City Buzz: Fears over new COVID-19 variant | Total crypto ban unlikely… and more

A new COVID-19 variant has sparked panic just as commercial passenger flights look ready to resume. Catch the details and other important news this week.

India will resume international flights from December

The Civil Aviation Ministry in a statement on November 26th announced that, after consultation with the Ministries of Home Affairs, External Affairs and Health and Family Welfare, scheduled commercial international passenger services will resume from December 15th.

Scheduled international flights were suspended since March 23rd last year when the pandemic began. However, special international passenger flights have operated since July 2020, under air bubble arrangements formed with about 28 countries.

The Health Ministry had at one time put countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel under the ‘at-risk’ category.

Source: The Indian Express

Centre warns states/UTs of COVID-19 variant found in South Africa

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to all states/Union Territories about the new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1529 or Omicron, detected in South Africa. Cases of this variant have been reported in Hong Kong as well.

The World Health Organisation classified this strain as a variant of concern, putting it in the most troubling category of COVID-19 variants. “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO said, adding that diagnostic tests are being carried out to determine the presence and characteristics of this strain.

This development sparked global panic, as nations rushed to ban flights from South Africa, and stock markets and oil prices plunged.

Source: Hindustan Times | NDTV

India now has more women than men, but sex selection at birth still a worry

National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) data for 2019-21 revealed that India currently has more women than men for the first time, with the overall sex ratio at 1,020 women to 1000 men. However, the sex ratio at birth is still at a low 929, indicating that sex selection is still a widespread practice.

The increase in the overall sex ratio is a result of increased life expectancy in women and the number of female births for every 1,000 male births.

India’s infamously poor sex ratio at birth, given its population’s general preference for a male child, is the cause for female foeticide becoming a worrying trend in the country.

However, the NFHS data is only a sample survey. Only the next census will reveal the actual numbers.

Source: The Times of India

Read more: Where have all the girls gone?

Crypto law not an outright ban: Govt sources

The Centre decision to bring a new bill on cryptocurrency in Parliament’s winter session saw Bitcoin prices crash to its lowest level this month.

However, sources in the security establishment clarified that the regulation will not ban cryptocurrency entirely, but will only ensure that they are not misused. The sources added that the government is only concerned about illegal transactions like terror funding. “A strict mechanism will be in place so that law enforcement agencies can trace the origin of cryptocurrency used for illegal or anti-national work,” they said.

This development comes a week after the pros and cons of crypto finance were discussed by a Parliamentary panel chaired by BJP leader Jayant Sinha. It was decided that digital currencies cannot be stopped, but can and should be regulated.

Source: News18

Only CNG and electric vehicles allowed in Delhi from Nov 27th

In more efforts to curb air pollution in the capital which again touched the severe category on November 26-27, the Delhi government on November 24th decided that only CNG and electric vehicles will be permitted to the enter the city starting November 27th. The ban on other vehicles will stay till December 3rd, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai announced.

A green, CNG bus in Delhi
The Delhi government has urged its employees to use public transport | Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Government staff is also being urged to use public transport. The government will start a shuttle service from the Delhi Secretariat to ITO and Indraprastha metro stations for its employees.

Air pollution in Delhi has improved somewhat in the last three days, but AQI numbers remain a cause for worry.

Source: The Times of India | News18

(Compiled by Saachi D’Souza)

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