Sat, 24 July 2021
Will go barefoot to meet farmers: Sidhu
21:28 Will go barefoot to meet farmers: Sidhu
Newly appointed Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu said for him the "victory" of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha is a top priority and he will go "barefoot" to meet farmers protesting the Centre's farm laws whenever they call him.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha is an umbrella body of farmer unions spearheading the agitation against the Centre's three farm laws.
Farmers have been protesting at Delhi borders since late November, demanding the repeal of the laws.
"I consider the victory of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha as my top priority. I have been calling the farmers' agitation as sacred for the past one year," Sidhu said.
Later, he tsaid that he wants to ask the protesting farmers how the Punjab government can assist them in their cause.
"I want to ask them how our government's power can help them in a big way. Look, rising cost, declining yield and income for the past 25 years are forcing farmers to hold agitation. It is our intention that this social movement should convert into an economic power," said Sidhu.
He recalled that he had put up a black flag at his house in support of agitating farmers. "Whenever they call me, I will go barefoot and take their blessings," he stated.
20:50 4 killed as construction lift crashes in Mumbai's Worli
Four persons were killed after a construction lift collapsed in Mumbai's Worli area on Saturday.
As per preliminary information, the incident occurred around 5.45 pm when the lift came crashing down at the Ambika building in Worli's Hanuman Gully. "Out of the two persons admitted to KEM hospital, one was declared dead on arrival while the condition of the other is critical," chief medical officer of KEM hospital Dr Yusuf said.
All three victims who were taken to the Nair hospital were also declared brought dead, Dr Pramod, CMO, Nair Hospital said.
The deceased have been identified as Avinash Das(35), Bharat Mandal (28), Chinmay Mandal (33), and another 45-year-old unidentified person.
The one person who has been injured was identified as Laxman Mandal (35).
20:41 Dainik Bhaskar evaded tax worth Rs 700 cr: IT
Unpaid taxes on Rs 700 crore of income over six years, violation of stock market rules, and evidence of profits being siphoned off from listed companies have been found in searches on the Dainik Bhaskar Group, the Income Tax Department said on Saturday, two days after the raids on the conglomerate with media outlets critical of the government triggered outrage.
"During the search, it was found that they have been operating several companies in the names of their employees, which have been used for booking bogus expenses and routing of funds. During the search, several of the employees, whose names were used as shareholders and directors, have admitted that they were not aware of such companies and had given their Aadhaar card and digital signature to the employer in good faith. Some were found to be relatives, who had willingly and knowingly signed the papers but had no knowledge or control of the business activities of the companies, in which they were supposed to be directors and shareholders," the tax department said in a statement.
"Such companies have been used for multiple purposes namely; booking bogus expenses and siphoning off the profits from listed companies, routing of funds so siphoned into their closely held companies to make investments, making of circular transactions etc. For example, the nature of such bogus expenditures booked, vary from supply of man power, transport, logistics and civil works and fictitious trade payables. The quantum of income escapement using this modus operandi, detected so far, amounts to ₹ 700 crore spread over a period of 6 years. However, the quantum may be more as the group has used multiple layers and investigations are being carried out to unravel the entire money trail," it added.
The tax department said it had also found violation of rules prescribed by the the stock market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India for listed companies. "Application of Benami Transaction Prohibition Act will also be examined," it said.
20:20 Delhi records zero COVID-19 fatality, second time since onset of 2nd wave
No death due to COVID-19 was recorded in Delhi on Saturday, while 66 fresh cases were reported with a positivity rate of 0.09 per cent, according to data shared by the city health department.
This is the second time since the starting of the second wave of the pandemic in the national capital that zero fatality has been logged in a day.
On July 18 too, no death was recorded, while the city had registered 51 cases.
On March 2 this year, the national capital had reported zero death due to the virus. On that day, the number of single-day infections stood at 217 and the positivity rate was 0.33 per cent.
The second wave swept the city during April-May period.
On Friday, the city had registered 58 cases and one fatality, while the positivity rate was 0.09 per cent.
19:55 Nitish reaffirms demand for caste-based census
Notwithstanding the Centre categorically saying in Parliament that no enumeration other than that for the SCs and STs will be done, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday reaffirmed demand for a caste-based census in the country and said the exercise will help in planning welfare schemes also for the poor other than the Dalits.
