Tue, 07 December 2021
4 more suspected Omicron cases found in Delhi

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23:43   4 more suspected Omicron cases found in Delhi
Four more international travellers were on Tuesday admitted to the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan hospital's special facility for isolating and treating those infected with the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, officials said.

"There are a total of 30 people -- 25 positive cases and five suspected cases -- at the facility at present. All the four passengers who arrived on Tuesday are Indians," Medical Director of the hospital Suresh Kumar said.

Delhi reported its first case of Omicron on Sunday -- a 37-year-old fully-vaccinated man who arrived in the city from Tanzania.

The man, a resident of Ranchi, travelled from Tanzania to Doha and from there, to Delhi on a Qatar Airways flight on December 2.

He stayed in Johannesburg in South Africa for a week. He has mild symptoms.

The results of 12 of the 17 samples sent for genome sequencing were released on Sunday, with 11 of those being negative for Omicron.   -- PTI
23:24   Tharoor trolled over photo at wedding
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor hit back at trolls on Tuesday for mocking a picture at a wedding in which he figured, saying he is used to being trolled by an 'organised brigade of Bhakts' but dragging non-political people into 'your malice is not cool'.

Several people on Twitter shared a picture of Tharoor at the wedding, taking jibes at him over his picture with the young couple on their marriage day.

'I am used to being trolled by an organised brigade of Bhakts & I can take it, knowing it comes w/the territory. But dragging non-political people into your malice is not cool, and insulting a young couple on their wedding day to take cheap shots at their guest is disgraceful,' he said.

Later, responding to a Twitter user, who asked him what he means by 'bhakts', Tharoor said, 'Bhakti towards the divine is to be respected. Bhakti towards a political leader or cause, especially in the name of religion, is deplorable.'

''Bhakts' in the latter sense refers to the devotees of the Sangh Parivar & Moditva,' he said.

Tharoor has been trolled recently over various posts of his, from a photo with six women parliamentarians to wrongly describing sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan as a sitar player.   -- PTI
22:47   TMC delegation to meet Shah over Nagaland firing
In a meeting of the Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party on Tuesday, its national general secretary Abhishekh Banerjee conveyed to all MPs that the party will not play second fiddle to anyone, including the Congress, sources said.

Banerjee, who met party MPs, discussed various issues that need to be brought up in Parliament, including the Nagaland tragedy in which 13 civilians were killed in firing by security forces, the COVID-19 situation and the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha members.

The TMC Parliamentary delegation, which had sought an appointment with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, will meet him at 3.45 pm on Wednesday to hand over a memorandum, which among others, seeks compensation for the families of the citizens killed in Nagaland and asks the government to clear its position on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the sources said.

The party also issued a show cause notice to MPs Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty for skipping the parliamentary party meet.

Banerjee also discussed the expansion of the TMC in other states, the sources said.

Many Congress leaders have joined the TMC over the last few months and more are likely to follow suit, they claimed.

The TMC, however, has been very discreet about any discussions it has been having with such leaders, the sources said.  

During the meeting, the party also discussed that while it will be one with the opposition, including the Congress on all issues in Parliament, outside it, their strategies to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party would be separate.

"While we are in separate compartments, our destination will be the same. To remove the BJP," TMC MP Derek O'Brien said.   -- PTI
22:45   Scindia issues plan for managing airport crowd
Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Tuesday said he has issued an action plan for better crowd management at airports across the country which includes expanding RT-PCR test services and ramping up forex counters.

Passengers have been complaining on social media of crowding and chaos at major international airports in the country since December 1, when a new set of travel rules were imposed amid concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Taking to Twitter, Scindia said, 'Took stock of the preparedness, testing capacities, and the situation on the ground with regard to crowd management at both private and AAI airports.'

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) controls more than 100 airports across the country.

However, major airports such as in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad are operated by private entities.

The minister said he has put in place 'an action plan with eight compliances on immigration queues, expanding RT-PCR service providers, ramping up help desks and forex counters, along with seamless floor management'.

Rest assured, the aviation ministry is monitoring the situation on a daily basis and passengers should not face any inconvenience at airports, he added.

According to the Union Health Ministry guidelines that came into force from December 1, all passengers coming from 'at-risk' countries have to compulsorily undergo RT-PCR tests and two per cent of passengers arriving from other countries would also have to take the test on a random basis.

Passengers will have to wait for the test results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight, according to the guidelines. Countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel have been placed in the 'at-risk' category by the Union Health Ministry.   -- PTI
22:39   SII may cut Covishield's monthly production by half
With not enough orders for Covishield from the central government, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday said the company is looking at slashing monthly production of vaccines by at least 50 per cent.

SII has written to the government to seek clarity on its requirement, if any, for normal two doses for eligible people in the country and also on booster doses.

"I am actually in a dilemma that I never imagined... we are producing 250 million doses a month but the good news is that India has covered up a large part of its population and we would have completed all our orders to the Ministry of Health in a week's time," Poonawalla said in an interview to CNBC-TV18.

On his future production strategy, the SII CEO said that as there was 'no other orders in hand so I am going to reduce the production by at least 50 per cent to begin with...on a monthly basis until the orders again pick up either in India or the world'.

Pointing out that the export of Covishield is also slow currently, he said the export orders would pick up in the next quarter.

"Over the eight months when we could not export, other countries managed vaccine supplies from donations from the US and elsewhere and we have lost a lot of market share," he said, however, added that he is now going to try to claw the demand back in the first quarter of next year.

Initially, it is going to be slow but will pick up though it will never be to the tune of probably needing 250 million doses a month unless there is a requirement from the central government, Poonawalla said.

"If they need more vaccines for the booster doses, we have already written to them (central government). Now it is their decision on the booster policy whether they will procure more and stockpile before the next surge happens, if at all it comes. We are awaiting their directions," he added.

He further said: "We must keep in mind that we don't need a situation like last year where suddenly the country needs hundreds of millions of doses, that won't be possible if we dial down our production.

"So that is why we have explained this to the government and experts to please let us know now. If you need more doses for boosters we have it in stock, we can produce more. Just give us that guidance. That discussion is on at the moment."

Poonawalla said the vaccine major currently has a stock of 500 million doses.

"Half of that is finished product and half can be finished in a matter of two months and it has a shelf life of nine months, so we have to decide what to do with the stock. It is available on priority to India and if not, we will start exporting a lot more from quarter one of 2022," he stated.

Poonawalla said the government has been informed and the company would wait for a few days for them to come back before deciding on its next course of action.   -- PTI
22:09   Katrina-Vicky's pre-wedding festivities begin
The countdown to Bollywood star Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif's marriage began on Tuesday as the pre-wedding festivities got underway at a luxury hotel in Sawai Madhopur.

Kaif, 38, and Kaushal, 33, are tying the knot after dating for more than a year.

