TUESDAY Top Capitol Hill negotiators have sealed a $900-billion Covid-19 economic relief package for businesses as well as individuals 22 DECEMBER, 2020 U.S. lawmakers reach deal on $900bn stimulus package epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard DIRECT BENEFITS TRANSFER TO AMERICANS MISSION BENGAL The agreement, announced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers WRITING ON THE WALL Amit Shah instructs Bengal BJP workers to paint graffiti on nearly 4 lakh walls A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS PAGE 8 Consumer is king, discoms to pay for poor service EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi put in place systems — preferably automated — for monitoring and restoring outages. According to power ministry officials, since electricity is a subject on the concurrent list, the new rules will have to be followed by discoms in all states. While the respective regulatory commissions may set standards of compliance, any violation of these standards will result in the discom paying compensation to the customer. The amount to be paid for each type of standard violation will also be notified by the respective commissions. The compensation mechanism is also required to be automatic. We are the representatives of the people. We will fight for the rights of the people... You have to serve the consumer. You have to give rights to the consumer — RK Singh, Power minister NEW DELHI J8.00 Temporary restrictions from Tuesday midnight till December 31 as new Covid strain found 70% more transmissible than original one EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE MUTATED VIRUS FOOTPRINT @ New Delhi INDIA on Monday joined a slew of nations that temporarily barred flights from the UK to firewall themselves from a highly infectious strain of Covid-19 that was recently detected in Britain. The variant, called N501Y, is 70% more transmissible than the original Covid strain, and has already been found elsewhere, including Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia. The suspension of flights comes into effect from Tuesday midnight and will continue till December 31. The decision was taken following recommendations by the Covid-19 joint monitoring group and the Covid-19 national task force whose emergency meetings were held on Monday . As a measure of abundant caution, passengers arriving from the UK in all transit flights (flights that have taken off or those that will reach before the ban comes into effect) will be mandatorily subjected to RT-PCR tests on arrival to detect Covid-19 cases. Those testing positive will be under mandatory institutional quarantine. States have been advised to also monitor those who test negative; they need to remain in isolation for at least seven days at home. First found in Kent in the UK on Sept 20, later in Wales and London. Also in Scotland in Greater Glasgow 9 cases in Denmark 1 each in the Netherlands and Italy 4 in Belgium 2 in Australia FLIGHT STATS Air bubble Arrangement exists between the 2 countries Virgin has four weekly flights each from Delhi and Mumbai, to London 60+ to the UK per week. Also started the DelhiAmritsar-Birmingham sector on December 11 Sources in the health ministry said scientists and the ICMR have sounded out to keep a watch for any new strain of Covid in any part of the country even though the pandemic seem to have stabilised in most parts of India over the last several weeks. For his part, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said there is no need to panic yet. After Britain admitted the new strain was “out of control” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a stay-at- home lockdown, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Turkey, Israel and Bulgaria announced flight restrictions to the UK. Johnson is scheduled to travel to India for the annual Republic Day parade on January 26. Aviation regulator DGCA directed all airlines to ensure that passengers travelling from the UK do not board flights from anywhere outside the UK to come to India during the suspension period. New strain cannot dodge vaccines, claim experts S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA & C H E TA N A B E L A G E R E @ New Delhi / Bengaluru JUST as we thought the end of pandemic was in sight, a new mutation of SARS CoV 2 — detected in the UK — has brought fresh concerns. The discovery has also put a question mark over the Covid vaccines in the works. Will the vaccines be effective against the new strain? However, experts say the vaccines will be effective against the new strain as well. Virologists point out that viruses mutate all the time; while there is no need for panic, there is no room for complacency either. “Though the mutation is said to have caused havoc in the UK, we don’t have to panic,” said Dr T Jacob John, virologist and ex-professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore. “However, we may have to buy a couple of weeks to not let the virus enter and spread fast and burden our healthcare,” he added. Dr Gaurav Sharma, a DSTINSPIRE Faculty Scientist at IBAB, Bengaluru, pointed out that most mutations don’t change the