Kathmandu, June 8 (IANS) Coronil, the so-called immunity booster kit manufactured by yoga guru Ramdevs Patanjali group in India, has landed in a controversy in Nepal after the Himalayan nations Department of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine imposed a ban on its distribution.The Health Ministry of Nepal, however, has remained silent over the ongoing controversy regarding the distribution of Coronil kits, which have also landed in controversy in India and Bhutan. The controversy erupted in Nepal after the Patanjai Yoghpeeth on last Thursday handed over Coronil kits, sanitisers, masks and other immunity booster medicines worth crores of rupees to outgoing Health Minister, Hrydesh Tripathi. The day after he received the support from local officials of the Patanjali Yogpeeth Nepal, Tripathi was removed as the Health Minister. "The Coronil kits provided by the Patanjali Yogpeeth did not receive permission from the Department of Drug Administration, so we have decided not to distribute it," Basudev Upadhyay, the Director General of the Department of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine, said in a press conference. "The Coronil kit could be beneficial for the treatment of respiratory disorders, but it has not taken permission from the Department of Drug Administration, so we cannot distribute it," Upadhyay added.As per the Nepali law, any drug can be imported only after obtaining permission from the DDA.Meanwhile, the spokesperson at Nepal's Health Ministry, Krishna Poudel, told IANS that he is not aware about the distribution of Coronil kits in Nepal. "We do not know if the outgoing Health Minister Tripathi accepted the support. We have heard that it is yet to get permission from the DDA," said Poudel."Coronil is not registered with the DDA and it cannot be distributed or sold out without registration," DDA spokesperson Santosh K.C. told IANS. "We have not received any document for its registration as well as seeking permission for selling out in Nepal. We do not know how the former Health Minister accepted the donation. We have not received any letter from the Health Ministry to grant permission for its distribution," he said. Meanwhile, Patanjai Yogpeeth said that the consignment of 1,500 Coronil kits was provided upon the request from the government of Nepal.Officials at Nepal's Health Ministry said that officials from Patanjali Yogpeeth in Nepal and India had approached former Health Minister Tripathi directly, handing over some documents that received permission from the government of India for its distribution and provision of selling for the general public as an immunity booster. The Bhutan government had already rejected the support provided by Patanjali.--IANSstr/arm
Chennai, May 30 (IANS) Tamil Nadu health minister Ma Subramaniam in a statement on Sunday said that the state is running out of vaccines and has sought the help of the Central government to overcome this crisis.Minister said that the state has 6 lakh doses of vaccines and it would be exhausted in a day or two. He said that the state has paid Rs 85 crore and sourced 13.85 lakh doses of vaccine and another 12 lakh doses are yet to arrive.Ma Subramaniam while speaking to IANS said, "We have received so far 95.59 lakh doses of vaccines and have already inoculated 84.5 lakh people and with the current stock we would be able to continue with the drive for may be two to three days. For people above 45 years of age we have 6 lakh doses of the vaccine while for those between 18-44, we have only 2 lakh doses."The minister also said that the Tamil Nadu government has floated a global tender for 3.5 crore doses of vaccine and that the tender process will be completed by June 5. He said, "The procurement of the vaccine will be done in six months and everyone who is eligible will be vaccinated."The health minister also said that the chief minister has sent a minister to New Delhi to discuss and urge the Centre to initiate steps to commence vaccine production at the Chengalpet Integrated Vaccine complex.--IANSaal/skp/
<br>US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the decision on Wednesday saying that President Joe Biden's "administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines".But the long-awaited decision will not result in an immediate waiver as a consensus will be needed at the WTO and, in the meanwhile, the Biden administration will work to increase the raw materials supply for making the vaccines, she said."We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the WTO needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved," Tai said.Speaking in Geneva at the start of the General Council meeting on Wednesday, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: "We need to have a sense of urgency on how we approach this issue of response to Covid-19 because the world is watching."At the meeting several countries voiced opposition to the waivers, while many also supported it, according to a news release from the organisation.Last October, India and South Africa made the proposal for the waiver, officially known as the Temporary Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), for materials needed to fight the pandemic "until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world's population has developed immunity".Since then, 60 WTO members, including Pakistan, have co-sponsored it.Okonjo-Iweala said that she welcomed a recent move by the sponsors to submit a revised proposal."I am firmly convinced that once we can sit down with an actual text in front of us, we shall find a pragmatic way forward, acceptable to all sides that allow the kinds of answers that our developing country members are looking at with respect to vaccines, whilst at the same time looking at research and innovation and how to protect them," she said.A WTO statement said that over 40 delegations spoke