Tue, 22 June 2021
China trying to hack MoD websites: Intruder

Timeline  Refresh

23:10   China trying to hack MoD websites: Intruder
The Chinese national who was arrested recently in West Bengal's Malda district informed his interrogators that several agencies of his country are trying to hack various websites of the central government including those under the Ministry of Defence, sources in the Special Task Force (STF) probing his case said on Tuesday.

They have targeted a Bengaluru-based company which is associated with the ministry and the BSNL, Han Junwe who was intercepted while trying to illegally enter the country through the India-Bangladesh border has told the sleuths.

A couple of aerospace companies are also among the targets of the agencies, an Special Task Force officer told PTI on condition of anonymity.

"He has said that the Chinese are trying to take a sneak peek into India's defence system and hence they are trying to hack the websites of the Indian defence ministry," the officer said.

The STF is trying to find out Junwe's connection with these agencies and the role he is playing in India, the officer said.

The sleuths are still trying to unlock the sophisticated mobile phone and the laptop seized from the Chinese national who was arrested on June 12.

"Where he was heading to is still not known. We suspect that someone was waiting somewhere to guide him to Kaliachak in Malda district," the officer said.

The STF is also also trying to find out whether or not he had any connection with the banned Maoist outfits.

"He may have some role in providing financial assistance to the Maoists," the IPS officer said.

The 35-year-old man believed to be a resident of Hubei in China was arrested by the Border Security Force earlier this month.

The BSF had said on June 11 that Junwe told the investigators that he and his associates have smuggled as many as 1,300 Indian SIM cards into their country by hiding them in undergarments.

These SIM cards were allegedly used to hack accounts and carry out financial frauds.

The BSF had said that Junwe used the India-Bangladesh border to enter the country as he failed to get an Indian visa after his business partner Sun Jiang was arrested by the Lucknow Anti-Terrorism Squad in a case of fraud recently.   -- PTI
22:45   AstraZeneca vaccine linked to rare neurological disorder in India, UK
Eleven people who received the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine have developed a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome, clinicians in India and England have reported in two separate studies.

While seven cases were reported from a medical centre in Kerala, where about 1.2 million people were administered the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, known as Covishield in India, four were reported from Nottingham, United Kingdom, in an area in which approximately 700,000 (7 lakh) people received the jab.

All 11 had received the Covid preventive 10-22 days earlier.

In Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system --the network of nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord.

The two studies, published in the journal Annals of Neurology on June 10, describe an unusual variant of GBR characterised by prominent facial weakness.

The frequency of GBS from the areas where the cases were reported was estimated to be up to 10 times greater than expected, the authors of the two studies said.

As of April 22, 2021, around 1.5 million individuals in three districts of Kerala, had been vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers noted, adding that over 80 per cent of these individuals (1.2 million) received the AstraZeneca preventive.

In this population, during the period from mid-March to mid-April 2021, the researchers from Aster Medcity, Kochi, and Indo-American Brain and Spine Center, Vaikom, Kerala, observed seven cases of GBS that occurred within two weeks of the first dose of vaccination.

All seven patients developed severe GBS, the researchers said.

The frequency of GBS was 1.4 to 10-fold higher than that expected in this period for a population of this magnitude, they said.

The frequency of facial weakness on both sides of the face, which typically occurs in less than 20 per cent of GBS cases, suggests a pattern associated with the vaccination, according to the research authors.

While SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are very safe, we report four cases of the bifacial weakness with paraesthesias variant of GBS occurring within three weeks of vaccination with the Oxford-AstraZeneca SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, said the authors of the UK study from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

We suggest vigilance for cases of bifacial weakness with paraesthesias variant GBS following vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 and that post-vaccination surveillance programmes ensure robust data capture of this outcome, to assess for causality, they added.

Although the benefits of vaccination substantially outweigh the risk of this relatively rare outcome (5.8 per million), the researchers noted that clinicians should be alert to this possible adverse event.   -- PTI
22:31   BJP central leaders take stock of UP situation
Bharatiya Janata Party's national general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh and Uttar Pradesh in-charge Radha Mohan Singh on Monday met the top state leaders and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh office-bearers in  Lucknow to review the party's programmes in the politically crucial state.

The meeting was held at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's official residence and was attended, among others, by deputy chief ministers Dinesh Sharma and Keshav Prasad Maurya.

Senior RSS official bearers Dattatreya Hosabole and Krishna Gopal too were present at a meeting held by the central leaders who arrived in  Lucknow on a two-day visit.

The meeting was primarily to take stock of organisational matters, besides the party's programmes and training of workers, a senior leader said.

No discussions were held on the election of zila panchayat chairpersons or the 2022 assembly elections, he added.

Santhosh and Singh later also addressed the party's office-bearers, the party said.

In a Hindi tweet after the meeting, the UP BJP said, the two central leaders also addressed the party's office-bearers at the party headquarters.

He also said that no discussions were held on the election of zila panchayat chairpersons or the 2022 assembly elections.

This is the second visit by the central leaders this month as the party sets in motion preparations for the crucial assembly polls next year in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During their earlier visit from May 31 to June 2, Radha Mohan Singh had shot down speculation of a leadership change in the state and had defended the Yogi Adityanath government's handling of the COVID-19 situation. -- PTI
21:34   Govt panel accepts Covaxin phase-3 trial data
An expert panel of the country's central drugs authority has reviewed and accepted the phase-3 trial data of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, sources said on Tuesday.

According to the data submitted by the Hyderabad-based firm, the indigenously developed vaccine has shown 77.8 per cent efficacy in the trial conducted on 25,800 subjects, they said.

The firm had submitted the results of its phase-3 trial efficacy data of Covaxin to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) over the weekend, they added.

The COVID-19 Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) on Tuesday reviewed the data and accepted it.

Their recommendations have been sent to the DCGI now, a source said.

