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Britain finally launches COVID-19 app in England and Wales

Europe|: London: The British government on Thursday finally launches its troubled smartphone app to help track the coronavirus in England and Wales - four months behind schedule and with cases once again surging. The revamped app, which had first been planned for late May, uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they spend 15 minutes or more within two metres (six feet) of another user who subsequently tests positive for COVID-19. The tool, which will be available in numerous languages on Apple iPhones and various phone brands that use Android operating systems, offers other functionality including booking a test and checking into venues using QR codes. It relies on software developed by US technology giants Apple and Google, and in a bid to assuage privacy concerns, holds all the data generated on people’s phones and allows the information to be deleted easily. See more Gisburne Park Pop-Up: UK's first purpose built socially-distanced outdoor festival COVID-19: High street shopping returns to England as non-essential shops reopen Photos: 1,400-year-old Christian chalice found in Britain First haircut since COVID-19 lockdown in UK: Before and after The app is being released behind schedule following months of troubleshooting on the Isle of Wight, off the southern English coast, in an east London district, Newham, and among another set of volunteers. The state-run National Health Service (NHS), which has developed the tool in-house, abandoned its initial effort to create a more centralised data collection system after it was beset by issues. The embarrassing U-turn followed warnings from tech experts it would be less effective and that it should have switched to the Apple-Google software earlier. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the reworked tool was “an important step forward in our fight against this invisible killer”. “We have worked extensively with tech companies, international partners, and privacy and medical experts - and learned from the trials - to develop an app that is secure, simple to use,” he said. The Scottish government launched its own app earlier this month, while Northern Ireland rolled out its smartphone tracing tool in August. ‘Effectiveness unanswered’ However, some have questioned how effective the NHS app will be. Independent charity the Health Foundation noted on the eve of its release that results from pilot tests over the summer months were yet to be published. “Any data on the pilots that took place in August have been notably absent, leaving major questions over the app’s effectiveness unanswered,” it said. Various coronavirus tracking applications which have emerged around the world - often relying on the same Apple-Google tech - have had mixed success to date. Many have encountered challenges, from privacy concerns to technical glitches and disappointing take-up. British officials hope 10-30 percent of the population will download the English and Welsh app, in line with other countries’ experiences and the pilot tests, which they insist would help stem virus transmission. The government launched prime-time television adverts Wednesday with the slogan: “Protect your loved ones. Get the app”. But confidence in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic has plummeted, with the country’s struggling testing system denting people’s faith. There have been complaints of people being unable to get tests or being given appointments for testing centres hours from their homes, despite government claims of vastly increased capacity. Ministers have blamed increased demand, including from schools when students returned in early September. Johnson this week announced a host of new restrictions, including early closing times for pubs and again asking people to work from home if possible, as cases spike. Britain on Wednesday recorded 6,178 new cases - the highest daily increase since May 1 when the country was still in national lockdown. Government advisers have warned the country could see 50,000 daily cases by mid-October and hundreds of daily deaths weeks later if no preventative measures were taken immediately.