Kumar said the Bihar assembly has passed unanimous resolutions twice in 2019 and 2020 favouring caste-based census and urged the union government to "must think about it."
The JD-U de facto leader said that though caste census began in 2010 and a report came in 2013 but it was never released.
"The caste based census should be done at least once. It will be easy for the government to identify poor other than the Dalits and help formulate schemes for their welfare", Kumar told journalists on the sidelines of handing over 350 ambulances to beneficiaries under the Mukhyamantri Gram Parivahan Yojana.
19:30 ED set to file case against Raj Kundra for 'financial irregularities'
The Enforcement Directorate may file a case against Raj Kundra under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Foreign Exchange Management Act as the case involving him and an alleged porn racket also concerns financial irregularities, ANI has reported.
On July 20, Mumbai police arrested Bollywood actress Shilpa Shettys husband, billionaire Raj Kundra, in connection with an alleged porn racket. Raj Kundras company, which is owned by Kundras brother-in-law, used to manage an online streaming programme that allegedly generated porn videos in collaboration with a London-based firm. Kundra was arrested and held in police custody until July 23, a date that has now been extended to July 27.
Several parts of the case are emerging as Mumbai Police investigates it. According to police, Kundra and his collaborators are accused of manufacturing pornographic films and defrauding individuals with promises of Bollywood roles. Women actors have filed complaints with the police alleging that they were promised Bollywood roles and were coerced to appear in pornographic films.
Financial elements are also being investigated, with the Enforcement Directorate having the authority to initiate a separate investigation. Because the majority of Kundras transactions were with foreign companies, the ED may file FEMA charges against him.
17:58 Prez Kovind to visit J-K, Ladakh from July 25-28
President Ram Nath Kovind will visit Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh from July 25 to 28, a statement issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan said on Saturday.
On Monday, the President will pay homage to the indomitable courage and sacrifice of the Indian armed forces during the Kargil conflict in 1999 at the Kargil War Memorial Dras (Ladakh) on the 22nd anniversary of the Kargil Vijay Diwas, it said.
On July 27, he will grace and address the 19th annual convocation of the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, the statement said.
17:31 Rainfall to reduce over west coast in 24 hrs: IMD
The India Meteorology Department on Saturday said rainfall intensity along the west coast is expected to decrease over the next 24 hours, in a much needed relief to rain-battered Maharashtra and Goa.
Rainfall activity will increase over the north Indian plains and hills from July 25, it said.
"Further reduction in rainfall intensity is very likely along the west coast, including Konkan, Goa and adjoining interior Maharashtra, during the next 24 hours," the IMD said.
"Fairly widespread to widespread rainfall with isolated heavy to very heavy falls (are) very likely to continue over west coast, including Maharashtra, on July 24 and isolated heavy falls thereafter," it said.
Extremely heavy rains have killed scores of people in Maharashtra over the past few days, submerging several areas and damaging property.
The IMD said scattered to fairly widespread rainfall with isolated heavy to very heavy falls are likely to continue over Gujarat till July and reduce thereafter. Widespread rainfall with isolated heavy to very heavy falls are likely to continue over east Rajasthan till July 26 and reduce thereafter.
In north India, rainfall activity is likely to increase over northwest India from July 25.
17:28 Army's counter-terrorism division deployed to tackle China on Ladakh front
Seeking to tackle the Chinese forces, the Indian Army pulled out units engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the Northern Command area to deploy them along the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern Ladakh area some months ago.
The counter terrorism division was pulled out of operations from within the Northern Command area and deployed in the Ladakh sector many months ago. "The Division-size formation (around 15,000 troops) was moved from counterterrorist operations to the Ladakh area to tackle any possible attempt by the Chinese to show aggression there," government sources said.
The movement of the formation has helped the army to maintain reserves tasked for operations along the Northern borders.
The reserve formation positioned in the Sugar sector is trained for high mountain warfare and conducts war games in the cold desert areas of Ladakh every year. Since last year, they have been heavily involved in the stand-off with China since last year.
Army has filled in the gaps created due to the movement of the division to the forward positions using the resources available to it.
India has deployed around 50,000 troops in the eastern Ladakh sector and has helped increase the force levels by more than double.
