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China reports over 100 COVID-19 cases amid virus spike

China on Wednesday reported over 100 COVID-19 cases, including nine in Beijing, which has already imposed several curbs restricting the travel of the city residents to other parts of the country amid the new spike in infections.

China’s National Health Commission said on Wednesday that 93 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases and 16 new imported cases were reported on Tuesday, the highest in a single day in recent weeks.

Of the new local cases, 35 were reported in the province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, 14 in Hebei, another 14 in Gansu, nine in Beijing, six in Inner Mongolia, four each in Chongqing and Qinghai, two each in Jiangxi, Yunnan and Ningxia, and one in Sichuan, the Commission said.

Tuesday also saw 16 new imported cases, including three previously reported asymptomatic carriers, it said.

One new suspected case arriving from outside the mainland was reported in Shanghai and no new deaths from COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday, the Commission said.

Since the coronavirus first surfaced in Wuhan in December 2019, China has so far officially reported 97,423 as of Tuesday of which 4,636 had died as a result of the virus. As of Tuesday, 1,000 patients are still receiving treatment. Among them, 37 were in severe condition, the Commission report said.

China, which has been pursuing a Zero COVID policy, continues to experience periodic outbreaks of the virus in different places despite vaccinating over 76 per cent of its population.

China’s top respiratory diseases expert Zhong Nanshan has fended off criticism against the Zero-COVOD strategy saying it was still less costly than living with the virus and reintroducing restrictions each time outbreaks occurred.

The country had no option but to aim for zero infections because the coronavirus was replicating quickly and the global death rate of about 2 per cent was unacceptable, Zhong told state-run CGTN-TV on Monday.

“Some countries have decided to open up entirely despite still having a few infections,” Zhong said.

“That led to a large number of infections in the past two months and they decided to re-impose restrictions. This flip-flopping approach is actually more costly. The psychological impact on citizens and society is greater,” he said.

Backing the COVID Zero policy, an article in Global Times said “if we change course to the European and US way of “coexistence with the virus,” China will fall victim to the virus within just a few months, with tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of cases a day”.

“The daily death toll could mount to hundreds or even thousands of people. The situation is definitely not something most Chinese are willing to bear”, it said.

“Every time an outbreak occurs, the implementation of the zero-COVID policy will mean economic and social costs. But if we don’t adopt this policy, it will lead to a serious spread of the virus, and the cost will only be higher”, it said.

Centre decides to resume biometric attendance for employees of all levels from November 8

The Union government has decided to resume biometric attendance for employees of all levels from November 8, the Personnel Ministry said on Monday. It shall be the responsibility of heads of department to ensure that sanitisers are mandatorily placed beside biometric machines and all employees sanitize their hands before and after marking the attendance, it said.

The employees were previously exempted from biometric attendance due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Physical distancing of six feet must be maintained by all employees while marking their attendance. If required, additional biometric attendance machines may be installed to avoid overcrowding,” the Personnel Ministry said in an order to all central government ministries and departments.

All employees shall be required to wear masks or face covers at all times, including while waiting to mark their attendance, it said.

“Meetings, as far as possible, shall continue to be conducted on video conferencing and personal meetings with visitors, unless necessary in public interest, are to be avoided,” the order stated.

All officers and staff shall strictly follow COVID-appropriate behaviour at all times in offices, the Personnel Ministry said.

Travel cos expect more nations to accept Covaxin

Travel service providers expect more countries to ease travel requirements for Indians vaccinated with Covaxin even as the World Health Organization (WHO) this week sought additional clarifications from Bharat Biotech before granting emergency use licence (EUL) for its Covid vaccine.

Oman added Covaxin to the approved list of Covid-19 vaccines for travel on Wednesday, lifting quarantine requirement for passengers from India who have received two doses of the vaccine at least 14 days before the estimated arrival date.

Travel platforms said they are seeing an uptick in bookings for destinations that are accepting Covaxin such as Greece, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.

“While WHO acceptance opens the doors to multiple global destinations and is certainly of value, inpidual governments can take an independent call,” said Romil Pant, senior vice-president, leisure travel at Thomas Cook (India). “And, of course, what is a clear positive is that several destinations such as Dubai, Malpes, and Russia offer entry irrespective of vaccine status with checks and balances like RT-PCR being in place,” he said.