The three-day wedding festivities of the Bollywood star couple began with a Mehendi ceremony with close family members as well as friends of the couple from the film industry reaching Rajasthan.

Both Kaif and Kaushal left for Jaipur from Mumbai on Monday evening with their families.

Soon after their arrival in Jaipur, the two families drove straight to the wedding venue, Six Senses Fort Barwara, Sawai Madhopur, in a convoy of more than 15 cars.

Close friends and colleagues of the couple, including Kaif's frequent collaborator filmmaker Kabir Khan, his actor wife Mini Mathur, director Vijay Krishna Achara of Dhoom 3 and Thugs of Hindostan fame, actor couple Neha Dhupia and Angad Bedi arrived in Jaipur on Tuesday morning.

Kaushal's younger brother Sunny Kaushal's friend Sharvari Wagh and his Shiddat co-star Radhika Madan have also arrived.

The distance between Jaipur and the hotel is approximately 120 km.

Noted playback singers like Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani, Punjabi singer Gurdas Maan, were also spotted arriving at Jaipur earlier today.

There are reports that Mann will be performing at the wedding.

When asked what he would like to say to Kaif and Kaushal, Maan told reporters outside Jaipur airport, 'My love to the couple. God bless them.'

For the Mehendi ceremony, nearly 20 kg of 'organic mehendi' powder has been supplied from Sojat town of Rajasthan's Pali district.

Apart from the mehendi powder, 400 pieces of mehendi cones have also been sent for the couple's wedding, scheduled to take place at hotel Six Senses Fort Barwara, Sawaimadhopur, Rajasthan.

Sojat is famous for mehendi cultivation.

"We have supplied organic mehendi to the event management company for the wedding functions. We have supplied the mehendi free of cost as a gift from Sojat, Pali," Nitesh Aggarwal, owner of the Sojat-based mehendi processing and manufacturing firm Natural Herbal, told PTI.

Aggarwal said it took them almost 20 days to process the organic mehendi especially for the wedding.

According to sources, the couple will celebrate the mehendi ceremony with both sides of the family.

"Vicky has a big, loving and warm Punjabi family on his side and his chacha, chachi (paternal uncle and aunt), mama and mami (maternal uncle and aunt) are all looking forward to officially welcoming Katrina into the family.

"The wedding preparations have been in full swing on his side for quite some time now. It's going to be a joyous occasion for both sides with both their friends and family getting together to celebrate the couple's special day," the sources said.

They added that Kaif's family has also specially flown down from London -- her mother, her sisters and brother as well as a close group of friends.

"While it's going to be a private, intimate affair, the celebrations are still going to be grand and they have spared no expense to ensure that they make their special day a memorable one," the sources said.

The luxurious property, a Fort converted into a hotel, has been lit up in bright yellow lights for the wedding celebrations and is guarded by private security personnel and bouncers.

Elaborate security arrangements are in place in and around the hotel.

While both the gates of the hotel are being guarded by private security personnel, local policemen are also seen deployed in the area.

District collector Rajendra Kishan said that the district administration has given instructions to the hotel authorities to ensure compliance of COVID-19 safety  guidelines.

"It is a personal event. I recently held a meeting with our officers and representatives of the hotel and asked them to ensure compliance of COVID-19 related guidelines," he said.

The hotel authorities and security agency have also been instructed to coordinate with the local police so that there are no security related issues, he said.

The big fat wedding of B-town has naturally sparked interest in media, with various stories being speculated about the three-day elaborative festivities, such as sufi theme for sangeet, no camera policy, guests required to sign an NDA or the couple selling their wedding photo rights for huge amounts.   -- PTI
21:16   UK, Canada-returnees test positive in Bhopal
Amid concerns over the Omicron variant, two persons who returned to Bhopal from the United Kingdom and Canada, respectively, tested positive for coronavirus infection on Tuesday, an official said.

Following the test results, the two men, aged 41 and 42, were isolated and their samples were sent for genome sequencing to ascertain if they are infected with the Omicron variant, the health official added.

On Monday, a 28-year-old German national tested positive for coronavirus infection at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.

His sample was sent for genome sequencing, said district contact officer Dr D Mohanty. As he had attended a marriage ceremony here on Sunday evening, his contact history was also traced and samples of at least 50 people were collected for testing.

The German national arrived in Bhopal on Sunday from New Delhi and tested negative in Rapid Antigen Test at the airport. But his RT-PCR test report came out positive the next day, officials said.

So far no case of the Omicron variant has been found in Madhya Pradesh.

A district health official said every flyer landing at Bhopal's Raja Bhoj Airport is being subjected to RT-PCR test irrespective of the vaccination status, and samples are being sent for genome sequencing.   -- PTI
20:56   Won't fight polls until Art 370 restored: Mufti
Stating that she will not fight election until Article 370 is restored, Former Chief Minister of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti said on Tuesday that People's Democratic Party will fight elections in future.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, PDP chief Mufti said, "Of course, we are going to fight elections, we will not cede any space to them, I won't be fighting elections till Article 370 is restored."

Referring to the recent incidents when action was taken against those who cheered for Pakistan during the India-Pakistan cricket match, Mufti recalled that during former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's time, citizens of the two countries were cheering for each other.

"I remember a cricket match between India and Pakistan during Vajpayee ji's era, where citizens of Pakistan were cheering for India and citizens of India were cheering for Pakistan. And former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf also praised the then Indian captain MS Dhoni," said PDP chief.

"But some days ago in Agra, when some youngsters cheered for the Pakistan cricket team during a match with India, not a single lawyer is ready to take their case, so it feels like Gandhi's India is turning into Godse's India," she added.

Mufti further said that said, "Have never seen a greater Statesman than Vajpayee. He visited Pakistan twice. He knew dialogue is the way forward."

She also slammed the BJP for running Jammu and Kashmir like a colony.

Mufti has been asking the Centre to restore Article 370 and Article 35A and said that Kashmir cannot be kept with the country by using muscle power.

"We decided to go with India of Gandhi Ji, which gave us Article 370, Article 35A and our own flag...If you want to keep Jammu and Kashmir with you, reinstate Article 370 and Article 35A and solve the Kashmir issue. You cannot keep Kashmir with you by using muscle power," Mufti said while addressing a public rally at Banihal in Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir.

In August 2019, the central government scrapped Article 370 which gave special rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the region into two categories- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

On Tuesday, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai had said that the delimitation panel chief Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai had meetings with all the stakeholders in UT of Jammu and Kashmir and the process of delimitation would be completed as soon as possible.

She also spoke on the recent demands of two chief ministers from northeast states -- Meghalaya and Nagaland. Mufti said, "Revocation of Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) was our part and parcel of the agenda with the BJP when the PDP-BJP alliance was in the government Jammu and Kashmir state. Removing AFSPA from the areas where the incidence of militant activities are less will be a good and positive step."

