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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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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India News

India’s Covid cases at 6 month-high

The national capital has reported 509 new Covid cases with a sudden jump in the positivity rate at 26.54 per cent…reports Asian Lite News

The Mayor of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi Shelly Oberoi on Wednesday reassured the public that MCD is fully prepared to deal with any COVID-related situation in Delhi.

The Mayor stated that all the MCD hospitals have fully equipped facilities related to COVID-19, from reserved beds to oxygen cylinders, and all arrangements are available. Moreover, RT-PCR and antigen tests are also being provided. Mayor Shelly Oberoi went for an inspection at Hindu Rao Hospital in the morning and took stock of the situation there. While the inspection, She also interacted with the doctors and patients at the hospital and enquired about the facilities being provided there.

Following the inspection, she held a meeting with all the HODs and Additional Commissioners of the MCD’s Health Department, and all of the medical superintendents and HODs of all MCD Hospitals to check the preparedness against COVID-19.

While holding a press conference on Wednesday, she emphasised that the recent cases that they have detected had very mild symptoms, and patients have recovered fully within 3-4 days of falling ill. She reassured the public that Delhi is fully prepared and that there is no need to worry at all.

However, she requested the public to follow the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols issued by the MCD. She urged the people of Delhi to wear masks and use sanitisers while going out to ensure that the number of COVID-19 cases does not increase. The MCD released an advisory on March 23 and Mayor Shelly Oberoi appealed to the public to follow the guidelines mentioned therein.

The Mayor also highlighted that the MCD hospital administration, doctors, and staff members are fully equipped and prepared to handle COVID-19 cases. She said, “We have reserved 3011 beds for covid patients in our hospitals, and out of these 1477 are oxygen beds.”

In the press conference, Dy Mayor Aaley Mohammad Iqbal assured the people of Delhi that the MCD and its hospitals are 100 per cent prepared to fight COVID-19. However, he also hoped and prayed that such an eventuality does not come to pass.

Leader of the House Mukesh Goyal also spoke at the meeting, emphasising that the MCD is increasing its preparedness with the hope that the virus will not be as fatal as it was in the last 2-3 waves. He also urged the people of Delhi to follow the Covid protocols and help in preventing an increase in cases in the city.

The national capital has reported 509 new Covid cases with a sudden jump in the positivity rate at 26.54 per cent, according to a daily bulletin issued by the Delhi Health Department on Wednesday.

It stated further that 424 Covid patients recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of recoveries to 19,83,736.

Meanwhile, a total of 4,435 fresh COVID-19 infections were reported across the country in the last 24 hours, a significant jump from Tuesday’s tally of 3038 cases, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Wednesday.

It is the highest single-day rise in the last nearly six months, the ministry said. India’s active Covid caseload currently stands at 23,091 with a daily positivity rate of 3.38 per cent, the ministry said

The COVID-19 cases in India have seen an upward trend in the past few days with the daily fresh infections ranging between 2,994 on April 1 to 3,824 on April 2 and 3,641 on April 3 and 3038 on April 4.

With 2,508 recoveries in the last 24 hours, the total number of recoveries stands at 4,41,79, 712. India’s recovery rate currently is at 98.76 per cent, the union ministry further stated.

Under the Nationwide Vaccination Drive, India has so far administered 220.65 crore Covid vaccine doses of which 1,979 doses were administered in the last 24 hours.

The ministry further stated that the weekly positivity rate currently stands at 2.79 per cent. (ANI)

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-Top News COVID-19 USA

Covid infected over 15 million kids in US

Over 13,000 child Covid-19 cases were reported in the week ending March 23…reports Asian Lite News

More than 15.5 million children in the US are reported to have tested positive for Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, according to a new report.

The report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association said that over 66,000 of these cases have been added in the past 4 weeks, Xinhua news agency reported.

Over 13,000 child Covid-19 cases were reported in the week ending March 23, it added.

Over the past six months, weekly reported child cases in the US have plateaued at an average of about 30,000 cases, according to the report.

Reported cases are likely a “substantial undercount” of Covid-19 cases among children, it noted.