Bharat Biotech is also expected to attend a 'pre-submission' meeting on July 23 with the World Health Organisation (WHO), which will take the vaccine-maker closer to a WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL).

Though the meeting will not be a detailed review on the product, the vaccine-maker will have an opportunity to submit a summary on the overall quality of the jab, according to the WHO.

The information was provided on the WHO website in the Status of COVID-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL-PQ evaluation process document. Covaxin is one of the three vaccines approved by the DGCI for emergency use and is being deployed in India's COVID-19 vaccination programme. -- PTI
Representational image
Representational image
21:01   Mysterious lights in Gujarat sky not UFOs: Expert
Mysterious rows of bright blinking lights gliding across the sky were sighted in Gujarat's Junagadh and the surrounding region on Monday night, triggering speculation of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). 

However, Narottam Sahoo, advisor at Gujarat Council of Science and Technology, dismissed the theory of the unnatural light sighting being UFOs. 

According to Sahoo, the light sighting could be because of some satellite passing through the low Earth orbit. 

In videos and pictures of the event, about four to seven bright shining lights could be seen gliding in a row in the sky. 

"In the Saurashtra region, people sighted 30-40 mysterious lights blinking in a straight line. This caused curiosity and fear in people of the region due to blind beliefs. However, according to space science, such light sightings could be for three reasons. It could be either because a small portion of a meteoroid had entered the atmosphere of the Earth. It could also be a shooting star," said the GUJCOST advisor. 

"But, this particular sighting looked like multiple lights in a row. This could be because of some satellite passing through the low Earth orbit. There are more than 3000 satellites functional in the lower orbit of the Earth," he added. 

Sahoo said that exactly same sightings were reported from multiple places in United States when Elon Musk's SpaceX had launched the Falcon rocket. 

"This is definitely the sighting of some satellite. There is nothing to worry about," he added.
20:38   Pfizer in final stages of vax deal with India
United States Pharma giant Pfizer is in the final stages of an agreement with India to supply anti-COVID-19 vaccines, CEO Dr Albert Bourla said on Tuesday, observing that the domestically manufactured vaccines would be the backbone of vaccinating the Indian people.

Addressing the 15th edition of the India-US Bio Pharma & Healthcare Summit being organised by the US-India Chamber of Commerce, Dr Bourla also said that Pfizer has made a specific plan that the mid and low-income countries, which includes India, will receive at least two billion of such doses.

"My hope is that very soon we will finalise the approval of the product in India by the Indian health care authorities and the agreement with the government so that we can also start sending vaccines, on our side," Bourla said.

The Pfizer CEO said that a significant local manufacturing of vaccines that is happening at the Serum Institute of India will provide the backbone of vaccinating the Indian people.

"But getting the additional mRNA vaccines from us and also from Moderna will contribute significantly," he said.

Pfizer, he said, is confident of producing three billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines and another four billion by next year, making it seven billion in all.   -- PTI
20:07   Cong to participate in PM's all-party meeting
The Congress will attend the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday, its Jammu and Kashmir unit spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said on Tuesday.

The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he said.

The meeting was attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh and senior leaders Karan Singh, P Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Rajni Patil, G A Mir and Tariq Hameed Karra, the spokesperson said.

Fourteen leaders from Jammu and Kashmir have been invited to the meeting to be chaired by the prime minister to discuss the future course of action for the union territory.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president G A Mir and party leader and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad are among the invitees.

The meeting is the first such exercise since the Centre announced the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and its bifurcation into union territories on August 5, 2019. -- PTI
19:12   Pawar hosts 2-hr meeting of opposition leaders
Leaders of several opposition parties including the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Left assembled at Natinoalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar's residence in New Delhi on Tuesday and discussed various issues facing the country, amid heightened speculation about the possibility of a third front against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Nilotpal Basu, who attended the meeting, said it was not a political meeting but an interaction among like-minded people.

"Issues like COVID management, 'attack' on institutions and unemployment were discussed at the meeting," he said.

The meeting lasted over two hours.

Former finance minister and TMC leader Yashwant Sinha, SP Ghanshyam  Tiwari, RLD president Jayant Chaudhary, Sushil Gupta from the AAP, Binoy Viswam from the Communist Party of India were among those present at the meeting.

National Conference (NC) leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, former Congress leader Sanjay Jha and former Janata Dal-United leader Pavan Verma also participated.

Other prominent personalities who arrived at Pawar's residence to attend the meeting were Javed Akhtar and K C Singh.

Earlier in the day, a senior NCP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said though Pawar is hosting the meeting, it has been organised by Yashwant Sinha who is the convenor of the Rashtra Manch.

Sinha formed the Rashtra Manch, a political action group, in 2018 that targeted the BJP-led government's policies.  -- PTI
19:06   DCGI to approve phase 3 data of Covaxin on Tue
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) is likely to approve Phase III trial data of Covaxin on Tuesday, sources said.

The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) under the drug regulator reviewed Covaxin's Phase III trial data on Tuesday and the vaccine's efficacy has turned out to be 77.8 per cent.

Covaxin is an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine produced by Bharat Biotech.

The Hyderabad-based company had submitted data from the Phase III clinical trials of Covaxin to DCGI over the weekend.

The sources said that Bharat Biotech's 'pre-submission' meeting with the World Health Organisation (WHO) will take place on Wednesday for approval for Covaxin.

Covaxin is one of the three COVID-19 vaccines which have been given authorisation in the country for vaccination against COVID-19.

The company has developed the vaccine in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). -- ANI
18:55   Atrocities case: Won't arrest Param Bir till July 3, Maha govt to HC
The Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court it would not arrest senior Indian Police Service officer Param Bir Singh till July 3 in a case registered against him under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Senior counsel Darius Khambata, appearing for the state government, said his earlier statement, that the police would not arrest the former Mumbai police commissioner, shall continue till July 3.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar posted a petition filed by Singh, seeking quashing of the FIR registered against him on a complaint of police inspector Bhimrao Ghadge, for hearing on July 2.