Recently, after the Nagaland civilian killing, Nagaland and Meghalaya CMs Neiphiu Rio and Conrad Sangma, respectively, had demanded the repealing of AFSPA from their respective states. -- ANI
19:47   Rupee ends flat against the dollar amid rising crude prices
The rupee erased all its intra-session gains to end on a flat note at 75.44 against the US dollar on Tuesday as investors took note of rising crude oil prices and sustained foreign capital outflows.

However, a sharp rebound in domestic equities improved investor sentiment, helping in restricting rupee slide.

At the interbank forex market, the local unit opened strong at 75.31 against the greenback and witnessed an intra-day high of 75.26 and a low of 75.49 during the day's trade.

It finally ended at 75.44 a dollar against the previous close of 75.45 -- up 1 paisa against the greenback.

"Rupee traded in range between 74.35-74.50 as dollar index traded in range. Capital market positive day on back of positive updates on OMICRON variant helped rupee to not fall, but rising crude prices will remain a concern for rupee. Going ahead rupee can be seen in range of 74.30-74.75," Jateen Trivedi, Senior Research Analyst at LKP Securities, said.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, rose 2.00 per cent to USD 74.54 per barrel.

The dollar index, which gauges the greenback's strength against a basket of six currencies, was trading higher by 0.05 per cent at 96.37.

On the domestic equity market front, the BSE Sensex ended 886.51 points or 1.56 per cent higher at 57,633.65, while the broader NSE Nifty surged 264.45 points or 1.56 per cent to 17,176.70.

Foreign institutional investors remained net sellers in the capital market on Monday, as they offloaded shares worth Rs 3,361.28 crore, as per exchange data.
Representational pic
Representational pic
19:40   Rs 500 cr drugs seized from Manipur-Myanmar border
Narcotics worth Rs 500 crore were seized from Manipur's Moreh town near the India-Myanmar border in one of the biggest drug hauls in the Northeastern state's history, officials said on Tuesday.

In a joint operation by the state police and 43 Assam Rifles, a warehouse was raided on Monday afternoon, Tenugopal district's Superintendent of Police Vikramjit told reporters.

About 54 kg of brown sugar (an adulterated form of heroin) packed in 3,716 soap cases, and 152 packets of crystal methamphetamine weighing 154 kg were seized in the raid, officials said.

The warehouse was under surveillance for some time, following which the raid was conducted, police said.

A Myanmar national was arrested in connection with the seizures, they said.

A case has been registered and further investigation is underway, they added.

Congratulating the forces, Chief Minister N Biren Singh said, "Marvellous achievement by Tengnoupal Police & 43 Assam Rifles on seizing illegal narcotics substances worth Rs 500 Cr from a warehouse in Moreh."

Singh said it was one of the biggest seizures of drugs in the state's history under the 'War on Drugs' drive of the Manipur government.

"Narco-terrorism is a major source of finance for the Indian terrorist groups based in Myanmar and has umbilical cord linkages with other players in the 'golden triangle' (the confluence of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar).

"This scourge is the main reason for rise in drug addiction among the youth of India, especially the northeast region, and is also a source for fuelling terrorism in the region," the Assam Rifles said in a statement.
Representational pic
Representational pic
19:20   Section 144 CrPC invoked in Lucknow till Jan 5
Lucknow Police on Tuesday invoked Section 144 CrpC in Lucknow district from December 7 till January 5, 2022, in view of Christmas and New Year's celebration, Covid-19 threat and protest declared by various farmers' organisations.

 "No one without a proper police permission will either take out a procession of five-person or more than that, nor anyone will become a part of it," an order passed by Piyush Mordia, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Police Commissionerate Lucknow said.

"No one will do anything which will create communal tension inside the jurisdiction of Lucknow Commissionarate," it added.

In view of the upcoming examinations scheduled in the district, the order stated," the police force will be deployed at the examination centres of UPCS, PSC, or any other government-related examination to stop anti-social element and people involved in cheating (scandals).
Representational pic
Representational pic
18:43   DRDO test-fires air defence shield missile
India on Tuesday successfully test-fired the Vertically Launched-Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile (VL-SRSAM) off the coast of Odisha,  Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) officials said on Tuesday.

The air defence system, which can engage targets at around 15 km, is being developed by DRDO for naval warships and the test was done in the presence of senior navy officers.

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had last month successfully tested the high-speed expendable aerial target (HEAT), ABHYAS, used for evaluation of various missile systems, from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur off the coast of Bay of Bengal in Odisha. 
18:16   Tributes pour in for veteran teacher 'Nanda Master'
Centenarian teacher Nanda Prusty, a class 8 passout who had been educating children and village elders free of cost for the last seven decades in Odisha, died at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday, a family member said.

The 104-year-old teacher, popularly known as 'Nanda Master', was bestowed with the Padma Shri  on November 9 for his long contribution in the field of education and social service.

Just before receiving the award, Prusty had raised both his hands to bless President Ram Nath Kovind, who bowed his head with folded hands, and the picture had gone viral on social media.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death and said the much respected "Nanda Sir" will be remembered for generations due to his efforts to spread the joys of education in Odisha.

Expressing sadness at Prusty's demise, Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted, "Nation will always remember this noble soul for his selfless service."
A resident of Kantira village in Sukinda block of Jajpur district, Prusty was admitted to a community health centre on November 29 after he complained of cough and cold, and old-age-related problems.

He was shifted to the district headquarters hospital after his condition deteriorated on the same night.

The veteran teacher had tested positive for COVID-19 on November 30 following which was shifted to a private hospital in the state capital last Saturday.

"He passed away at 1.28 pm today," his grandson Khageswar Prusty and hospital authorities said.

Nanda Prusty is survived by two sons.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik posted on social media, "His valuable contribution in education and lifelong sacrifice will remain as an ideal forever. May his soul rest in peace."
Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal conveyed his sympathy to the bereaved family.
17:58   Investors richer by Rs 3.45L cr, Omicron fears die
Investors' wealth on Tuesday jumped by Rs 3,45,719.55 crore as markets returned to winning ways after a heavy selloff in the previous two sessions.

 The BSE Sensex rallied 886.51 points or 1.56 per cent to settle at 57,633.65 on Tuesday. 

 In the previous session, the 30-share benchmark had ended 949.32 points or 1.65 per cent lower at 56,747.14 on worries over the Omicron variant. Helped by the comeback in equities, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies rallied by Rs 3,45,719.55 crore to reach Rs 2,60,18,494.21 crore.

 "Domestic bourses staged a recovery...supported by broad-based buying while healthcare stocks lost ground. Global markets traded with optimism on reports that the Omicron strain may not be as severe as expected," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services.

Image: A healthcare worker holds a sample at the Genome Sequencing Lab 
17:54   Goa elections: Congress leaders meet Rahul Gandhi in Delhi
Ahead of the 2022 Goa Assembly elections, state Congress in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao, senior observer P Chidambaram and MP KC Venugopal on Tuesday met party leader Rahul Gandhi at his residence in the national capital. 