16:42 Coaches of Tokyo gold winners to get Rs 12.5 lakh from IOA, Chanu coach to get Rs 10 lakh
Tokyo Games silver winner Mirabai Chanu's coach Vijay Sharma will get Rs 10 lakh after his ward's historic feat as the Indian Olympic Association on Saturday announced cash rewards for coaches of Olympic medal winners.
The coaches of gold medal winners will get Rs 12.5 lakh while those of bronze medallists will be given Rs 7.5 lakh by the IOA.
"We have to reward the coaches also for producing Olympic medal winners. They are the ones who are guiding the athletes day in and day out. They are also working hard and making sacrifices, just like the athletes," IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta said.
On Thursday, the IOA had announced that it would give the Tokyo Olympics gold medal winners a cash award of Rs 75 lakh apart from giving each of the participating National Sports Federations (NSFs) a bonus amount of Rs 25 lakh.
The silver medal winners will be presented Rs 40 lakh, while the bronze winners will get richer by Rs 25 lakhs.
It also recommended a sum of Rs 1 lakh to each athlete representing the country at the Tokyo Olympic Games and Rs 30 lakh to each medal-winning NSFs.
16:21 'Maha mulling relaxations for vaccinated people'
The Maharashtra government is considering granting exemptions from coronavirus-induced restrictions to the fully-vaccinated people, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters, Pawar also said the government was mulling an extension of the timings of shops and restaurants from the current deadline of 4 pm. He said a decision on granting relaxations on the weekends is likely next week.
"The state is thinking of granting relaxations to those people who have got both doses of COVID-19 vaccine. This will encourage citizens to get inoculated," he said.
Pawar said demands are raised to extend the timings of shops and restaurants from 4 pm to 7 pm.
"We are thinking of extending the timing for shops and restaurants but the final decision will be taken by the CM. We are meeting with experts on Monday after which a decision will be taken on relaxations on weekends," the deputy CM said.
He said the government was aiming to vaccinate more people compared to the previous month.
Pawar said the state government was taking various measures like augmenting the medical infrastructure anticipating a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
"There are reports about the possibility of a third wave. Based on reports of the high occupancy of beds in hospitals, oxygen beds, ventilator beds and the demand for medical oxygen and other facilities in the first and second waves, we are preparing to brace for a possible third wave of the pandemic in the Pune district," he said.
15:51 ICSE Class 10, 12 results announced
The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, or CISCE, has declared the ICSE Class 10th and ISC Class 12th results today. Candidates can access the results through the councils official websites -- cisce.org or results.cisce.org.
The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations had cancelled the exams for both the classes this year in view of the aggressive second wave of COVID-19.
The result has been prepared on the basis of an alternate assessment policy decided by the board.
15:09 It's just erotica, not porn: Shilpa Shetty
As investigations into the porn racket case against businessman and Shilpa Shettys husband, Raj Kundra, progress, the actress recorded her statement with the police at her residence in Juhu on Friday.
According to sources, it was decided to record her statement after the police suspected that Shilpa may have known about Rajs business related to the app, HotShot, where video content was uploaded.
The actress is believed to have told the police that the video content is erotica and not pornography. She also maintained that her husband has nothing to do with the entire business and she is not aware of the existence of pornographic videos claimed by Mumbai police.
While recording her statement, the Crime Branch asked Shilpa if she was aware of the alleged pornography racket run by her husband and Viaan Industries, a beneficiary. Shilpa served as a director of the company till 2020.
An officer said, She said that movies available on Hotshot are not pornography but erotica. She also said that nowadays, similar content is available on the various OTT platforms and in fact, some are more obscene than what is available on Hotshot.
According to sources, like Raj, Shilpa too denied being involved in the production of the alleged pornographic videos. Raj has said that everything was handled by his brother-in-law, Pradeep Bakshi, from London, with whom he only spoke on WhatsApp.
14:31 India is proud of her daughter: Rahul on Mirabai Chanu's silver medal
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday lauded weightlifter Mirabai Chanu for winning the first medal for the country in Tokyo Olympics and said India is proud of her daughter.
"Congratulations to Mirabai Chanu for our country's first medal on the very first day. India is proud of her daughter," he said on Twitter.