at the General Council session on Wednesday and "supporters of the proposal were of the view that the current challenges posed by the pandemic can only be effectively addressed by waiving certain TRIPS obligations. Other delegations remained unconvinced about the necessity for a waiver at the international level, with some members arguing that a waiver might undermine ongoing collaborative efforts".Many industrialised European countries, including the UK and Switzerland, and some major pharmaceutical companies oppose the waiver seeing it as opening the doors to a broader weakening of intellectual property rights that could affect future innovation.In her statement on backing the patent waiver, Tai said that while the negotiations take their time, "the aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible"."As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the administration will continue to ramp up its efforts a" working with the private sector and all possible partners, to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines," she added.Indian-American House of Representatives member Ro Khanna welcomed the Biden administration's decision, tweeting: "Thank you @POTUS for putting life & dignity over very powerful interests."The administration had to work its way around opposing forces to arrive at the decision on waivers.A group of Democrats led by the progressive Senator Bernie Sanders urged Biden to "prioritise people over pharmaceutical company profits" and support the waiver.Many domestic and international organisations, like Doctors Without Borders and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have also asked for the waiver on humanitarian grounds.But a group of 12 Republican members of Congress wrote to Biden on Wednesday opposing the waiver asserting that it "would harm American innovation, technological leadership, and economic competitiveness".The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) that belongs to the powerful trade union backing Biden, American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), has also come out against the waiver.IFPTE President Paul Shearon wrote to Tai's staff that the US should manufacture vaccines domestically to create jobs and preserve its lead in the technology. He also raised doubts about the ability of other countries to make the vaccines.He wrote that "letting first-time producers re-create the industrial capacity and know-how needed to ramp up a complex industrial process to global scale" may not work.Bill Gates, the philanthropist who heads a foundation that works on global issues, has also opposed the waiver echoing a similar view questioning the ability of developing countries to maintain quality standards.But Khanna said in his tweet, "Let's be clear, this debate was never about quality control over manufacturing vaccines. It was about money andgreed. I was trolled repeatedly by people in my own party for calling on Biden to waive this."Biden's spokesperson Jen Psaki posited a defence of the support for the waiver before it was announced when she responded at her briefing to a question about the objections. "We take intellectual property incredibly seriously. And we also, though, are in the midst of a historic global pandemic, which requires a range of creative solutions. And we're looking at it through that prism."(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed @arulouis)--IANS<br>al/ksk/
Seoul, March 11 (IANS) Jae-yong, the imprisoned de facto leader of Samsung Group, is under investigation over an allegation that he took anesthesia drug propofol shots illegally, police said on Thursday.Propofol is a highly regulated drug in South Korea that the country's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety issued standards to prevent its misuse and abuse.The ministry issued a notice last September to set standards for the use of narcotic drugs propofol and zolpidem, saying propofol is a "psychotropic drug used to induce and maintain the general anesthetic state."The Gyeonggi Nambu Police Agency said they were looking into the accusation made against Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, that he illegally used the anesthesia drug at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul last year, but refused to provide further details on the ongoing case, reports Yonhap news agency.The police are said to have visited Lee, who is imprisoned in the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, south of the capital, last month to take a hair sample from him for drug testing.Lee is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year prison term for bribing impeached former President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to win government support for a smooth father-to-son transfer of managerial power at Samsung.Samsung said that Lee only took propofol shots for medical purposes and that the police have not corroborated the allegation against him, reports Yonhap news agency.Early last year, a similar accusation was filed against Lee with the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission that he regularly used propofol at another plastic surgery clinic in Seoul.The case has been referred to the Supreme Prosecutors Office.Lee also denied the allegation at that time and requested the case to be reviewed by an independent committee consisting of outside experts to see whether the prosecution's investigation is legitimate.--IANSwh/na
