India Enters Recession, Worst Among Major Economies

File photo of the Indian flag

 

India’s economy contracted 7.5 percent between July and September, performing the poorest among major advanced and emerging economies and entering a technical recession for the first time since independence, official data showed Friday.

Although the figures were an improvement on the record 23.9-percent contraction recorded last quarter, they indicate that Asia’s third-largest economy is in for a tough fight as it attempts to revive demand and create jobs even as coronavirus infections climb.

The two successive quarters of contraction mean that the country has now entered a “technical recession” for the first time since 1947.

After virus-led lockdowns ravaged the globe, the growth recorded by major economies including the United States, Japan and Germany during the quarter ending on September 30 raised expectations that India would also enjoy a revival.

But, while consumer businesses saw a boost due to increased spending in the run-up to the October-November festive season, hopes of a broader recovery were dashed, with the construction and hospitality sectors taking a hit.

Farming continued to be a relatively bright spot, while manufacturing activity also increased during the July-September period after plunging nearly 40 percent during the previous quarter due to the lockdown.

New Delhi has struggled to kick-start an economy that is expected to shrink 9.5 percent this year, according to estimates released by India’s central bank governor Shaktikanta Das last month.

The International Monetary Fund has meanwhile predicted that India’s economy would contract by 10.3 percent this year, the biggest slump for any major emerging economy and the worst since independence.

A report by Oxford Economics released earlier this month said that India would be the worst-affected economy even after the pandemic eases, stating that annual output would be 12 percent below pre-virus levels through 2025.

India’s economy had struggled to gain traction even before the pandemic, and the hit to global activity from the virus and one of the world’s strictest lockdowns combined to deal the country a severe blow.

The shutdown in the vast country of 1.3 billion people left huge numbers of people jobless almost overnight, including tens of millions of migrant workers in the shadow economy.

The government has since been easing restrictions to revive activity, announcing two stimulus packages to offer farmers easier access to credit and dole out benefits to small-scale businesses.

The relaxation measures have been deployed even as the coronavirus continues to ravage the country,  which has registered more than 9.3 million infections — second only to the United States — and over 135,000 deaths.

In a speech Thursday, central bank governor Das warned that the recent surge in virus cases and the imminent threat of new lockdowns posed further risks to the economy.

“We need to be watchful about the sustainability of demand after the festivals and a possible reassessment of market expectations surrounding the vaccine,” Das said.

-AFP

India’s Pharmaceutical Giant To Make 100 Million Sputnik V COVID-19 Vaccines

FILES) In this file photo taken on September 10, 2020, a nurse prepares to inoculate volunteer Ilya Dubrovin, 36, with Russia’s new coronavirus vaccine in post-registration trials at a clinic in Moscow. 
Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

 

One of the developers of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine announced Friday that India-based drugmaker Hetero will produce over 100 million doses of the jab.

“Hetero, one of India’s leading generic pharmaceutical companies, have agreed to produce in India over 100 million doses per year of the world’s first registered vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection -– Sputnik V,” the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement, adding that production was expected to start in early 2021.

Earlier this week, Russia said interim results from the Sputnik V clinical trials showed the vaccine was 95 percent effective, similar to other international vaccine makers that have also published test results showing efficacy rates of 90 percent and higher.\

 

READ ALSO: Africa Lacks Preparedness For Virus Vaccine Roll-Out – WHO

 

Russia also announced that the Sputnik V vaccine will be priced at $10 per dose on international markets, costing less than some other registered Covid-19 vaccines.

Russia was the first country to announce the registration of a coronavirus vaccine in August — dubbed Sputnik V after the Soviet-era satellite — but did so ahead of large scale clinical trials.

Currently, the third and final phase of trials is underway, with some 40,000 volunteers involved in blind testing of the vaccine that uses two different human adenovirus vectors.

According to Friday’s statement, their use “allows for a stronger and longer-term immune response” compared to vaccines that use the same vector in both its doses.

Third phase trials are also underway in the ex-Soviet republic of Belarus, the UAE, and Venezuela among other countries.

Apart from India, the RDIF says Sputnik V will also be produced in Brazil, China, and South Korea.