GulfNews World

India: Teenage rape victim delivers baby inside police station

India|: Patna: A teenage rape victim has given birth to a baby inside the office of a senior police official in Bihar. She had gone there to register a complaint case against the rapist after failing to get justice from the local village court. The incident took place in Kishanganj district, bringing much embarrassment to the local authorities. Witnesses said the nine-month pregnant 16-year-old victim was slowly climbing up to the steps leading to the office of Kishanganj district superintendent of police on Tuesday evening when she suddenly developed labour pains and delivered a baby right on the steps. SEE ALSO What does Dubai's new flexible-working law mean for UAE parents? News in pictures: Duterte hailed, husband sells land to buy wife elephant in India, China on US, Australia whales death, Brazil COVID cases, Navalny discharged… In Pictures: Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day celebrations From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Ayushmann Khurrana, here’s a look at the Indians who made it to Time’s 100 most influential list As the news spread, the female police officers formed a wall using their clothing to afford her some privacy and took care of the baby. An ambulance was called and the mother and baby were rushed to the local government hospital and doctors say both are doing fine. The police have registered a case on the basis of the victim’s complaint and are conducting raids to arrest the absconding rapist. “I was present in the office when the rape victim delivered the baby. I have ordered the police to register a case against the accused as well as the local village court members who tried to hush up the case. None will be spared,” local district superintendent of police Kumar Ashish said. The police official said the entire family of the accused was absconding but they would be caught very soon. “Had the victim reported the matter earlier, the action would already have been taken,” the official said. Local youth The victim, a resident of Pahar Katta, had gone out to tend cattle some 10 months back when a local youth identified as Munna Kumar caught hold of her at an isolated place and allegedly raped her. According to the victim, the accused raped her more frequently on the pretext of marrying her. Reports said when the victim became pregnant she insisted the youth to marry her but he flatly refused. Left with no option, the victim brought the matter to the notice of the village court to seek justice. Later, the village court met as many as five times but justice eluded her. Eventually, she rushed to the SP office to seek justice. At least three rape victims have approached the courts to seek permission to abort the foetuses. Last year, a 13-year-old rape victim from Kaimur district approached the Bihar State Women Commission to seek its permission to terminate her three-month pregnancy. In 2018, a local court in Bihar had asked the hospital authorities to abort a 24-week-old fetus of a rape victim to enable her lead a dignified life. The Patna High Court issued the order after the 17-year-old victim prayed to the court to allow her terminate her “unwanted” pregnancy. The court, however, refused to grant permission for abortion to an HIV positive rape victim abandoned by her family since she was 26-week pregnant. Eventually she delivered a healthy baby girl at a government hospital in Patna in August 2017. The woman, a resident of Patna, had been residing on the streets of the state capital surviving on meager arms given by passersbys when she became pregnant after being raped. She was abandoned by her husband some 12 years back after a family dispute, reports said. Bihar has been flooded with rape cases despite all the tall talks by the state government to establish a rule of law in the state. According to a report compiled by the state police department, a total of 11,759 rape cases were reported in the past 10 years while in the past five years, altogether 6,848 rape cases were reported. This year along, as many as 825 rape cases have been reported till July, which means an average four incidents of rape are taking place every day.

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India ONGC douses fire, gas supplies to industries hit

India|: New Delhi/Ahmedabad: A fire at an Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) plant caused by a pipeline rupture has cut gas supplies to customers including power and fertiliser companies, said a person familiar with the matter at gas marketing firm GAIL (India) Ltd. The fire broke out on Thursday morning at ONGC’s Hazira gas processing plant in western Gujarat state and has since been extinguished, ONGC said, adding that it is working to resume normal operations. See more Photos: India's opposition parties stage nationwide protest against new farm bills News in pictures: Duterte hailed, husband sells land to buy wife elephant in India, China on US, Australia whales death, Brazil COVID cases, Navalny discharged… COVID-19: Taj Mahal reopens even as India coronavirus cases soar Indian couple run street-side classes for poor students There were no casualties, ONGC said. GAIL, India’s biggest gas marketing firm, supplies the bulk of gas produced at ONGC’s western offshore fields to customers in the states of Gujarat, Goa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Hazira plant also gets gas from western offshore fields. It supplies about 60 million standard cubic metres of gas daily to these customers. ONGC has shut its Hazira plant, which produces liquefied petroleum gas and other products such as naphtha. “We have cut gas supplies by 40% to our customers. We have notified some customers and are in the process of sending notices to others,” the GAIL employee said. The person, however, said gas supplies could improve from Friday as ONGC is in process of fixing the pipeline. India’s biggest utility NTPC Ltd has shut its two gas-based power plants in Gujarat state, while fertiliser maker KRIBHCO has reduced capacity use, people at the two companies said. “Our capacity utilisation fell to 50% in the morning due to gas supply disruption,” a person at the KRIBHCO said. Gas from other suppliers Jadish Prasad Verma, general manger for production at KRIBHCO’s Hazira plant, said his company is trying to arrange gas from other local suppliers after an output cut. NTPC has shut its 656 megawatt gas-based power plant at Kawas near Hazira and a 657 megawatt Jhanor-Gandhar plant due to gas supply disruption, a person at the company said. Gas supplies to customers have temporarily closed due to safety reasons, an ONGC spokesman said. “There could be some impact on our production... We are investing the cause of fire, and extent of damage.” NTPC and GAIL did not respond to Reuters emails seeking comments. Surat Collector and District Magistrate Dhaval Patel, a senior city official, told Reuters the fire was caused by a rupture in a pipeline at the gas terminal. ONGC’s plant is in Surat, a city in Gujarat. “The area was cordoned off, depressurised and cooled as part of firefighting measures,” Patel said. “Other plants in the vicinity are operating as usual. I am told that the ONGC plant will also become partially operational in two to three hours,” he said. Surat Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani said the fire was in the 36-inch Uran-Mumbai gas pipeline.