China faces a new Covid wave that could peak at 65 million cases a week

International Desk
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China is bracing for a new wave of Covid infections that could see as many as 65 million cases per week by the time the surge peaks at the end of June.

It’s a startling prediction in a country, where the pandemic originated in late 2019, that only months ago had enforced some of the harshest Covid control protocols on the planet. Now, with the latest omicron variant, XBB, fueling a resurgence in cases, the response from China’s government and the public is muted at best.

The surge comes about six months after the country dismantled its sprawling infrastructure for dealing with Covid, including harsh lockdowns, mass testing, stifling quarantines and strict mask requirements.

“People feel differently about this wave,” said Qi Zhang, 30, who works at a finance company in the northern city of Tianjin. “The last time, everyone was terrified, but now they don’t think it’s a big deal,” she told NBC News on Thursday.

The new wave's data was revealed by respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan at a medical conference this week in the southern city of Guangzhou. According to state media, he told the audience that the wave that started in late April was “anticipated,” and that his modeling suggested China could be approaching 40 million infections per week. By the end of June, he said, the weekly number of infections will peak at 65 million.

The United States, by comparison, was reporting more than 5 million cases a week at its peak last January. Like the U.S., China stopped providing weekly case updates this month, making it difficult to know the true extent of the current outbreak.

The State Department said the U.S., which imposed a testing requirement on travelers from China in January before lifting it in March, was discussing China’s second Covid wave with allies and partners but declined to say whether travel restrictions were under consideration. Spokesperson Matt Miller said the department would monitor the situation in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before updating travel guidelines.

“We don’t want to see people anywhere, obviously, suffering from Covid-19,” Miller said Wednesday. The U.S. government remains committed to working with China "on transnational challenges, including on global health matters and maintaining open lines of communication,” he added.


Putin agrees to cease-fire in the Ukraine war, but...

International Desk,
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Russian President Putin agreed to a ceasefire with Ukraine. However, if Ukraine or Western countries want to continue the war, he is also willing to do so.

This was reported by the news agency Reuters citing some senior political and business figures close to Putin. They also said that Putin is willing to go to the ceasefire in the context of being ahead of the war with Ukraine recently.

Reuters published a report on Friday (May 24).

Three top Russian figures told Reuters that Putin would not mind continuing the war for as long as necessary, if necessary. Putin agrees to a ceasefire to end the war with Ukraine.

Reuters spoke to a total of five people. One of them declined to comment on the ceasefire in the context of Russia's progress in the war.

In this regard, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the head of the Kremlin has repeatedly said that Russia has always kept the door open for negotiations. He said that Putin is willing to do everything to achieve his goals. He does not want a 'civil war'.

When asked about this, the Defense Minister of Ukraine did not comment.

Last week, a Russian economist, the Russian defense minister was seen talking to some Western military and political analysts about economic management to win the country's war. 


ICJ orders Israel to stop its attack on Rafah

International Desk,
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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered an end to Israel's ongoing attack on Rafah in Palestine since October 7 last year. ICJ also asked Israeli soldiers to leave the area.

On Friday (May 24), the Supreme Court of the United Nations based in The Hague gave this order to Israel. This information was given in a report of Al Jazeera based in Qatar.

In the judgment, ICJ Chief Justice Nawaf Salam said, “Israel's attack on Rafah must be stopped immediately. No decision can be taken around the area which could harm the residents of the area.”

He said that the humanitarian situation in Rafah is catastrophic. Therefore, as soon as possible, Israeli soldiers must stop attacking there.

The court's judges said they were not satisfied with Israel's security commitments to Gaza residents and the process it is using to evacuate residents from Rafah.

Earlier, South Africa approached the International Court of Justice with the demand to stop Israel's attack on Rafah. The country claims Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. For this reason, the attack must be stopped there.

South Africa said in the petition, urgent steps must be taken to stop Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, including the town of Rafah.

The highest court of the United Nations has given a verdict on this application today. However, ICJ does not have the power to execute the judgment even if it can give this judgment. Earlier, the court ordered Russia to stop its aggression in Ukraine. But Russia did not agree.

Earlier on Monday, the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called for the issuance of arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Hamas leaders.

Note that this month, Israel launched an attack on the southern city of Rafah. Many Palestinians lost their lives. The number of injured is not less. In this situation, the residents are forced to leave the area. 


Return of the Maharajah: Air India’s multi-billion dollar turnaround plan to become world's best airlines

Ishtiaq Hussein, Special Correspondent,
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Air India, India's privatised 92-year-old flag carrier is gearing up not just to regain its lost glory but also to become one of the world’s best airlines with multi-billion-dollar investments.

In the 70s, Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew enjoyed Air India's service and said he wanted to establish such a state-owned airline in his country.

Reflecting the quality of its services, the airline’s mascot is the Maharajah (High King). It was created in 1946 by Bobby Kooka, the then-commercial director of Air India, and Umesh Rao, an artist with J Walter Thompson Limited.

Air India, which was then ranked among the best in terms of service quality, went from declining to a struggling airline over the years.

In October 2021, the loss-making company was later sold by the Indian government back to its original owners, the Tata Group.