“I am confident that Sputnik V should become an integral part of the national vaccine portfolio of every country willing to protect its population from the coronavirus,” RDIF head Kirill Dmitriyev was quoted as saying in Friday’s statement.

-AFP

India’s COVID-19 Cases Surpasses Nine Million As Delhi Struggles

A health worker wearing protective gear collects a swab sample from a man during a medical screening for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a garment wholesale market in Mumbai on November 20, 2020. India’s coronavirus cases passed nine million on November 20, health ministry data showed, the world’s second-highest tally after the US.
Punit PARANJPE / AFP

 

India’s coronavirus caseload passed nine million on Friday, as hospitals in the capital New Delhi came under increasing pressure and graveyards began to fill up.

The world’s second-worst-hit country has now also registered more than 132,000 deaths from the disease, according to the latest official figures, which are widely seen as understating the true scale of infection.

India has seen a drop in daily cases over the past month but it is still registering about 45,000 new instances on average every day.

New Delhi, facing the dual scourge of winter pollution and coronavirus, has seen infections soar past half a million with a record rise in daily cases.

On Thursday, the megacity’s government quadrupled fines for not wearing a mask in an effort to get a grip on the outbreak.

At one of Delhi’s largest cemeteries, burial space is fast running out, gravedigger Mohammed Shamim told AFP.

“Initially when the virus broke (out), I thought I’ll bury 100-200 people and it’ll be done. But the current situation is beyond my wildest thoughts,” Shamim said.

“I only have space left for about 50-60 burials. Then what? I have no idea.”

– Covid fatigue –

India imposed a stringent lockdown in March but restrictions have been gradually eased as the government seeks to reboot the economy after the loss of millions of jobs.

Experts say this has helped spread the disease, as has a general reluctance to wear masks and maintain physical distancing.

But those restrictions are now coming back.

Authorities in the western city of Ahmedabad, have imposed a complete curfew over the weekend.

“During this period, only shops selling milk and medicines shall be permitted to remain open,” local official Rajiv Kumar Gupta said.

“The increase in numbers of cases is a concern, primarily because it is driven by people not following the basic protocol of corona-appropriate behaviour,” said Anand Krishnan, a community medicine professor at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Hemant Shewade, a Bangalore-based community medicine expert, said it was likely cases outside major towns and cities were not being taken into account in the official numbers.

“My guess is that it is spreading slowly and silently in rural areas,” Shewade told AFP.

In Delhi, the spectre of the virus wreaking havoc has come back to haunt its 20 million residents, as families scramble to arrange hospital beds.

Over 90 percent of intensive care beds with ventilators were occupied as of Thursday, a government mobile app showed.

“My father’s oxygen saturation level dipped to 35 percent suddenly and we rushed to the nearby hospital but there were no beds available,” Delhi resident Rajeev Nigam told AFP.

“We ran all night from one hospital to another but it was the same story everywhere,” he said, blaming the Delhi government for being “unprepared” and “callous” in its approach.

Distraught families were making fervent pleas on social media, tagging Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for help in securing beds.

Under pressure to control the new wave, Kejriwal Thursday announced the addition of 1,400 intensive care beds.

Jeevendra Srivastava, an advertising professional, said Delhi was paying the price for overcrowding during the ongoing festive season.

“It’s shocking how a few people still are not taking this deadly virus seriously,” said Srivastava, 47.

“People are still going to crowded places without masks. It’s because of this irresponsible behaviour that now almost every second house has a case of the virus.”

-AFP

Biden Speaks To Trump Allies Netanyahu, Modi

US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP
US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday held his first talks since his victory with the prime ministers of Israel and India, allies of Donald Trump who has not conceded defeat.

Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had a notoriously rocky relationship with the last Democratic president, Barack Obama, that he was determined “to ensure that the US-Israel relationship is strengthened and enjoys strong bipartisan support.”

Biden “reiterated his steadfast support for Israel’s security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state,” the president-elect’s office said in a statement.

The office of Netanyahu, who had vigorously challenged the 2009-2017 Obama-Biden administration over its diplomacy with Iran and push for Palestinian rights, said he had a “warm” conversation with the president-elect.

Biden also spoke to President Reuven Rivlin, whose position is largely ceremonial.