There is a need to collect more age-specific data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as potential longer-term effects, said the report.

It is important to recognize there are immediate effects of the pandemic on children’s health, but importantly we need to identify and address the long-lasting impacts on the physical, mental, and social well-being of this generation of children and youth, said the AAP.

With the highest number of cases and fatalities, the US remains the worst-hit country by the Covid pandemic.

As of Wednesday morning, the country’s caseload and death toll stood at 106,120,651 and 1,153,972, respectively.

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India records highest daily Covid cases in 5 months

The Daily positivity rate and Weekly Positivity Rate stand at 1.56 per cent and 1.29 per cent, respectively….reports Asian Lite News

India recorded 1,890 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the highest in 149 days, according to Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The Health Ministry said that India’s active caseload currently stands at 9,433. The total recoveries are at 4,41,63,883 with 1,051 recoveries in the last 24 hours. Currently, India’s recovery rate stands at 98.79 per cent.

The Daily positivity rate and Weekly Positivity Rate stand at 1.56 per cent and 1.29 per cent, respectively.

According to the official release, 92.09 crore Covid tests have been conducted so far, out of which 1,21,147 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours.

Under the mass vaccination drive in the country, 220.65 crore total vaccine doses (95.20 crore Second Dose and 22.86 crore Precaution Dose) have been administered, of which 7,955 doses were administered in the last 24 hours.

Mock drills for preparedness

Following the increase in COVID cases in the national capital, mock drills were conducted in the Delhi hospitals on Sunday to review preparedness.

COVID cases have seen a rise in the country lately, including in the national capital, which reported 153 new cases on Sunday. A mock drill was conducted in this regard to analyze the preparedness in case of a steep rise in COVID cases.

During the drill, arrangements including ambulance, admission facility, emergency services, COVID wards, and oxygen and ventilator availability were analyzed.

Delhi’s Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, believed to be the largest for COVID patients in the city, has 450 beds reserved for the infected patients.

LNJP Medical Director Dr. Suresh Kumar told ANI that there are nearly 2,000 beds in the hospital, out of which 450 have been reserved for COVID patients.

“There are a total of two thousand beds in our hospital, out of which 450 beds have been reserved for COVID patients. These are all oxygen beds. However, at present, we have only two COVID patients under treatment. Till a month ago, there was not a single COVID patient in LNJP, but in the past, four patients were admitted here, out of which two have recovered, while one is still on the ventilator and one is on oxygen support,” he said.

The doctor informed that a team of 20 doctors has been constituted for COVID patients and training is being given to new doctors for the COVID ward.

“Currently, the patients are not needed to be admitted to the hospital with the ongoing variant, they are getting cured at home. But in spite of this, we conducted a mock drill and took stock. As of now, we have set up a team of 20 doctors for COVID patients. We are also giving training to the new doctors according to COVID. We checked the supply of oxygen on all the beds, the functioning status of ventilators, the status of bipap machines, and the stock of medicines,” the doctor said.

Speaking about the shortage of oxygen in the city during the second wave of COVID, Dr Kumar said that adequate preparations have been made to fulfil the demands for all beds at the hospital.

“Right now there is a sufficient arrangement of oxygen in our hospital. There are two big oxygen plants, and apart from that there are five PS plants. We are producing 45 tonnes of oxygen every day by ourselves without any external support, which is sufficient for our two thousand beds,” he said.

Delhi’s Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj said that the mock drills are being conducted in all Delhi government hospitals in the city and shortcomings will be removed.

“Six states of the country were alerted by the Center regarding COVID. If the cases of COVID increase in those states, then its effect is now visible on Delhi as well. Therefore, to review the preparedness, we felt that a mock drill should be conducted in all the hospitals of the Delhi Government. The existing system has been examined and according to the report, the shortcomings will be removed,” he said.

He said that there is no need to take any major step in regard to the restrictions now and necessary steps will be taken after a discussion with District Disaster Management Authority.

