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Covid-19 testing drops by 25%, Centre tells Maharashtra to ramp it up



Amid flattening of the pandemic curve, Covid testing in the state has dropped by almost 25.3% in the past 30 days compared to the previous one month.

Data collected from the public health department shows that between September 25 and October 24, a total of 39.44lakh tests were conducted in the state. But in the following month, from October 25 to November 24, the testing dropped to 29.50lakh. In fact, the testing in Mumbai with 2,525 active cases—the highest in the state — has dropped by 5% in the same period.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to the state government on Wednesday asking for an increase in tests and surveillance and increase the number of tests amid the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. In his letter, Bhushan stated it is a cause of concern that nine districts—Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Dhule, Gondia, Hingoli, Nandurbar, Washim and Yavatmal are conducting average tests per million per day below the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended number of 140 for the week ending November 22.

Officials in these districts said that as the tally of active Covid-19 cases has dropped from 2.50lakh in May to 9,366 as recorded on November 25, the number of close contacts has declined, plunging their daily requirement of testing.

“Around 17 districts in Maharashtra have a positivity rate below 0.5%. There hasn’t been any surge in active Covid-19 cases which has limited the number of daily testing. But we have given the instructions to boost up the testing district-wise,” said Dr Archana Patil, director of health service.

Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner (BMC) said, “We have been testing the floating population in markets and stations but it isn’t enough to meet the target of testing done in May, when the pandemic was at its peak.” But the National Task Force said that this ‘casual attitude’ might prove dangerous for the state considering the international borders are opening up with the relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions. “With surge in Covid cases in Europe, the states need to be extra cautious. They can’t decrease the testing as the active cases are less. They need to keep testing vulnerable population like aged people above 50 years, especially those who are with comorbidities,” said Subhas Shalunke, member of the National Covid Task Force.


Eric Zemmour, Far-Right Pundit Often Compared to Donald Trump, Running for French Presidency



Eric Zemmour, a far-right former TV pundit with multiple hate speech convictions, officially announced his candidacy for the French presidency Tuesday.

According to The Associated Press, the author and former journalist has polled in the low double digits since September despite having no hands-on political experience. Many have compared him to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Zemmour made the candidacy announcement with a pre-recorded video filled with far-right anti-immigration and anti-Islam sentiments. In the video, Zemmour, reading from notes and speaking into a microphone, said France is “in the process of disappearing” due to immigration.

“You feel that you are no longer in the country that you knew,” Zemmour said. “Your feel like foreigners in your own country. You are exiles, from the inside.”

The video’s messaging was clear, showing mostly white men making honest livings as teachers and business leaders, while people of color were shown lining up for food and in tent cities filled with litter.

Then Zemmour warned supporters to be ready for the campaign ahead, saying they could face backlash for supporting him.

“They will tell you that you are racist,” he said. “They will say the worst things about me.”

Current French President Emmanuel Macron’s interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, called the video “absolutely revolting.”

Macron is expected to run in the April election for a second term, though he has not announced his candidacy yet.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Eric Zemmour, far-right
Far-right political talk-show star Eric Zemmour has officially entered the race for France’s presidency, having already shaken it up with his anti-immigration, anti-Islam invective. Above, Zemmour acknowledges applauses as he arrived on stage during a meeting to promote his latest book “La France n’a pas dit son dernier mot” (France has not yet said its last word) in Versailles, west of Paris, Oct. 19.
Michel Euler, File/AP Photo

The launch of Eric Zemmour’s run for the presidency made official a candidacy that had been gathering steam for months before it then stumbled of late — notably after the 63-year-old raised a middle finger at a woman who did likewise to him over the weekend.

That flash of temper — which Zemmour later acknowledged on Twitter was “very inelegant” — cast fresh doubt on his temperament and electability.

Name-dropping Joan of Arc, Napoléon Bonaparte, Gen. Charles de Gaulle and others who shaped France’s history, Zemmour announced his candidacy for the election in a pre-recorded video. The pose evoked imagery of radio addresses that De Gaulle famously delivered during World War II, urging France to rally against Nazi Germany.

But the message Zemmour delivered was steeped in far-right thinking and language and far from that of the wartime leader who later served as president from 1959-1969.

The people that Zemmour was shown meeting in the video and the campaign supporters and crowds filmed at his rallies were nearly all white. And the vast majority of people shown doing jobs in the video — a mathematics teacher, a nuclear worker, cooks, suited business leaders, a butcher, a cattle farmer and others — were nearly all white men.

People of color, in contrast, were shown lining up for food handouts, pushing into a crowded train, milling around in a litter-strewn tent city and on a street corner and, in a scene at the start, seemingly taking part in a street deal. Other images showed Paris streets filled with Muslims kneeling down in prayer. Images of women protesting, some with breasts bared, were cut with violent scenes of people attacking police.

“It is no longer time to reform France but to save it,” Zemmour said. “That is why I have decided to stand in the presidential election.”

