KEY COVID NOS. WORLDWIDE
Pos / Country / New Daily cases / Total Deaths / Daily Deaths / Active Cases / Deaths/1M Pop
World 4,04,939 / 46,51,421 / 6,533 / 1,87,03,922 / 596.7
1 USA 84,062 / 6,79,532 / 647 / 93,79,447 / 2,039
2 UK 30,825 / 1,34,261 / 61 / 13,04,503 / 1,965
3 Iran 22,541 / 1,14,759 / 448 / 6,06,353 / 1,346
4 Russia 18,178 / 1,93,468 / 719 / 5,62,654 / 1,325
5 Turkey 24,613 / 60,117 / 231 / 4,50,033 / 704
6 Mexico 5,139 / 2,67,748 / 224 / 3,90,567 / 2,051
7 India 24,479 / 4,43,375 / 468 / 3,67,999 / 318
8 Brazil 6,645 / 5,87,066 / 184 / 3,42,625 / 2,739
9 France 2,062 / 1,15,603 / 86 / 2,57,417 / 1,766
10 Spain 2,602 / 85,393 / 35 / 2,37,382 / 1,826
11 Honduras / 9,319 / / 2,33,635 / 923
12 Malaysia 16,073 / 21,124 / 413 / 2,28,124 / 643
13 Vietnam 11,172 / 15,660 / 274 / 2,23,109 / 159
14 Philippines 20,745 / 35,307 / 163 / 1,80,293 / 317
15 Germany 8,262 / 93,250 / 122 / 1,70,321 / 1,109
16 Poland 269 / 75,425 / / 1,59,809 / 1,996
17 Thailand 12,583 / 14,485 / 132 / 1,32,113 / 207
18 Japan 7,213 / 16,797 / 55 / 1,27,247 / 133
19 Italy 2,800 / 1,29,955 / 36 / 1,25,904 / 2,153
20 Iraq 4,204 / 21,550 / 54 / 1,04,551 / 522
24 Pakistan 2,988 / 26,787 / 67 / 90,545 / 119
70 Bangladesh 1,953 / 26,972 / 41 / 22,461 / 162
WARY OF DIRECT AID TO AFGHAN, INDIA PITCHES FOR UN ROLE
The global community has promised to be generous to the needs of the Afghan people but had reservations about providing aid directly to the Taliban.
Speaking at a UN conference called by its Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday to address the critical humanitarian needs of Afghans, many participants including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar pointed out the need to ensure that humanitarian assistance providers are accorded direct access to Afghanistan. The situation in the country, dire because of an ongoing drought, has worsened after the Taliban takeover.
“Once relief materials reach that country, the world will naturally expect a non-discriminatory distribution of humanitarian assistance across all sections of the Afghan society. Only the UN has the capacity to monitor such endeavours and reassure donors,” underlined Jaishankar while refraining from announcing an immediate grant. Jaishankar wanted the immediate normalisation of regular commercial operations at Kabul airport so that it becomes the basis for regular flow of relief material.
While several speakers at the UN announced donations in response to a UN Flash Appeal seeking $606 million for the rest of the year to bring relief to 1.1 crore Afghans, it was not clear whether this aid will be disbursed immediately or subject to conditions of fair distribution to all parts of the country.
BLINKEN DEFENDS AFGHAN WITHDRAWAL AT TESTY U.S. CONGRESSIONAL HEARING
Speaking before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States' Secretary Antony J. Blinken on Monday said that the US achieved its objectives in Afghanistan 'long ago'. While revealing that 'by January 2021, the Taliban was in the strongest military position it had been in since 9/11 – and the US had the smallest number of troops on the ground since 2001,' Blinken said the President had options of either 'ending the war or escalating it'. It is pertinent to mention here that earlier in July when the President was asked whether Taliban's takeover was "inevitable", Biden had asserted, 'No, it is not because you have the Afghan troops, [you] have 300,00 well-equipped, as well-equipped as any army in the world, and an Air Force, against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable'.
