-Top News COVID-19 UK News

Covid-19 hospitalisations up 24% in one week in UK

The concerning numbers come as the highly mutated Pirola reached over 100 cases in the country, according to the Covid variant tracker GISAID….reports Asian Lite News

Covid-19 hospitalisations have increased by 24 per cent in one week in the UK as new variant BA.2.86, dubbed as Pirola, sweeps across the country.

According to data published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) from the last week of September, the number of people testing positive for the virus increased by over 29.4 per cent on the week before, despite a reduced testing infrastructure, reports The Independent.

The concerning numbers come as the highly mutated Pirola reached over 100 cases in the country, according to the Covid variant tracker GISAID.

Pirola is the latest Omicron strain to appear this summer, raising concerns among specialists since it contains 34 additional mutations that could make it easier to avoid immunisations.

As per GISAID, Pirola has so far been detected in 15 countries globally, including France, Japan, Australia and Denmark. According to the report, the number of patients in hospitals has been rising since mid-July in the UK.

In the week up to and including 29 September, 3,819 Covid patients were admitted to hospital, a 24.8 per cent rise over the previous week.

“While this is still very early data and more research is needed before we can be certain, it is encouraging to see an initial indication that BA.2.86 demonstrates similar levels of antibody escape compared to other variants circulating in the UK,” Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor, UKHSA was quoted as saying.

“The available data is too limited to draw conclusions about the severity of the illness it causes, but there is so far no evidence to suggest that it is more likely to make people seriously ill than other Omicron variants in circulation,” she added.

The new strain’s most common symptoms are a runny nose, headache, lethargy, sneezing, and a sore throat.  Three other symptoms that have been regularly reported are — diarrhoea, eye irritation, and rashes.

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-Top News COVID-19 UK News

Covid vaccine pioneers awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine

The Nobel Assembly said Karikó and Weissman published their results in a seminal 2005 paper that received little attention at the time but laid the foundation for critically important developments that have served humanity during the COVID-19 pandemic…reports Asian Lite News

Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman have been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discoveries that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

“The 2023 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19,” The Nobel Prize posted on X on Monday.

“The findings by 2023 #NobelPrize laureates Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman led to the approval of two highly successful mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020. The vaccines have saved millions of lives and prevented severe disease in many more,” the post added.

The Nobel Assembly said the discoveries by the two Nobel Laureates were critical for developing effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 during the pandemic that began in early 2020.

“Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” it said.  

It said the laureates discovered that base-modified mRNA can be used “to block activation of inflammatory reactions and increase protein production when mRNA is delivered to cells”.

The Nobel Assembly said Karikó and Weissman published their results in a seminal 2005 paper that received little attention at the time but laid the foundation for critically important developments that have served humanity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mRNA vaccine technology against Covid-19, which on Monday received the 2023 Nobel for Medicine was publicly funded and not by pharma giants, said the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of organisations and activists working together towards equitable access to medical technologies that help to prevent and respond to Covid and future pandemics.

Their groundbreaking findings have fundamentally changed the understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the Nobel committee said.

The umbrella group of NGOs hailed public funding, which it said “delivers incredible medical advances”, even as pharma giants refused to share vaccine technology, as well as test kits and other diagnostics to low-income countries during the pandemic.

“The award challenges the claim that it was solely big pharmaceutical companies who saved the world from Covid-19,” said Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Policy Co-Lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, in a statement.

“Just like the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Kariko and Weissman’s groundbreaking work on mRNA vaccines received a huge amount of public funding.”

Kamal-Yanni also advised governments preparing for the next pandemic to prioritise on public funding as drugmakers will not share vaccines with the world.

“Pharmaceutical companies have refused to share mRNA technologies with developers and researchers in developing countries. Fortunately, Weissman is helping a WHO-backed mRNA programme which aims to develop mRNA technology in lower-income countries, even while pharmaceutical companies refuse to share their know-how,” Kamal-Yanni said.

ALSO READ-‘Made in India’ vaccines delivered to 42 African nations

-Top News COVID-19 UK News

Expert warns of pandemic worse than Covid in new book

In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) also warned of the threat of an “inevitable” next pandemic “Disease X, raising concerns across the globe…reports Asian Lite News

The former chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce Kate Bingham has in a new book warned of a next pandemic that could come from a million unknown viruses and kill about 50 million people like the Spanish Flu.

