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China’s coronavirus vaccine to be ready for trials by April

Beijing: The earliest vaccine for the coronavius that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, China’s Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday.

Xu made the remarks during a press briefing. Zhou Qi, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also told reporters companies which have resumed operations should ensure proper ventilation and maintain a safe distance among workers, reports the media.

China reported an uptick in new cases of coronavirus on Friday, boosted by more than 200 people testing positive for the disease in two prisons outside of Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

The epidemic is set to be a major focus of discussion at a meeting on the weekend of finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said, amid rising risks to global growth.

Japan and Singapore are on the brink of recession and South Korea on Friday said its exports to China slumped in the first 20 days of February as the outbreak upends global supply chains.

Mainland China had 889 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections as of Feb. 20, the National Health Commission said, up from 394 cases a day earlier. The death toll rose by 118 to 2,236, mostly in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, which remains under virtual lockdown.

Infections found in two jails, in the northern province of Shandong and the eastern province of Zhejiang, made up most of the 258 newly confirmed cases outside Hubei.

Top officials deemed responsible for the outbreaks have been fired, authorities said on Friday.

There have been 11 deaths outside of mainland China, according to a Reuters tally based on official statements.

South Korea’s fourth-largest city is the latest hotspot, with streets abandoned and residents holed up indoors after dozens of people caught the new coronavirus in what authorities described as a “super-spreading event” at a church.

The deserted shopping malls and cinemas of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people, became one of the most striking images outside China of an outbreak that international authorities are trying to stop from becoming a global pandemic.

The Tokyo Metropolitan government said it would cancel or postpone major indoor events for the next three weeks, Jiji newswire reported, as the Japanese capital prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games starting in July.

In Hong Kong, which has confirmed 69 cases and two deaths from the disease, dozens of police officers were quarantined after an officer tested positive following a banquet with 59 other police on Tuesday.

Iranian health officials urged all religious gatherings to be suspended in Qom, news agency ISNA said on Thursday, after two more people tested positive for the coronavirus in the holy city, where two died of it this week.

Two Australians evacuated from a quarantined cruise ship in Japan had tested positive for the pathogen at a quarantine camp in the country’s far north and would be hospitalized near their homes, Australia’s health department said on Friday.

Japan began allowing passengers who test negative to leave and hundreds disembarked this week, with hundreds more set to disembark on Friday.

As G20 finance ministers prepare to meet over the weekend in Saudi Arabia, the IMF said it was too early to tell what impact the virus would have on global growth.

“We are still hoping that the impact will be a V shaped curve” with a sharp decline in China and sharp rebound after the containment of the virus, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said.

“But we are not excluding that it might turn out to be a different scenario like a U curve where the impact is somewhat longer.”

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US preparing to sign deal with Taliban on Feb 29: Pompeo

New Delhi/Kabul: A week-long “reduction in violence” pact between the Taliban, the United States and Afghan security forces will come into effect from midnight on Friday night, paving the way for the peace deal which is to be signed on February 29.

Officials in Afghanistan confirmed this on Friday. The negotiations between the US and the Taliban that were resumed after four months in January, had been stuck over the disagreement on the definition of “reduction in violence”.

However, on Friday, both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that they have reached an agreement on the deal and its implementation, according to media reports.

Pompeo said that following the successful implementation of the limited ceasefire, the US would move to sign a peace deal with the Taliban on February 29. Mujahid said that both the US and Taliban will invite senior representatives to participate in the ‘signing ceremony’ of the peace deal.

Incidentally, President Donald Trump is visiting India later this week on a two-day trip.

The deal, which the Trump administration has been negotiating for long, includes talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani which are to begin on March 10. Mujahid confirmed that they will hold intra-Afghan talks with various political groups.

The Afghan government had stayed away from the US-Taliban negotiations due to strong reservations about the militant group’s religious extremism and violence.

As per the peace treaty, the US has agreed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners between February 29 and March 10. The Trump administration has also committed itself to withdraw all its forces from the war-torn country over a period of 18 months.

The US and NATO forces launched a ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan 18 years ago after the global Islamist terror group al-Qaeda – sheltered and supported by the Taliban – attacked the US on September 11, 2001.

The US has around 11,000 troops in Afghanistan and has been gradually withdrawing its forces.

Trump, who is running for re-election later this year, had promised during his first election campaign that he would end America’s wars and bring all American troops back home.