Further speaking on US' role in the war-torn country, the secretary added that President Joe Biden's 'predecessor' (Donald Trump) had an agreement 'with the Taliban to remove all remaining forces from Afghanistan by May 1st of this year'. At the same time, the US had also reduced its troops to 2,500, added Blinken.
Speaking on the befitting reply given to the terrorist attack that took place in the US on September 11, Antony Blinken asserted, 'Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 – a decade ago. Al-Qaida’s capabilities were degraded significantly, including its ability to plan and conduct external operations. After 20 years, 2,641 American lives lost, 20,000 injuries, $2 trillion spent, it was time to end America’s longest war'.
In his address, the Secretary also revealed that as per the agreement Taliban agreed to ' to stop attacking the US' but 'continued a relentless march on remote outposts, on checkpoints, on villages and districts, as well as the major roads connecting them'. Concluding his address, Antony Blinken mentioned that US should be proud of 'what they’re doing' with 'welcoming families from Afghanistan into our communities and helping them resettle as they start their new lives'.
NATIONS PLEDGE $1BN IN AID FOR AF AS UN WARNS OF COLLAPSE
Donors have pledged over $1.1 billion to help Afghanistan, where poverty and hunger have spiralled since the Islamist Taliban took power, and foreign aid has dried up, raising the spectre of a mass exodus. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, speaking halfway through a UN conference seeking $606 million to meet Afghanistan’s most pressing needs, said it was too early to say how much had been promised in response to the appeal.
With billions of dollars of aid flows abruptly ending due to distrust towards the Taliban, donors had a “moral obligation” to keep helping Afghans after a 20-year engagement, several speakers in Geneva said. Neighbours China and Pakistan had already offered help. Beijing last week promised $31 million worth of food and health supplies, and on Friday said it would send a batch of 3 million Covid vaccines. Pakistan sent food and medicine.
But UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, also in Geneva, underlined the Western misgivings. She accused the Taliban of breaking recent promises by once more ordering women to stay at home rather than go to work, keeping teenage girls out of school, and carrying out reprisal killings
Officials suggested aid in the future could be impacted by how the Taliban rules. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, said America would add $64 million in new assistance. That brings the US total for Afghanistan to $330 million in this fiscal year, she said, but added, “We need oral and written commitments made by the Taliban about operating rights of humanitarian agencies and the treatment and rights of minority groups, women and girls to be upheld.” Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said the country will give $590 million to Afghanistan and its neighbours, but said the level of Taliban’s respect of human rights would be a “benchmark for us and our partners in determining our future engagement with new government”.
TALIBAN NOT KEEPING WORD ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS, UN WORRIED
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have contradicted public promises on rights, including by ordering women to stay at home, blocking teenage girls from school and holding house-to-house searches for former foes, a United Nations official said on Monday.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Afghanistan was in a “new and perilous phase” since the militant Islamist group seized power last month, with many women and members of ethnic and religious communities deeply worried.
“In contradiction to assurances that the Taliban would uphold women’s rights, over the past three weeks, women have instead been progressively excluded from the public sphere,” she told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Bachelet expressed dismay at the composition of the Taliban government, noting the absence of women and its dominance by ethnic Pashtun.
IN LANCET REVIEW, SCIENTISTS SAY BOOSTERS NOT NEEDED FOR MOST
Covid-19 vaccines work so well that most people don’t yet need a booster, an all-star panel of scientists from around the world said in a review that’s likely to fuel the debate over whether to use them.
Governments would be better served to focus on immunizing the unvaccinated and to wait for more data on which boosters, and at what doses, would be most effective, the authors, who included two prominent US Food and Drug Administration experts, argued in the medical journal The Lancet. They based their assessment on a wide range of real-world observational studies as well as data from clinical trials.
“None of the studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease," the authors wrote. There could also be additional side-effect risks if boosters are introduced too soon or too broadly, they said.
Scientists are by no means unanimous on the topic of boosters. Even a small reduction in efficacy against the spread of Covid can strain a health-care system, and “there is therefore no ‘one size fits all’ approach," said Azra Ghani, chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, who wasn’t involved with the review.