The excerpt of the book, co-authored with another vaccine boffin Tim Hames, published in the Daily Mail explains how the next pandemic might unfold and calls for pandemic preparedness.

“The 1918-19 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, twice as many as were killed in World War I,” they said.

“Today, we could expect a similar death toll from one of the many viruses that already exist. There are more viruses busily replicating and mutating than all the other life forms on our planet combined. Not all of them pose a threat to humans, of course – but plenty do.”

According to the experts, thousands of different viruses could evolve to spark a pandemic. There is also a risk that viruses could jump between species and “mutate dramatically”.

“So far, scientists are aware of 25 virus families, each of them comprising hundreds or thousands of different viruses, any of which could evolve to cause a pandemic,” Bingham and Hames said.

In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) also warned of the threat of an “inevitable” next pandemic “Disease X, raising concerns across the globe.

Disease X was first coined in 2018 by the WHO, a year before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world. It is among the WHO’s “Blue print list priority diseases” that could cause the next deadly pandemic and includes Ebola, SARS and Zika.

“Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease,” the WHO said. The Blueprint list highlights infectious diseases for which we lack medical countermeasures.

Some public health experts believe the next Disease X will be zoonotic, meaning it will originate in wild or domestic animals, then spill over to infect humans, as Ebola, HIV/AIDS and Covid-19.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic killed some 20 million people globally, the experts contended that the world got somewhat “lucky”.

“The point is that the vast majority of people infected with the virus managed to recover,” the experts said.

“Ebola, on the other hand, has a fatality rate of around 67 per cent. Bird flu is not far behind at 60 per cent. Even MERS hit 34 per cent. So we certainly can’t bank on the next pandemic being easily contained.”

ALSO READ-WHO Urges China for Transparency on COVID-19 Origins

COVID-19 Social Media

‘Facebook failed to control Covid misinformation’

Although both had large page networks, anti-vaccine content producers more effectively coordinated content delivery across pages, groups, and users’ news feeds…reports Asian Lite News

The Covid-19 vaccine misinformation policies of Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, were not effective in combating misinformation and its overall design is more to blame for this rather than just algorithms, a new study has revealed.

The study, led by researchers at the George Washington University in the US and published in the journal Science Advances, found that Facebook’s efforts were undermined by the core design features of the platform itself.

“To effectively tackle misinformation and other online harms, we need to move beyond content and algorithms to also focus on design and architecture,” said David Broniatowski, lead study author and an associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering.

The results show that removing content or changing algorithms can be ineffective if it doesn’t change what the platform is designed to do — enabling community members to connect over common interests — in this case, vaccine hesitancy — and find information that they are motivated to seek out, he explained.

The researchers found that while Facebook expended significant effort to remove a lot of anti-vaccine content during the Covid-19 pandemic, overall engagement with anti-vaccine content did not decrease beyond prior trends — and, in some cases, even increased.

“This finding… is incredibly concerning. It shows the difficulty that we face as a society in removing health misinformation from public spaces,” said Lorien Abroms, study author and a professor of public health.

In the content that was not removed, there was an increase in links to off-platform, low credibility sites and links to misinformation on “alternative” social media platforms like Gab and Rumble, especially in anti-vaccine groups.

In addition, remaining anti-vaccine content on Facebook became more — not less — misinformative, containing sensationalist false claims about vaccine side effects that were often too new to be fact-checked in real time.

There was also “collateral damage,” say the researchers, as pro-vaccine content may have also been removed as a result of the platform’s policies and, overall, vaccine-related content became more politically polarised.

Furthermore, anti-vaccine content producers used the platform more effectively than pro-vaccine content producers, the authors wrote.

Although both had large page networks, anti-vaccine content producers more effectively coordinated content delivery across pages, groups, and users’ news feeds.

Even when Facebook tweaked its algorithms and removed content and accounts to combat vaccine misinformation, the researchers say the architecture of the platform pushed back.

The social media platform designers could promote public health and safety by working collaboratively to develop a set of “building codes” for their platforms that are informed by scientific evidence to reduce online harms, the study suggested.

