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1,716 of them have been infected and six have died in China even as the total number of infections rose to 63,851

Marriage story: A couple posing with their marriage certificates at a registry office on the occassion of Valentine's Day in Shanghai on Friday.REUTERSALY SONG

The new coronavirus has taken a growing toll of Chinese health workers on the front line of the fight to stop it, a top official said on Friday, as authorities reported more than 5,000 new cases, including more than 120 deaths.

China’s National Health Commission said it had recorded 121 new deaths and 5,090 new coronavirus cases on the mainland on Thursday, taking the total number of infected to 63,851.

Some 55,748 people are being treated, while 1,380 people have died of the virus that emerged in December in Wuhan, capital of the central province of Hubei.

The latest toll takes account of some deaths that had been double counted in Hubei, the commission said.

The Chinese Health Commission Vice-Minister, Zeng Yixin, said 1,716 health workers had been infected and six had died as of Tuesday, with the number of infected staff rising.

“The duties of medical workers at the front are indeed extremely heavy; their working and resting circumstances are limited, the psychological pressures are great, and the risk of infection is high,” Mr. Zeng told a news conference.

Chinese officials and hospitals have repeatedly spoken of a shortage of protective equipment, including face masks.

The new figures for total infections gave no sign the outbreak was nearing a peak, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, an infectious diseases expert at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.

Drastic measures

“While the Chinese authorities are doing their best to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the fairly drastic measures they have implemented to date would appear to have been too little, too late,” he said.

Chinese scientists are testing two antiviral drugs and preliminary results are due in weeks, while the head of a Wuhan hospital said plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results.

While the vast majority of infections and deaths have been in China, in particular Hubei, there have been nearly 450 cases in some 24 countries and territories outside mainland China, and three deaths. Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday. One person has died in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

The biggest cluster of infections outside China has been on a cruise liner quarantined in a Japanese port, with 218 people on board confirmed as infected and taken off to hospital.

On Friday, some of the ship’s passengers were allowed to disembark — with priority for older passengers confined to windowless cabins — and complete their quarantine on shore.

There was good news for passengers on another cruise ship that was finally allowed to dock in Cambodia after being rejected by five countries over fears of the virus, even though no cases were reported on board.

The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in Sihanoukville port late on Thursday. It had anchored offshore earlier to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of illness.

The U.S. Justice Department has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and several subsidiaries, accusing the company of a brazen scheme to steal trade secrets from competitors in America, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.

The new indictment also alleges the company provided surveillance equipment to Iran that enabled the monitoring of protesters during 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran, and that it sought to conceal business that it was doing in North Korea despite economic sanctions there.

The firm disputed the allegations. China’s Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. government of “economic bullying” and improperly using security allegations to “oppress Chinese companies.”

The superseding indictment, brought by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, adds charges of racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets to an existing criminal case in New York, where the company already faces charges of lying to banks about deals that violated economic sanctions against Iran.

Promises to clear remaining dues ‘well before’ March 17, the date of next hearing

Mounting pile: Bharti Airtel’s liabilities add up to nearly ₹35,586 cr., of which ₹21,682 cr. is for licence fees. Reuters

Bharti Airtel on Friday committed to deposit a part payment of ₹10,000 crore as part of its adjusted gross revenue-related dues by February 20, 2020, and promised to clear the remaining dues ‘well before’ March 17, the next date of the court hearing on the issue.

This follows the Supreme Court’s Friday order asking the managing directors and directors of companies, including telecom majors Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, to show cause as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for failing to pay even a ‘single penny’ to the government despite an October 2019 judgment of the apex court. “In compliance with the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and their direction today, we shall deposit a sum of ₹10,000 crore [on account] by February 20, 2020, on behalf of the Bharti Group companies (Bharti Airtel, Bharti Hexacom and Telenor India),” the company said in a letter addressed to the Member (Finance) at the Telecom Ministry.

Bharti Airtel’s liabilities add up to nearly ₹35,586 crore, of which ₹21,682 crore is towards licence fee and ₹13,904.01 crore, SUC dues (excluding dues of Telenor and Tata Teleservices).

‘Complicated process’

In the letter, accessed by The Hindu, Bharti Airtel said as per directions from the department, the firm was in the process of completing the self assessment exercises. “You will appreciate this is a complicated process, covering 22 circles, multiple licences and a substantial period of time and hence, is time consuming,” it said.

The company added that it was confident of completing the self-assessment exercise shortly and “make the balance payment, well before the next date of hearing fixed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

Mega parks will help country scale, spurring cost effectiveness: Textiles Secretary

Bolstering scale: Any State with 1,000 acres for a textiles park will be supported, says Ravi Capoor. E.Lakshmi Narayanan

The Central Government is expected to roll out a Textile Policy by the middle of this year, according to Ravi Capoor, Secretary of the Union Ministry of Textiles.

“We are working on a policy. Two rounds of consultatations have been held with the stakeholders. Hopefully by mid-year we should have the new policy,” Mr. Capoor told The Hindu on Thursday.

On the measures to be taken to attract investments in textiles and clothing, he said the need for cost effectiveness is a major challenge.

One factor affecting cost effectiveness is lack of scale. “New industries should look at scale. The Ministry plans to develop 10 mega textile parks. Each one will be an integrated park. We hope to bring some economies of scale with this. India should be a destination for Foreign Direct Investment in textiles. We need good infrastructure for it.” The Ministry is talking to the States and a meeting will be held on Monday too. Any State which has minimum 1,000 acres ready for the park will be supported to develop it, he said.

The Secretary was hopeful of textile and garment exports increasing this financial year compared to last year, when it was roughly $38 billion. Indian exporters are largely cotton based. “We should move to MMF (manmade fibre). If Indian exports in MMF grow to the level of cotton (ie, the share of Indian cotton product exports in global trade) the overall exports will increase by $20-25 billion,” he said.

Another thrust area will be technical textiles. The Cabinet is expected to approve the National Technical Textiles Mission, announced in the Budget, soon. It will be rolled out in a couple of months. “We are going to spend ₹1,000 crore in developing raw materials for technical textiles; research associations will be asked to produce applications for these.”

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