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More Indians getting permanent residency in Canada

Washington: Disenchanted by the restrictive visa policies in the US, the number of Indians getting permanent residency in Canada increased by 105 per cent in the first 11 months of 2019 alone, the Virginia-based National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) said in a report.

The NFAP analysis of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees data in Canada showed that the number of Indians who became permanent residents in Canada increased from 39,340 in 2016 to 80,685 in 2019, the American Bazaar reported on Wednesday citing the report as saying.

The increase also means that the full year Canadian statistics will likely show more than 85,000 Indians gaining permanent residency in Canada in 2019, according to the report.

Going by the growing trends according to immigration attorneys there will be a further uptick in the number of high skilled professionals such as doctors, engineers and scientists looking at Canada as their future home, it added.

On what attracts Indians or high skilled professionals to Canada is also the fact that many IT conglomerates are facilitating this easy transition for those stuck in visa backlogs by opening up offices in major cities in Canada.

“Canada gives smoother immigration transition possibilities along with the same cosmopolitan life as in the big cities across the US, which certainly helps,” the American Bazaar quoted Ravi Bhat, an Indian physician who has been living and working in smaller cities across the US, as saying.

“Besides it (Canada) has a world class education system which is a boon for those who have families on H-4 (dependent) visas here and fear that their kids may age out leaving them to fend for their student visas.” 

Some Indians wary about racism and gun culture in America also feel relieved to look at Canada.

Bay Area based Suchita M. says: “I have a daughter who goes to high school next year. I would be lying if I say that the thought of school shootings does not rattle me.”

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Hope Trump visit outcome in national interest: Congress

New Delhi” The opposition Congress on Friday welcomed US President Donald Trump’s coming visit to India but cautioned the government to take the utmost care to ensure that it did not turn into a Trump re-election campaign in the Indian diaspora.

“We feel this visit should not become a link to the re-election campaign of the US President. The outcome of this visit should be in national interest,” said senior Congress leader Anand Sharma.

The Congress said the three things that needed to be kept in mind are the sovereignty, self-respect and national interest of India. “Such tours should be serious and not limited to photo-ops, the Congress leader remarked.

The former Union Minister said: “The Congress understands Indo-US relations and supports it… the Congress wants the GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) regime to be brought back as Indian manufacturers are suffering and it has impacted small workers in the country.”

“As Trump has said, he has good relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he has been assured that he (US President) will be welcomed by 50-70 lakh people during his visit. In such a situation, we hope that the pending issues of the country like H1B1 visa, GSP etc will be resolved,” the Congress leader added.

However, the Congress questioned who all were managing the proposed Ahmedabad visit of Trump, as the government said it was the “Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti”.

“We have come to know that a quota has been fixed for schools, colleges and universities (to send students for Trump’s welcome). School children will also be lined up. As many as 100 teachers have been summoned from each block. All the hoardings put up there are not by any committee. The Gujarat government has given all approvals; Motera Stadium has been hired, artistes from all over India are coming. It’s not under the control of a committee. A special grant for the visit has been given to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. We don’t mind, but the government should not lie (about the arrangements),” a Congress leader said.

The party asked if the government was paying for the event, why was it hiding the fact.

The Congress said it has not received any invitation yet for its leaders to meet US President Donald Trump on his upcoming visit to India.

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said “we have not received any invitation from the government side and neither from the US.”

“If any invitation will come then we will take a view on it,” Sharma said when asked.

While Leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad may be invited to the President’s reception but the party chief has not been given any invite.

The Congress is the principal opposition party and visiting foreign dignitaries also meet Congress leaders as Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajpaksa met Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh during his visit.

The Congress said that any relationship with the US should be a standalone relationship and it should not affect India’s relationship with other countries including Russia as India should not accept a “big brother” treatment from the US and it should be on an equal footing, said Sharma.

“Three things that need to be kept in mind in this journey are – sovereignty, self-respect and national interest of India,” Sharma added.

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Trump visit to Sabarmati Ashram ‘cancelled’, roadshow reduced

Gandhinagar: US President Donald Trump will cut short his stay in Ahmedabad to accommodate his likely Agra visit and the dinner at Delhi. Sources said his visit to the Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati is in all likelihood cancelled.

“We are yet to receive any confirmation about the Presidents’ plans regarding the Gandhi Ashram visit, but 99 percent, it is scrapped,” said a state government official.

The Trumps were expected to spend about half-an-hour at the Ashram. A new parking space was being created at the place. A platform was being built on the rear side of the Ashram so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could show the entire Sabarmati riverfront to the visiting dignitaries from one place. A special room was also being prepared at the Ashram, where the dignitaries would be spending some time. Sources said all that work has been halted for now.