Chanu ended India's 21-year wait for a weightlifting medal at the Olympics by clinching a silver medal in the 49 kg category to open the country's account in Tokyo on Saturday.
It was also the first time that India managed to win a medal on the opening day of competitions.
14:01 TMC nominates ex-Prasar Bharati CEO to RS
Trinamool Congress on Saturday nominated former Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar to the Rajya Sabha.
In a post from its official Twitter handle, the party announced its decision to nominate Sircar in the upper house of Parliament.
"Mr. Sircar spent nearly 42 years in public service & was also the former CEO of Prasar Bharati," Trinamool noted in its tweet. "His invaluable contribution to public service shall help us serve our country even better!"
Trinamool's Rajya Sabha seat was left vacant after its former MP Dinesh Trivedi jumped ship to the Bharatiya Janata Party before the state assembly elections earlier this year. Although there were speculations abound regarding the party's nomination to the Rajya Sabha, the TMC dispelled all rumours on Saturday by nominating Jawhar Sircar for the post.
Jawhar Sircar spent more than four decades serving the government in various capacities. After joining the Indian Administrative Service in 1975, Sircar made a name for himself in tackling issues like communal riots across the districts of Bardhaman and 24 Parganas in West Bengal.
Jawhar Sircar was elevated to the Union ministry of culture as secretary to the Government of India, a post he served till 2012. Following his stint at the culture ministry, Sircar became the CEO of India's public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, where he served till 2016.
13:44 Abhinav Bindra pens heartwarming letter to Mirabai Chanu
India woke up to hope and inspiration on Saturday as the country opened its medal tally with a historic Silver at the Tokyo Olympics as early as the opening day of the Games. 26-year-old Mirabai Chanu reigned supreme in Tokyo, finishing on the podium in the women's 49kg event.
Among the many who were inspired by Mirabai's efforts on the dice in Tokyo on Saturday was another Olympian, arguably the greatest from India, Abhinav Bindra. The 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist took to social media to share a heartwarming letter that he had penned for Mirabai.
"Many many Congratulations to @mirabai_chanu on winning India's first medal at #Tokyo2020. Such An inspiring performance that will be remembered for a long time to come and will inspire generations. Well done," Abhinav Bindra wrote in his post while sharing the letter to India's warrior girl.
Mirabai became the first Indian weightlifter to win a Silver medal at the Tokyo Games. The Manipur weightlifter is the second Indian after Karnam Malleswari in 2000 to finish on the podium.
13:32 FIR for flouting Covid norms at Sidhu ceremony
Chandigarh Police has registered an FIR against unidentified persons for allegedly violating COVID-19 guidelines during the installation ceremony of Navjot Singh Sidhu as Punjab Congress chief.
A case under section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code and the Disaster Management Act has been registered, police said on Saturday.
The case was lodged against unidentified persons who came from different districts of Punjab and assembled at Punjab Congress Bhawan, they said.
They did not maintain social distancing norms and also did not wear masks, police added.
The case was registered at Sector 11 police station, they said.
Scores of Congress supporters had assembled at Punjab Congress Bhawan on Friday for the installation ceremony of Sidhu as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president.
13:11 Alliance with SP possible if... Owaisi's AIMIM
As Uttar Pradesh assembly elections come closer, the political landscape in the state is witnessing fast-paced developments. Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has now put forward a condition for alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
The AIMIM is currently a part of Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha which has smaller parties like Bharatiya Vanchit Samaj Party, Bhartiya Manav Samaj Party, Janata Kranti Party (R) and Rashtra Uday Party as constituents.
The chief of Uttar Pradesh unit of AIMIM told Hindustan Times' Hindi-language sister publication Hindustan that if SP agrees to make a Muslim MLA from the Morcha deputy chief minister, it is ready for an alliance with Akhilesh Yadav's party. Shaukat Ali also said that Owaisi will visit Uttar Pradesh in August, Hindustan reported.
Owaisi visited Bahraich and other areas of Uttar Pradesh earlier this month, and inaugurated a new party office for the state.
12:43 Karnataka allows reopening of worship places and amusement parks from July 25
Karnataka government on Saturday permitted reopening of places of worship and amusement parks from July 25 with COVID-19 guidelines.
