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Victorious Modi fights tears in first address to India parliament

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Victorious Modi fights tears in first address to India parliament | Thaiger

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Victorious Modi fights tears in first address to India parliament
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Narendra Modi fought back tears in an emotional first address to his party in India’s colonnaded parliament house on Tuesday, after the Hindu nationalist swept to power in an election that has changed the face of politics in the country.

Modi will be India’s next prime minister after leading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a historic victory in a ballot that ended on Friday. He is likely to take his oath of office to lead the world’s biggest democracy on Monday.

The win handed the BJP its first parliamentary majority and reduced the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s ruling Congress party to 44 seats, the lowest ever tally for a party that won India’s independence and has ruled for most of the 67 years since.

Modi, 63, choked up and paused his speech to take a drink of water during his inaugural appearance in the round, colonial-era building.

He addressed BJP lawmakers filling more than half the seats of the lower house with uplifting words that commentators immediately contrasted with the often wooden addresses of his predecessor Manmohan Singh.

“It is proof of the strength of our Constitution that a man from a poor family is standing here today,” said Modi, who sold tea on a railway platform as a child. For the past 12 years, he has governed the state of Gujarat.

“This government (will be) one which thinks of the poor, which listens to the poor, a government which lives for the people,” said Modi, who kissed the steps of the pink sandstone parliament building before his speech.

His comments appeared designed to counter criticism that his record of business-focused government and fast economic growth in Gujarat did not do enough to lift people from poverty.

Congress has traditionally cast itself as India’s champion of the poor and downtrodden.

U.S. INVITATION

The United States, which is keen to strengthen what it has termed a “strategic” relationship with India, was quick to extend congratulations to Modi.

“The United States stands ready to work closely with Prime Minister Modi and the new government to promote shared prosperity and strengthen our security,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement, adding that he looked forward to visiting India soon.

Washington sees its relationship with India as critical, partly to counterbalance China’s rising power.

President Barack Obama has called it “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” and in hailing Modi’s poll win last Friday, invited him to visit the White House, even though India’s new leader was barred from visiting the United States less than 10 years ago. [ID:nL1N0O21G8]

Modi was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 under a 1998 law barring entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state. Modi has denied any wrongdoing and India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 he had no case to answer.

Analysts say a U.S. visit could come as soon as September.

LONG LIVE MODI!

Modi faces a huge task in meeting the sky-high expectations of India’s 1.2 billion people, who hope he can drag the country from economic torpor, tackle corruption and cut red tape in order to create enough jobs for its burgeoning youth.

With thunderous applause and shouts of “Long live Modi!” the 282 BJP members, who make up a comfortable majority in the 543-seat house, officially chose him as their parliamentary leader, one of several formalities before he is sworn in.

Modi was later due to visit President Pranab Mukherjee, who has little political power, but as head of state, has the task of formally appointing the prime minister.

The parliamentarians, who traveled from as far afield as the icy Himalayan plateaus and the palm-fronded southern tip of the subcontinent, included dozens who, like Modi, are first-time MPs.

Dressed in clothes ranging from multi-colored Rajasthani turbans to bright saris and white cotton pyjama suits, the members listened as Modi paid homage to party elders he pushed aside in his rise to power.

He also avoided criticism of the outgoing Congress party, saying all of India’s governments had worked for the good of the country.

Party president Rajnath Singh was less conciliatory, saying that Modi’s victory meant the BJP had replaced Congress as the natural party of government in India.

“With pride, we can say that we are members of a party that is now bigger than the Congress in stature. Before the 2014 elections, politics used to be BJP versus Congress, now it’s BJP versus the others,” said Singh.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs

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Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs | Thaiger
Stock photo of Pfizer vaccine via Flickr

The CEO for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines says it is likely that people will need a 3rd dose of the vaccine and to receive it annually. Albert Bourla, told CNBC, that the booster, or 3rd dose, will be needed less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a 3rd dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.”

Bourla’s comment echoes that of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO when he stated in February, that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots. Both statements reflect the fact that since the vaccine is new, and testing periods are shorter than most vaccines in the past, researchers are still unclear about how long the vaccine will protect against the virus.

Pfizer says that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against the coronavirus and more than 95% effective against severe diseases up to 6 months after the 2nd dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at 6 months.

Just yesterday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer, David Kessler, noted that new Covid variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment. We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

Late last month, the National Institute of Health started testing a new Covid vaccine from Moderna in addition to the one it already has, designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa. The variant is similar to that of the UK one that has recently made landfall in Thailand.

Recent findings, by The Lancet, however, have stated that the UK variant, known as B117, has a higher reproductive rate than other strains, and it’s more transmissible. However, it refuted earlier reports that the strain is more severe. Meanwhile, Thailand’s health minister is confirming his commitment to making AstraZeneca the nation’s chosen vaccine.

SOURCE: CNBC

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Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

Maya Taylor

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Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Denmark has announced that it is abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first European country to do so, amid concerns about very rare but serious blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine has run into problems in several countries, with its use either temporarily suspended or restricted to older age groups.

When concerns first arose over the vaccine’s rare side-effects, Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend its use. In Thailand, use of the vaccine was suspended last month, before officials judged it safe to proceed, with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul going on to confirm it would become the Kingdom’s primary Covid-19 vaccine.

Both the European drugs regulator and the World Health Organisation are standing by the jab, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. However, health officials in Denmark have now decided to ditch it for good.

“Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Denmark has reported 2 cases of thrombosis (blood clotting) linked to administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which proved fatal. The blood clot incidents arose after 140,000 people had received the jab. The Bangkok Post reports that 8% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated and 17% have received their first dose.

The country plans to continue its rollout using the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Officials say they are confident that the availability of other jabs, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 is relatively under control in Denmark, means the country’s mass inoculation can continue without issue.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has released a statement acknowledging the decision taken by Danish health authorities.

“We recognise and respect the decision taken by the Danish Health Authority. Implementation and rollout of the vaccine programme is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions. We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”

SOURCE: Euro News | Bangkok Post

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