“I said that as an old friend of Israel he knows our friendship is based on values beyond partisan politics,” Rivlin wrote on Twitter.

Biden separately voiced optimism about working with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had heaped praise on Trump in two giant joint rallies in Texas and Gujarat.

India enjoys support across party lines in Washington but Democratic lawmakers have increasingly voiced concern about human rights under the Hindu nationalist Modi, including his championing of a controversial citizenship law and revocation of autonomy in Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Biden said he hoped to cooperate with Modi on common challenges including the Covid pandemic, regional security, climate change and, in a delicate choice of words, on “strengthening democracy at home and abroad.”

The Indian foreign ministry said Modi for his part called for cooperation on promoting access to affordable vaccines and also conveyed greetings to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in India.

Trump has refused to concede defeat two weeks after the election but the leaders of virtually all countries have congratulated Biden except Russia, Mexico, Brazil, North Korea, and Slovenia.

Biden’s first calls took place with US allies who had tense ties with Trump including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Over 10 Dead After India-Pakistan Kashmir Clash

An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) officer lay a wreath on the coffin of a colleague, who died on November 8 in a gun battle between security forces and suspected militants near the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir’s in Machil sector of Kupwara frontier district, during a wreath-laying ceremony at a BSF headquarters in Srinagar on November 9, 2020. TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP

 

Indian and Pakistani forces on Friday waged their biggest artillery battle in several months leaving more than 10 dead and dozens wounded either side of their disputed Kashmir frontier, officials said.

At least five separate clashes — involving shelling and gunfire — were reported along the 740-kilometre (460-mile) ceasefire line that has separated the nuclear-armed rivals for the past seven decades, officials from the two sides said.

Hundreds of villagers were moved away from the so-called Line of Control (LoC) in Indian-controlled territory, while Pakistani officials said dozens of homes were set ablaze by Indian shelling on their side.

The new peak in tensions came only five days after three Indian soldiers and three militants were killed in an exchange along the LoC. India is also involved in a border showdown with the Chinese army in the Himalayas.

The latest fighting erupted on Friday morning and shells were still being fired into the night, according to residents.

The two sides each accused the other of launching “unprovoked” attacks.

“Pakistan used mortars and other weapons” and “deliberately targeted civilian areas”, said an Indian army statement.

Three Indian soldiers were killed and three wounded in the Keran sector of the frontier. Kashmir police said three civilians were killed and at least three suffered serious injuries, with one man losing both legs.

On the other side of the border, Raja Farooq Haider, senior minister in Pakistani Kashmir, said five people were killed and 31 wounded in the intense shelling on the Neelum and Jhelum valleys.

“For how long we have to bear such colossal losses?” he said in a Twitter message directed at Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A senior local official in Neelum, Raja Shahid Mehmood, confirmed the casualties and said the shelling was continuing late Friday.

Indian officers said the fighting was sparked when militants tried to cross into Indian-controlled territory at the northern end of the LoC.

Indian troops “retaliated strongly causing substantial damage to the Pakistan army’s infrastructure and casualties,” said the military statement adding that ammunition dumps and forward bases had been hit.

The two sides regularly stage artillery duels across the LoC, and invariably blame each other for the clashes.

Kashmir has been divided between the two countries since their angry separation in 1947. It has been a cause of two of their three wars since then.

Both countries claim the whole of the Himalayan region, where India is also fighting an insurgency that has left tens of thousands dead since 1989.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to visit troops in a border area on Saturday for Diwali, the biggest Hindu holiday of the year, according to media reports. Modi, who portrays himself as tough on security, has spent every Diwali with the military since becoming the country’s leader in 2014.

Modi launched what he called “surgical strikes” inside Pakistani Kashmir in 2016 after militants attacked an Indian base killing 19 soldiers. The neighbours staged air strikes against each other last year after a suicide bomb attack in which more than 45 Indian troops were killed.

AFP

India Hails Kamala Harris As History-Making VP-Elect

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020, after being declared the winners of the presidential election. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP)

 

Residents set off firecrackers in the ancestral home of Kamala Harris on Sunday as India celebrated the vice president-elect’s victory in the US election, as others hailed her achievement as historic and a “proud moment” for the country.