“With the WHO expecting to reconvene for the final risk-benefit assessment for Covaxin on November 3, we are hopeful of an approval this time round,” Pant said.

Nishant Pitti, CEO of EaseMyTrip, said that while countries are not bound by WHO suggestion and can decide on their own to recognise Covaxin, approval by WHO will work as a shot in the arm. “A significant part of our population is vaccinated with Covaxin. The approval will further enable more travellers to visit their favourite international destinations,” he said.

Ixigo said countries such as Serbia have recognised Covaxin based on a ‘mutual acceptance’ of vaccines, while Oman has possibly approved it for ease of travel of Indian nationals.

“Similarly, for ease of travel and to attract tourists, Mauritius is also accepting Covaxin,” the company said.

“Global acceptance of Covaxin will definitely ease international travel plans for Indian travellers who are currently vaccinated with Covaxin but cannot travel or have to face mandatory quarantine due to current restrictions.”

Subhash Goyal, chairman of STIC Travel and Air Charter Group, pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some cabinet ministers have taken Covaxin and it has been cited as being effective against the Delta variant.

“Some people have preferred Covaxin over Covishield seeing encouraging findings. Some countries are recognising Covaxin bilaterally,” he said. “So, the sooner WHO recognises it the better. There should not be unnecessary delays just because it is from a developing country.”

Daniel D’Souza, president and country head at SOTC, said he is hoping for positive news for travellers doubly jabbed with Covaxin. “As per a recent report, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given clearance to Covaxin with certain riders. If more countries approve of Covaxin it will enable Indians to pursue their long-pending travel plans,” he said.

The Role of CFOs amidst a coronavirus pandemic

By Yogita Tulsiani

McKinsey‘s newest survey collected data from 1592 respondents from all across the globe encompassing the full range of industries, company sizes, regions, tenures and functional specialities between 2 March 2020 and 6 March 2020. During this survey, 84% of the respondents stated that they saw the outbreak of novel coronavirus was the imminent threat to the global economy. And this was before WHO declared it to be a pandemic.

On April 2, the Labour Department of the USA reported that over 6.64 million people filed for benefits by March 28, 2020. It has been one of the worst economic crises in the past century to hit almost every nation. Many of the companies have lost more than 75% of their yearly profits in the first quarter of 2020. Others are laying their staff off, while some are trying to cope by curtailing costs and encouraging their employees to work from the safety of their homes.

Amidst the chaos one fact emerges with the utmost certainty – the role of CFOs in almost every company is of critical importance right now. CFOs have a central role to play during the financial crisis since they are the leader of the company who directly contributes to the organization’s financial health. COVID-19’s biggest crisis is that of asset liquidity and the financial stress that results from it.

Here’s how a CFO can play an active role in managing and resurrecting the finances of a company –

Assess and plan for the crisis at hand

  • CFOs should set up the first line of defence- A CFO’s first responsibility is to find out and forecast the cash collections in the context of their latest sales. The next step involves collecting payments from defaulting customers. In case the working capital remains insufficient, the CFOs should consider other options to raise capital including tapping available lines of credit. At the same time, the CFO can utilize multiple sets of tools (spend control tower) to prioritize pending payments and establish reporting metrics for tracking real-time liquidity.
  • Hypothesize and plan for a range of scenarios- The virus impact can result in a range of scenarios. It is up to the CFO and his chosen team to determine which path the impact of COVID-19 pandemic can take – which geographies may be more affected than the others and which industries might suffer the worst hit. The CFO should create a task force that can deliver actionable information that guides the business decisions and monitor the finances or factor that directly/indirectly affect the finances of the industry.
  • Set up communication plans- During a crisis, it is important to communicate clearly and proactively with the investors and boards of directors. The first few months are most critical to ramp up the frequency and transparency of communication and the responsibility lies in the hands of the CFO.

Planning for the “next normal”

  • Strengthening the productivity- Once the CFO has dealt with the cash preservation concerns, they should focus on the improvements of near-term performances. It’s up to the CFO to switch production to new products and services that assist customers in need. That will bolster their loyalty and improve the company’s quarterly returns. For example – several companies are now shifting to alternative sales and delivery channels including eCommerce.
  • Reassess the company investments- Reducing inventory, refinancing outstanding credit, accounts receivable and payable – are all parts of the balance sheet that deserve deep diagnostics by the CFO during this period. CFOs should encourage and guide the R&D, capital allocations and IT to optimize the organization’s investment portfolio.
  • Focus on financial planning and analysis – The beginning of a financial crisis is the right time for the financial planning and analytics team to revisit the company budgeting and forecasting. The FP&A team’s task should be to monitor the KPIs and manage them to provide data to the decision making authorities in real-time.

