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Tuesday, January 4 2022


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Mai jab kisano ke maamle mein pradhan mantri se milne gaya toh meri paanch minute mein ladai ho gayi unse. Woh bahut ghamand mein the. Jab mai unhe kaha hamaare 500 log mar gaye… toh usne kaha ‘mere liye mare hain’?

Translation: “When I went to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the farmer issue, I ended up fighting with him within five minutes. He was very arrogant. When I told him that 500 of our own (farmers) had died… he said, ‘Did they die for me?” 


That’s what the governor of Meghalaya, Satya Pal Malik—once a BJP loyalist and governor of Jammu & Kashmir—claimed at a speech in Haryana. He also said that Amit Shah told him that “some people have ruined his [Modi’s] thinking.” Malik now says his statements were “misconstrued.” Hmm.

 
Big Story

The third pandemic wave: An overview

The TLDR: All available indicators point to an imminent third wave in the country—thanks to the Omicron variant. But when will it hit and how bad will it be?

 

Editor’s note: Be sure to check out our guide to Omicron if you need a refresher. 

 

Researched by: Sara Varghese & Ankita Ghosh

 

First, the India numbers

On Monday, India recorded 35,565 new cases—and our official total Omicron tally is 1,889 to date. The total number of active cases have once again breached the 100K mark. As usual, the big cities are the worst hit. The seven-day average for Delhi—reported 4,099 new cases on Monday—has grown a whopping 832% from the week before. Mumbai with 8,082 new cases witnessed a rise of 624%.

 

The big surge: What’s notable about this wave is the dizzying rate of increase—which is even higher than the Delta-driven second wave. According to a Hindustan Times analysis, the seven-day national average has grown by 175% as of January 2. At the peak of the second wave, that number was 75%. Equally eye-popping: How quickly we’ve gone from dwindling numbers to a huge spike: 

 

“Just five days ago, the weekly growth rate of average daily cases was in the negative, meaning the wave was contracting compared to preceding week. So it took just five days from a contracting case rate to one that has surpassed the pace of growth seen even during the second wave.”

 

The R Number: or reproductive number indicates how many people will be infected by a single person. So if it is 1, then 100 people will infect 100 others. As a wave recedes, that number keeps dropping. Anything above 1 indicates the virus is spreading to greater numbers of people. The R number for Delhi and Mumbai has already breached 2—and is currently 2.5 for Delhi. The India-wide R value is 1.22. The last time we breached 1 was in February 2021—right before the second wave.

 

The big spread: While the metros take up most of the attention, the pandemic is spreading across the country. On December 24, only six states saw daily growth rates exceeding 5%. By December 26, this had grown to 11 states, and by December 29, to 14 states. 

 

When’s the peak? Many experts are unwilling to time the actual peak, but an IIT-Kanpur study published last month put the date at February 3. Point to note: It did not consider vaccination data.

 

So this is Omicron, right?

 

 
Headlines that matter

A Covaxin controversy 

Back in November, authorities extended the shelf life of the vaccine by an additional six months—making it 12 months from the manufacturing date. Bharat Biotech is now picking up unused doses and relabelling them—which will be used to vaccinate children between the ages of 15 and 18. But this is after dragging its feet for months, according to hospitals in Karnataka: “The manufacturer is adopting a wait and watch policy as private hospitals will be forced to buy fresh stocks if they want to participate in the paediatric vaccination programme.”

 

More important: Part of the relabelling process includes revalidating the efficacy of these doses—and hospitals don’t know how the company plans to do that since the process takes weeks. And personal stories on Twitter suggest that Bharat Biotech may be opting for some kind of jugaad instead: 

 

“So my son went to get his first vaccine, the drive for kids begin(s) today and realized that the vaccine had already expired in November. Then a letter was shown wherein it seems the shelf life has been extended!!”


But the government insists there is no reason for such paranoia. Indian Express explains how and why Covaxin’s shelf life was extended. And here’s a good thread on why the way it was handled is problematic.


Tesla makes dubious choices

First, CEO Elon Musk announced that the company would move its headquarters to Texas—soon after the state announced the most severe restrictions on abortion rights. Now, Tesla plans to open a showroom in China’s Xinjiang region—where hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have been incarcerated in “reeducation” camps. Musk fans make of this what you will. (Quartz)


Ukraine is upset at ‘Emily in Paris’ 

The country’s culture minister has sent a letter to Netflix complaining about the series’ portrayal of a Ukrainian character—specifically, Petra who is shown shoplifting and (god forbid!) has a terrible fashion sense. To be fair, the most insulted by the show are the French who’re portrayed as “rude people who wear berets and frequently cheat on their partners.” No one wants Emily in Paris, it seems. (BBC News)

 
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In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • Artist Carol Long’s ceramic sculptures often take the shape of insects and wildlife

 

A list of intriguing things

  • A $19 homage to the 'ugliest color in the world'
  • An office pod caravan from Nissan
  • Footage of seven different moth species shot at a whopping 6,000 fps
  • Compose your very own ‘blob opera’
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