virus biology, whereas some can modify the proteins and therefore their biological function, compared to the earlier mutation. “Coro- navirus, like the flu and measles viruses, is an RNA virus that is prone to mutate much faster. Researchers say this variant has high transmissibility 70% more than other known , strains. In this case, eight mutations are in the spike (S) protein of the virus, and two are worrisome as they can putatively alter the SARS-CoV-2 bi- Mutated 17 times Researchers in Britain have found that this particular strain has mutated 17 times, which is more than the number of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 that they know of ology and its infection patterns,” he said. Dr K Srinath Reddy a senior , member of India’s National Task Force on Covid-19, said the vaccines are tested for efficacy on a wide range of existing variants but “we have to be cautious and vigilant”. P4,7&8 DDC poll results today; first J&K mandate on bifurcation, Article 370 PROTEST WORKOUT An open air gym is giving much-needed break to farmers during the ongoing agitation at Singhu | PARVEEN NEGI BREEDING Zoo caretakers given tips about tiger care at workshop @ New Delhi MONTHS after the death of a white tigress, who was part of a tiger breeding programme, due to birth complications at Delhi zoo, the administration on Monday held a workshop on management of in-captivity big cats. Attendants and other zoo keepers were sensitized about various issues involved with the tigers breeding plan and raising awareness about the animals’ management. “Animals in the wild and in captivity are very different situations. We want zookeepers and attendants to understand the crucial difference. As we are part of select zoos where extra care is shown to the breeding programme, knowledge and precaution are necessary. The workshop helped in developing that understanding,” said Delhi Zoo Director Ramesh Pandey . The national zoological park continues to be closed to the public since the first lockdown. The authorities have used the time for conducting in-house workshops on different kinds of animal species. A white tigress ‘Nirbhaya’ died while giving birth to cubs. Her death was attributed to an infection in the womb. Before that a tiger had died due to old age at the zoo. The surviving cub of Nirbhaya is being hand-reared at the zoo hospital, Pandey said. During the workshop the caretakers were infor med about breeding techniques and why the conservation of these animals is important. Interestingly, there is a divide on captive breeding. Some wildlife experts say tigers are often inbred, which can cause birth defects and health issues. They advocate reintroduction efforts to boost the tiger populations in the country . DELHI COVID WATCH STATUS OF CASES RECOVERED DEATH ACTIVE CASES TOTAL +VE Today 1,669 27 -803 Cumulative 5,98,249 10,304 9,255 6,17,808 PATIENT MANAGEMENT Total beds Occupied Vacant H OS P I TA L 18,786 2,909 15,877 CARE CENTRE 7,792 112 7,399* H E A LT H C E N T R E 562 26 536 *281 beds of CCC are occupied by persons under quarantine including travellers who came by Vande Bharat Mission and Bubble flights 5,405 HOME ISOLATION TESTING STATUS 34,288 28,152 RTPCR/CBNAAT/ TrueNat tests conducted Rapid antigen test conducted today 78,62,807 4,13,831 Total tests done so far Tests per million CONTAINMENT ZONES AS ON DATE: 5,843 Source: Delhi health bulletin | December 21 50.98 57.22 51.55 51.20 50.08 VOTER TURNOUT 50.33 TUESDAY will provide the first public opinion on the Centre’s abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir as the results of the District Development Council (DDC) polls will be out. The eight-phase polls for 280 DDC seats, which began on November 28 and ended on December 19, was held for the first time in J&K. About 51 per cent of the total 57 lakh eligible voters exercised their franchise in the elections. The DDC polls was also the first major electoral exercise in J&K after scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A and bifurcation of J&K state into two UTs on August 5 last year. All the top mainstream leaders, including three former CMs Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were de- tained after Article 370 revocation and about a dozen, including three ex-CMs, booked under stringent Public Safety Act (PSA). The main contest is between seven-party Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Article 370 restoration and BJP . The PAGD, which was formed in October this year by NC, PDP JKPM, Peoples Con, ference ANC, CPI and CPM to fight for restoration of J&K’s special status, had initially decided to stay away from the polls but later contested to prevent a one-sided affair for BJP. If the PAGD, which has got stronghold in Valley, wins big and manages to emerge as single large group in J&K, then the alliance, which has been named as Gupkar Gang by BJP may increase its political activities with higher pitch for restoration of Article 370. 48.62 F AYA Z W A N I @ Srinagar E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E PAGE 7 23 FLIGHTS MARKETS SPOOKED The S&P 500 Index headed to its worst drop in almost eight weeks, shedding 1.