On that day, the court would also hear another petition filed by the senior IPS officer challenging two enquiries set up against him by the state government.

The first enquiry order of April 1 was passed by the then state home minister Anil Deshmukh for alleged violation of some All India Services (Conduct) Rules by the senior bureaucrat.

The second order of April 20 was issued by the current home minister (Dilip Walse Patil) over allegations of corruption levelled against Singh.

The FIR registered under the Atrocities Act against Singh is based on the complaint filed by police inspector Ghadge, currently posted at Akola in eastern Maharashtra.

Ghadge made a series of allegations of corruption against Singh and other officers when the top cop was posted in Thane as police commissioner.

In the FIR, now transferred to the Thane, Ghadge alleged that Singh pressured him to drop the names of some persons from a case and when he refused, the IPS officer framed him in false cases.

The FIR was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (the complainant belongs to an SC community).  --  PTI
TMC leader Yashwant Sinha arrives for meeting.
TMC leader Yashwant Sinha arrives for meeting.
18:15   Javed Akhtar joins meeting at Pawar's home
Leaders of several opposition parties including the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Left parties assembled at Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar's residence in New Delhi on Tuesday to hold a meeting, amid the heightened speculation about the possibility of a third front against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Former finance minister and Trinamool Congress leader Yashwant Sinha, SP's Ghanshyam Tiwari, RLD president Jayant Chaudhary, Sushil Gupta from the AAP, Binoy Viswam from the Communist Party of India and Nilotpal Basu from the Communist Party of India-Marxist arrived at Pawar's residence to attend the meeting.

National Conference (NC) leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, former Congress leader Sanjay Jha and former Janata Dal-United leader Pavan Verma also came to participate in the meeting.

Other prominent personalities who arrived at Pawar's residence to attend the meeting were Justice A P Shah, Javed Akhtar and K C Singh.

The meeting was still on.

Earlier in the day, a senior NCP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said though Pawar is hosting the meeting, it has been organised by Sinha, who is the convenor of the Rashtra Manch.

Sinha formed the Rashtra Manch, a political action group, in 2018 that targeted the BJP-led government's policies.   -- PTI
17:23   The top gainers in the market today
Maruti Suzuki stock rose 5.25% today.
17:19   Nitish leaves for Delhi ahead of Cabinet meet
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday left for the national capital, purportedly for medical reasons, though speculations ran rife that bargaining a decent share in the Union cabinet was also on the agenda of the JD(U) de-facto leader. 

 The JD(U) has been a BJP ally for close to three decades, barring a hiatus in 2013-2017. Kumar, who had himself served in the cabinet headed by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, turned down the offer of the saffron party of a "token representation" to all alliance partners after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls which saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi steering the BJP to a thumping majority. 

"I do not know why his Delhi tour is being linked to the proposed cabinet reshuffle. To the best of my knowledge, he needs treatment for some eye problem and is visiting the national capital for the purpose," said Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan, one of the closest aides of Kumar. The Union cabinet reshuffle is a prerogative of the prime minister and it is for him to decide whom to hold consultations with on the issue, Singh said. Singh, who has been with Kumar ever since the latter broke ranks with Lalu Prasad to chart his own political course, is seen as one of the candidates the JD(U) might strongly back, were it to join the Union council of ministers.
16:58   Will inject the vaccine in your butt: Duterte warns anti-vaxxers
Warning that the second wave of the pandemic would be disastrous for the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest the Filipinos who don't want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and asked them to leave and "go to India if you want or somewhere, to America." 

 Speaking during a pre-recorded televised public address on Monday, Duterte said that the country is facing a national emergency and "we must triple our efforts" to contain the virus, according to media reports from Manila. 

"Don't get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don't want to get vaccinated, I will have you arrested. And I will inject the vaccine in your butt. You are pests. We are already suffering and you're adding to the burden," Duterte was quoted as saying by INQUIRER.NET. 

"So all you Filipinos listening, watch out. Don't force my hand into it I have a strong arm for that. Nobody likes it. But if you won't get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere to America. But as long as you are here and you are a human being that can carry the virus, get yourself vaccinated," Duterte, known for his florid and controversial remarks, said. 

 The Philippines is one of the worst-hit countries in South East Asia with more than one million cases and over 20,000 deaths linked to COVID-19.
16:43   Sensex ends flat, retreats from 53K mark
Equity benchmark Sensex ended on a flat note after scaling the 53,000 mark on Tuesday as investors booked profits at higher levels. After touching a lifetime intra-day peak of 53,057.11, the 30-share BSE index settled 14.25 points or 0.03 per cent higher at 52,588.71. 

 Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty rose 26.25 points or 0.17 per cent to 15,772.75. Maruti was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying over 5 per cent, followed by L&T, UltraTech Cement, TCS and Titan. On the other hand, Asian Paints, Bajaj Finance, Nestle India and HUL were among the laggards.
16:15   Yashwant Sinha arrives at Sharad Pawar's meeting
And so it begins. 

TMC leader Yashwant Sinha, lyricist Javed Akhtar, Rashtriya Lokdal President Jayant Chaudhary and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah arrive at the residence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi.

CPI MP Binoy Viswam who is also at the meeting says, "It is a platform of all secular, democratic Left forces against a most hated govt that has failed. The country needs a change. The people are up for a change." 

Several prominent political leaders and eminent persons including Pawan Verma, Sanjay Singh, D Raja, Justice AP Singh, KTS Tulsi and Karan Thapar are among those expected to attend today's meeting.

Veteran politician Sharad Pawar is "not hosting a third front meeting" today, it was clarified hours before what now appears to be a gathering of politicians and intellectuals to "debate current events".

Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP leader who recently joined the Trinamool Congress, had asked Sharad Pawar to meet members of his "Rashtra Manch", a political action group he set up in 2018.

Healthcare workers cross a river to inoculate villagers
Healthcare workers cross a river to inoculate villagers
15:45   Covaxin shows 77.8% efficacy in Phase III trials
Bharat Biotech's Covaxin has shown 77.8 per cent efficacy after the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) under the drug regulator reviewed its Phase III trials data on Tuesday, according to sources. 

The Hyderabad-based COVID vaccine manufacturing company had submitted data from the Phase III clinical trials of Covaxin to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) over the weekend.

Bharat Biotech's 'pre-submission' meeting with the World Health Organization (WHO) will take on Wednesday for the approval for Covaxin.

Covaxin is one of the three vaccines which are currently being used in India. The phase III data of its vaccine has been questioned various times and this is what makes the data that ascertains the efficacy of the vaccine crucial.

The company has developed the vaccine in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). -- ANI
A collage of victims who died in the Uphaar fire tragedy
A collage of victims who died in the Uphaar fire tragedy
15:26   Sushil Ansal got passport renewed by fraud, police tells court
Sushil Ansal, convicted in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire which killed 59 people, played a fraud on authorities by concealing information about criminal cases pending against him while getting his passport renewed, Delhi Police has told a court here in a charge sheet filed against him.

 In its 8-page charge sheet filed before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma, police claimed that Ansal misled the government authority on oath that he has not been convicted in any criminal proceedings by any court. 

 Police claimed that regarding the passport issued in 2013 to Ansal on a 'Tatkaal' application, it is found that an affidavit under the Tatkaal scheme required specific deposition by the applicant to the effect that there were no criminal proceedings pending against the applicant in any court of law or that she/ he has not been convicted by any court of law for any criminal offence in past.

 In 2013, this affidavit was filed by the accused Sushil Ansal along with his application and he has on oath misled the Government Authority (RPO) that he has not been convicted in any criminal proceedings by any Court, said the charge sheet, filed in February this year but has come to public knowledge only now. 

 The matter has been adjourned for January 31, 2022.
15:20   Maharashtra, UP, Gujarat top vaccinators
Maharashtra, UP, Gujarat lead in vaccinating beneficiaries in India. Here's a statewise breakup.
15:16   Vidya Balan reacts to Amul ad
The Vidya Balan starrer Sherni on Amazon Prime has received an overwhelming thumbs up from critics and viewers alike. Read the review here. 

And since its au courant and a talking point, quite naturally, Amul, picked it up for its just released ad. See alongside. 

Vidya Balan shared the post on her Instagram story and wrote: "Thank you. What an honour." She added a couple of heart emojis along with the text.
15:15   Union Cabinet meeting tomorrow
The Union Cabinet meeting will be held tomorrow. 

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met union ministers, including Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, at his official residence. 

The meeting came amid speculations of a possible Cabinet expansion or reshuffle.

Modi has held about five meetings this month with union ministers in different groups to take stock of the work done by their respective ministries so far.

Besides Shah and Singh, union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal are also took part in the meeting. 
14:59   Govt accepts Jet Airways revival plan
The Jet Airways' revival plan submitted by a consortium of London-based Kalrock Capital and the UAE-based businessmen Murari Lal Jalan was approved by the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT) on Tuesday, reports say. 

As part of the revival plan, NCLT has given 90 days to Director General of Civil Aviation and Aviation Ministry to allot slots to the debt-laden Jet Airways.

A bench of Janab Mohhamed Ajmal and V Nallasenapathy approved the resolution plan with riders. Allocation of slots will be considered as and when these are applied for and historic slots will not be available, the bench ordered. The consortium will have ninety days to seek all regulatory permissions and complete formalities for restarting the airline and can seek a further extension if required.
14:53   SC stays HC verdict cancelling caste certificate of Maha MP
The Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the Bombay high court verdict which cancelled the caste certificate of Navneet Kaur Rana, an independent Lok Sabha MP representing reserved Amravati constituency in Maharashtra.
A vacation bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari took note of Rana's appeal and issued notice to Maharashtra and others including the person who had complained against the caste certificate of the lawmaker.
The high court had on June 9 cancelled the caste certificate of Rana saying it was obtained fraudulently using fabricated documents, and had imposed Rs 2 lakh fine on her.
The independent MP had won from the constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes in the state. -- PTI 
14:48   Pakistan to buy 1.3 crore Pfizer vaccines
Pakistan has signed an agreement with Pfizer to procure 1.3 crore doses of the American COVID-19 vaccine, a media report said on Tuesday.
An agreement was signed between Pfizer Pakistan and the National Disaster Management Authority on Monday to supply 1.3 crore doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (BNT162b2), Dawn newspaper reported.
The delivery of the 13 million doses (1.3 crores) is planned during 2021, it said.
"We are deeply honoured to work with the Pakistani government and to marshal our scientific and manufacturing resources toward our shared goal of bringing a Covid-19 vaccine to the people of Pakistan as quickly as possible," said Pfizer Pakistan Country Manager Syed Mohammad Wajeehuddin in a statement.
Chief Business and Chief Commercial Officer at BioNTech Sean Marett also thanked the Pakistani government for its support and trust in their ability to develop a vaccine that they believed could help address this global pandemic threat.
"Our goal remains to deliver a global supply of a well-tolerated and effective Covid-19 vaccine for many people around the world, as quickly as we can," Marett said.