Succeeding in the “next normal”

  • Be ready for transformation- When a CFO wants their company to thrive in what comes after a debilitating economic crisis, they have to prepare for a transformation mindset during allocating the company resources.
  • The FP&A team headed by the CFO should review the company’s investment portfolio once again and focus on each business unit’s achievement of the maximum potential.
  • Considering if pestitures can improve company portfolio- CFOs should consider if pestitures can improve the company returns in the immediate quarter. History shows that the resilient companies (during the previous economic crisis) pested 1.5x more than the non-resilient companies. The plummeting economy can create multiple opportunities for mergers and acquisitions by companies seeing profit even during the crisis. A systematic approach to M&A may improve a company’s investment in the long period of recuperation.
  • Adapt digitization -The COVID-19 pandemic is the first disruption that has made the practice of remote working popular and productive for multiple companies. It is time that most companies keep the practice alive after the crisis is over. CFOs should consider the impact of a digital workforce on the company finances long after the COVID-19 crisis is over. The CFO and the PF&A team can help scale up the financial forecasts and collaborative dashboards to the entire company and its subsidiary which can be invaluable for informed decision making and reporting.

In the tough days, when employees or their loved ones may be struggling with health issues, anxiety or financial concern, CFOs much exhibit empathy. Financial officers should adopt bounded optimism to deal with the rising concerns about unemployment and financial insecurity across every rung of their company.

Yogita Tulsiani is MD & Co-founder, iXceed Solutions.

Multiplex Association of India appeals to Maharashtra government to reopen theatres

The Multiplex Association of India (MAI), along with leading cinema chains

PVR

and

INOX

, on Tuesday urged the Maharashtra government to reopen theatres in the state on “urgent basis”, claiming that the exhibition industry has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 4,800 crore. The coronavirus pandemic had an overwhelming effect on the film industry as many film shoots and theatres across India were halted twice.

In 2020, film production activities and theatres business came to a standstill from mid-March when the pandemic first hit India, only to be restarted for a few months from October and November in various parts of the country.

Due to the second wave of COVID-19, which hit India in April this year, theatres across India remained closed from the same month.

As cases of COVID-19 dropped, states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have permitted the resumption of operations in cinema halls.

However, Maharashtra, a key centre for Hindi films, is yet to receive consent for the reopening of theatres from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

In its letter, which the MAI shared on its official Twitter handle, the organisation said due to closure of theatres, the exhibition sector has suffered huge financial losses since March 2020.

“At the rate of a monthly loss of Rs 400 crore, the Maharashtra cinema exhibition industry has lost approximately Rs 4,800 crore in various lockdowns since March 2020.

“Films are the soft power of Maharashtra and cinemas continue to be the main form of entertainment for millions of Indians,” the letter read.

The association noted that there are around 1,000 cinema screens across Maharashtra, which directly and indirectly employs lakhs of people in the state.

“Due to the nation-wide lockdown, the cinema exhibition industry has run into an extremely adverse and hostile situation; it was the first sector to be shut down and will be the last sector to reopen,” the letter stated.

Why have theatres not been allowed to reopen as part of the state government’s Unlock Maharashtra plan, asked the association.

“Malls, Airlines, Railways, Retail, Restaurants, Gyms and many such services have already been restarted as part of ‘Unlock Maharashtra’. In the recently announced unlock guidelines, Local Trains, Parks and Beaches have also been permitted to reopen.

“Cinemas are equipped with better abilities to ensure crowd management in stringent hygienic environments while maintaining social distancing norms,” it said.

The MAI claimed that cinema halls are equipped with better facilities to ensure crowd management.

“Only paying patrons visit us unlike other activities where there are no entry tickets, movie show timings are staggered, therefore no crowd builds up and there is availability of ample waiting areas.

“There are controlled and regulated entry and exit Cinemas are professionally managed, hence compliance of SOPs is assured,” the letter stated.

The cinema body stressed that all the other states across the country have reopened cinemas, except Maharashtra, which is the most critical part of a functioning movie industry.

