© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amidst the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo
By Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A court in India’s capital New Delhi has become the last hope for many hospitals struggling to get oxygen for COVID-19 patients as supplies run dangerously short while government officials bicker over who is responsible.
A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals invoking India’s constitutional right to protection of life. Local and federal officials are attending.
The court’s intervention has saved lives, lawyers say.
On Sunday, with just 30 minutes of oxygen left for 42 virus patients at Sitaram Bhartia hospital, and new supplies nowhere in sight, hospital authorities approached the Delhi court as a “last resort” for help, lawyer Shyel Trehan said.
The judges ordered the Delhi state government to immediately arrange supplies.
“Oxygen cylinders arrived soon after the hearing, and a tank arrived a few hours later,” Trehan said.
The shortage of medical oxygen has plagued the city of 20 million people for about two weeks, with unprecedented scenes of patients dying on hospital beds, in ambulances and in carparks outside, gasping for air.
Delhi is recording about 20,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. As the health system buckles, the city says it needs 976 tonnes of medical oxygen daily, but gets less than 490 tonnes, allocated by the federal government.
Representatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which is managing supplies nationally, have told the court they were doing all that is possible, and blamed the Delhi government, run by a rival party, for politicizing the issue.
The panel of two judges, Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, has heard lawyers for Modi and the local administration spar over oxygen quotas, transport problems and a lack of tankers.
And sometimes, the judges have lost their cool.
Over the weekend, when Delhi state representatives again flagged concerns that oxygen supplies were not arriving in time, putting patients’ lives at risk, Justice Sanghi lashed out at officials, saying the “Water has gone over the head. Enough is enough…enough is enough.”
In late April, Sanghi pulled up government officials, saying they should “beg, borrow, steal or import” oxygen supplies to meet the city’s needs,
He said the state “cannot say ‘We can provide only this much and no more,’ so if people die, let them die”.
‘LIKE WATER FOR FISH’
Both governments, federal and that of Delhi, are facing criticism for not being adequately prepared for the surge in infections. Since late April, some of the city’s best hospitals have asked the court for help.
“Not only is this unprecedented, but right now this (court) hearing is literally like water is for fish,” said Prabhsahay Kaur, another lawyer who approached the court for a hospital’s oxygen needs and got help.
Still, scenes of desperation, urgency and frustration play out every day.
At one hearing last week, a lawyer for the local government called an oxygen supplier by telephone, putting the call on speaker, to ask why cylinders had not reached one hospital, while the judges patiently listened to the answers.
On Sunday, one lawyer broke into arguments to say his hospital had just one hour of oxygen supplies left, while simultaneously another person pleaded that patients could “start dying” at his facility.
Minutes later, another loud voice said: “One hundred and forty patients. One hour left. We are in trouble … there is a crisis,” as a judge tried to calm the speaker and urged state authorities to take immediate action.
In another exchange, a home ministry official said its officers were working on a war footing and sought the blessings of the court.
India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the federal government, said, “We desperately need … God’s blessings”.
World shares resilient, drugmakers hit by Biden’s move on vaccines By Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man works at the Tokyo Stock Exchange after market opens in Tokyo, Japan October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO (Reuters) – World shares and commodity prices held firm on Thursday as investors switched to cyclicals amid hopes of a strong economic recovery, but drugmakers’ shares came under pressure after Washington backed waiving patents for COVID-19 vaccines.
MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks, ACWI, was up slightly and European stocks are expected to open flat with both Euro Stoxx futures and futures little changed.
jumped 1.8% as it reopened after a five-day holiday.
But MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.15% as Chinese shares, also resuming trade for the first time since last week, wobbled. The CSI300 fell 1.3%, led by falls in biotech firms.
China’s healthcare share index dropped more than 4% after U.S. President Joe Biden threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
Biden’s move hit U.S. vaccine makers, too, including Moderna (NASDAQ:), but Wall Street was supported overall by gains in energy and other cyclical shares.
Dow hit a record high overnight, having risen 0.29%, while the added 0.07%.