With Tata regaining control of Air India, Tata Sons Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran made it clear they aim to make the company the best airline in the world.

Following the acquisition, Tata appointed Campbell Wilson as the CEO of Air India. Before joining Air India, Campbell worked at low-cost airline Scott in Singapore.

5-year turnaround plan

Air India is in the process of restoring its glory under a 5-year turnaround project.

Under the plan, the company has already ordered 470 new aircraft; 5,000 new workers have been hired, whose average age has been brought down from 54 to 35.

Tata Group has invested $10 billion over the past few years to revamp Air India.

Apart from the purchase order of 470 new aircraft, cabin modernisation and passenger service standards have been redone.

In the 5-year plan, Air India expects massive growth in the country's domestic market, which has around 145 million passengers annually.

Tata's primary priority is to retire its ageing aircraft from its fleet because the maintenance of these aircraft was neglected for decades.

Within a short period of taking ownership, Air India added 36 aircraft to its fleet through leasing, including 11 Boeing 777s and 25 Airbus A320s.

Through these aircraft, the airline launched 6 new international routes and also increased the number of flights on 24 routes.

Air India is investing $70 billion for 470 aircraft. These aircraft include 140 A320 Neos, 70 A321 Neos and 190 Boeing 737 Max.

Time will tell

Aviation experts say it is difficult to say now what its future holds but revamping is the best investment to pull out a sinking airline.

Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of Air India, said significant improvement in Tata’s ownership of the airline will be visible from 2027.

“To be honest this is not T20 cricket. It will take time to restore brand image and acquire technology, services and new aircraft,” he added.

Hardy Patel, a travel curator, said a debt-ridden, loss-making airline will take time to pull itself together.

Tata remains steadfast in its mission despite criticism and worker unrest.

“With the latest acquisitions, Air India will be able to operate the world's most advanced and fuel-efficient aircraft within 5 years. The airline is spending $400 million to upgrade the existing fleet by refurbishing cabin interiors. Onboard services have also been improved. These include the introduction of premium economy seats on long-haul flights and the introduction of new food menus,” Air India CEO Campbell Wilson said.

Air India aims to fly high

India is the only country whose population will surpass China in future.

The country’s middle class is growing rapidly due to which the demand for air travel is increasing not only from the upper class but also from the mid-tier.

In the last decade, Indigo Airlines capitalised on this demand and became the largest airline in the country.

Even in international destinations, they are doing well.

Indigo Airlines has a market share of 25% in international destinations.

Tata has already invested $200 million in the technology sector just to increase reliability.

The company is rescheduling the Dhaka-Mumbai route with Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

Merger of Vistara with Air India will be another milestone.

Analysts believe that this will make Air India a truly world-class airline.

Air India aims to capture 30% market share – both in domestic and international routes, by 2027.

The company adds one new aircraft to its fleet every 6 days.

Bigger airport for the big fleet

To cope with the increase in air travellers, India is building an aviation hub as an alternative to Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport – the Noida International Airport, which will be able to handle three times more passengers.

Once its construction is completed, it will emerge as an alternative to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

Located in the Gautam Buddha Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh, the airport is being developed on a public-private partnership model.

In 2019, Flugfen, the operator of Zurich Airport in Switzerland, won the contract to build the new airport in Noida.

They will operate the airport for 40 years. The construction of this new airport and the expansion of Indira Gandhi International Airport will cost up to $11 billion.

Meanwhile, the National Highways Authority of India is constructing this 31km long greenfield highway to reach the airport.

Initially, the airport will have two runways and space has been earmarked to expand it to 8 runways.

Noida Airport will be able to serve 1.2 million passengers a year and it will be increased to serve 1.2 million passengers.

Concerns remain over consistency 

But even after all this, there are still concerns about Air India.

Despite the big investments, experts say it will lay the groundwork for Air India to succeed, but the changes won't do much if the airline can't be reliable and punctual to passengers.

Above all the airlines have to be extremely vigilant about on-time flights, otherwise once the passengers turn away it will be very difficult and difficult to regain trust.


Raisi's death is serious, but the country will go ahead: Mokhbar

International Desk,
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Commenting on the death of Ibrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash as a serious incident, Iran's new interim president, Mohammad Mokhbar, said his death will not disrupt our work. The country will move forward.

He said this at the first cabinet meeting on Monday (May 20) after the death of President Raisi.

Video footage released by Reuters shows Iran's newly-appointed interim president Mohammad Mokhbar addressing cabinet members.

Describing the helicopter crash as a serious incident, he said the country will move forward despite the death of President Ibrahim Raisi. That's why everyone should continue their work. This tragic event will in no way disrupt the governance of our country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif mourned Raisi's death.

Iran's Tasnim media reported that the Janaza of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi will be held in Tabriz on Tuesday (May 21). Citing officials in Iran's East Azerbaijan province, Tasnim also reported that Janazas will be held there for the president as well as his slain entourage. Before that, the bodies will be kept at the Forensic Department in Tabriz.

It should be noted that the helicopter crashed on Sunday (May 19) near the Zolfa area of East Azerbaijan province of Iran. Iran's President Ibrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and some senior officials of the country were in the helicopter. In this incident, the president of Iran, the foreign minister and all the passengers were killed.