So, now the mega event — the 22 km roadshow from the airport to the Sabarmati Ashram — has been reduced to 9 km. Now, the Trump couple accompanied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be driving straight to the Stadium from the Ahmedabad airport.

The change in plans can also be attributed to the fact that there’s also a dinner arranged in the evening in Delhi which the US dignitaries are expected to attend.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania will be driven around in India in his ‘Beast’, a 2018 model of a unique Cadillac which serves as a miniature version of White House.

The presidential state car, maintained by the United States Secret Service, is transported in the hold of Air Force One, the Boeing 747, that is the President’s plane. Technically, any fixed wing plane that the President flies in becomes Air Force One, but the term usually means the Presidential 747.

Air Force One is not only a flying Presidential palace with conference rooms and staff, the US President is able to act as commander-in-chief from aboard the plane. He can direct wars or even nuclear war if it comes to that. It also carries the Beast with it in the hold for the President when he is on the ground, almost anywhere in the world.

Motorcades escorting the US presidential state car constitute around 50 vehicles maintained by White House Military Office and helicopters of Marine One.

Meanwhile, barely 72 hours before Trump lands in India, the RSS’s economic arm has warned the Modi government against promising any trade deal that allows the US to eat into India’s over Rs 10,000 billion dairy business.

Before you jump to conclusions that the opposition is to protect the domestic dairy interest alone, think again. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch has brought in a religious angle to it.

Its Co-Convenor Ashwani Mahajan said: “Milk is a vegetarian diet in India. Demand of US administration is that India should remove the condition that only the milk of vegetarian cows be imported from the US. Since, in the US, cows are fed with blood and meat, and import of milk from such cows is prohibited in India.”

“US needs to understand that this demand of the US is not only unjust, it can’t be accepted also due to religious reasons.”

But the RSS’s economic arm is equally if not more concerned about the possible economic blow the sector may face, once US giants have access to India’s dairy market.

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Trump’s Great India Show, Directed by PM Modi

New Delhi:  The public reception for President Donald Trump in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat will include an exhibition of Mahatma Gandhi’s life and 28 snippets from India’s rich and diverse culture in a manner “unparalleled” in history.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said at a press briefing here on Wednesday that “the highlight of the program in Ahmedabad will be the exhibition of India’s rich and diverse culture and heritage to President Trump in a public manner that has few parallels in India or elsewhere.”

The February 24-25 trip will be Trump’s first state visit to India and also a first standalone visit by a US President to India. It will be brief but intense, with all essential elements of a state visit squeezed in 36 hours. Besides New Delhi, Trump will visit Ahmedabad and Agra.

From the moment of Trump and First Lady Melania’s arrival at the airport on February 24, the delegates will be treated to a display of famed Indian hospitality and India’s unity in diversity, Shringla said.

In Trump’s honor, an event which has been named ‘Namaste Trump’ will be held at the newly reconstructed, largest cricket stadium in the world at Motera, Ahmedabad. The event will be similar to the ‘Howdy Modi’ event which was hosted by the Indian-American community for Modi in Houston last year.

In what is being billed as the great ‘Indian road show’, as many as 28 stages representing various parts of the country are being set up along Trump’s route from the airport to the stadium in Ahmedabad.

The show will depict different events in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Tens of thousands of people, including artistes showcasing their art from different states and Union Territories, are expected to greet Trump along the way.

From Ahmedabad, the President Trump and First Lady will fly to Agra where they will spend an hour at India’s iconic monument Taj Mahal before the sunset.

On February 25, the US President and the First Lady will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. This will be followed by a visit to Rajghat where the couple will pay respects at the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi will hold restricted and delegation-level talks on strategic partnerships at the Hyderabad House. Later, Modi will host a lunch for Trump, following which the two leaders will address the media.

In the afternoon, Trump is expected to attend certain private events at the US Embassy, including a private roundtable with industry representatives. Trump’s last meeting will be with President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the evening before he leaves for the US.

President Trump will be accompanied by at least three members of his cabinet and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on the India visit. The three secretaries will be Steve Mnuchin of treasury, Wilbur Ross of commerce and Dan Brouillette of energy, according to media reports.

The state department will be represented by the US ambassador to India Ken Juster, as all other officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are staying back in Washington DC for a conference of heads of US missions from all over the world.

A half dozen high profile Indian Americans are also likely to be part of

Trumpʼs delegation to India.

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