CHINESE PRESIDENT XI PRAISES PLA’S MODEL BORDER BATTALION IN TIBET
Chinese President Xi Jinping has praised a border-guard battalion in Tibet, which shares boundary with the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, saying its troops have done a “great job” in the past five years, official media reported. Xi visited Nyingchi, the Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh in July, becoming the first Chinese President to visit the remote border areas in Tibet.
“President Xi writes back to a plateau-stationed borderguard model battalion, saying they have done a great job in the past five years and encouraging them to make new contributions to the Party and the people,” the state-run Global Times reported on Monday. The model battalion is under the Xizang (Chinese name for Tibet) Military Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it said.
Xi, who heads the Central Military Commission — the overall command authority of the PLA, signed orders to give honorary titles for the battalion in 2016. “Troop 77656 is now titled as a ‘model plateau battalion’ for its outstanding performance in safeguarding borders, ensuring stability and helping disaster relief,” the state-run Xinhua news agency had said in a report in August 2016. The model plateau battalion is reportedly one of the six battalions functioning under the Tibet Military Area Command. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet, which is firmly rejected by India. The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
N KOREA TESTS FIRST ‘STRATEGIC’ CRUISE MISSILE WITH POSSIBLE N-CAPABILITY
North Korea has conducted its first missile test in about six months. The long-range cruise missile being tested could give Pyongyang another way to evade its neighbors’ missile defenses, say analysts.
The “newly-developed long-range cruise missiles” flew 1,500 kilometers over North Korean territory before successfully hitting their targets, North Korean state media reported Monday.
The reports did not say how many missiles were tested, but said the tests occurred Saturday and Sunday.
Pictures posted in North Korean state media showed one of the cruise missiles being fired from a five-canister, road-mobile launcher that appeared to be parked on a highway.
Several analysts said the missile appeared visually similar to the U.S. Tomahawk, a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of about 1,600 kilometers.
The cruise missile test appears to be less provocative than a long-range or intercontinental ballistic missile launch, which would involve technology that could target the mainland United States.
But the launch will still serve as a test for U.S. President Joe Biden, who has said he is open to both diplomacy and additional economic pressure on North Korea.
ISRAELI FIRM UNVEILS ARMED ROBOT TO PATROL BORDERS
An Israeli defense contractor has unveiled a remote-controlled armed robot it says can patrol battle zones, track infiltrators and open fire. The unmanned vehicle is the latest addition to the world of drone technology, which is rapidly reshaping the modern battlefield. Proponents say such semi-autonomous machines allow armies to protect their soldiers. Israel’s military is already using a smaller version of such unmanned vehicles in patrols along the border with the Gaza Strip, run by the militant Hamas group and home to 2 million Palestinians. Critics fear the latest weapons developments mark another dangerous step toward robots making life-or-death decisions. Some have called for banning fully automated weapons.
UK TO OFFER VAX TO 12-15 AGE GROUP DESPITE PANEL’S NO-GO
Britain is set to expand the offer of a Covid vaccine to all12- to15-year-olds, after top medical advisers said on Monday that children would benefit from reduced disruption to their education. The chief medical officers recommended that children aged 12-15 in Britain get a first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine despite the government’s vaccine experts panel advising this month against making the recommendation saying it would have only marginal health benefits. The US, Israel and some European countries have rolled out vaccinations to kids, putting pressure on UK. The CMOs said that vaccinating children could reduce Covid transmission and thus disruption to schools, and those benefits “provide sufficient extra advantage to recommend in favour”. They said second doses would not be offered until at least spring by which time more data will be out.
SICK SUU KYI SKIPS COURT HEARING
Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was unable to appear at a court hearing on Monday for health reasons, a member of her legal team said, describing her condition as dizziness caused by motion sickness. Suu Kyi, 76, who has been detained since February 1 coup, did not have the coronavirus but felt ill having not travelled in a vehicle for a long time, her lawyer said.