Friday, 14 May 2021
Good morning!

Jabs for everyone. Not right now, but by the end of the year. Between August and December, about 2 billion doses will be “made in India for Indians”, the Indian government has assured. A long, long wait, but better late than never.

Another vaccine update: the gap between two doses of Serum Institute of India’s Covidshield vaccine has been widened from a month to three months or more. Data now suggests that the vaccine offers greater protection when the interval is longer.

We have more on the pandemic. Scroll down for reports on Bharat Biotech, the black fungus, the effectiveness of the regional lockdowns. The weekend is here, so don’t miss our show recommendation. And if you like to write—with pen and paper—read more on the virtues of the good old-fashioned fountain pen. Charming and classy.

The main stuff

Bharat Biotech to share Covaxin code

Bharat Biotech has agreed to share the formulation of its covid-19 vaccine—Covaxin—with other manufacturers. This could potentially help increase vaccine production capacity in India substantially. Facing an acute vaccine shortage, some states were pressing for the formulation to be shared, Neetu Chandra Sharma reports. Read more.

Why black fungus is rearing its ugly head in India now

Cases of mucormycosis, a serious fungal infection, are rising in India among patients who are either suffering or have recovered from covid-19. Commonly called black fungus, it can invade the lungs and brain, and has a high mortality rate. Our primer explains the symptoms, precautions and the treatment needed. Read more.

Lockdowns working, but not in every state

State governments have been using lockdowns as a way to control the spread of covid-19 cases. How effective have lockdowns been? In general, states that have had longer and more severe lockdowns have seen larger drops in test positivity rates, which is the share of positive tests as a percentage of total tests done. However, there are important exceptions, Rashmi Kundu writes. Read more.

Airlines bat for rapid antigen tests to ease air travel

Many states and union territories are insisting on RT-PCR negative results from tests conducted within 72 hours for air travel. However, labs may take up to four days to generate results, given the demand for such tests. Airline executives are therefore batting for rapid antigen test or RAT. Although less accurate, it can show results in less than 30 minutes. Rhik Kundu has the details. Read more.

Sachin Bansal’s Navi Mutual Fund to launch schemes soon

Sachin Bansal-owned Navi Mutual Fund will launch its first mutual fund schemes over the next few months. Bansal had acquired Essel Mutual Fund from the Subhash Chandra-owned Essel Group in February and renamed it. The new fund house is focussing on reducing the cost of investments for investors with the help of technology, Neil Borate writes. Read more.

SoftBank’s plan to sell stake in SB Energy called off

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.’s plan to sell a controlling stake in Indian solar power producer SB Energy has been called off. The deal, with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, was in the works for a year. SoftBank wanted to sell its entire 80% stake for an estimated $525 million, Utpal Bhaskar reports. Read more.

The death of India’s single-screen cinemas

Movie theatres in some states are shut indefinitely. The consequence: nearly 20% of India’s movie screens, especially properties of independent owners in north India, will not return to business post the slump induced by covid-19—zero income has proven to be a disaster for single-screen cinemas. A generation of entrepreneurs whose lives revolved around cinema will now need to find ways to move on, writes Lata Jha. Read more.

Delicate artistry with a Japanese 21-karat gold nib

The virtues of writing with pen and paper may not be obvious in our tech-driven lives, but research shows that adopting the good old-fashioned habit of writing longhand can affect your life in positive, often imperceptible, ways. And writing with a vintage fountain pen has a charm of its own. While Mont Blanc or Waterman are the monarchs among fountain pens, few are aware of less-known gems like the Sailor fountain pen, made in Japan, Somak Ghoshal writes. Read more.


Global business news from WSJ

  • The return to a pre-pandemic normal in the U.S. is gaining speed. The New York City subway hit its highest daily ridership since March 13, 2020, with some 2.2 million riders last Friday. More than 1.7 million people traveled through the nation’s airports on Sunday, the most since the start of the pandemic. And the San Francisco Symphony held its first in-person performance in more than a year.

  • Scientists world-wide are racing to understand why covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are causing rare but potentially deadly blood clots. In Germany, one researcher thinks he has found what is triggering the clots.

  • Israel struck more targets in Gaza on Thursday in what officials said was a campaign against Hamas militants. Since Monday, Israel has struck 600 targets that it described as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad weaponry and infrastructure, and killed more than 30 militants.

  • Apple Inc. parted ways with a prominent advertising-technology executive weeks after hiring him, following complaints from some employees about passages in a memoir about his time in a prior job at Facebook Inc. that they deemed sexist and misogynistic.

News in numbers
$123 million
Fine levied by Italy’s competition watchdog on Google for not allowing JuicePass, an electric vehicle services app, to operate on Android Auto, thus favouring Google Maps.
$1 billion
Amount in crypto donated by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin for covid-19 relief in India. The bulk of the donation is in the form of meme-based crypto coins Shiba Inu.
$7.5 billion
Venture capital and private equity investments in India in April 2021. This is 37% more than the March deal value.
$83 billion
Amount India received in remittances in 2020, a decrease of 0.2% over the previous year. China, a distant second, received $59.5 billion from its expats.
Sharpest single day drop in Bitcoin price this year. The drop came after Elon Musk announced reversal of Tesla’s decision to accept Bitcoin as a payment mode.
Chart of the day

Four months into the vaccination drive, India would ideally be expected to ramp up capacity to inoculate everyone. But shortages are forcing several states to close down vaccination sites. In the past week, the country had 13% fewer sites conducting vaccinations than a month ago, data analysed by Nikhil Rampal shows. In Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, the number has nearly halved.

Lounge recommends

Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai

Well, ‘recommends’ isn’t exactly what we do with Salman Khan’s latest, directed by Prabhudeva. Most Salman Khan films now are just a bunch of references to earlier, slightly better Salman Khan films. These are interspersed with fight scenes with (one imagines) a well-paid team of body doubles for the 55-year-old star, who does less and less with each successive film. Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai has in-jokes about Khan's Bandra home, his record of releasing films on Eid, his long-running gig as Bigg Boss host. Khan plays the now-familiar Bollywood killer cop called in to put an end to the drug-peddling of Rana (Randeep Hooda) and his associates. Khan does this singlehandedly, as you’d expect, with time in between to romance Disha Patani, an actor three decades younger than him.

Read a review here.

What the fact

The khakis

Richard Simkin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the world of fashion, khakis continue to be in vogue. The beginnings were more utilitarian—the colour camouflaged soldiers in the battlefield. Indeed, the word originated from an Urdu word that meant ‘dusty’ or ‘dust-coloured’. The khaki uniform was the brainchild of lieutenant-general Harry Lumsden, who in 1848 introduced it to the Corps of Guides, a regiment of the British Indian Army raised to serve the north west frontier. Subsequently, many armies around the world adopted the colour for their battle gear.


Written and edited by Goutam Das. Produced by Nirmalya Dutta.

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