"Temples, Mosque, Churches, Gurudwaras and other religious places are allowed to open and its related activities pertaining to these places from July 25, 2021, with strictly adhering to the COVID-19 behaviour and SOP issued by the concerned department. However, jathres, temple festivals, processions, congregations not allowed," read a state government order.
The state also permits amusements parks and similar places to re-open with COVID-19 restriction.
"Amusement parks and similar places permitted to re-open strictly adhering to CO VID appropriate behaviour and following guidelines issued vide circular dated 12.11.2020 by the Health and Family Welfare Department, However, water sports/water-related adventure activities not allowed," it added.
12:29 India elated by Mirabai Chanu's win: PM
Shortly after Mirabai Chanu won India's first medal at the Olympic games in the weightlifting category, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished her on her triumph.
He wrote on Twitter, "Could not have asked for a happier start to @Tokyo2020! India is elated by @mirabai_chanu's stupendous performance. Congratulations to her for winning the Silver medal in weightlifting. Her success motivates every Indian. #Cheer4India #Tokyo2020".
Mirabai Chanu ended India's 21-year wait for a weightlifting medal at the Olympics by clinching a silver medal in the 49kg category to open the country's account here on Saturday.
The 26-year-old lifted a total of 202kg (87kg+115kg) to better Karnam Malleswari's bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. With this, she exorcised the ghosts of the 2016 Games where she had failed to log a single legitimate lift.
The gold went to China's Hou Zhihui with an effort of 210kg (94kg+116kg) , while Aisah Windy Cantika of Indonesia took home the bronze with an effort of 194kg (84kg+110kg).
11:54 Thackeray to visit flood-affected Mahad
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday will leave for the flood-affected Mahad by helicopter from Mumbai. He will also visit the flood-hit Taliye village during his visit.
So far, at least 138 people have been killed in Maharashtra in monsoon-related accidents after heavy rains lashed the state and triggered landslides, state relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar said.
11:42 Maharashtra govt issues guidelines for cell phone usage at offices
Maharashtra Government's General Administration Department has issued guidelines for state government officials and government employees for lesser use of cell phones and usage of official landline instead for most of the communications while in office.
Use of polite language when speaking on mobile (if necessary), while also being aware of the presence of others has also been mentioned in the guidelines. "When speaking on a mobile phone, speak in a soft voice, do not argue and do not use unparliamentary language," the guidelines as per the department's press release read.
Further, the release stated that the officials/employees have been instructed to use text messages for official work, and have been asked to focus on time and language while using social media for office use.
Additionally, it has been instructed that the officials/employees respond promptly to the calls of representatives/senior officers when busy on another call.
The guidelines were set so that the image of government offices is not tarnished, and all employees are bound to follow these protocols, the release said.
With the increased use of mobile phones in recent times, its use in government offices as an easy and convenient means of communication has been an issue, it added.
10:23 Brazil suspends Covaxin clinical trials
Brazil has suspended the clinical studies of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin following termination of the company's agreement with its partner there, the South American Country's health regulator said.
Bharat Biotech on Friday announced cancellation of the MoU it signed with Precisa Medicamentos and Envixia Pharmaceuticals LL.C for its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin for the Brazilian market.
The termination of the pact comes after the deal with the Brazilian government for supply of 20 million doses of the vaccine landed in controversy and attracted investigation by authorities in that country.
'In the Coordination of Clinical Research at Anvisa (Copec/GGMED) determined this Friday (23/7) the precautionary suspension of clinical studies of the Covaxin vaccine in Brazil The suspension was carried out as a result of a statement from the Indian company Bharat Biotech Limited International, sent to Anvisa on Friday (23/7),' Anvisa, the Brazilian health regulator, said on Friday.
Precisa Medicamentos was Bharat Biotechs partner in Brazil, providing assistance, guidance and support with regulatory submissions, licensure, distribution, insurance and conduct of phase III clinical trials, among others.
Following the graft allegations, the Brazilian government has suspended Covaxin's order temporarily. -- PTI
09:59 India reports 39,097 new Covid cases, 546 deaths
India reports 39,097 new COVID-19 cases, 35,087 recoveries, and 546 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the Union health ministry.
