will be published regularly by the Health Ministry with necessary information.
Around 42,000 health workers are being trained for vaccination and an app for vaccine registration and distribution is in its final stage of completion under the ICT ministry, he said.
He added after the Government drive of the vaccine begins other internationally approved private organizations will be allowed to give vaccines on conditions applied.
After the government launches the vaccination drive, internationally-recognised private firms will be conditionally allowed to get involved in the process.
Bangladesh approves Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
Bangladesh approved the emergency use of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Jan 7.
This will allow Beximco Pharmaceuticals to bring doses from the Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd, which is manufacturing the vaccine.
The government signed an agreement with Serum Institute on December 13 for procuring the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Under the deal, Bangladesh will import 30 million doses of the vaccine in the next six months.
“If everything goes well, then we’ll get the vaccines in mid-January,” Health Minister Maleques said.
Bangladesh coronavirus situation
The national caseload stood at 525,723 with 470,405 recoveries on Thursday, according to a handout from the Directorate General of Health Services.
Although the daily infection rate dropped to 4.9 percent, the overall infection rate stood at 15.38 percent, the DGHS said, noting that 89.48 percent patients have recovered till date.
The mortality rate is 1.49 percent, according to the handout.
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8 and the first death on March 18.
Also read: Bangladesh bets big on Covid vaccines
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) approved two cases against Jubo League's expelled Office Secretary Kazi Anisur Rahman and his wife Sumi Rahman.
ACC Deputy Director Gulshan Ara Pradhan filed a case against Anisur and his wife for accumulating Tk 12.8 crore in illegal wealth and Tk 1.31 crore in illegal assets.
The cases were filed with ACC District co-ordinated office, Dhaka-1 on September 29, 2019 against the couple.
On the other hand, the ACC also filed another case accusing Anisur's wife Sumi for amassing over Tk 1.31 crore wealth beyond her known sources of income.
Kazi Anisur Rahman went into hiding during the crackdown on illegal casinos.
He started working as a computer operator at Jubo League's central office in 2005 and grabbed the post of office secretary seven years later.
Anisur was appointed as the deputy office secretary to the organisation in 2012 before being promoted to the vacant post of office secretary six months later.