ALSO READ-Meta overhauls Facebook fact-check controls for US users

-Top News COVID-19 USA

US First Lady Jill Biden Tests Positive for Covid-19

The diagnosis of the 72-year-old First Lady comes amid a busy week for the President, who delivered a Labor Day speech in Philadelphia earlier in the day…reports Asian Lite News

US First Lady Jill Biden has tested positive for Covid-19, the White House announced.

“This evening, the First Lady tested positive for Covid-19. She is currently experiencing only mild symptoms. She will remain at their home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware,” CNN quoted Biden’sspokesperson Elizabeth Alexanderas saying in a statement on Monday night.

President Joe Biden, 80, tested negative, according to the White House.

An administration official told CNN that there were no changes to White House Covid protocols or to the President’s schedule at this time.

The diagnosis of the 72-year-old First Lady comes amid a busy week for the President, who delivered a Labor Day speech in Philadelphia earlier in the day.

He is scheduled to present the Medal of Honor to an Army captain in a White House ceremony Tuesday before departing for the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India.

The First Lady had tested positive for Covid-19 while vacationing in South Carolina in August 2022, just a month after the President was diagnosed with the virus. 

Both experienced rebound cases shortly after being treated with Paxlovid.

Jill Biden’s diagnosis comes amid renewed attention to Covid-19 as the world approaches the fourth virus season since the global outbreak in early 2020, CNN reported.

In the US, there were about four new hospital admissions for every 100,000 people in the week ending August 19, which is considered low, according to the CDC.

While seven counties had high levels of Covid-19, 117 counties — about 3.6 per cent of the country — were in the medium threshold.

ALSO READ-Fresh Covid wave in US worse than what official data suggests

-Top News COVID-19 USA

Fresh Covid wave in US worse than what official data suggests

Virus levels in the US have been on the rise for weeks and federal data suggests that the current increases have stayed far below earlier peaks and notable surges….reports Asian Lite News

Rates of severe Covid disease may be staying at relatively low levels in the US, but experts agree that there are probably more infections than the current surveillance systems can capture, reports CNN.

Virus levels in the US have been on the rise for weeks and federal data suggests that the current increases have stayed far below earlier peaks and notable surges.

“But judging by word of mouth among family, friends and coworkers, it can seem like everyone knows someone who’s sick with Covid-19 right now,” the report noted.

“There is more transmission out there than what the surveillance data indicates,” said Janet Hamilton, executive director of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. “We should be paying attention to it, because we are starting to see an increase.”

Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences and chief strategy officer of population health at the University of Washington, said he has been getting lots of calls and questions about Covid-19 recently — similar to what he experienced around the end of last year.

Weekly hospital admissions have nearly doubled over the past month, including a 19 per cent bump in the most recent week, according to CDC data.

However, hospitals have shifted their testing practices, balancing changing federal requirements and recommendations with local risk assessments, which makes it difficult to compare data from different points in time, the CNN report mentioned.

Hospitals have eased back on testing to be more in line with guidance around other infectious diseases.

“The focus is on those who are symptomatic, have been exposed or might be around other high-risk patients,” the report said.

Data from biotechnology firm Biobot Analytics shows that wastewater concentrations of the coronavirus are similar to what they were at the start of the first winter surge in 2020, the report added.

The rising Covid cases have prompted some schools, hospitals and businesses to encourage, or even require, people to start masking up again.

CDC Director Mandy Cohen has cautioned that Covid remains risky for people who are unvaccinated. The risk is especially high for unvaccinated individuals who haven’t been infected before and those who are older or have underlying health conditions.

The health officials are watching two new variants — Omicron variant EG.5 (Eris) which is dominant in the US and BA.2.86 which is starting to spread.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated EG.5 or Eris as a “variant of interest” as cases rise globally.