Harris — daughter of breast cancer specialist Shyamala Gopalan from the southern Indian city of Chennai — paid tribute to her late mother, who “believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible” in a national address with president-elect Joe Biden on Saturday.

At Thulasendrapuram village in Tamil Nadu state, once home to Harris’ maternal grandfather P.V. Gopalan, celebrations broke out with locals lighting firecrackers, praying at its main temple and waving posters bearing the 56-year-old’s face.

Women in the village made a rangoli — a colourful work of folk art drawn on the ground — with the words: “Congratulations to Kamala Harris.”

 

Residents offer prayers for the victory of US Democratic Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, at a temple in her ancestral village of Thulasendrapuram in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on November 8, 2020. – Residents set off firecrackers in the ancestral home of Kamala Harris on November 8 as India celebrated the vice president-elect’s victory in the US election, as others hailed her achievement as historic and a “proud moment” for the country. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

“It is a matter of pride for the entire womenfolk,” housewife Arul Mozhi Sudhakar told AFP.

Harris’s uncle, academic Balachandran Gopalan, said he always knew she would be successful.

“I am relieved, because I knew she’s going to win, and I told her yesterday… my tension is now gone away,” he told WION TV in the capital New Delhi.

Gopalan told AFP on Friday that Harris’ family in India would fly to the United States to attend her inauguration.

“We were together as a family when she was sworn in as senator. And we will all be together now during her swearing-in as vice president of the US. It’s a big moment for us,” he said.

In Delhi, people cheered the Harris family’s Indian origins. Yash Iyer, 25, told AFP “it’s a proud moment for us too as Indians since she traces her roots here”.

“Kamala Harris being the US VP is a monumental accomplishment not only for the US and Indians but for women across the globe,” Smitashree Mishra, who works in international health and development in the capital, told AFP.

“What I take away from this victory is a ray of hope, hope to stand strong in a society that constantly judges you on archaic notions of gender, race and ethnicity… I am proud as a woman to see another woman represent our perspective in the politics of the world’s most powerful country.”

Residents hold placards with the portrait of US Democratic Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, as they celebrate her victory in the US election, at her ancestral village of Thulasendrapuram in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on November 8, 2020. – Residents set off firecrackers in the ancestral home of Kamala Harris on November 8 as India celebrated the vice president-elect’s victory in the US election, as others hailed her achievement as historic and a “proud moment” for the country. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

Early Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Biden on his White House victory and called Harris a source of “immense pride”.

“Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans,” Modi wrote.

“Chitti” is a Tamil term of endearment for the younger sisters of one’s mother, which Harris used in her acceptance of the Democratic nomination for vice president.

Senior opposition Congress party figure Rahul Gandhi added on Twitter: “It makes us proud that the first woman to serve as Vice President of the USA traces her roots to India.”

Sunday newspapers hailed the Democrats’ victory with front-page photos and stories featuring the pair.

Harris “creates history” as the first vice president-elect of Indian descent, The Sunday Express said along with the headline: “Finally.”

AFP

India Passes Eight Million Coronavirus Cases

A health worker (C) wearing a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit collects a swab sample from another health worker for Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a testing centre in Siliguri on August 29, 2020. (Photo by DIPTENDU DUTTA / AFP)

 

India on Thursday passed eight million coronavirus cases, with the world’s second-worst-hit country bracing for a possible second wave ahead of winter and a series of religious festivals.

There have now been 8,040,203 cases and 120,527 deaths across the country of 1.3 billion people, according to the latest government figures.

The United States has seen 9.1 million cases and more than 230,000 deaths.

India has one of the world’s lowest death rates and ministers have highlighted the slowing number of new infections in recent weeks.

But authorities are preparing for a new surge after Diwali, the country’s most important religious festival on November 14.

“All states need to be careful during the coming festive season. This caution must be exercised for the next three months at least,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a recent statement.

A stringent lockdown imposed in March has gradually been eased as the government seeks to reboot the economy after the loss of millions of jobs nationwide. But experts say this has helped spread Covid-19.

New Delhi recorded 5,000 new cases on Wednesday, its highest daily figure since the outbreak of the pandemic. Officials have warned that the capital could see more than 10,000 cases a day in the next wave.

Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, told the Times of India newspaper that if cases continued surging the country’s fragile healthcare system “will get really stressed.”