 Assembly polls in Goa are due in early 2022. Goa Assembly has a strength of 40 members out of which BJP currently has 17 legislators and enjoys the support of legislators from Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Vijay Sardesai of the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and three independents. GFP and MGP each have three MLAs. Congress, on the other hand, has 15 MLAs in the House.
Farmers celebrate the repeal of the farm laws last month
Farmers celebrate the repeal of the farm laws last month
17:38   Farmers to end stir as Centre accepts most demands
Protesting farmer unions have reached a consensus on the future course of the agitation as nearly all their demands have been met.

A formal announcement of the decision will be made on Wednesday, farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu said on Tuesday. 

"Nearly all demands raised by us have been met.... Letter (from government with assurances on farmers' demands) has been received. A consensus has been reached, the final decision will be announced tomorrow," Sandhu told reporters after a meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 farmers' unions. 

 Another farmer leader and SKM member said the agitation is likely to be called off on Wednesday as there have been some positive responses from the government side on the farmers' demands. 

However, a final decision will be announced after another meeting of SKM on Wednesday. 

 The SKM, which has been spearheading the agitation, formed a five-member panel on Saturday to hold talks with the government on the pending demands of the protesting farmers, including a legal guarantee on the minimum support price of crops, compensation to the kin of the farmers who died during the agitation against three agriculture laws and the withdrawal of cases against the protesters. PTI
17:25   SpiceJet told to deposit $5 mn in 2 weeks or face liquidation
The Madras High Court has ordered winding up of private carrier SpiceJet Limited and directed the official liquidator attached to the High Court to take over its assets, in a plea filed by a Swiss company over unpaid dues.

The airline had failed to make payment of over $24 million to a Swiss company SR Technics for maintenance, repair and overhauling of aircraft engines, modules, components, assemblies and parts.

The order was passed by the high court on December 6, 2021.
17:23   Booster Covid dose being deliberated: Govt
Studies to understand the duration of persistence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies have been undertaken in India and abroad by multiple independent investigators and vaccine manufacturers and scientific evidence on it is still evolving, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

  In written reply to a question in the Upper House of Parliament, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said that in addition to antibodies, other immune mechanisms like cellular or T cell based immune response and memory B cells are created because of vaccination and are responsible for protection against infection.

 She was responding to the question on whether the government has conducted any studies to check if there is a case of declining vaccine immunity amongst the elderly population. 

 Asked whether the government is considering giving booster shots to improve immunity, Pawar said, "The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) are deliberating and considering scientific evidences related to dose schedule of COVID-19 vaccines and the need for booster dose." 

 Adequate doses to vaccinate all eligible first dose and due second dose beneficiaries aged 18 years and above by December 2021 have been made available to states and union territories, she said. PTI
17:06   20 kg mehendi, 400 cones for Vicky-Kat wedding!
Nearly 20 kg of "organic mehendi" powder has been supplied from Sojat town of Rajasthan's Pali district for Bollywood actors Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal's wedding festivities, set to start from Tuesday. 

 Kaif, 38, and Kaushal, 33, are tying the knot after dating for almost two years. 

 While the couple has kept mum about their relationships, according to sources close to the development, the wedding festivities -- starting with sangeet and mehendi followed by the marriage ceremony -- will be held from December 7 to 9. 

 Apart from the mehendi powder, 400 pieces of mehendi cones have also been sent for the couple's wedding, scheduled to take place at hotel Six Senses Fort Barwara, Sawaimadhopur, Rajasthan. 

 Sojat is famous for mehendi cultivation. 

 "We have supplied organic mehendi to the event management company for the wedding functions. We have supplied the mehendi free of cost as a gift from Sojat, Pali," Nitesh Aggarwal, owner of the Sojat-based mehendi processing and manufacturing firm Natural Herbal, told PTI. 

 Aggarwal said it took them almost 20 days to process the organic mehendi especially for the wedding. According to sources, the couple will celebrate the mehendi ceremony with both sides of the family. 

 "Vicky has a big, loving and warm Punjabi family on his side and his chacha, chachi (paternal uncle and aunt), mama and mami (maternal uncle and aunt) are all looking forward to officially welcoming Katrina into the family. 

 "The wedding preparations have been in full swing on his side for quite some time now. It's going to be a joyous occasion for both sides with both their friends and family getting together to celebrate the couple's special day," the sources said.

 They added that Kaif's family has also specially flown down from London -- her mother, her sisters and brother as well as a close group of friends.

 "While it's going to be a private, intimate affair, the celebrations are still going to be grand and they have spared no expense to ensure that they make their special day a memorable one," the sources said. 

 The families of the two stars landed in Jaipur on Monday night and headed straight to the wedding venue in a convoy of more than 15 cars. The distance between Jaipur and the hotel is approximately 120 km.
Vinod Dua with his wife Padmavati
Vinod Dua with his wife Padmavati
16:52   I feel empty: Mallika Dua on her father's death
A few days after her father and veteran journalist Vinod Dua's demise, Mallika Dua penned an emotional note on Instagram.

 "Human life is a small small part of our journeys. Everyone must go. I hope I am able to live a tiny fraction of the life my angels lived. I doubt it but maybe they will conspire to make it happen as they always did. In the evergreen words of my friend @whosunilgrover, 'Jindagi barbad ho geeya'," she wrote. 

 Vindo Dua passed away on December 4 after a prolonged illness following a COVID infection. He had lost his wife and Mallika's mother, Padmavati Dua, aka Chinna Dua, to COVID-19 in June.
16:47   Rajinikanth meets Sasikala
Expelled All Indian Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader VK Sasikala met actor Rajinikanth at the actor's house in Poes Garden in Chennai on Monday evening. 

 Sasikala greeted Rajinikanth on his Dadasaheb Phalke award and also enquired about his health. 

 The superstar had undergone a Carotoid revascularisation procedure in October this year. 

 In January this year, Sasikala, a confidante of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, was released from jail in Bengaluru after serving four-year imprisonment in a disproportionate assets case. 

 In September 2017, Sasikala was formally removed as the AIADMK chief.
16:23   Sensex soars on global market rebound
Recovering from a two-session carnage, equity benchmark Sensex rebounded 887 points on Tuesday, led by gains in index majors ICICI Bank, HDFC twins and Infosys amid a positive trend in global markets.

 According to experts, global equity markets are slightly relieved after studies pertaining to the Omicron strain of COVID-19 suggest that even though it is fast spreading, it is largely milder than the Delta variant. 

 The 30-share BSE Sensex ended 886.51 points or 1.56 per cent higher at 57,633.65. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty rallied 264.45 points or 1.56 per cent to 17,176.70. 