ALSO READ: With 41.6m guests, DXB traffic tops pre-Covid levels

Canada COVID-19 Punjab

Innovative startup donates 10,000 masks to schools amidst pandemic

Harmanjot Singh, an optimistic student from Kapurthala who had applied for a two-year business diploma at Northern College, conveyed his dismay…reports Anatariksh Singh/ Khalsavox

Canada’s Northern College, Scarborough campus, has thrown a wrench into the plans of numerous Indian students, primarily from Punjab, leading to widespread disappointment and uncertainty. Just a month prior to the eagerly awaited September term, the college unexpectedly revoked admission offers, sending students into a state of chaos. These hopeful individuals had painstakingly organized their Canadian venture, arranging accommodations, purchasing flight tickets, and readying themselves for an exciting new phase of life. The official reason cited for this disruptive action was an unexpectedly overwhelming influx of applications received by the institution.

Sunil, a Canada student visa expert at Pyramid e-Services, an immigration agency in Jalandhar, disclosed that the college had been inundated with an unprecedented avalanche of responses. “The college had issued more offer letters than available spots, assuming that not all students would successfully secure embassy clearances and visas. However, the rejection rate turned out to be surprisingly low this time, leaving the college with no choice but to retract admissions,” he elucidated.

In an effort to mitigate the fallout, the college has promised a full refund of students’ fees. Additionally, they have provided students with the option to obtain offer letters from alternative educational institutions, allowing them to transfer the corresponding fees to their new choice.

Harmanjot Singh, an optimistic student from Kapurthala who had applied for a two-year business diploma at Northern College, conveyed his dismay. Having already committed substantial resources, including a non-refundable ticket worth Rs 1.12 lakh for an August 29 departure, he and his peers were taken aback by the college’s last-minute decision. The news was delivered via email, revealing the unfortunate lack of available seats at the college.

Beyond its immediate impact on the students, the sudden withdrawal of admissions has triggered significant concern within Canada’s Sikh community. Various advocacy groups, including the World Sikh Organisation of Canada, have joined forces to protest the college’s actions and demand a reconsideration of the decision.

Parents of the affected students have also voiced their grievances, highlighting the logistical and financial predicaments stemming from this abrupt change of plans.

With a mere month left before the anticipated September term, the college’s eleventh-hour cancellation of admissions has left students stranded in uncertainty. These young minds had already invested substantial funds into accommodations and airfare, all set for their imminent Canadian journey.

ALSO READ-Dubai surpasses pre-pandemic visits in H1 2023

-Top News COVID-19 UK News

New Covid variant ‘Eris’ spreading across UK

Eris was classified as a variant on July 31 after its prevalence was recorded in the country due to increasing cases internationally, particularly in Asia…reports Asian Lite News

Covid is back in the news again. A new variant, EG.5.1, which has descended from the rapidly spreading Omicron, has put health officers in the UK on their toes. The variant EG.5.1, nicknamed Eris, was first flagged in the UK last month and is now spreading quickly in the country.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said EG.5.1, which has been nicknamed Eris, makes up one in seven new COVID cases, the report said. The latest data suggests it now accounts for 14.6% of cases – the second most prevalent in the UK, Sky News reported.

“COVID-19 case rates continued to increase this week compared to our previous report. 5.4% of 4,396 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. This is compared to 3.7% of 4,403 from the previous report,” the UKHSA said in a report.

Eris was classified as a variant on July 31 after its prevalence was recorded in the country due to increasing cases internationally, particularly in Asia.

“EG.5.1 was first raised as a signal in monitoring on July 3, 2023, as part of horizon scanning due to increasing reports internationally, particularly in Asia,” the UKHSA said.

“It was subsequently raised from a signal in monitoring to a variant V-23JUL-01 on July 31, 2023, due to the increasing number of genomes in UK data, and continued growth internationally. Declaring this lineage as a variant will allow further detailed characterisation and analysis,” it said.

“We continue to see a rise in COVID-19 cases in this week’s report. We have also seen a small rise in hospital admission rates in most age groups, particularly among the elderly. Overall levels of admission still remain extremely low and we are not currently seeing a similar increase in ICU admissions. We will continue to monitor these rates closely,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, UKHSA’s Head of Immunisation.

“Regular and thorough hand washing helps protect you from COVID-19 and other bugs and viruses. If you have symptoms of a respiratory illness, we recommend staying away from others where possible,” she said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) started tracking the EG.5.1 variant just over two weeks ago when WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said though people are better protected by vaccines and prior infection, countries should not let down their guard.