Total cases: 3,13,32,159
Total recoveries: 3,05,03,166
Active cases: 4,08,977
Death toll: 4,20,016
Total vaccination: 42,78,82,261
Recovery Rate at 97.35 per cent.
Active cases constitute 1.31 per cent of total cases.
Weekly positivity rate remains below 5 per cent, currently at 2.22 per cent.
Daily positivity rate at 2.40 per cent, less than 3 per cent for 33 consecutive days.
Testing capacity ramped up, total 45.45 crore tests conducted, says the health ministry. -- ANI
09:41 Indian Army sepoy dies during operation in Poonch
A sepoy of the Indian Army lost his life during operations in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district on Friday, the 16 Corps, Indian Army informed on Saturday.
In a tweet, the White Knight Corps (16 Corps, Indian Army) conveyed the grief of all ranks at the demise of Sepoy Krishna Vaidya and offered condolences to his family.
The incident took place in the Krishna Ghati Sector.
'GOC @whiteknight_IA and all ranks salute the braveheart Sepoy Krishna Vaidya who made the supreme sacrifice during operations on 23 Jul 2021 at Krishna Ghati Sector and offer deepest condolences to his family,' the 16 Corps tweeted. -- ANI
08:39 Many missing after landslides in Satara
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Friday evening issued a fresh 'red alert' for Satara, forecasting 'extremely heavy rainfall' in the next 24 hours in the hilly 'ghat' areas of this Western Maharashtra district where some 30 persons are missing after landslides.
The Met department also issued 'orange alert' for Pune and Kolhapur districts.
The region is being battered by incessant rains for the last two days.
Extremely heavy rainfall was likely to occur at isolated places in the ghat sections of the Satara district, the IMD said.
Issuing orange alert for Pune and Kolhapur, the IMD said 'heavy to very heavy rainfall' is likely in isolated places in the ghat areas of the two districts.
At least six people have died due to rain-related accidents such as landslide and drowning in Satara district so far and around 30 people are missing after landslides at Ambeghar, Mirgaon and Dhikawale villages in Patan tehsil, said Shekhar Singh, district collector.
Sixteen people were missing after the landslide hit houses in Ambeghar and 12 were missing at Mirgaon, he said.
The district administration evacuated around 150 people from Mirgaon, 50 from Ambeghar and 50 from Dhokawale.
About ten people, injured in the landslides in Ambeghar and Mirgaon, were taken to the nearby primary health centres and were said to be safe.
Rescue operation is going on at both the places in the face of continuous rainfall and flooding, the collector added.
"There are so far six casualties, four due to the landslide incidents and two due to drowning," Singh said.
Two persons died in landslide in Devrookhwadi in Wai tehsil on Thursday and 27 people were rescued.
Two persons were still missing. -- PTI
IMAGE: A team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has rescued 221 persons after heavy rainfall, in Satara on Friday. Photograph: ANI Photo
00:14 Hunt for Covid origin not about blame game: WHO
All countries must work together to investigate the origin of the coronavirus that sparked the pandemic, the World Health Organization has said, a day after China rejected the proposed scope of a second phase.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, asked about Chinas rejection, told a UN briefing in Geneva: "This is not about politics, its not about a blame game. It is about basically a requirement we all have to try to understand how the pathogen came into the human population. In this sense, countries really have the responsibility to work together and to work with WHO in a spirit of partnership."
The White House said Chinas decision to reject the WHO plan for a second phase which would have a greater focus on a possible lab leak was irresponsible and dangerous.
Previously considered a crackpot conspiracy theory that was not permitted to be discussed on Facebook, there is growing pressure on China to investigate the part US-funded Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was working with coronaviruses; though most scientists still believe a zoonotic origin remains a more likely explanation.
State-backed Chinese newspaper Global Times cites officials claiming that no WIV staff have been infected with Covid-19, and that WIV has no viruses that can directly infect human beings.
No pathogen leakage or human infection has occurred in Wuhans P4 lab since it was put into operation in 2018, Yuan Zhiming, director of Chinas National Biosafety Laboratory and professor at the WIV, said.
Liang Wannian, team leader of the Chinese side of the WHO-China joint team on Covid-19s origins, said at a briefing the lab-leak theory was highly unlikely.
If some countries believe that further investigation in this area should be carried out, then the investigations should be conducted in labs that have not yet been inspected, Liang said.