“This year, both the U.S. and Chinese economy could grow 6% or more. If the world’s two biggest economies are growing that much, clearly that’s positive,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist, Mitsubishi UFJ (NYSE:) Morgan Stanley (NYSE:) Securities.
Against this backdrop, commodity prices are riding high, with flirting with 10-year peaks.
Oil prices extended gains to edge near their March tops as crude stockpiles in the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, fell more sharply than expected.
futures stood at $65.65 per barrel, little changed on the day but just below Wednesday’s two-month high of $66.76. [O/R]
As agricultural products such as corn, soybeans and wheat, have gained sharply in recent weeks, Thomson Reuters (NYSE:) CRB index has risen to its highest level since 2015, having gained more than 21% so far this year.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES
Higher commodity prices are fuelling inflation expectations in the bond market.
The U.S. breakeven inflation rate, or inflation expectations calculated from the yield gap between inflation-linked bonds and conventional bonds, rose to as high as 2.48% overnight.
But the U.S. nominal bond yields held relatively stable, with the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield little changed at 1.584%.
“Bonds were supported partly because the pace of vaccinations has slowed in the States and as real-money investors are starting to buy,” said Naokazu Koshimizu, economist at Nomura Securities.
“The rise in inflation is also driven more by supply constraints than demand, which is why we are seeing rising inflation expectations and a fall in nominal yields,” he added.
In currencies, the Australian dollar briefly dropped as much as 0.6% after China said it was indefinitely suspending all activity under a China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, the latest setback for their strained relations.
It last stood down 0.15% at $0.7734
The British pound was flat at $1.3910 ahead of a central bank policy review.
The Bank of England could slow the pace of its bond buying to allow its quantitative easing programme to last until the end of the year, as it could reach the cap by September at the current pace of buying.
Investors also looked to Scotland’s election that could trigger a showdown with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over a new independence referendum.
Other currencies were little moved, with the focus on Friday’s U.S. monthly jobs report which is expected to show that nonfarm payrolls increased by 978,000 jobs last month.
The euro stood flat at $1.2004 while the yen changed hands at 109.35 per dollar.
Tesla developing platform to allow car owners in China access data By Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of car manufacturer Tesla is seen at a branch office in Bern, Switzerland October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
BEIJING (Reuters) -U.S. electric-vehicle maker Tesla (NASDAQ:) Inc said on Thursday it was developing a platform for car owners in China that will allow them to access data generated by their vehicles.
Tesla, which makes Model 3 sedans and Model Y sport-utility vehicles at its Shanghai factory, aims to launch the data platform this year, it said in a statement.
This is the first time an automaker has announced plans to allow customers access car data in China, the world’s biggest car market.
Automakers for the past several years have been equipping more vehicles with cameras and sensors to capture images of a car’s surroundings. Control of use, sending and storage of these images is a fast-emerging challenge for the industry and regulators worldwide.
China last month published draft rules to ensure the security of data generated by smart cars. Data collected from Tesla electric cars in China is stored in the country, a company executive said last month.
Tesla in April was targeted by state media and regulators after a customer, angry over the handling of her complaint about malfunctioning brakes, climbed on top of a Tesla car in protest at the Shanghai auto show. Videos of the incident went viral.
Tesla provided the data related to the brake incident to the customer complying with the local authorities’ order.
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Trading bounce back helps French bank Societe Generale smash analyst expectations in first quarter
A logo outside a Societe Generale SA bank branch in Paris, France.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
LONDON — French bank Societe Generale reported net income that beat analyst expectations for the first quarter of 2021, getting a boost from a strong performance in its global markets division.
Net income for the first quarter came in at 814 million euros ($977 million), the lender said Thursday. Analysts were expecting a net income of 204 million euros.
The company also surprised markets at the end of the four quarter with a net income of 470 million euros, and well above the 252 million euros estimated by analysts ahead of the results.
The stock is up nearly 40% year-to-date.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated shortly.
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