 Tata Steel was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, advancing nearly 4 per cent, followed by Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Bank, SBI and Bajaj Finance. On the other hand, Asian Paints was the sole laggard.
15:53   Preity Zinta loves changing diapers
Preity Zinta shares her feelings about raising twins and it's all good...

"Burp cloths, diapers & babies'  I'm loving it all (heart emojis," Zinta tweeted and shared a loved-up picture with her baby (see alongside).

The actor and her husband Gene Goodenough are parents to twins -- a son and a daughter -- through surrogacy.

The couple named them Gia and Jai announced their arrival into their home and hearts, last month. 
15:48   Extension of BSF territorial jurisdiction aimed at empowering it: Govt
The extension in territorial jurisdiction of the Border Security Force in some states is aimed at empowering the BSF to discharge its border guarding duties more effectively, Minister of State Home Nityanand Rai said in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. 

 "The extension in the territorial jurisdiction of BSF in some states is aimed at empowering the BSF to discharge its border guarding duties more effectively in the wake of the use of technology like Dynamic Remotely Operated Navigation," MoS Rai said. 

 Earlier in November, BSF said that the enhanced jurisdiction will help BSF to strengthen the hands of the police.

 "The enhanced jurisdiction will help BSF to strengthen the hands of the police. This is an enabling provision that is aimed at strengthening and complementing the efforts of the state police. BSF has been acting in close coordination with police to conduct joint operations including joint depth area patrolling, deploying joint nakas etc and establishing of anti-human trafficking units at different places along the Indo-Bangladesh border," reads the statement issued by BSF.
15:40   What's cooking?
Punjab Lok Congress founder Captain Amarinder Singh had a lunch meeting with Union Minister and BJP in-charge for Punjab, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, at Mohinder Bagh, Siswan today.
15:37   Gujarat awards speedy justice in horrific rape, murder of toddler
A POCSO court in Surat on Tuesday awarded death sentence to a 35-year-old migrant worker for raping and murdering a two-and-a-half-year-old girl last month in Gujarat, terming it as the "rarest of rare" case. 

 To ensure fast justice delivery, the Pandesara police in Surat had submitted the charge sheet in seven days after the arrest of the accused on November 8. 

The court had recorded statements of 43 witnesses and the judgment came within a month. 

 The court had on Monday convicted the accused, Guddu Yadav, on various charges of kidnapping, rape and murder under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
15:34   Mix 'n' match Covid vaccines works better: Study
Following up first doses of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines with second doses of the Moderna or Novavax jabs generates robust immune response against COVID-19, according to a study published in The Lancet journal. 

 A team led by researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK found that no safety concerns were raised in the study of 1,070 participants.

 The study supports flexible use of these vaccines in primary immunisation schedules, which is crucial to help rapidly deploy these vaccines, especially in low- and middle-income countries where vaccine supply may be inconsistent. 

 "Thanks to studies such as these, we are now getting a more complete picture of how different COVID-19 vaccines can be used together in the same vaccine schedule," said Professor Matthew Snape, Associate Professor at the University of Oxford. 

 "Encouragingly, all these schedules generated antibody concentrations above that of the licensed and effective two dose Oxford-AstraZeneca schedule," said Snape, Chief Investigator on the trial. 

 When it comes to cellular immunity, the researchers said, having a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by any of the other study vaccines generates a particularly robust response. 

 In addition, a significantly higher number of short-lived vaccine reactions were reported in volunteers who received a second dose of Moderna compared to those who received two doses of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer.

 Using different types of vaccines within the same schedule as we have done here (for example mRNA vaccines, viral-vector vaccines or protein-based vaccines) is a relatively novel approach to immunisation," Snape said. 

 "As well as providing evidence for flexibility in deployment, these results suggest this approach can also help generate better immune responses," he added. The researchers said the findings have implications beyond COVID-19 and will inform new approaches to immunisation against other diseases that are, as yet, not vaccine preventable. PTI
15:10   India says disturbed over sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi
India on Tuesday said it is "disturbed" by the recent verdicts relating to Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others, saying the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld.
Suu Kyi had been sentenced to a four-year jail term by a court in Myanmar after holding her guilty of inciting dissent in the first of a series of verdicts. Her sentence was later reduced from four years to two years.
"We are disturbed at the recent verdicts. As a neighbouring democracy, India has been consistently supportive of the democratic transition in Myanmar," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Arindam Bagchi said.
"We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. Any development that undermines these processes and accentuates differences is a matter of deep concern," he said.
Bagchi was responding to a media query about the proceedings against Aung Sang Suu Kyi and others in Myanmar.
"It is our sincere hope that keeping their nation's future in mind, efforts would be made by all sides to advance the path of dialogue," he said.
Myanmar was rocked by massive protests after the military seized power in a coup on February 1.
Hundreds of people, including children, were killed in the crackdown against the protesters by Myanmarese authorities.
Leader of the National League for Democracy Suu Kyi was among the key people detained by the military following the coup. -- PTI 
14:51   Omicron: Thackeray's 3 suggestions to Centre
Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray has urged the Centre to allow booster shots, reduce the vaccine gap and bring down the cut-off age for inoculations to 15.

In a letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, Aaditya Thackeray listed the three suggestions, citing his interactions with doctors, for the purpose of protecting people from emerging Covid variants.

-- All front-line workers and health care workers, the group that was first to receive Covid shots when vaccinations started early in the year, should be allowed a "third shot at their studied desire.

-- Reducing the minimum age for vaccination to 15 will "enable us to cover secondary schools and junior colleges with vaccine protection.

-- The dose gap should be reduced for wider coverage. 

Mumbai has covered 100 per cent of those eligible with the first vaccine shot and more than 73% have received the second, Thackeray said. 

14:36   'All pvt banks in Afghanistan bankrupt'
Amrullah Saleh, acting president of Afghanistan tweets to say that all private banks in the country are now insolvent and bankrupt except AIB which may or will be used for transfer of humantarian funds. "Talib junta have silently taken control of all private banks. Owners and  CEOs have fled the country fearing kidnapping and torture. Pakistan should inject cash to its proxy now," Saleh wrote. 
14:17   UP double-engine govt works even in pandemic: PM
PM Narendra Modi in Gorakhpur to inaugurate a fertilizer plant and an AIIMS ahead of the UP polls: 

"Beginning of a fertiliser plant and  AIIMS in Gorakhpur is sending out several messages. When there is a double engine govt, then work takes place in double speed. When work is done with honest intentions, then even calamities can't become obstacles.

"When there is a government that worries about the oppressed and deprived sections, then it works hard and even yields results. The program in Gorakhpur today is a proof of the fact the nothing is impossible for new India when it becomes determined," Modi said. 

"Everybody knew the importance of the Gorakhpur fertiliser plant for farmers and employment here. But pervious governments showed no interest in starting it. Everyone knew that an AIIMS Gorakhpur has been a long pending demand but the governments before 2017 made excuses in allotting land for it.