Experts have said crowds gathering for Diwali and other festivals, colder temperatures, and the annual winter pollution crisis could worsen the impact of coronavirus cases in Delhi.

Authorities are also worried about the southern state of Kerala and West Bengal in the east which have seen worrying spikes in cases.

Financial capital Mumbai, India’s worst-hit city with more than 250,000 cases and over 10,000 deaths, is currently adding about 2,000 cases a day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned the population in recent speeches that they are being “careless” in giving up social distancing and other precautions.

While businesses and theatres have slowly started to reopen, schools and colleges remain shut in most cities and international flights are severely limited.

India only has air links with a small number of countries — including the United States, France, Germany, and Britain — where they have made special arrangements.

India’s domestic air market was the world’s fastest-growing before the pandemic but is currently operating at less than 60 percent of the capacity of 12 months ago.

India Star Akshay Kumar Acknowledges Bollywood’s Drug Problem

In this picture taken on October 2, 2020, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar gestures after completing the upcoming spy thriller Hindi film ‘Bell Bottom’, at the airport in Mumbai. (Photo by Sujit Jaiswal / AFP)

 

Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar acknowledged on Saturday a drug problem within India’s film industry, following a growing narcotics probe surrounding the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

Movie-obsessed India has been gripped by the saga around the death of Rajput, who was found dead in June in his Mumbai apartment, with police saying he took his own life.

The investigation into the 34-year-old’s death has expanded into a massive drugs probe, with his former girlfriend, actress Rhea Chakraborty, arrested earlier this month for allegedly buying cannabis for him.

Indian media has also joined calls for a wider investigation into the multibillion-dollar film industry’s so-called “drugs mafia”.

In an almost four-minute video posted on his Twitter account on Saturday, Kumar called on the industry’s fervent fans not to tar everyone in Bollywood with the same brush.

“With a hand on my heart, how can I lie and say that this (narcotics and drugs) problem doesn’t exist in our industry,” Kumar, 53, said in Hindi in a video watched more than 2.5 million times.

“It exists in our profession the same way problems exist in every other profession. But to say that everyone in every profession is involved in all its problems would be wrong.”

Several high-profile actresses including 34-year-old superstar Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh have been hauled in for questioning.

Wider national interest in the Bollywood case peaked last month after TV channel TimesNow broadcast sections of WhatsApp conversation about procuring hash, alleging that the two people chatting were Padukone and her manager.

Rajput’s family, meanwhile, has disputed reports the actor suffered from depression and have also accused Chakraborty of stealing his money and harassing him.

Chakraborty, 28, who has been hounded for months by the media along with her family, has denied any wrongdoing.

AFP

Federal Authorities To Take Over Indian Gang-Rape Investigation

File photo of the Indian flag

 

India’s federal investigators will take over the probe into the alleged gang-rape and murder of a low-caste teenaged woman that has sparked nationwide outrage and days of protests.

The 19-year-old woman from the marginalised Dalit community was attacked in mid-September in northern Uttar Pradesh state and died on Tuesday, in the latest case highlighting India’s epidemic of sexual violence.

Five senior police officers have already been suspended over the investigation amid criticism of law enforcement’s actions — including the cremation of the woman’s body in the middle of the night against the wishes of her family.

The chief minister of the state — India’s most populous with 200 million people — announced the decision to transfer the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation late Saturday.

“We are committed to giving the strictest punishment to the people responsible for this incident,” Yogi Adityanath, who is from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wrote on Twitter.

The police have arrested four high-caste men on the charges of gang-rape and murder.

Local authorities barricaded the village after the cremation to block opposition politicians and media from meeting the victim’s family.

The decision was reversed Saturday after widespread criticism.

The involvement of leaders of the opposition Congress party, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, in several demonstrations, has sparked accusations from the BJP that they were politicising the issue.

The young woman’s death comes months after four men were hanged for 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi, in a case that shook the nation.

An average of nearly 90 rapes were reported in India every day last year, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported.