“Given the dire economic impact of the epidemic on our sector and the resultant loss of jobs, we sincerely urge the government of Maharashtra to allow reopening of cinemas on an urgent basis and facilitate an early vaccination of people employed in the cinemas,” the letter concluded.

MAI’s appeal to the state government was published as full page advertisements in some newspapers and on social media, using the hashtag #UnlockCinemaSaveJobs.

The letter has been supported by leading theatre chains like PVR, INOX and Cinepolis as well as the Producers Guild of India.

PVR Pictures CEO Kamal Gianchandani shared the letter on social media and appealed to the Maharashtra chief minister to reopen cinema halls in the state.

“Film Industry appeals for reopening of CinemasFolded hands @CMOMaharashtra @rajeshtope11 @AmitV_Deshmukh @AUThackeray #UnlockCinemasSaveJobs,” Gianchandani wrote.

Siddharth Jain, executive director at INOX Group, also urged the state government to give the green signal for the reopening of cinemas.

“With lakhs of jobs at stake & revenue share of 30% of Hindi film collection, Maharashtra plays a vital role in the cinema industry.

“With all commercial businesses operating in the state we request @CMOMaharashtra to give a green signal to cinemas as well #UnlockCinemasSaveJobs,” he tweeted.

Cinepolis made a similar request via its social media handle.

“#Cinepolis appeals for reopening of #Cinemas in #Maharashtra,” the theatre chain tweeted.

According to Nitin Datar, president of Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI), the state government has only given “false assurances” to them.

“We met deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar 10 days ago and have written several letters to the government but we have only (got) false assurances.

“We wonder if the government wants cinema halls to go into debt trap and sell our properties to builders,” Datar told PTI.

He also said a lot of states except Maharashtra have either given concession to the cinema halls or completely waived property tax of the theatres.

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar’s “BellBottom” was the first Hindi movie to release theatrically in states on August 19, where cinema halls have been allowed to resume operations.

Cipla eyes acquisitions after Covid windfall

Cipla Ltd., one of India’s largest drugmakers, has built up a war chest and is on the prowl for deals that can boost growth beyond the Covid-19 windfall it garnered this year.

With its extensive arsenal of Covid treatments, the Mumbai-based firm’s cash and cash equivalents swelled 33% to 49 billion rupees ($660 million) from March to June as a delta-fueled tsunami ripped across India. Cipla is on the lookout for targets in India and the U.S., its two largest markets, and may partner with smaller firms working on mRNA platforms after the technology came to the fore during the pandemic.

“We are completely open to M&A,” Samina Hamied, the company’s 45-year-old vice chairperson, said in an interview. “There’s lots of opportunity in India to build brands. We would over-index in therapies that are a complement to our business — in the U.S., we would also look at certain therapy areas, certain complex generic pieces. We would definitely look at expanding our portfolio.”

Founded in 1935 by Hamied’s grandfather in then-colonial Bombay, Cipla made its name globally by pioneering the sale of cheap, generic HIV drugs across Africa at the turn of the millennium. Since then the Hamied family has sought to build Cipla into a major global pharmaceutical player, with a current focus on expanding in North America. It currently makes up about a fifth of the firm’s sales.

Funding Frenzy
Yet with a funding frenzy currently underway in India, Cipla may struggle to find attractive targets. The 20% rise of the company’s share price this year is indicative of the wider gains across Indian stocks.

“Getting something cheap at this point of time is difficult,” said Vishal Manchanda, a pharma analyst at Mumbai brokerage Nirmal Bang. “They’ll not go aggressive in terms of overpaying for deals.”

Cipla needs to ensure its growth after the intense demand for Covid medicines started to wane following the brutal wave in the South Asian nation earlier this year, Hamied said. Official case rates have fallen below 30,000-a-day, a steep decline since May’s peak of more than 400,000.

Hamied said she hoped the worst is over as the country’s vaccination drive ramps up and antibody surveys show the majority of Indians have a natural wall of immunity. Yet she warned the second wave came “from nowhere” and said the company has stocked up on treatments following widespread shortages earlier this year.

The unprecedented demand caused prices for some Covid treatments to rocket on the black market. Many Indian families fell into crippling debt after scraping together enough money to buy medicine for their loved ones. Hamied defended the drugs, including Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir, which it has a license to manufacture and market in 127 countries including India and South Africa.

