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Polemics in Pandemics: Big Pharma and the propaganda machinery

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The Lancet’s latest report, India's COVID-19 emergency, that discusses the Indian government’s Covid-19 management is yet another attempt by the Big Pharma lobby to undermine the abilities of a developing country to challenge their monopoly by rolling out vaccines at throwaway prices. Further, as a suggestion to improve the present situation of India, it does not suggest the developed countries to defuse the ongoing crisis through collaborations or assistance missions, something that was promptly provided by India even as it braved successive pandemic waves amidst its already stressed health sector. Insted, the author pushes for approval of more vaccines, especially the foreign vaccines as his first suggestion to improve the present situation.

Till now India has only included Russia’s Sputnik in it's vaccination drive. The other foreign vaccines, like Pfizer or Moderna have not been granted approval as these vaccines require a special Cold chain infrastructure for maintaining ultra low temperatures (-70°c), and the companies have not yet submitted a concrete plan for the same. Owing to its huge demography, global pharma giants have a tendency to view India and  the global South in general as a potential market for their vaccines.Over the years, India has emerged as a pharma exporting country in the generic drugs sector and substantially brought its production costs down, much to the chagrin of these monopoly seeker firms. Indian drugs have been hugely popular among the developing nations due to these factors. 

In order to downplay Indian vaccines and subsequently fill the momentary vacuum in the market created thereof, repeated reports and articles in the international media have questioned the vaccination drive and the ability of India to mass produce vaccines to cater the world.This article appears to be an attempt on the similar lines where author has used statistics of convenience to push the agenda in the favour of foreign vaccines using reputed platforms, shrouding the big Pharma’s agendas in an academic language in its search for legitimizing its agendas.

Attached above is tweet dating back to the 24th January, 2020 by Professor Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of The Lancet journal since 1995. A distinguished academician/researcher  so deeply involved with the medical profession has made such statement that could have attributed to WHO’s delay in declaring it a pandemic.

-The Lancet journal, as a platform has been used on multiple occasions for political propaganda. On July 23, 2014, The Lancet published An Open Letter for the People of Gaza, accusing Israel of “war crimes”. This concern per se is not under the question, but the cherrypicking of certain political issues, while turning a blind eye to various other heinous crimes or state-sponsored campaigns reeks of the politicization that has penetrated the journal, to an extent that it cannot be called as an unbiased research platform, given its proclivity to politicise such issues.  Horton’s own tweets and articles have been largely acknowledged as polemical, considering his statements concerning more with politics rather than medical issues. An article in The New Yorker stated “in a manner that is unusual for the editor of a scientific journal, Horton has leaped into the politics of the pandemic”. Even the research publications have voiced similar issues on Horton’s conduct. The hyperlinked article, titled Trial By Error, Continued: My Questions for Lancet Editor Richard Horton published in the Virology Blog too raises a similar point. When questioned on the ethical and methodological aspects of the study, Horton refused to answer the author despite his repeated mails seeking clarification.  “The Lancet’s decision to reject the Virology Blog letter will only compound the journal’s growing reputational damage over the issue”, the article stated. The above mentioned proofs only constitute a tip of the iceberg of questions and accusations on Horton’, given his stature and directly affects the prestige of his prestigious position in The Lancet, a position he is in the helm for close to three decades now. Moving beyond these polemics, it must be realised despite India’s status as a developing nation and its limited resource base, the nation has come a very long way in preparing itself to battle against the pandemic. Despite these challenges, India stood committed to her global responsibility and exported almost 66 million vaccine doses. At a time when aid, empathy and partnerships happen to be India’s foremost concerns, globally reputed publications should desist from toying with politicized articles and  commercial ideas, which are deeply demoralizing to any nation in such testing times

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Flutter Entertainment joins the Indian gambling market

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The Indian gambling market continues to grow, and it has received a big boost recently, with one of the biggest names in gambling joining the market. Flutter Entertainment, who operate many casinos and sportsbooks including Paddy Power and Betfair, have joined in by buying a stake in Junglee Games.

It is reported that Junglee Games is the third largest rummy operator in India, so they have gone in and taken one of the leading local operators. Although this is a company that have had plenty of success, you can expect investment from Flutter, in a bid to take even more of the market.

The deal sees Flutter now owning 50.06% of Junglee Games, with the value set at £48 million.