Pfizer and BioNTech aim to manufacture more than three billion doses of the vaccine globally by the end of this year.
Also, a total of 630 diplomats from 57 countries and employees of the United Nations agencies have been vaccinated at the National Institute of Health (NIH), according to the NIH.
An official of the NIH, requesting anonymity, said according to rules, only Pakistani nationals were entitled to the free vaccine, but last month it was decided to allow diplomats and employees of UN agencies to avail the facility.
"So far over 630 people from 57 countries have been vaccinated. As per procedure, embassies and UN agencies share the list of employees with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for inoculation. We have established a vaccination centre at the NIH for diplomats and foreigners," he said.
Replying to a question, the official said the diplomats were given the choice from available vaccines and the majority opted for Chinese vaccines.
"Some of the diplomats wanted to be inoculated with AstraZeneca. There was also a demand for Pfizer, but they were told that the American vaccine could only be given to immuno-compromised persons," he said.
It is worth mentioning here that so far 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine have arrived under Covax, an international alliance that has pledged free vaccines for the 20 per cent population of Pakistan. -- PTI
14:12   IMA rages against 'mixopathy' nod in Uttarakhand
The ayurveda-versus-allopathy debate has taken a new turn with the Uttarakhand government deciding to allow ayurvedic doctors to prescribe select allopathic medicines to patients in emergencies. 

 Making the announcement on the sidelines of a programme to mark the International Day for Yoga at the Uttarakhand Ayurvedic University here on Monday, Ayush Minister Harak Singh Rawat said the decision was taken for the benefit of the people living in the state's remote hill areas, where the primary health centres mostly have ayurvedic doctors. 

"There are around 800 ayurvedic doctors in Uttarakhand and as many ayurvedic dispensaries, of which 90 per cent are located in the remote hill areas," he said. 

 The decision, which requires changes in the Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Chikitsa Adhiniyam, will help people living in the disaster and accident prone hill areas who are deprived of proper healthcare facilities, the minister said. 

 However, the announcement sparked a sharp reaction from the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Uttarakhand, which termed it "illegal". "It is illegal and falls into the category of mixopathy," IMA, Uttarakhand secretary Ajay Khanna said. "Mixopathy will only harm patients in an emergency. The Supreme Court and the high courts are very clear on this. Ayurvedic doctors cannot practise allopathy as they are not qualified for it," he said.

"How can ayurvedic doctors prescribe allopathic medicines without knowing about allopathy?" Khanna asked. 

 However, Bharatiya Chikitsa Parishad, Uttarakhand vice president and senior physician J N Nautiyal welcomed the decision, saying 80 per cent of the state's population, which is deprived of healthcare facilities, is going to benefit immensely from it. 

 On the IMA's reaction to the announcement, Nautiyal said, "The IMA has double standards. Ayush doctors work in the ICUs and emergency wards of hospitals. The IMA has no problem with that. But now, when something is going to benefit such a large number of people in the hills, they have a problem."
14:05   Man arrested for bomb threat at Maha secretariat
A 53-year-old man, upset over his child not getting admission in a school, sent an e-mail to the Maharashtra government claiming a bomb was placed in the state secretariat, which later turned out to be a hoax, police said on Tuesday.

 The incident took place on Monday following which the accused, identified as Shailesh Shinde, was arrested from his residence in Ghorpadi area of Pune. Shinde was upset over his child not getting admission in a school and had sent a few e-mails complaining about the school to the Chief Minister's Office at the 'Mantralaya' (state secretariat), he said. 

 As he did not get any response to his mails, he sent a message on the state Home department's e-mail ID wherein he mentioned that a bomb was placed in the Mantralaya, the official said. 

 The authorities alerted the police following which a Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) squad reached the secretariat and conducted a search, but did not find anything suspicious, he said.
14:03   US to donate 1.6 cr vax to Asia (Delhi needs 3 cr)
The US has announced its plan to allocate 5.5 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world as the second tranche, including 1.6 core jabs to 18 Asian nations such as India, Pakistan and Nepal, as part of the Biden administration's bid to end the pandemic globally. 

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged on Monday that the Centre pressured officials in Delhi to publish advertisements in newspapers thanking it for providing free Covid vaccines for all from June 21, while the city has got only 57 lakh doses so far against the 2.94 crore needed. 

 Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced the plan for the first 2.50 crore vaccine doses that the US has already started shipping. Of the 55 million (5.50 crore) vaccine doses announced on Monday as the second tranche, 16 million (1.60 crore) has been allocated for 18 Asian nations such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives and Bhutan. 

 The White House fact sheet on Monday did not provide exact figures for how many doses would be sent to each country. It only gave estimates for regions in general. 

 The Biden-Harris administration has so far allocated 80 million doses of America's own vaccine supply which President Joe Biden had pledged to allocate by the end of June as part of its efforts to end the pandemic globally. 

"Part of that plan is donating vaccines from our domestic supply, and the President has pledged 80 million (8 cr) doses to be allocated by the end of June," the White House said.

"For these 8 crore doses, the US will share 75 per cent through COVAX and 25 per cent will be targeted to help deal with surges around the world. Our goals are to increase global COVID-19 vaccination coverage, prepare for surges and prioritise healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations based on public health data and acknowledged best practice, and help our neighbours and other countries in need," the White House said. 

 The Biden-Harris administration will not use its vaccines to secure favours from other countries, it asserted. Of the 4.10 crore to be shared through COVAX, 1.40 crore will go to Latin America and the Caribbean nations and 1.60 crore to Asia. 

 The doses will consist of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines. AstraZeneca's vaccine has not been approved by federal regulators, CNN reported. Among the Asian countries include India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Cambodia, and the Pacific Islands. Another 100,000 crore jabs will be shared with African nations.
13:45   HC directs Mumbai top cop to inquire into woman's allegations against Raut
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed Mumbai Commissioner of Police to inquire into a 36-year-old woman's allegations of stalking and harassment by some men at the behest of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and her estranged husband. 

 A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar directed the police commissioner to submit a report to the court on June 24. The court was hearing a petition filed in February this year by the woman, a psychologist by profession, claiming she was being stalked and harassed by unknown men at the behest of Raut, who is a Rajya Sabha member, and her estranged husband. 