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 1.5%. Indian bourses witnessed bloodbath with Sensex plunging 1,406 points and Nifty going below 13,350 pts Actor appears before NCB Protesting farmers claim they are ready for dialogue if the Centre comes up with a concrete solution. According to the farm union leaders, there is nothing new in the letter sent by the govt Air India has Vistara has one daily London flight from Delhi NEW DELHI: Election strategist Prashant Kishor threw a dare at the BJP, saying he would quit Twitter if the saffron party crosses double digits in Bengal polls. Kishor said the BJP would “struggle to cross double digits” in the 294-member assembly and vowed to quit Twitter if it did better than he predicted. BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya hit back at Kishor, saying that the country will end up losing a poll strategist after the West Bengal elections. MEETING TODAY TO TAKE A CALL ON TALKS WITH GOVT Weekly flights operated by Air India and other airlines, including Vistara, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic between India and the UK. British Airways has six Delhi-London and five Mumbai-London flights each week Kishor throws gauntlet at BJP FARMERS PAGES 12 INDIA TOO IMPOSES U.K. FLIGHT BAN EXPRESS READ MUMBAI: Bollywood actor Arjun Rampal appeared before the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officials on Monday in connection with a drug case lodged following the death of filmstar Sushant Singh Rajput, an official said. According to the NCB official, the 47-yearold actor was summoned last week, but he had sought time till December 22 to appear before the central agency citing personal reasons. The NCB had questioned Rampal and his partner last month and later arrested her brother Agisilaos in the case. The agreement came after months of battling and posturing. Delays in finalising the pact prompted the House to pass a one-day stopgap spending bill to prevent a govt shutdown. “In 31 days, when Joe Biden enters the White House, more help will be on the way,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi | P9 51.7 ELECTRICITY consumers in India now have the right to uninterrupted quality power supply with the Centre on Monday , notifying the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules. The new guidelines also mandate distribution companies (discoms) to provide new connections within seven days in metro cities, 15 days in small towns, and 30 days in rural areas. Discoms that don’t meet these standards will have to pay consumers. Union minister for Power R K Singh said consumers’ rights had to be laid down in Rules since discoms were acting as monopolies and users had no alternatives. The rules stipulate that discoms must supply power on request from the occupier of any premises, and that minimum standards of service is consumers’ right. Also, discoms have to supply power 24x7, except for areas such as agriculture where continuous power is not required. Discoms are also required to MORE STIMULUS MEASURES ON THE CARDS FIGURES IN PER CENT I II III IV V VI VII VIII Twenty leaders put under detention Authorities on Monday took into preventive custody at least 20 political leaders, including three senior PDP functionaries. PDP chief minister Mehbooba Mufti described the detention as “out and out Gunda Raj”. Fraudsters make merry with promises of vaccine E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ Bhopal WHILE the central and state governments are still working to put in place a crack mechanism for administering the much-awaited Covid-19 vaccine, fraudsters are already at work duping people with promises of the first shot. Bhopal Police’s Cyber Cell is probing more than six complaints of cyber fraudsters promising people advance booking of the vaccine. While one such complaint has been submitted to the cyber cell by an alert college student, some families, whose members have already been hit by the deadly pandemic, too have received phone calls from fraudsters. “The callers are posing as agents of government agencies. They are trying to con- vince people that paying advance money will render the booking of the Covid-19 vaccine for them. Fortunately in, stead of trusting these fraudsters, people have reported the matter to the police,” Rajat Sakhlecha, Additional SP (Cyber Cell), told this newspaper. The fraudsters are mostly calling from Jharkhand and Mewat region of Rajasthan and Haryana. They are also sending links to people to first convince them that they are genuine representatives of government agencies and later asking their targets to send basic details. They are even sending OTP numbers to make people believe that if they send a sum of `500 to `5000 into certain accounts, the booking and first shots of the COVID-19 vaccines will be a certainty .
Express Network Private Limited publishes thirty three E-paper editions of The New Indian Express newspaper , thirty two E-paper editions of Dinamani, one E-paper edition of The Morning Standard, one E-paper edition of Malayalam Vaarika magazine and one E-paper edition of the Indulge - The Morning Standard, Kolkatta.