"These people can never understand that even during Corona crisis, the double engine govt continued with development, it didn't let the work stop."
13:36   Channi dines at farmers house
Punjab CM in election mode does several politicians across parties do: eat with constituents. 

Charanjit Singh Channi tweeted: "Visited farmers houses at a border village in Amritsar to know their problems at the ground level. Had a sumptuous dinner with a family there. I'm indebted to people for their unconditional love and support, which encourages me to work more dedicatedly for welfare of Punjab and Punjabis."
Kiren Rijiju at the Hornbill Festival in Kohima
Kiren Rijiju at the Hornbill Festival in Kohima
13:32   Nagaland calls off Hornbill Festival over killings
The Nagaland cabinet decides to call off Hornbill Festival over the killing of 14 civilians. 

The state will write to the Centre demanding repeal of AFSPA.

The picturesque Naga Heritage Village at Kisama, the main venue for Nagaland's iconic Hornbill festival, wore a deserted look yesterday when the government cancelled the day's events in the wake of the killing of civilians by security forces in Mon district. 

 The Hornbill festival, an annual ten-day extravaganza in which several tribes of the state showcase their traditions, began on December 1.

Expressing anger over the killing of civilians in Mon, six tribes under Eastern Nagaland People's Organisation (ENPO) and a few other tribes decided to refrain from participating in the cultural programmes, yesterday.

 Konyak Union, the apex body of the Konyak tribe, to which the slain civilians belonged, also withdrew from the festival. Subsequently, almost all the tribal bodies decided not to participate in the carnival.
Madras HC
Madras HC
13:09   HC orders re-postmortem in custodial death case
Madurai bench of Madras HC orders re-postmortem of L Manikandan, a college student who died allegedly due to custodial torture. Court ordered video recording of the procedure Plea was moved by his mother, stating that he was tortured in police custody, she demanded re-postmortem.
12:53   Civilian killings: Naga tribal body imposes bandh
Konyak Union (KU), the apex tribal body in Nagaland's Mon, imposed a day-long bandh in the district on Tuesday to protest the killing of 14 civilians by security forces, and announced seven-day mourning from the next day. 

 The KU urged security forces to abstain from patrolling in the Konyak region during the seven-day mourning period, and warned that if the law enforcers do not abide by it, they will be responsible for "any untoward incident that might occur". 

 The union, in a letter sent on Monday, requested President Ramnath Kovind to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) also comprising two members of Eastern Nagaland People's Organisation (ENPO) in it and identify the Army personnel involved in the incident, and put in the public domain within 30 days the action taken against them. 

 It demanded that 27 Assam Rifles immediately vacate Mon for failing to protect civilians, and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act be removed from the entire Northeast.

 "We have imposed a day-long bandh in Mon district on Tuesday. It is going on peacefully. We have also announced seven-day mourning from Wednesday," Konyak Union president Howing Konyak told PTI. The last rites of the 14 civilians killed in firing by security forces on December 4 and 5 were held in the Mon district headquarters on Monday. 

Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, his cabinet colleagues and representatives of several tribal organisations attended the event. 

 When asked about Union Home Minister Amit Shah's statement in Parliament, Konyak said, "At the moment, we are not in a condition to accept or reject his statement. We are saddened by the brutal killing of our people. What actually happened will only be known after the two survivors who are being treated in Assam regain consciousness."
12:49   Pandemic lockdown declined emotional well-being for adults with hearing, vision loss: Study
A recent study has found that the lockdown during the pandemic caused mental and emotional issues amongst adults who had sensory impairment. Peggy Nelson, of the University of Minnesota, outlined the impacts in her presentation at the '181st Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America'.

 Nelson and her team surveyed three groups of older adults from the Twin Cities community: people with vision loss, people with hearing loss, and people without either condition. 

They asked the participants about their worries, well-being, and social isolation at six-week intervals from April 2020 to July 2021. 

The period corresponded to strict lockdowns in Minnesota, with some restrictions easing toward the end of the study. 

 All three groups of adults scored lower on a patient health questionnaire after the pandemic began. Additionally, people with vision or hearing loss faced unique problems. 

 "People with low vision were really hit hard," said Nelson. "Their whole mobility systems are built around public transportation and being around other people," Nelson added.
12:27   Jaya Bachchan, Sharad Pawar lend heft to suspended MPs
NCP chief Sharad Pawar (not in picture) and SP MP Jaya Bachchan (seated at the rear) briefly joined the sit-in protest by the 12 suspended Rajya Sabha MPs at the Gandhi statue in Parliament premises earlier today.
12:25   No reason to interfere with the high court order: SC on Bharadwaj
Update: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the appeal of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging the Bombay High Court order granting default bail to lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. 

 A bench of justices U U lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi refused to consider the submissions raised by the NIA, saying, "We see no reason to interfere with the high court order". 

 The NIA had moved the top court earlier against the high court's December 1 order. 

 Bharadwaj was arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case in August 2018 under the provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. -- PTI
Former Goa chief minister Ravi Naik
Former Goa chief minister Ravi Naik
12:19   Ex-Goa CM quits Congress, sons in BJP
In another setback to the Congress ahead of Goa polls, party MLA and former chief minister Ravi Naik tendered his resignation from the state Assembly on Tuesday.

 In October this year, former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro had resigned as Congress MLA and later join the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress. 

 With Naik's resignation, the Congress' strength in the 40-member state Assembly has been reduced to three. 

 Naik, who represented Ponda seat in Goa, submitted his resignation to Legislative Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar. 

 He was accompanied by his two sons, who joined the ruling BJP last year.

"I have resigned. I will let you know what is the next course of action," Naik told reporters here after submitting his resignation. 

 According to sources, Naik is expected to join the BJP later in the day in the presence of the party's Goa election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis. 

 Ravi Naik's younger son Roy Naik said he has requested his father to join the BJP. In the 2017 state Assembly polls, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party by winning 17 seats. 

However, the BJP, which had won 13 seats, forged an alliance with some regional outfits and independents to form government in the coastal state.
12:14   SC upholds HC order on bail to Sudha Bharadwaj
The Supreme Court dismisses the plea of the National Investigation Agency challenging the Bombay High Court order of granting default bail to advocate-activist Sudha Bharadwaj. The activist was arrested and has been in jail for over two years in the Bhima Koregaon case.
11:53   Change yourself or else... PM warns BJP MPs
BJP MPs absent from, or irregular in attending, Parliament were pulled up on Tuesday, with sources saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned them to "change yourself or there will be changes", reports NDTV.

In a strong warning, the Prime Minister - who has repeatedly advised his party MPs and ministers to be disciplined, punctual and not speak out of turn - chided BJP leaders for behaving "like children".

"Please be regular in attending Parliament and meetings. It is not good for me to continuously stress about this (and treat you) like children. If you don't change yourself, there will be changes in due course," the Prime Minister said at a meeting of the BJP's parliamentary party in Delhi today.