 The woman's advocate, Abha Singh, told the HC on Tuesday that after the petition was filed, the woman was recently arrested in a non-cognisable case, where it has been alleged that she procured a fake PHD degree. "The petitioner has been in jail for ten days now. After she filed the petition in HC, the entire police machinery has been unleashed on her now. This is complete vindictiveness and malafide action," Singh said. 

 The court said the petitioner can file a separate petition to challenge her arrest. We direct the Commissioner of Police to look into the grievances raised in the petition and take appropriate measures. 

The Commissioner of Police shall respond to us and submit a report on June 24, the bench said. The woman in her plea said she had lodged three complaints in 2013 and 2018, but no action has been taken against the perpetrators so far.
13:24   Moderna, Pfizer or AstraZeneca? The ridiculous, diverting rise of vaccine envy
"There's something endearing about the intensity of opinions about Covid vaccinations, as though we're all trying to wrestle every untamed feeling about the giant, untoward event of the pandemic into more manageable shapes and sizes: tribes and allegiances, preferences and views. It's like being a teenager again --  the emotions are just too vast to comprehend, too volatile to make sense of. But maybe if I scratch "AstraZeneca" on to my desk, someone else might like AstraZeneca, too, and then at least there would be two of us."

Read the column here
13:03   Court asks Deve Gowda to pay Rs 2 cr damages
A court in Bengaluru has directed former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda to pay Rs 2 crore as damages to the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) for his "defamatory statement" against the company in a television interview 10 years ago. 

The Eighth City Civil and Sessions Judge Mallanagouda found basis in the plaint filed by the NICE, whose promoter and managing director is Ashok Kheny, a former Bidar South MLA. 

 Referring to the interview telecast by a Kannada news channel under the caption "Gowdara Garjane" on June 28, 2011, the court directed Deve Gowda to pay damages of Rs 2 crore to the company for the loss of its reputation on account of defamatory comments made by him. 

 The JDS supremo's outburst was against the NICE project and he had called it a 'loot'. The court observed that the project in question has been upheld by the High Court of Karnataka and the Supreme Court in their judgments. -- PTI
12:59   Tata Literature Live! on June 25
Tata Literature Live! will be holding an online reading of Business Shastras! a book  on Tata Stories: 40  Timeless Tales to Inspire You, by Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons.  

The book, as the author puts it, is, 'a storybook with a difference'; the difference being that in the vast history of the Tata Group are extraordinary tales that make the business house what it is today.

The panel comprises Harish Bhat, author, Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, National Research Professor and Science and Innovation Leader and R Gopalakrishnan, Corporate Advisor and Former Executive Director, Tata Sons. 

The discussion will be held, live, on 25th June, 2021, at 5.30 pm on social media platforms. 

This year's invite of Tata Literature Live! comes from former journalist Amy Fernandes. Earlier, it would be author, columnist Anil Dharkar who helmed the dos, and was the founder and director of Literature Live! Dharkar, sadly, passed away after a bypass surgery in March. 
12:42   Gupkar Alliance leaders to attend PM's meeting
PAGD (People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration) leaders will attend the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the alliance chairperson Farooq Abdullah said. The all-party meeting will be held on Thursday.  

This morning PAGD leaders arrived at the residence of Dr Abdullah for a meeting to discuss their participation in the PM's meet, about 35A and Art 370.
12:34   BJP MP seeks action against Nusrat Jahan
BJP MP Sanghmitra Maurya on TMC MP Nusrat Jahan's 'marriage'. "In her bio (in Lok Sabha) mentioned that she is married & her husband's name is Nikhil Jain. She took oath as Nusrat Jahan Ruhi Jain. Now she is saying that her marriage is invalid. I made an appeal to Speaker to take an action."

12:24   PM's tears can't wipe families' tears: Rahul
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday released a "white paper" by the party on the Centre's Covid management and urged the government to prepare for the third wave of coronavirus. 

 Releasing the "white paper", the former Congress chief said it is clear that the management of the first and second wave of COVID-19 was "disastrous".

 "There were certain reasons as to why it was disastrous, we've tried to point out those reasons in our white paper. This is a blueprint about how to react to the third wave which is going to come," he said. "It is our intention to provide the government with information and insights into what went wrong," Gandhi said. 

 The aim of this white paper is not finger-pointing at the government but to help the nation prepare for the third wave of infection, he said. Asserting that the central pillar to fight Covid is vaccination, Gandhi said it is important that "we cross bridge of 100 per cent vaccination as soon as possible".

 He also urged the government to treat all states equally for COVID-19 vaccinations, asserting that there should be no bias and they should not be viewed as BJP or opposition states. PTI

12:09   India's economy under Modi in seven graphs
His thumping mandate - in 2014 and again in 2019 - raised hopes of big bang reforms.

But his economic record, in the seven years he's been prime minister, has proved lacklustre. And the pandemic battered what was an already under-par performance.

Here's how Asia's third-largest economy has fared under Mr Modi, in seven charts.

Walt Disney's Peter Pan
Walt Disney's Peter Pan
12:05   Kidnapper with Peter Pan Syndrome gets bail
A Mumbai court has granted bail to a man suffering from 'Peter Pan Syndrome' in connection with a case of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. Special Judge S C Jadhav on Monday granted bail to the 23-year-old accused on a bond of Rs 25,000 and several other conditions.

 Appearing for the accused, advocate Sunil Pandey, stated that his client is suffering from the 'Peter Pan Syndrome'- a term used to describe an adult male or female who is socially immature. 

 "The victim's family knew about their relationship. But, her family didn't like their relationship due to the boy's illness and poor background and also had a grudge against his family members," Pandey told the court. 

 The lawyer further said the victim had the knowledge of what she was doing and got into the relationship voluntarily.