As the UK grapples with the rapid spread of the Eris variant, health authorities, and experts are closely monitoring the situation and advising the public to take necessary precautions to limit its transmission.

ALSO READ-India’s post-Covid Africa Policy is on a roll

COVID-19 Interview Lite Blogs

Air Cargo Industry’s Remarkable Boom Amid Pandemic

Pandemic-hit years turned out to be the best years in the history of the air cargo industry, says V.K. Mathews of IBS Software. An Interview by Abhish K. Bose.

VK Mathews is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the IBS Software (, one of the leading travel technology companies in the world. Mr Mathews founded IBS Software 25 years ago, in Trivandrum, India, with a vision to redefine the future of travel through technology innovation. Today, IBS is a global corporation, serving over 200 clients worldwide, which include some of the best and biggest airlines, busiest airports, leading cruise lines, top oil & gas companies and renowned hotel groups in the world. IBS’ business operation spreads across all geographies, employing over 3,500 professionals from 30 nationalities.

Unlike the IT services company that make up an overwhelming majority of the Indian IT landscape, an IT product SaaS company like IBS Software is at the higher end of the value chain, where they are the architects, designers and builders of technology products which typically address the needs of the industry 10-20 years ahead. IBS Software employs a platform-based, SaaS service model to comprehensively address the technology needs of the travel and transportation industry. Its innovative software solutions are used by industry leading corporations; 10 of the 15 largest airlines, 4 of the 5 largest oil and gas companies and over 80 of the largest hotel chains in the world use IBS’ software platforms for managing their mission critical operations.

In one of the largest PE investments in an Indian IT product company, Apax Partners LLP invested USD 450 million in IBS Software in May 2023 for a minority shareholding, valuing the company at USD 1.50 billion. 

VK Mathews is a thought leader in the global aviation industry and is a speaker at various international travel events and seminars. He was the Executive Council member of NASSCOM, past Chairman of Confederation of Indian Industries (Kerala State) and the current Chairman of the Group of Technology Companies (GTech), Kerala. He has received several awards from the government, media and trade associations including Management Leadership Award, Businessman of the Year Award, IT Man of the Year Award, Millennium Leadership Award and Enterprise Excellence Award. 

VK Mathews holds a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and had executive management education from Harvard Business School, Boston, USA.  Asian Lite’s Abhish K. Bose meets VK Mathews and discusses on his experiences as an entrepreneur.

Excerpts from the interview:

Abhish K. Bose: Could you shed some light on your early days, both as a student and as an employee? 

VK Mathews: I was born into a traditional, middle class family in Kizhakkambalam, near Kochi in central Kerala. I had my schooling and pre-university education in private institutions in the district. I liked science and math, so it was no surprise that I enrolled for engineeringstudies. When I graduated, good engineers were at a premium and jobs were available, but I wanted to pursue higher studies and thus enrolled for M Tech in Aeronautical Engineering in IIT, Kanpur, where I had taken computer science courses and also had to do a lot of computer programming work as part of my thesis work.

I started my professional career as a computer science faculty in the Indian Army. Later, I joined the IT division of Air India, and was part of the team that first implemented Air-India’s computerised passenger reservations systems world-wide. Two plus years later, I joined the Emirates Group in 1984 in Dubai, and remained with the group for about a decade and half. It was a defining period of my career, when I had the opportunity toformulate and implement IT strategies for the airlines’ global operations and support its ambitious growth plans. At the time of leaving, I was the General Manager-IT for the airline. 

Abhish K. Bose: You launched an IT firm in 1997 by abandoning a lucrative job. Could you explain the travails you faced initially?

VK Mathews: As with any entrepreneurial venture, the initial days were tough, both for securing contracts from airline customers and for equipping the team to be technically and culturally ready for serving a global clientele. Investing the entire life savings to start an IT company, and that too in Kerala, had inherent risks. The risk was higher because IBS was specializing in modern technology, when most of the demand was for legacy technology work, especially because of the booming Y2K demand. IBS was treading a lonely track as a product company, when all of the Indian industry was in IT services – it was narrated by competitors as similar to an attempt to selling Ambassador cars in competition with the Mercedes and BMWs. In a product business, we have to invest heavily in R&D to build products without any guarantee of market success. The major challenges for a product company are product fitness for market acceptance, domain expertise to build next-gen products and funding for R&D and global sales and marketing. 