While the medicine remains on India’s Covid treatment guidelines, the World Health Organization last year recommended against its use. A controlled trial involving 562 patients showed early treatment kept high-risk Covid patients out of hospital, Gilead said last month.

Post Pandemic
“We’d never push a drug that a patient doesn’t need,” Hamied said.

Still, she acknowledged that there wasn’t a wealth of information available. Anecdotal evidence suggests it does offer life-saving benefits when used early enough, she said.

Beyond the pandemic, Cipla is focused on expanding in the U.S. with generic versions of complex medicines, including GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s asthma drug Advair and the cancer treatment Abraxane from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. It will have to overcome regulatory hurdles as the company awaits pandemic-delayed inspections of its factories.

While the U.S. regulators haven’t indicated when those may take place, “in the last couple of weeks a couple of our competitors have gotten investigated,” Hamied said. “We are hoping that we can be next and we’re in audit readiness.”

Cipla is also working to augment its pipeline in Brazil and in China, where it’s building a factory to produce respiratory products. That plant may open in about 18 months, once regulatory approval is granted, Hamied said.

Brazil and China, she said, will be “big markets for the future.”

Covishield may offer over 90% protection against death from Delta variant: Study

Two doses of Covishield and

Pfizer

COVID-19 vaccines may be 90 per cent effective at preventing deaths from the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday. The study, using data from the Scotland-wide EAVE II COVID-19 surveillance platform, is the first to show across an entire country how effective vaccines are at preventing death from the Delta variant, the dominant form of the virus in many other countries.

The research team from Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland analysed data from 5.4 million people in Scotland between April 1 and September 27, 2021.

During this period, 115,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 through a PCR test conducted in the community, rather than in hospital, and there were 201 deaths recorded due to the virus.

The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 90 per cent effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, is 91 per cent effective in preventing deaths in people who have been double vaccinated, but who have tested positive for coronavirus in the community.

“With the Delta variant now the dominant strain in many places worldwide and posing a higher risk of hospitalisation than previous variants seen in the UK, it is reassuring to see that vaccination offers such high protection from death very shortly after the second dose,” said Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, and EAVE II study lead.

“If you still have not taken up your offer to be vaccinated, I would encourage you to do so based on the clear benefits it offers,” Sheikh said.

The researchers defined death from COVID-19 as anyone who died within 28 days of a positive PCR test, or with COVID-19 recorded as a cause of death on their death certificate.

The study analysed a dataset as part of the EAVE II project, which uses anonymised linked patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine roll out in real time.

The researchers said to increase confidence in these early findings, the study needs to be repeated in other countries and settings, and with longer follow-up time after full vaccination.

They noted that because of the observational nature of the study, data about vaccine effectiveness should be interpreted with caution and it is not possible to make a direct comparison between both vaccines.

“Our findings are encouraging in showing that the vaccine remains an effective measure in protecting both ourselves and others from death from the most dominant variant of COVID-19,” said Professor Chris Robertson, from the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland.

“It is very important to validate these early results in other settings and with a longer follow-up study,” Robertson added.

Coronavirus impact worsens India’s educational divide, UN agency says

India’s school closures and its children’s lack of smartphone and internet facilities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened an educational pide, the U.N. cultural agency said, flagging risks to young people’s futures.

About 248 million students were hit by school closures since March last year, UNESCO said in a report, though many states have started easing curbs as infections dwindled and vaccinations rose in the last two months.

Nearly 70% of students lacked smartphones or other devices to access classes online, while a majority grappled with poor Internet facilities, or none, especially in rural areas, it added.

“There is an urgent need to plan to get students and their teachers back to school,” the agency said in its report on education in India issued on Tuesday.

Almost 40% of parents could not afford internet costs, affecting learning, and so widening the educational gap between different parts of society, it said in the report, based on government data.

Widespread economic distress and job losses as people fled home to villages in the countryside have pushed families into poverty, worsening distress for children from such woes as malnutrition and early marriages for girls, the agency said.

Worst-hit were private schools that receive no government grants, but where many poor families aspiring for a better education send their children, as parents found themselves unable to pay fees after the reduced economic activity.

India’s economy contracted an annual 7.3% in the fiscal year that ended in March 2021, in the worst recession since independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1947.