 However, special public prosecutor Veena Shelar opposed the plea and denied all the allegations made by the applicant. The prosecution contended that there is prima-facie sufficient material on record to show the involvement of the applicant in the commission of the offence. 

"There is no material on record about the illness of the accused applicant. If the accused is released on bail, he may tamper with the evidence in the case," the prosecutor said.

 The court, after hearing the submissions, granted bail to the accused, saying his detention will serve no purpose as the probe into the matter is completed and nothing has to be recovered from him. 

 The court noted that the victim's statement "prima facie shows she herself left her parents' house and joined the company the accused". The facts of the case indicate the girl (even though she is a minor) had sufficient knowledge and capacity to know full import of what she was doing and only thereafter voluntarily joined the applicant, the court observed. PTI
11:43   Govt has to continue high rate of vaccinations: Rahul
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's Covid White Paper presser: "Yes, good work has happened yesterday (highest number of vaccines administered) but this is not a series of events. But govt has to make this process work not just for one day but every day until we've vaccinated our whole population."
11:27   Aim of White Paper on Covid is not to blame: Rahul
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi releases the White Paper on Covid. 

"The aim of this white paper on COVID19 is not finger-pointing at the government but to help the nation prepare for the third wave of infection. The whole country knows that a third wave will strike. 

"It's clear that management of the first and second wave of COVID was disastrous, and we've tried to point out the reasons behind it. I would even go so far as to say that there might be waves even after the third wave of COVID19 as the virus is mutating."

11:09   Hearts arrears
The Will could well be read as a parchment of the, writes Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Do read 
10:56   Sensex in the green, Adani ports continues to gain
Equity benchmark indices extended recovery during early hours on Tuesday as investors focussed on economic growth amid favourable cues from their global peers.

At 10:15 am, the BSE S&P Sensex was up by 451 points or 0.86 per cent at 53,025 while the Nifty 50 ticked up by 140 points or 0.89 per cent to 15,887. Except for Nifty pharma which dipped slightly, all sectoral indices at the National Stock Exchange were in the positive zone with Nifty PSU bank advancing by 2 per cent, auto by 1.4 per cent and realty by 1.1 per cent.

Among stocks, Adani Ports continued to gain by moving up 3.2 per cent to Rs 754.85 per share. Maruti Suzuki accelerated by 3.2 per cent and Tata Motors by 1.9 per cent.UPL, ONGC, IndianOil Corporation, State Bank of India, ICICI Bank and Larsen & Toubro too were in the green. 

However, the laggards included Cipla, Dr Reddy's, Nestle India, HDFC Life and Bajaj Finance.
10:31   Rahul Gandhi to hold Covid presser this morning
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to hold a press conference via video conferencing at 11 am today, to release a white paper on COVID19.

India recorded less than 50,000 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 91 days, taking the total tally of cases to 2,99,77,861, while active cases fell below 7 lakh after 79 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.
10:25   Two important meetings today
Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh to meet three-member AICC panel today in Rajya Sabha, the meeting will be held in LoP Mallikarjun Kharge's office at Parliament. 

People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration to meet at its chairperson Dr. Farooq Abdullah's residence today ahead of PM Modi's all-party meeting
10:19   India vaccinated more than New Zealand's population
 India administered 86,16,373 COVID-19 vaccine doses on Monday, the highest-ever single day vaccination in the world so far, the Union Health Ministry informed today.

Thus India has vaccinated more than the population of New Zealand in a single day. As the new phase of universalisation of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from Monday, in a landmark achievement, 86,16,373 have been administered on the first day of the new phase of COVID-19 Vaccination. This is the highest single-day number of jabs in the world.

Madhya Pradesh on Monday administered 16,73,858 COVID-19 vaccine doses, the highest ever among states in the country in a single day so far.

On the historic feat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated those who got vaccinated and lauded all frontline warriors.

If Indian maintains this inoculation number or exceeds it, Covid cases will stay under control and not spiral into the horror that we saw during the second wave. 

The government's propaganda apart, vaccines to non-BJP states are still in short supply, as Delhi's vaccine numbers clearly say. 
10:01   DCGI to review Covaxin Phase III data today
The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) under the drug regulator will discuss reviewing the Phase III data of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin today.

The meeting is taking place before Bharat Biotech's 'pre-submission' meeting on Wednesday with the World Health Organization (WHO), for the approval for their COVID vaccine 'Covaxin'.

According to sources, "The Subject Expert Committee will meet today to review the Phase III data of Covaxin."The Hyderabad-based COVID vaccine manufacturing company Bharat Biotech submitted data from the Phase III clinical trials of Covaxin to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) over the weekend, according to government sources.

"We have received the data from the phase III trials," a senior government official confirmed.

Bharat Biotech's Covaxin is one of the three vaccines which are currently being used in India. The phase III data of its vaccine have been questioned various times and that is what makes the data crucial which will ascertain the efficacy of the vaccine.

The company has developed the vaccine in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).In a press briefing a few days ago by the Union Health Ministry, Dr V K Paul, who is a member (Health) Niti Aayog and also the head of the COVID task force of the country, said that the company would be submitting the data within seven to eight days.

In May, Bharat Biotech had said that an emergency use listing (EUL) application had been submitted to WHO, with regulatory approvals expected between July and September. -- ANI
09:43   India reports 42,640 Covid cases, lowest in 91 days
India reports 42,640 new COVID-19 cases (lowest in 91 days), 81,839 discharges and 1,167 deaths in last 24 hours as per Union Health Ministry.