IBS was also confronted with a host of external challenges; the internet bubble burst of 2000, Swissair Group, which was our biggest customer and a JV partner going bankrupt in 2002, the airline industry slowing down due to 9/11, spread of SAARS virus in 2004 and the global financial crisis in 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic now. 

Abhish K. Bose: The IBS started off as a software solutions provider in the aviation sector. Could you elaborate a bit on the services being provided to this sector?     

 Abhish K. Bose: Apart from the aviation, do you serve other sectors too? 

VK Mathews: Yes, our portfolio of products covers the entire travel industry. On the non-aviation side, our software platforms are used for managing certain mission critical operations of oil and gas majors, cruise lines, hotels and tour operators. On the consulting and digital transformation side, we help our travel industry customers system integration and implementation services, apart from business process consulting and change management services. 

VK Mathews: IBS Software is an enterprise SaaS company for the travel industry, providing end-to-end technology support – that are reliable, scalable, functionally superior, easy to use and cost-effective – across all process areas – airline passenger services, cargo and logistics operations, flight and crew operations, airport operations and aircraft maintenance engineering. No other company in the world offers this range of IT products and such a broad portfolio of solutions to the aviation industry as IBS Software.

Abhish K. Bose:  How do you assess the individualistic software services demands of your clients and how do you design the software? Is it based on the specific needs of the clients? Could you explain a little?

VK Mathews: We are a vertical SaaS Company for the travel industry and our platforms are built for the customer community at large. We don’t customize our products for addressing the specific requirements of customers. We encourage customers to use the platform and take advantage of the best in class processes that the system supports. The individualistic requirements of customers, if any, are addressed by configuring the product (than customizing it) to support differentiated business processes that will give the expected competitive advantage to the customer in question. Customization is expensive and difficult to maintain. Customization will move the customer away from the core product and thus will not be able to benefit from the huge R&D efforts that go into the product.

IBS is more than a technology vendor; we are a trusted partner to our customers. We help our customers achieve their business goals by facilitating business innovation and supporting such innovative business processes using next generation systems. This way IBS helps and facilitates their business transformation. We invest in developing the product continuously to be at the innovative forefront, with the help of our own domain specialists, industry experts and taking inputs from our customers. 

Abhish K. Bose: The Covid 19 pandemic had paralyzed business in an unprecedented manner. How did it affect your company? 

VK Mathews:  The travel industry was one of the worst hit by the pandemic. For almost a year passenger airlines were grounded as international travel was halted. This meant that the belly capacity of passenger planes became unavailable for cargo transportionm, resulting in increased freight rates. In fact, the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 turned out to be the best ever years in the history for the air cargo industry. The full annual revenue was achieved within six months, not on account of increased cargo volumes, but on account of increased pricing and yield. 

(ANI Photo)

This came as a blessing for a lot of airlines which were otherwise bleeding. It helped us shore up our revenue as we are the leading suppliers of air cargo management platform globally. Since, our systems are mission critical for airlines to operate, and since companies were relying heavily on technologies to survive during the pandemic, we were able to recover much faster than our target segment. 

Abhish K. Bose: The pandemic has brought about the work from home culture. There has been a unanimity among the IT firms in adhering to this practice post pandemic. How is this going to transform the employer employee relations, and the financial investments in the sector?

VK Mathews: Indian IT companies were one of the early adopters of the remote work model to tide through the pandemic and some of the companies continue to function in that manner even today. While Work from Home (WFH) does have its advantages – especially in giving flexibility for employees – it has several challenges as well. Inducting new employees, especially freshers, developing and maintaining the organizational culture, brainstorming, innovation and cocreation, creating the sense of community and culture are all important aspects of our business life. A combination of WFH and WFO as a hybrid model should be the way forward. It will however be a fundamental requirement for employees to stay accessible to the office and be able to attend to office as needed on short notice. This will become a norm and may cause a round of inevitable churn and realignment, considering that a lot of employees relocated to their native places during the pandemic and some of them still continue to stay remotely, out of reach from their offices. I don’t think there should be and there will be any significant transformation in the employer-employee relationship nor the extent of financial investments merely on account of the new work model adopted.