Senior ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi were present.

The BJP's National President, JP Nadda, was also present.The Prime Minister's words of warning come as the BJP faces a furious opposition in the ongoing winter session of Parliament, with the ruling party cornered on a variety of issues, including 14 civilian deaths after the botched Army op in Nagaland's Mon district on Saturday. 
11:50   Rani Mukherji's 'Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway' to release in May 2022
Bollywood star Rani Mukherji-led film Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway is set to release theatrically next year on May 20, the makers announced on Tuesday. 

 Billed as an untold story about a journey of a mother's battle against an entire country, the movie is based on a true incident that rocked children and human rights at an international level. 

 The film is produced by Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani and Nikkhil Advani's Emmay Entertainment and Zee Studios. 

Both the production houses announced the release date on their respective Twitter handles. With the odds against her, this mother must fight it all and more to be strong for her children! Inspired by a true story, #MrsChatterjeeVsNorway starring #RaniMukherji releases in theatres on Friday, May 20th 2022!, the post read. 

 The movie is directed by Ashima Chibber of Mere Dad Ki Maruti fame. The team commenced shooting for the film in August this year and wrapped it in October. 

 Mukerji's last big screen outing was Yash Raj Films' November release "Bunty aur Babli 2". PTI
File pic
File pic
11:36   Fiscal incentives help pregnant women quit smoking
Pregnant women are more likely to stop smoking if they are offered financial incentives as part of a treatment plan, research shows. 

 The study has been published in the 'BMJ Journal'. 

 The results showed that rewarding women for their smoking abstinence with vouchers throughout their pregnancy was associated with an increase in the continuous abstinence rate compared with no vouchers. 

 Stopping smoking is crucial to a healthier mother and baby, yet evidence suggested that less than half of women who are daily smokers successfully quit during pregnancy. 

Previous studies of financial incentives had shown promising results, but have not yet been put into practice. 

 So a team of researchers in France decided to assess the effectiveness of progressively higher financial incentives dependent on continuous smoking abstinence on stopping smoking and birth outcomes among pregnant smokers. 

 Their findings were based on 460 pregnant smokers (average age 29 years) at 18 maternity wards in France who were randomly assigned to either a financial incentives group (231 women) or a control group (229 women) when they were less than 18 weeks into their pregnancy. 

 During six 10 minute face-to-face visits, all participants were encouraged to set a quit date; given motivational counselling; and support to prevent relapse. Participants in the control group received a Euro 20 voucher at the end of each visit, but abstinence was not rewarded, so the maximum amount a participant could earn was Euro 120 after six visits. -- ANI
Sena's Sanjay Raut with Congress party's KC Venugopal at Parliament
Sena's Sanjay Raut with Congress party's KC Venugopal at Parliament
11:15   RS adjourned till 2 pm after din over 12 MPs
Rajya Sabha has been adjourned till 2 pm today amid demands by the Opposition MPs for the revocation of the suspension of the 12 MPs.

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi says the MPs have to apologise. "We explained why they had to be suspended. The country has witnessed whatever took place. It's on record. If they apologise even today, we're ready to withdraw the suspension."

10:54   China corners rare-earth market with state-owned mega-enterprise
China is on the cusp of announcing a merger of three existing state firms into a new rare-earth mega-enterprise called China Rare Earth Group, according to Taiwan News.

The new firm may be announced this month and will be headquartered in China's southerly Jiangxi province where there is an abundance of natural resources. 

China Minmetals Corporation, Aluminum Corporation of China, and Ganzhou Rare Earth Group Company will all be subsumed into the new group. 

 The move to centralize Beijing's control over the pricing will keep Chinese firms from breaking ranks as competition with western companies increases, according to Taiwan news.

The US and its allies are increasingly concerned China may choke off access to the metals, which are vital to the functioning of a variety of cutting-edge technologies, from fighter jets to wireless headphones and wind turbines and touch screens, the Taiwan news added. 

Rare earth minerals give scope to a variety of technologies, from fighter jets to wireless headphones and wind turbines and touch screens and China could manipulate their market which is a concern to the US and its allies. -- ANI

Image: A man works at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county, Jiangxi province, China. Stringer/Reuters
Vehicles stuck in traffic at Keylong, Lahaul and Spiti, yesterday
Vehicles stuck in traffic at Keylong, Lahaul and Spiti, yesterday
10:42   Cold wave grips Kashmir valley
The minimum temperature across Kashmir fell below freezing point again on Tuesday, after a day's respite from subzero temperatures, even as the weather office forecast possibility of a wet spell in the valley over two days from Wednesday. 

Gulmarg resort in north Kashmir's Baramulla district recorded a minimum temperature of minus 7 degrees Celsius, the officials said. 

 They said the resort was the coldest recorded place in the valley. Srinagar recorded a low of minus 1.4 degrees Celsius on Monday night, a plunge of four degrees from the previous night, the officials said. 

 They said Pahalgam, which serves as the base camp for the annual Amarnath yatra, recorded a low of minus 4.8 degrees Celsius, dropping more than five degrees. 

 The minimum temperature in Kupwara in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 1 degrees Celsius. Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, recorded minus 0.2 degrees Celsius, while Kokernag recorded a low of minus 1.2 degrees Celsius. 

 The MeT Office has said there is a possibility of light rain or snow on Wednesday and Thursday at some places. -- PTI
Increasing vaccinations are a must
Increasing vaccinations are a must
10:37   Despite Omicron, India's Covid cases just 6,822
India recorded 6,822 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the Union Health Ministry informed on Tuesday. This is the lowest number of fresh cases of infection reported by the country in the last 558 days. 

Out of the new COVID-19 cases recorded across India, Kerala recorded 3,277 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours. 

Moreover, the active caseload in the country has now reached 95,014 which is the lowest in the last 554 days. 

 According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the active cases in the country account for less than 1 per cent of total cases, currently at 0.27 per cent which is the lowest since March last year. 

 With 10,004 recoveries in the last 24 hours, the cumulative recovery tally in India now stands at 3,40,79,612. The Recovery rate is currently at 98.36 per cent.
10:32   Kolkata's air quality improves by 90% after cyclone-induced rain
When it rains, AQI improves. 

Kolkata's air quality improved by around 80-90 per cent after Cyclone Jawad-induced rain lashed the city in the last couple of days, pollution control board officials and environmentalists said on Tuesday.

 The Air Quality Index (AQI) of 20 (good) was registered at Victoria Memorial, 43 (good) at Ballygunge, 33 (good) at Rabindra Sarobar, and 51 (satisfactory) at Rabindra Bharati University at 7 AM on Tuesday, as per data provided by the Central Pollution Control Board. It was 185 (moderate) at Victoria Memorial, 212 (poor) at Ballygunge, 163 (moderate) at Rabindra Sarobar, and 307 (very poor) at Rabindra Bharati University at 9 am on December 3 before the rain kicked in, it said.