India’s 200 million low-caste Dalits have long faced discrimination, and campaigners say attacks have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

Five Police Suspended Over India Gang-Rape

School students hold placards to celebrate after police personnel shot dead four detained gang-rape and murder suspects in Shadnagar near Hyderabad, during a demonstration in Siliguri on December 6, 2019.
DIPTENDU DUTTA / AFP

 

Five senior police officers have been suspended over their handling of an investigation into the gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman that has sparked outrage across India and triggered days of protests.

The seriously injured teenager from the disadvantaged Dalit caste was found in mid-September outside her village in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state and died this week in a New Delhi hospital.

The police have arrested four high-caste men on charges of gang-rape and murder.

But the police have faced criticism for cremating the woman’s body in the middle of the night — reportedly with the help of some petrol — against the wishes of her family and religious custom.

A senior policeman on Thursday sparked further outrage after claiming that a forensic report and an autopsy had shown that the woman had not been raped.

This contradicts statements from the victim and her mother and reported hospital findings, while experts said the forensic test was carried out too long after the attack.

Hundreds of police have also barricaded the village, preventing the woman’s family from leaving and journalists and opposition politicians from talking to them.

The family’s mobile phones have also reportedly been seized.

The victim’s brother told one Indian news channel that the family were scared for their lives. The local high court has ordered authorities to provide the family protection.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath late Friday announced the suspension of the Hathras district police chief and four others.

The Hindu monk and close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced that the victim’s family, the accused and the suspended policemen would all undergo lie-detector and drug tests.

On Friday evening in the latest protest, around 500 people including the capital’s chief minister and a prominent Dalit politician gathered in central New Delhi demanding justice.

“We (women) are not actually free, even though India is independent,” Sanskriti, one of the women at the Delhi protest site told AFP.

“This is something I want to raise my voice against. And I just wish all the people get united and they understand that it is high time to do something about it,” she added.

The young woman’s death comes months after four men were hanged for the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi, in a case that came to symbolise India’s epidemic of sexual violence.

An average of 87 rapes were reported in India every day last year, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported.

 

 

-AFP

Indian PM Modi Wishes ‘Friend’ Trump Quick Recovery From Coronavirus

File photo: President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on on August 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP

 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Donald Trump a quick recovery on Friday after the US president revealed he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“Wishing my friend @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS a quick recovery and good health,” Modi said on Twitter.

 

Trump, 74, first announced on Twitter that he and First Lady Melania Trump, 50, had tested positive for the virus.

“We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump wrote.

The Indian and US leaders appear to enjoy warm relations, with Modi hosting Trump at a huge US-style rally in his home state of Gujarat in February.

In September 2019 Trump and the Indian premier attended a similar event in Houston, Texas dubbed “Howdy Modi” in front of a huge crowd of Indian Americans.

AFP

 

Trump Questions India Coronavirus Data

File photo: President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on on August 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday questioned the credibility of India’s statistics on Covid-19 deaths, lumping in the US partner with nemeses China and Russia during a fiery pre-election debate.

Trump was responding to heated criticism from his Democratic rival Joe Biden, who blamed Trump for the heavy Covid-19 toll in the United States which has recorded more than 200,000 deaths and more than seven million infections.

“When you talk about numbers you don’t know how many people died in China, you don’t know how many people died in Russia, you don’t know how many people died in India,” Trump said at the debate in Cleveland.

“They don’t exactly give you a straight count,” he said.

 

File photo: Residents stand in a queue to register their names as a health worker (R) wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit collects a swab sample from a woman to test for COVID-19, at a primary health centre in Hyderabad on September 4, 2020. NOAH SEELAM / AFP

 

Trump said that “millions” could have died without his actions and again blamed the pandemic on China, which initially suppressed news of the disease when it emerged late last year.

US leaders frequently criticize China and Russia but it is rare for them to take a negative tone on India, a growing US partner.

Trump in February paid a visit to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who shares some of Trump’s nationalist orientation, with the two leaders addressing a packed stadium together.

File photo: A health worker (C) wearing a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit collects a swab sample from another health worker for Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a testing centre in Siliguri on August 29, 2020. (Photo by DIPTENDU DUTTA / AFP)

 

India officially has more than 6.1 million coronavirus cases, second only to the US.

But India’s lead pandemic agency said Tuesday that the real number could be more than 60 million, basing its findings on blood tests in the densely populated country.

AFP