“Two weeks ago, we sent an advisory regarding COVID to all the hospitals and asked the officials to run an awareness campaign. Looking at their experiences where cases are increasing faster than in Delhi, what kind of restriction is not needed right now. But the government is closely monitoring, whenever there is a need to take any major step, we will discuss it in DDMA and will take steps accordingly,” the Minister said. (ANI)

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-Top News COVID-19 USA

WH Covid response team to be disbanded in May

The US remains the worst-hit country in the world with the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths….reports Asian Lite News

The White House will disband its Covid-19 response team led by Indian-American physician Ashish Jha, as the public health emergency over the pandemic is set to expire on May 11, officials said.

Under President Joe Biden’s administration, the team was responsible for coordinating the nationwide rollout and distribution of vaccines, treatments and medical supplies, reports CNN.

“As a result of this administration’s historic response to Covid-19, we as a nation are in a safer, better place than we were three years ago.

“Covid no longer disrupts our lives because of investments and our efforts to mitigate its worst impacts,” CNN quoted a senior administration official as saying in a statement.

The official however, noted that Covid is not over and fighting it remains a priority for the administration.

“Transitioning out of the emergency phase is the natural evolution of the Covid response.”

The US remains the worst-hit country in the world with the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

As of Thursday, it has registered a total of 106,037,022 cases since the pandemic first erupted in early 2020, while the death toll stood at 1,152,525.

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US House votes to declassify info on Covid-19 origin

The move is aimed at demystifying several conspiracy theories surrounding the alleged deliberate leak of the genetically engineered SARC Cov 2 virus, a weaponised flu virus, to test its efficacy…writes T.N. Ashok

In an unprecedented move, the US Congress, dominated by the Republican Party, has passed a bill unanimously asking the Director of National Intelligence to declassify information on the origins of Covid 19 and sent the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk for approval.

The move is aimed at demystifying several conspiracy theories surrounding the alleged deliberate leak of the genetically engineered SARC Cov 2 virus, a weaponised flu virus, to test its efficacy. The alleged leak or accidental release of the virus from Wuhan lab of Hubei province of China devastated the world killing 5 million people around the globe and infecting 50 million people worldwide, the maximum being in the US and India, just as the Spanish Flu did in 1928 to 1930.

Conspiracy theories abound as a mysterious woman technician from the lab became a whistleblower claiming the virus was leaked from the lab. However, after the whistle-blower disappeared, and nothing was heard of her, the WHO officially stated that the virus had accidentally leaked from the lab.

Subsequently, investigations by the US media revealed that the Wuhan lab was funded for genetic engineering experiments by the US government. This was publicly acknowledged by the special health advisor to the President and the NIAID Director, Dr Anthony Fauci, who has since laid down office.

Fauci, the long time chief of the Laboratory of Immuno-regulation and making many contributions to basic and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated and infectious diseases, was in the firing line as the long-time director of NIAID for not containing Covid in the US.

The House of Representatives, which was retaken by the Republicans from the Democrats in November last year with a wafer thin majority, passed a bill to require the Director of National Intelligence to declassify information on Covid’s origins.

The bill to declassify information about the virus’ origins and any information linking it to a Chinese lab was passed by the House unanimously, 419-0, with 16 members not voting. The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent last week, media reports said.

Asked on Friday whether he would sign the legislation into law, Biden told reporters: “I haven’t made that decision yet.”

The bill, titled the Covid-19 Origin Act of 2023, comes after it was revealed that the US Energy Department had concluded, but with a low amount of confidence, that the pandemic likely originated from a laboratory leak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, according to a classified report delivered to key lawmakers on the House and the Senate Intelligence committees, two sources previously confirmed to NBC News.

The FBI believes Covid originated from the Chinese lab leak, its Director Christopher Wray said.

Wray, in a recent interview with Fox News, said that the “FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan”. He complained that the Chinese government had been doing “it’s best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, and the work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing, and that’s unfortunate for everybody”.

The bill was introduced last month by Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Mike Braun.

“For nearly three years, anyone asking whether Covid-19 originated as a lab leak outbreak was silenced and branded as a conspiracy theorist,” Hawley said in a statement when filing the measure. “Now these prudent sceptics stand vindicated. The American people deserve to know the truth.”

