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How India’s Silicon Valley saw its COVID-19 success come undone | India News

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On June 9, a minister in southern Karnataka state posted an infographic on Twitter showing the number of recorded COVID-19 infections in the city of Bengaluru were half that recorded in New Zealand, a country celebrated for getting the spread of the disease under control early on in the pandemic.

At the time, only about 450 cases of the novel coronavirus had been recorded among Bengaluru’s 12.5 million people, compared with about 1,150 among New Zealand’s 4.88 million population.

The city – which has more than double the population of New Zealand – “stumps the Kiwis”, said the caption to the image posted by Minister for Medical Education of Karnataka Sudhakar K.

His tweet was liked and retweeted by thousands. But the celebration was short-lived.

Thanks partly to a high-tech testing and tracing system monitored by masked officials on giant screens in a city “war room”, Bengaluru had contained the outbreak better than cities like Mumbai, which tallied more than 100 times as many cases.

People wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus walk down in busiest avenue road area in Bengaluru [File: Jagadeesh NV/EPA]

Two and a half months on, Bengaluru, dubbed India’s Silicon Valley for its technology firms and startups, has reported more than 110,000 cases. Where its infections in early June rose by approximately 25 a day, the daily infection rate is now more than 2,500. In New Zealand, the total caseload stood at 1,339 as of August 25.

Sudhakar did not respond to requests for comment, but his tweet remains online.

Bengaluru’s early response was lauded by India’s government as a model for its use of health surveys combined with efforts to tap technology expertise and cutting-edge software in order to analyse the spread of the disease.

But after India eased a nationwide lockdown in early June, epidemiologists and government officials involved in the city’s response to the pandemic said they realised they had not planned enough.

The experience shows the extent of the challenge faced by large cities around the world, showing how rapidly an outbreak can snowball out of control.

“The city had three to four months to plan for a surge in cases, but the city did not plan for the future. They mostly assumed that the lockdown implementation was sufficient,” said Giridhara Babu, an epidemiologist advising the state of Karnataka.

Curfew and contact-tracing

In late March, India enforced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Karnataka state was ahead of that with its own measures.

It collaborated with the NASSCOM trade association to mobilise 150 employees from half a dozen IT firms to feed 20,000 international traveller records into a central system every day.

epa08614307 Indian Health workers holds swab samples of suspected people for coronavirus COVID-19 Rapid Antigen detection testing at Government Health Care Center hospital in Bangalore, India 20 Augus

Health workers holds swab samples of suspected people for coronavirus COVID-19 Rapid Antigen detection testing in Bengaluru [File: Jagadeesh NV/EPA]

Karnataka conducted a mammoth health survey. More than 40,000 government health workers roamed the state in pink uniforms and masks, surveying nearly 16 million households.

Residents were subject to a curfew that emptied parks, malls and the city’s notoriously clogged roads, and officials tapped companies such as Intel, Alphabet’s Google and Mumbai-based Fractal Analytics for expertise and tools to help trace, predict and control the spread.

Many gave up their personal information for these purposes. At thousands of drugstores, officials collected contact details for people who bought drugs like paracetamol, to keep tabs on their health.

A federal government study shows Karnataka on average tested 47.4 contacts of every COVID-19-infected person between January 22 and April 30, compared with the national average of six contacts per infected individual.

‘That many people’

But in June, when lockdown restrictions eased, people flocked back to markets that sell fresh produce and flowers.

Besides locals, officials say tens of thousands of travellers streamed in from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, many unwittingly bringing the virus with them. The neighbouring states have been the two worst hit by COVID-19 in India.

“We were sandwiched between these two states which already had a very high viral load … so we were bound to get affected,” said Pankaj Pandey, the health commissioner for Karnataka.

An estimated 45,000 people from Maharashtra and another 20,000 from Tamil Nadu’s capital, Chennai, streamed into Bengaluru in June, he added.

“In the initial phase, the case numbers in Bangalore [currently named Bengaluru] were so few, that people all over the country felt Bangalore is the safest. That may also have caused people to ‘reverse-migrate’ back to Bangalore,” said one official involved in Bengaluru’s response.

“We didn’t look at the inbound travellers as a major source of infections,” the official said. “We never anticipated that many people would come.”

Officials from Bengaluru’s municipal body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), did not respond to queries on whether it failed to address gaps in its modelling systems.

But Hephsiba Rani Korlapati, a bureaucrat running the Bengaluru “war room” said easing the lockdown complicated the city’s efforts.

Since late June, Bengaluru has been sealing areas where cases jump, said Korlapati, noting this involves placing barricades at entry and exit points – in effect quarantining entire neighbourhoods.

“Aggressive testing of contacts and home isolation is the way to contain the spread,” she said. “That is being taken very seriously and is being done right now.”



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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