Big news for Indian gaming

The move that has seen Flutter invest in the Indian market could be a big one for the industry as a whole. Some of the bigger players are already involved in India, though Flutter is a new and bigger name that is now on board.

This is their first move into the market but may not be their last. Either further investment from Flutter Entertainment, or further investment from elsewhere because Flutter have joined would be significant and continue the push forward of the industry as a whole.

There is a changing landscape in Indian gambling, with many new operators getting involved to try and take their slice of the market share. This luckydice guide to gambling in India shows exactly what is on offer for those who want to sign up and play, and the list keeps on growing.

The future of the Indian gambling market

With a move as big as this one, the future of the Indian gambling market certainly looks a lot brighter. There is real growth in Indian gaming and sports betting, and that could be boosted further if Flutter Entertainment either invests heavily in Junglee Games or they bring some of their other brands to the country.

There is also the chance that other big names will be taking a look at the market, as they try to follow in the footsteps of Flutter. A look at the world news will show companies investing in many different parts, but they are often not the only ones doing that. Other companies follow suit and also invest in the same areas, because it is a time where they are predicting growth.

Over the coming months, it will be very interesting to see if any other gambling operators turn to the Indian market, either to set up their current brands in that area, or to buy a brand already performing in the area and try to push that forward.

As the market continues to move forward, this move from Flutter Entertainment to get involved could act as an accelerator for the situation, fast forwarding things because they themselves, and potentially others, are investing in the country and the gambling market that it currently has. This could be a big moment for the Indian gambling scene. 

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India’s capital Delhi to ease COVID-19 restrictions as cases drop

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Medical staff wave towards a colleague as they take an elevator to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward for the patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Government Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS) hospital, in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A medical worker takes care of a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), inside the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward at the Government Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS) hospital, in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

India’s capital New Delhi will start relaxing its strict coronavirus lockdown this week if new cases continue to drop in the city, its chief minister said, writes Devjyot Ghoshal.

The nation on Sunday (23 May) reported 240,842 new infections nationwide over 24 hours - the lowest daily new cases in more than a month - and 3,741 deaths.

For weeks, India has battled a devastating second wave of COVID-19 that has crippled its health system and led to shortages of oxygen supplies.

New Delhi, one of the worst hit cities, went into lockdown on April 20, but new cases have declined in recent weeks and test positivity rate has fallen under 2.5%, compared to 36% last month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

"If cases continue to drop for a week, then from May 31 we will start the process of unlocking," Kejriwal told a news conference.

Delhi reported around 1,600 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, he said.

Many states remain in lockdown, raising worries about the economic impact of the pandemic.

The chief of state-run Indian Council of Medical Research told Reuters this month that districts with a high rate of infection should remain locked down for six to eight weeks to break the chain of transmission.

India's daily COVID-19 cases are decreasing after peaking on May 9. The government said on Sunday it is conducting the highest number of COVID-19 tests, with more than 2.1 million samples tested in the previous 24 hours.

Still, experts have warned India could face a third wave of infections in coming months, and many states are unable to vaccinate those aged under 45 due to a shortage of supplies.

The world’s largest vaccine-producing nation has fully vaccinated just over 41.6 million people, or only 3.8% of its 1.35 billion population.

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Coronavirus variants: Commission calls for limiting essential travel from India

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The Commission has called on member states to take co-ordinated action to further restrict travel from India on a temporary basis, with a view to limiting the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India. This follows a proposal of the World Health Organization on 10 May to change the classification of that variant from “variant of interest” to “variant of concern”. It is important to limit to the strict minimum the categories of travellers that can travel from India for essential reasons and to subject those who may still travel from India to strict testing and quarantine arrangements. To ensure a fully coordinated and efficient response to this variant and taking into account the deteriorating health situation in India, the Commission proposed that member states apply an ‘emergency brake' on non-essential travel from India. On 3 May, the Commission had proposed to add an ‘emergency brake mechanism' to the Council recommendation on restrictions to non-essential travel. The restrictions should not affect those travelling for compelling reasons such as for imperative family reasons or persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons. EU citizens and long-term residents, as well as their family members, should still be able to travel to Europe. For those travellers, the Commission calls on member states to apply additional health-related measures such as strict testing and quarantine arrangements. A full press release is available online.

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