The Chinese government has stoutly denied the claims maintaining its “openness and transparency” on the issue. “Based on the poor track record of the US intelligence agencies in forgery and deception, the conclusions they draw have no credibility whatsoever,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said earlier this month.

President Biden has directed the intelligence community to look further into pandemics origins in 2021 so as to arrive at a “definitive conclusion” on its source after agencies were conflicted on whether the virus came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.

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US lifts Covid curbs on travellers from China

The air passengers will no longer need to get tested and show a negative Covid-19 test result, or show documentation of recovery from Covid-19.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lifted mandatory Covid-19 test requirements for travellers from China.

The decision took effect for flights departing to the US from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and designated airports at or after 3 p.m. on Friday, Xinhua news agency quoted CDC as saying.

This means that air passengers will no longer need to get tested and show a negative Covid-19 test result, or show documentation of recovery from Covid-19, prior to boarding a flight to the US from those places, according to the health body.

Designated airports include Incheon International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport, according to the CDC.

The US started requiring pre-departure negative Covid tests for travellers ages two and above flying from China on January 5.

The policy followed a surge in coronavirus cases in China after it ended its strict “Covid-zero” policy in December last year.

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-Top News COVID-19 USA

Covid marks sixth leading cause of death in US in Jan

XBB.1.5 is growing in proportion in all regions nationwide, according to the CDC. BQ.1.1 remains the second most prevalent strain at 9.4 per cent…reports Asian Lite News

The highly transmissible Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 now accounts for 85 per cent of all Covid-19 cases reported in the US this week, according to the latest estimates of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The prevalence of XBB.1.5 kept increasing since late last year — up from 79.2 per cent last week and 71.9 per cent two weeks prior, Xinhua news agency reported citing the estimates as saying.

XBB.1.5 is growing in proportion in all regions nationwide, according to the CDC. BQ.1.1 remains the second most prevalent strain at 9.4 per cent.

The CDC first started tracking XBB.1.5 in November last year, when it accounted for less than 1 per cent of cases nationwide.

Since then, the strain is spreading quickly in the US. Early study suggests XBB.1.5 has a couple of concerning mutations that suggest it is even more contagious than other strains, possibly the most transmissible one so far.

While XBB.1.5 is spreading easier, scientists said it does not seem to cause more severe disease. The US still remains the worst-ht country in the world with the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

As of Saturday morning, the country’s overall number of cases and fatalities stood at 105,169,945 and 1,144,441, respectively.

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Chinese Families Call for Probe into Vaccine Side Effects

The letter also called for the government to pay the medical expenses of those left sick or disabled by vaccines, and offer them appropriate levels of care….reports Asian Lite News

Dozens of families who have reported major health problems and deaths in China after getting vaccinated for various illnesses in recent years are calling on the Chinese government to investigate the matter, according to a media report.

An open letter titled “Suggestions on improving protection from vaccine-induced harm nationwide” called on the National Health Commission to investigate all cases of major health problems occurring after vaccination, and to call in independent and scientific investigators to probe their claims, RFA reported.

The letter also called for the government to pay the medical expenses of those left sick or disabled by vaccines, and offer them appropriate levels of care.

The letter came after a court in Beijing refused to accept a lawsuit filed by victims of vaccine-related health issues against the government at the highest level.

“We went to the No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court hoping to file a case, but the court refused to accept our lawsuit when it heard that we were going to sue the State Council,” campaigner Tan Hua told Radio Free Asia.

“Then we got a call from the police, warning us on the one hand, trying to maintain stability, and saying they wanted us to lodge our complaint back home,” she said.

Tan said she and some 20 other campaigners had tried to file the lawsuit as a last resort after being prevented repeatedly from petitioning through official channels.

She said they may try to find more affected families to join the lawsuit.

“Judging from the current number of parents and patients [we know of], we estimate that there may be one or two hundred people. We have doubts as to whether these one or two hundred people will be allowed to gather in Beijing to jointly file a lawsuit with the court,” Tan said.

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