London, Jan 6 (IANS) Millions of Britons woke up Tuesday to face new strict lockdown measures requiring them to stay indoors as Covid-19 infections continue to spiral upwards.Announcing the lockdown, the third of its kind since the pandemic began in the country, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation on Monday in a televised address that new tough measures were needed to control the coronavirus, protect the National Health Service (NHS) and save lives, the Xinhua news agency reported.He said a drastic jump in cases has been attributed to a new variant of coronavirus, which is said to be about 70 per cent more transmissible.With no specific end-date for tougher restrictions set by Johnson, controls across England might last up to several months.The coming weeks will be the hardest yet since the virus struck, Johnson warned.The gloomy start to the new year also saw restriction rules imposed across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.Meanwhile, British ministers are considering introducing a requirement for international arrivals to have a negative Covid test before travelling to Britain in a bid to tackle the rising tide of infections, the Evening Standard newspaper reported Tuesday.Chief medical officers across all regions of Britain advised politicians that the Covid-19 threat level should move from Tier Four to Tier Five, indicating that if action is not taken, the NHS may be soon overwhelmed.Johnson confirmed that hospitals are now under more pressure than at any other point throughout the pandemic.Lawmakers are being recalled to the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament, for a special sitting Wednesday to give retrospective approval to the new controls in England.Earlier on Tuesday, British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove indicated that the new lockdown in England is likely to remain in place into March at least."I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions but not necessarily all," Gove said.Also on Tuesday, Professor Andrew Hayward from the University College London (UCL) told the BBC that while the new lockdown would clearly save tens of thousands of lives, it was not clear the restrictions would be sufficient to stop its spread."We need to learn from the last lockdown and particularly some of the things we saw," he said.In England, people are only allowed to go to work if it's impossible to work from home, such as construction workers. They are allowed to go out to shop for necessities including food and medicines, and to exercise, ideally once a day and locally.Meanwhile, all schools and colleges will close from Tuesday (except for vulnerable children and those of key workers), and switch to remote learning until the middle of February.On Monday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland would enter a new lockdown from midnight on Monday, as well as a shutdown of schools until February 1.Alongside the gloomy message, Johnson offered a message of hope that the virus will be defeated as the country continues to roll out the vaccines.Urging people to pull together, Johnson said: "With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people."On Tuesday, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a support package worth 4.6 billion pounds (about $6.25 billion) to help support businesses impacted by the new lockdown.Meanwhile, Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, criticised Johnson's handling of the pandemic, but said his party would on Wednesday back the new measures in the House of Commons."It's going to be a struggle and we need to make this work," said Starmer in a television interview on Tuesday.Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: "It is absolutely essential that we all put the health of our citizens first, and businesses will continue to step up in the national interest to support the NHS, employees and customers in the weeks ahead.""In tandem we need to acknowledge that the economic impact of these new restrictions is significant," Danker added.The lockdown came as another 58,784 people in Britain have tested positive for Covid-19, marking the highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, according to official figures released Monday.It was the seventh day in a row that new cases have topped 50,000 in Britain. The total number of coronavirus cases in the country now stands at 27,13,563, the data showed.Another 407 have died within 28 days of a positive test, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain to 75,431, the data showed.To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines. --IANSint/rs/
New York - Facial recognition technology created after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic shows that some software developers have made demonstrable progress at recognizing masked faces, says a study.
The findings by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), measures the performance of face recognition algorithms developed following the arrival of the pandemic.
A previous report from July explored the effect of masked faces on algorithms submitted before March 2020, indicating that software available before the pandemic often had more trouble with masked faces.
"Some newer algorithms from developers performed significantly better than their predecessors. In some cases, error rates decreased by as much as a factor of 10 between their pre and post-Covid algorithms," said study author Mei Ngan from NIST.
"In the best cases, software algorithms are making errors between 2.4 and five per cent of the time on masked faces, comparable to where the technology was in 2017 on non-masked photos," Ngan added.
The new study adds the performance of 65 newly submitted algorithms to those that were tested on masked faces in the previous round, offering cumulative results for 152 total algorithms.
Using the same set of 6.2 million images as it had previously, the team tested the algorithms' ability to perform "one-to-one" matching, in which a photo is compared with a different photo of the same person - a function commonly used to unlock a smartphone.
The researchers revealed that software can handle images regardless of whether or not the faces are masked. The algorithms detect the difference automatically, without being told. (IANS)