Total cases: 2,99,77,861 
Total discharges: 2,89,26,038 
 Death toll: 3,89,302 
Active cases: 6,62,521 
Total Vaccination: 28,87,66,201

Lower cases doesn't mean you drop your guard. Continue to maintain Covid safety protocol. Both doses of vaccination also doesn't mean you cannot get infected again, it's just that mortality is almost always nil. 
09:30   India vaccinated 86.16L yesterday, world's highest
India administered 86.16 lakh (86,16,373) vaccine doses in a single day yesterday; Highest ever single day vaccination achieved in the world so far: Ministry of Health. Of this, Madhya Pradesh contributed 16.73 lakh vaccinations. 
09:28   MP vaccinated 16.73L yesterday, India's highest
 Madhya Pradesh on Monday administered 16,73,858 COVID-19 vaccine doses, the highest ever among states in the country in a single day so far.

As the new phase of universalisation of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from Monday, in a landmark achievement, 80,95,314 doses have been administered on the first day of the new phase of COVID-19 Vaccination. This is the highest single-day number of jabs in the world.

 According to a statement issued by the Madhya Pradesh government, a total of 3,75,962 vaccine doses were administered in the Bhopal division which includes 8 districts - Betul, Bhopal, Harda, Hoshangabad, Raisen, Rajgarh, Sehore and Vidisha on Monday, as part of state's 'Vaccination Mahaabhiyan' campaign that coincided with the International Day of Yoga.As many as 3,88,401 vaccine doses were administered in the Indore division which comprises 8 districts - Alirajpur, Barwani, Burhanpur, Dhar, Indore, Jhabua, Khandwa and Khargone. 

The Gwalior Division, comprising 8 districts - Ashoknagar, Bhind, Datia, Guna, Gwalior Morena, Sheopur and Shivpur, administered 1,93,435 jabs.The Jabalpur division which comprises 8 districts - Balaghat, Chhindwara, Dindori, Jabalpur, Katni, Mandla, Narsinghpur and Seoni, recorded 2,07,160 doses. 

As many as 2,54,757 vaccine doses were administered in the Ujjain Division which comprises seven districts including Agar, Dewas, Mandsaur, Neemuch, Ratlam, Shajapur and Ujjain.
08:38   US court to hold in-person extradition hearing of Tahawwur Rana on Thursday
A federal United States court is all set to hold on Thursday an in-person extradition hearing of Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana, who is sought for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
A team of officials from India is believed to have arrived in the US for the court proceedings.
The United State government, in multiple submissions before the court, has made a declaration in support of the "United States' Surrebuttal in Support of its Request for Certification of Extradition."
Rana, 59, is sought in India in connection with his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack.
Rana, a childhood friend of prime convict David Coleman Headley, was re-arrested on June 10, 2020 in Los Angeles on an extradition request by India for his involvement in the Mumbai terror attack in which 166 people, including six Americans, were killed. He has been declared a fugitive by India.
Headley, 60, was made an approver in the case, and is currently serving a 35-year prison term in the US for his role in the attack. Rana has opposed his extradition to India, arguing that he has already been convicted by a US court in Chicago.
The United States government asserts that the premise of Rana's argument is incorrect because the Indian substantive charges are not considered lesser included offenses of their conspiracy charges.
As per the India-US Extradition Treaty, the Indian government has requested the formal extradition of Rana, and the United States has initiated this extradition proceeding. The US government has argued that Rana meets all the criteria warranting certification of his extradition to India.
These are: the court has both personal and subject matter jurisdiction, there is an extradition treaty between the United States and India that is in full force and effect, and the crimes for which Rana's extradition is sought are covered by the terms of the treaty.
In his previous court submission on February 4, Rana's attorney had argued that Rana's extradition is barred under Article 6 of the United States-India extradition treaty because he had previously been acquitted of the offences for which his extradition is sought, and under Article 9 of the treaty because the government has not established probable cause to believe that Rana committed the alleged offences. -- PTI 
08:14   Amid infighting, Rahul meets Punjab Cong leaders
Taking a lead in resolving party's problems in Punjab, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi held meetings with leaders of state in the national capital on Monday as part of efforts to bring greater cohesion in the state unit ahead of assembly elections next year and resolve factional issues and "infighting". 

Congress MP Gurjeeet Singh Aujla, Punjab ministers Rajkumar Verka and Charanjit Singh Channi and party MLA Kuljeet Nagra met Rahul Gandhi at his residence in Delhi on Monday. 

Punjab Congress incharge Harish Rawat was also present in the meeting

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu have not met Gandhi after the three-member panel was formed to resolve the issues concerning the state unit.

According to sources, Rahul will also meet other leaders from Punjab including MLA Pargat Singh, who has been at loggerheads with the chief minister.  

Pargat Singh is a former captain of India' men hockey team.      

Sources said the leaders who had sought time to meet Rahul Gandhi amidst the ongoing controversy in the Punjab Congress have been called.

Rahul Gandhi had earlier talked to the MLAs over the phone ahead of the meeting of the AICC panel on Punjab.

Gandhi had also met with the three-member panel for Punjab twice after they have submitted the report to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
02:01   21 cases of Delta plus variant found in Maha
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Monday said 21 cases of  the 'Delta plus' variant of COVID-19,  considered highly infectious, have been found in the state so far.

Talking to reporters, Tope said the highest  nine cases were reported in Ratnagiri followed by seven in Jalgaon, two in Mumbai and one case each in Palghar, Thane and Sindhudurg districts.

He said 7,500 samples from different parts of the state were collected and sent for laboratory testing.

These samples were collected since May 15 and their genome sequencing was done, the minister said.

Genome sequencing allows the tracking of small mutations in SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, meaning chains of transmission can be identified.

The scientific process also assists in identifying missing links in the chain of transmission.

Tope said complete information about the people detected with the 'Delta plus' variant is being sought -- their travel history, whether they were vaccinated or not and if they were reinfected.

Their contacts are being traced and tested, the health minister said, adding information on mutation of Delta and Delta plus variants is also being scrutinised.

Last week, the state health department made a presentation where it said the  newly identified Delta plus' variant may trigger a third wave of the pandemic in Maharashtra.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, state COVID-19 task force members and health department officials had attended the presentation.  -- PTI