Salary cuts or job losses faced teachers in the private schools employing nearly 30% of India’s total of 9.7 million, as many students were withdrawn or shifted to schools subsidised by the government.

UNESCO called for India to recognise teachers as “frontline workers” in the battle on the pandemic, and improve working conditions for them to ensure better outcomes in education.

“Quality of education is the core challenge of the next decade,” it said.

India will likely restart exporting COVID-19 vaccines in 2022, government official says

India will likely restart exporting Covid-19 vaccines next year once it has immunized its own adult population, the head of an influential government expert panel said.

“Almost 60 countries are hardly having any access to vaccine and India should be able to provide a substantial portion in 2022,” N.K. Arora, chairman of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization in India, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. “As soon as we are through with our adult population we should have sufficient vaccine to share with the rest of the world.”

The South Asian nation, which has the second largest Covid outbreak with 32.5 million infections, should have six locally-developed shots by the end of 2021, Arora said. As the head of vaccine advisory group, he helps the Indian federal government evaluate new vaccines as well as review data from those already rolled out.

Home to the world’s biggest vaccine-producing industry, India earlier this year was shipping out shots to poorer nations amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-touted vaccine diplomacy. There was also an expectation that the country would be a major supplier to the World Health Organization-backed Covax effort for global equitable access to these vaccines.

But the onset of a devastating second-wave of infections and local supply delays prompted the government to prioritize its own citizens and halted overseas shipments in April.

Covax has since struggled to make up for the shortfall, looking instead to countries such as China to fill the gap as India slowly bolsters its own capacity. A boosted portfolio of vaccines by the year end should cover Indian government’s plans to fully immunize 920 million adults, Arora said.

“That means our requirement will be 1.8 million doses by that time,” he said. “The way our pipeline is we should be able to reach and meet our target by the end of the year.”

Upcoming production
Already vaccines from

AstraZeneca

Plc — churned out by the Serum Institute of India Ltd. — and Bharat Biotech International Ltd. are being widely deployed in the country, while doses from Cadila Healthcare Ltd. and Russia’s Sputnik V are expected to begin local production in coming months.

Serum, the country’s largest supplier, should be raising its monthly contribution to about 150 million doses from almost 120 million shots currently, Arora said. By September, Bharat Biotech will provide about 120 million doses after “some initial glitches.” Other Indian vaccine makers, Biological E. Ltd. and Genova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd., should also start contributing to the supplies, he said.

India has so far administered more than 589 million doses, but even that huge coverage has only fully vaccinated about 10% of the population, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

Arora said that India isn’t looking to imported vaccines to help boost its own supplies. The country has been negotiating with foreign vaccine makers, such as Pfizer Inc., over legal indemnity clauses that the companies are demanding but there’s been no breakthrough yet.

“We are totally, kind of, banking on indigenously manufactured vaccines,” he said. “Our estimates on supply lines do not take into account any of the vaccines from abroad.”

Govt allows pre-printed packaging to be used until September due to pandemic

MUMBAI: The government has allowed companies to use pre-printed packaging material stock till September 30 due to the prevailing situation of pandemic coronavirus.

Several sectors including fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceutical, packaged food among others are expected benefited due to this. Under the laws, in normal circumstances, relabelling or putting stickers on earlier dates are not permitted.

However, keeping the current situation in mind, the exemption has been given to the companies.

“Due to the prevalent condition of COVID-19, leading to a lockdown of the whole country the manufacturing activities have come to a grinding halt,” said the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution in its notification of April 17. “…the inventory of packaging material/wrapper with a pre-printed date of manufacturing is not to be exhausted within the time limit prescribed under the rules.”

The government has issued this notification to allow the use of packaging material with pre-printed dates which have expired but the packing material could not be used. Such material can be now used until September.

This will be applicable to those manufacturers or packers who have to declare the month and year of manufacturing/packing under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rule, 2011.

According to Stuti Galia, Solicitor at Khaitan & Co, Ministry of Consumer Affairs has taken a pragmatic view by allowing the use of additional stickers/ online printing/ stamping for the purpose of declaring correct month and year of manufacturing/ packaging on existing pre-printed packaging material, which could not be utilized on account of COVID-19 crisis.

“Use of such additional stickers was not allowed earlier,” said Galia further adding that this move is hence intended to reduce administrative hassle and wastage of existing stock/inventory pre-printed packaging material.