Zemmour joins a crowded spectrum of candidates, from far-left to far right. Polls have for months given Macron a sizeable but not impregnable lead over Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader roundly beaten by Macron in the presidential run-off in 2017. The 2022 campaign seemed likely to be a sequel of that battle before Zemmour started siphoning off Le Pen supporters.

The campaign launch video left many questions unanswered about Zemmour’s election platform. He didn’t mention France’s resurgent coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed 119,000 people. He spoke of creating jobs, building France’s industries and reducing its debts but didn’t say how.

The group SOS Racisme said Zemmour’s video demonstrated “pathological racism.”

Eric Zemmour, French president candidate
Eric Zemmour announced his French presidential candidacy in a video attempting to evoke imagery of Charles de Gaulle’s famous WWII radio addresses. Above, Zemmour delivers a speech to announce his candidacy in a video broadcast on social media, on Nov. 3 in Paris.
Photo by Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images
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All adults to be offered third Covid jab by end of January, says Boris Johnson | Coronavirus



Every eligible adult in the UK should be offered a Covid booster by the end of January as ministers race to increase protection against the Omicron variant, Boris Johnson has announced.

“We’re going to be throwing everything at it, to ensure everyone eligible is offered a booster in just over two months,” the prime minister said, adding that he would be getting his own third vaccine on Thursday.

He said the government’s aim was for the pace of the rollout to match that seen for earlier courses of the vaccine. “There will be temporary vaccine centres popping up like Christmas trees,” he said.

As before, age groups will be invited one at a time, eldest to youngest, to receive their booster. “We’ll move down the cohorts rapidly,” Johnson said.

The prime minister was speaking at a Downing Street press conference alongside the health secretary, Sajid Javid, and the chief executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard.

Shortly before the briefing began, the UK Health Security Agency announced that a further eight cases of the Omicron variant had been discovered in England, bringing the UK total to 22.

The prime minister urged the public not to be gloomy about news of the emergence of the new variant, insisting the country was in a much better position with vaccines available. “Right now, our best single defence against Omicron is to get vaccinated and to get boosted,” the prime minister said.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended on Monday that all over-18s be offered a third jab, and the gap between the second and third doses be halved to three months.

Javid said: “We’re now able to put our booster programme on steroids, and protect even more people, even more quickly … If we want to give ourselves the chance of a Christmas with our loved ones, the best thing we can do is step up, roll up our sleeves, and get protected when the time comes.”

Pritchard said for the time being only those already eligible for a booster, which includes over-40s whose second jab was six months ago, would be able to book an appointment, and it would later be opened more widely. She urged people to wait until they are contacted by the NHS before trying to book.

Pritchard said the NHS now has almost 3,000 vaccination sites available across the UK. But she stressed that while the NHS was confident it could meet the end-January target for offering all adults a booster, she warned “it can’t happen overnight”, pointing to the pressures on health service staff.

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Cast, Plot, Trailer, Release Date



Cash cow Disney is combining American’s insatiable appetite for K-Pop with its newfound, equally insatiable appetite for Korean TV and movies (lest we forget that two months ago, you couldn’t go online without seeing the words Squid Game) with Snowdrop, a drama starring Kim Jisoo of BLACKPINK and Jung Hae-in about two college students in a romance in South Korea in 1987, a year when a mass pro-democracy movement rocked the country politically, forcing the country to hold elections. Jung Hae-in will play a graduate student with a secret past and Jisoo will play a college student. The series premieres on Disney+ on December 18 and will air on the weekends at 10:30 pm KST, which is 8:30 am EST, a gift for those whose New Year’s resolution is to get up earlier.

We don’t know much about the series yet — but based on the cast and promo art, we can safely assume it will rock streaming records and take over your Twitter feed in due time.

New ‘Snowdrop’ character posters deliver on the drama

New character posters of Josoo and Jung Hae-In were released on November 30, showing sultry photos of Jisoo and Hae-in behind what appears to be broken glass, conjuring images of big street protests.

JTBC, the series’ broadcasting company, also released a poster earlier this month, showing the two gazing lovingly — dare we say skeptically? — into each other’s eyes. Side note: We love the white collar and blush sweater.

It’s not Jisoo’s first foray into acting

Besides being a drama club kid in high school, the virtuoso Jisoo had cameos in the 2015 K-drama The Producers and 2019’s Arthdal Chronicles, though Snowdrop marks her first major step into acting.

It’s a romance amidst an intense political backdrop

According to NME, the plot of Snowdrop follows a graduate student who, after being attacked at a protest, hides out in a female dormitory at the Hosoo Women’s University, with the help of a student who finds him — eventually developing a romantic relationship.

Three teaser trailers have been released

You can watch the most recent one here, which combines dreamy piano, big 1980s sleeves, and gorgeous shots of the wind in Jisoo’s hair as she rides on the back of a bike with a bone-chilling, thriller moment where she’s pointing a weapon.

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