Abhish K. Bose: How are you maintaining your relationship with your employees in the firm? The IT sector is a high work pressure sector and what are the facilities that you provide to the employees so as to relieve their mental pressure?

VK Mathews: IBS is an equal opportunity employer. The company aims to attract, develop and retain the best talent by offering unique work experiences, world class facilities, industry indexed compensation benefits and excellent welfare schemes. Employees enjoy facilities like paid holidays, working from home option, flexi timing, and personal day off. Concierge services are provided to relieve employees of personal errands and payments. An in-house recreation team “Reflections”, takes care of fun, frolic and games at workplace all year round.

With the right mix of fresher’s, experienced professionals, technical and non-technical cadres, IBS has a diverse workforce from different backgrounds with varying levels of expertise and skill sets. On IBS rolls are people belonging to 30 different nationalities bringing in a potpourri of culture, tradition and customs. Employees are encouraged to respect geographical sensitivities, venerate religious sentiments, revere local conventions and embrace diversity in all forms. By appreciating differences amongst themselves, IBS employees quickly imbibe a global perspective, become well rounded and ultimately develop into better human beings.  9. The IBS has acquired eight IT companies from various countries including the U.S, Europe, Canada and India. Is there any further expansion in the offing? We look at both organic and inorganic options for pursuing growth. If we see synergy in acquiring firms or businesses, we will certainly consider it.

Abhish K. Bose: Apax funds will acquire Blackstone’s minority stake in IBS Software for about $450 million. What are your views on this acquisition?

VK Mathews: Apax is a leading global private equity firm that has worked to inspire growth and transform businesses. With a heritage of over 50 years, Apax has more than $65 billion of assets under its management. They have vast experience in partnering with best-in-class SaaS companies and I believe, Apax is the right partner for us in our next phase of growth. 

This investment is an endorsement of our business strategy and a testament to our commitment and contribution to the industry. We have a shared vision with Apax for the future of our business.

Abhish K. Bose: The IT field is of stiff competition. What is your approach towards your rivals? Is there a place for camaraderie?

VK Mathews: Of course there is room for camaraderie, mutual respect and friendship between competing IT companies. In India, NASSCOM is a testimony of this. We come together on industry issues, policy advocacy and hold retreats and networking meetings exchanging insights, even while bidding for the same global contracts. The competition is healthy and professional. That is the beauty of the IT industry in India.

Abhish K. Bose: From a humble beginning in 1997, you have come of age in 25 years. What is your vision over the course of the next two decades?

VK Mathews: Today, we are a leading vertical SaaS software company for the travel industry globally, managing mission-critical operations airlines, airports, tour & cruise, hospitality and energy resources industries. We will continue to invest significantly in R&D not only to maintain functional and technical superiority of our products, but also to facilitate business process innovation continuously.

In a world of disruptive innovations and new business models, the boundaries of business and technology are fast fading and we believe that we have a defining role to play in it. We have created highly valuable software assets, earned the trust of the industry by fulfilling our promises and, more importantly, nurtured a world class team that can deliver transformational solutions to the industry.

It is our vision to redefine the future of travel through technology innovation. We remain  prepared, passionate and deeply committed to realizing this vision.

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-Top News COVID-19 USA

US to end Covid-19 public health emergency

The emergency was first instituted more than three years ago…reports Asian Lite News

The US will officially put an end to the Covid-19 public health emergency on Thursday.

The emergency was first instituted more than three years ago to provide funding and resources for the country to fight against the global pandemic, Xinhua news agency reported.

Since taking office in 2021, US President Joe Biden has repeatedly extended the emergency.

The US Departments of Health and Human Services has provided a roadmap outlining the transition away from the public health emergency. Although Covid-19 vaccines will probably be covered at least until September 30, 2024, Covid-19 treatments and testing might require out-of-pocket expenses based on health insurance. Medicaid determination is being pushed back to individual states.

Ending the Covid-19 public health emergency will impact some benefits, leading to mounting pressure to underinsured or uninsured people.

The mandatory sharing of Covid-19 lab test results and local and state vaccine data with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also come to an end when the public emergency ceases.

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