 "A maximum of 90 per cent and a minimum of 80 per cent improvement in the AQI of Kolkata was reported after the cyclone-induced rain lashed the city. This was a record low for the city in the month of December in the last 40 years," Environmentalist S M Ghosh told PTI.
09:41   Emergence of Omicron was inevitable: S African Prez
South Africa's fourth COVID-19 wave was anticipated and the emergence of the new Omicron variant was inevitable, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said, terming the surge in infections a matter of "great concern".
The president said the number of daily infections has increased five-fold in the past week, with nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 tests now returning positive. Two weeks ago, only two per cent of tests were positive.
"While the surge in infections is of great concern, we should remember that we anticipated it. Disease modellers in our country have told us that we would likely experience a fourth wave around this time and that it was almost inevitable that new variants of the virus would emerge," Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday.
"As the country heads into a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, we are experiencing a rate of infections that we have not seen since the pandemic started. The Omicron variant that was brought to global attention by South African scientists nearly two weeks ago appears to be dominating new infections in most provinces," he said.
He said scientists in South Africa and around the world are still hard at work to answer critical questions about the new Omicron variant, such as its transmissibility, its progression, whether it causes more severe disease and how effective vaccines will be against it.
Ramaphosa urged the people to get vaccinated and take measures to ensure collective safety without waiting for stricter lockdown regulations.
"As we enter the fourth wave, and as the country gears up for the festive season, the urgent priority is for more people to get vaccinated. Scientific evidence shows that vaccination is the most effective means of preventing the spread of new infections, and that vaccines reduce severe illness, hospitalisation and death," he said.
"As every day passes, and as infections rise, the reasons to get vaccinated become more compelling and the need becomes ever more urgent. Vaccines are safe, and like all other routine vaccinations we received as children and against diseases like measles, they offer the most potent form of protection available," he said.
Ramaphosa said vaccination was also essential for the country's economic recovery, because as more people are vaccinated, more areas of economic activity would be opened up.
"We can do our work and socialise under less stringent restrictions, and our lives can return to some degree of normality. As individuals, we must carefully consider the implications of the risk to ourselves of being unvaccinated and the risk of spreading the infection to our children, parents, relatives, co-workers and those we do not even know," Ramaphosa said.
South Africa is currently at the lowest Level One of its five-level lockdown strategy, but speculation is rife that this may be upped this week as infections soar exponentially.
Ramaphosa confirmed that a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council will be convened "soon" to review the state of the pandemic.
"This will enable us to take whatever further measures are needed to keep people safe and healthy," he said.
09:18   How do they match: Goa CM on MGP-TMC alliance
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has said cultures of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Trinamool Congress, which have forged a pre-poll alliance, do not match.
The MGP, Goa's oldest regional party, on Monday announced it would contest the forthcoming state assembly elections in an alliance with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress as the combine pitched for good governance as its main poll plank to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Reacting to the political development, CM Sawant said the two parties have no match when it comes to their cultural identities. 
"Where is the MGP's culture and where is the TMC's West Bengal culture? We wonder how do they match," he told reporters  on Monday evening after attending a meeting of the BJP's election management committee chaired by former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadanavis.
Referring to Goa's first CM Dayanand Bandodkar, who had founded the MGP, Sawant said, "Late Bhausaheb (Dayanand) Bandodkar will not have peace wherever he is."
State BJP president Sadanand Shet Tanavade said, "I have seen cartoons on various WhatsApp groups. It is shown there that when a lion does not get anything to eat, it eats grass."
Notably, lion is the MGP's election symbol. 
After the 2017 assembly polls, the BJP, despite winning only 13 seats in the 40-member House compared to 17 bagged by the Congress, quickly stitched an alliance with the MGP and another regional outfit, Goa Forward Party, to form its government.
The MGP and the GFP later split with the saffron outfit.
The MGP, which had won three seats in the 2017 polls, is currently left with only one MLA after two of its legislators joined the ruling BJP.
Tanavade said when the MGP aligned with the BJP for the first time in 1994, it was a different party altogether. 
"If it is the same party, it would not have tied-up with a political outfit like the TMC," he said.
"Now, the MGP has been turned into a private limited company of Dhavalikar brothers," Tanavade claimed. -- PTI
08:23   Omicron scare: Over 100 foreign returnees untraceable in Maha
Amid the Omicron scare, Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation chief Vijay Suryavanshi on Monday said 109 out of 295 recent foreign returnees to the township in Thane district were untraceable currently.
He said the mobile phones of some of these people were switched off while many of the last given addresses were found to be locked.
Suryavanshi said returnees to KDMC limits from all 'at risk' nations have to undergo 7-day home quarantine, and a COVID-19 test will be conducted on the eighth day. 
"Even if it is negative, they will have to undergo another 7-day home quarantine and it would be the duty of housing society members to ensure the norm is not violated. Marriages, gatherings etc are being watched to curb violations," he said.
"Some 72 per cent of the people in KDMC have taken the first dose of the vaccine and  52 per cent are fully vaccinated," he added.
One Omicron case was detected in a Dombivali resident recently. -- PTI  
00:04   Community spread of Omicron: UK health minister
The UK's health minister on Monday told Parliament that the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 is now in transmission within the community across regions of England, as he confirmed a total of 336 cases of the mutation first detected in South Africa.

According to the latest data, there are now 261 cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336, Sajid Javid said in his statement to the House of Commons.

"This includes cases with no links to international travel. So, we can conclude that there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England," he said.

The minister informed Parliament about the addition of Nigeria to the UK's red list travel ban and pre-departure PCR or lateral flow tests for anyone travelling to the country starting Tuesday.

"We are leaving nothing to chance. Our strategy is to buy ourselves time and strengthen our defences while our world-leading scientists assess this new variant and what it means for our fight against COVID-19," he said.

Javid also updated the Commons on previously released data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) about recent scientific analysis which suggests that the window of infection may be shorter for Omicron than for the Delta variant.

However, he said that there is no "clear picture" on whether the variant causes more severe disease or how it is impacted by the current vaccines being administered for COVID-19.

"And so we can't say for certain, at this point, whether Omicron has the potential to knock us off our road to recovery," said Javid.

From 4 AM local time on Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from a non-red list country, whether vaccinated or not, will have to show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken no earlier than 48 hours before departing for the UK.

Javid said that the new measures, which also include every traveller having a Day 2 PCR test and isolating until getting a negative result, are temporary and will be reviewed next week.

Experts have said there is increasing concern Omicron is spreading more quickly than the Delta variant, currently the predominant variant in the UK.

Professor Paul Hunter from the School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia said the early signs show that the Omicron variant "will probably spread quite quickly".

"And probably start outcompeting Delta and become the dominant variant probably within the next weeks or a month or so at least," he told the BBC.