Syrian ‘hero migrants’ deserve medals: German politicians

Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maiziere and head of the Federal Agency of Migration and Refugees Frank-Juergen Weise hold a press conference regarding the numbers of asylum seeker for September 2016 as well as the third quarter 2016 in the Federal press conference in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 12 October 2016

Syrian ‘hero migrants’ deserve medals: German politicians

BERLIN: Two Syrian refugees should get medals for their bravery after capturing a fellow migrant suspected of planning to bomb a Berlin airport, German politicians said on Wednesday.
The actions of the two men, who tied up the suspect in a Leipzig apartment and alerted police, have been seized on as a rare good news story in the midst of the migration crisis facing Germany and Europe.
“The young men have earned the Federal Cross of Merit,” Social Democrat defense expert Johannes Kahrs told Bild newspaper, adding they had shown a profound respect toward Germans. “It is hard to imagine more integration, it is exemplary,” he said.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the fact they had acted to assist the security authorities, regardless of the risk to their own safety, deserved to be “fully recognized and appreciated.”
Maiziere said Germany registered 213,000 asylum seeker arrivals in the year’s first nine months, a sharp slowdown from the record influx of 2015.
Migrants’ influx to Germany has raised fears about security, especially after migrants were involved in bomb, knife and machete attacks in July. Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn criticism from her own conservative camp and shed support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.
Investigators believe Syrian Jaber Albakr, 22, who arrived in Germany last year, was close to staging an attack comparable to those that killed 130 people in Paris
last November and 32 in Belgium in March. They suspect he was inspired by the Daesh terror group.
His fellow-Syrians picked him up at Leipzig train station after he contacted an online network for Syrian refugees. After recognizing him from pictures on Facebook as the target of a police manhunt, they overpowered him and alerted the authorities.
“He resisted a little bit, he didn’t want to be tied up and then he said, ‘I will give you money, don’t turn me in. I got into this by mistake.’ But of course we didn’t agree,” one of his captors, Mohamed, told RTL German television.
“We respect this country and its people, its government and its laws. We don’t want something like this to happen here,” he said.
The manner of Albakr’s arrest has led to renewed calls for a review of all migrants who were granted asylum in last year’s influx. It has also raised questions about whether the police botched an earlier attempt to arrest him.
Bild showed a picture of Albakr on a sofa in the Leipzig apartment with his ankles bound by an electric cable and one of the migrants holding him in a headlock. “Why didn’t the police manage that?” it asked.


Why India cases are rising to multiple peaks

Updated 11 July 2020

Why India cases are rising to multiple peaks

  • India has tallied 793,802 infections and more than 21,600 deaths, with cases doubling every three weeks

NEW DELHI: In just three weeks, India went from the world’s sixth worst-affected country by the coronavirus to the third, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. India’s fragile health system was bolstered during a stringent monthslong lockdown but could still be overwhelmed by an exponential rise in infections.
Here is where India stands in its battle against the virus:

Steady climb, multiple peaks
India has tallied 793,802 infections and more than 21,600 deaths, with cases doubling every three weeks. It’s testing more than 250,000 samples daily after months of sluggishness, but experts say this is insufficient for a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.
“This whole thing about the ‘peak’ is a false bogey because we won’t have one peak in India, but a series of peaks,” said Dr. Anant Bhan, a bioethics and global health researcher. He pointed out that the capital of New Delhi and India’s financial capital, Mumbai, had already seen surges, while infections had now begun spreading to smaller cities as governments eased restrictions. The actual toll would be unknown, he said, unless India made testing more accessible.

John Hopkins University graphic

Dubious data
The Health Ministry said Thursday that India was doing “relatively well” managing COVID-19, pointing to 13 deaths per 1 million people, compared to about 400 in the United States and 320 in Brazil. But knowing the actual toll in India is “absolutely impossible” because there is no reporting mechanism in most places for any kind of death, said Dr. Jayaprakash Muliyil, an epidemiologist at the Christian Medical College in Vellore who has been advising the government.
Official data shows 43% of the people who have died from the coronavirus were between the ages of 30 and 60, but research globally indicates that the disease is particularly fatal to the elderly, suggesting to Muliyil that many virus deaths among older Indians “don’t get picked up” or counted in the virus fatality numbers.


“No central coordination”
In India, public health is managed at a state level, and some have managed better than others. The southern state of Kerala, where India’s first three virus cases were reported, has been held up as a model. It isolated patients early, traced and quarantined contacts and tested aggressively. By contrast, Delhi, the state that includes the national capital, has been sharply criticized for failing to anticipate a surge of cases in recent weeks as lockdown measures eased. Patients have died after being turned away from COVID-designated hospitals that said they were at capacity. It led the Home Ministry to intervene and allocate 500 railway cars as makeshift hospital wards.
But as the capital rushes to conjure new beds, officials admit that they’re worried about the lack of trained and experienced health care workers. According to Jishnu Das, a professor of economics at Georgetown University, there is “no central coordination” to move health care staff from one state to another, exposing India’s relative inability to use data to guide policy decisions.
“The one big thing that we’re learning from this pandemic is it takes any cracks in our systems and it drives a chisel to them. So, it’s no longer a crack, it’s a huge chasm,” Das said.

India’s role in global fight
India has seven vaccines in various stages of clinical trial, including one by Bharat Biotech that the Indian Council on Medical Research pledged would have results from human trials by Aug. 15, the country’s Independence Day. The top medical research body quickly backtracked, but regardless of whether India comes out on top in the global race for a vaccine, the country will play a critical role in the world’s inoculation against COVID-19.
The Serum Institute of India in the central Indian city of Pune is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. India makes about 1,000 ventilators and 600,000 personal protective equipment kits per day, according to government think-tank Niti Aayog, making it the second largest kit maker in the world after China.


The economic curve
Although Indian airspace remains closed to commercial airlines from abroad, India’s economy has largely reopened. Consumer activity has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, government data showed, and factory workers who fled cities when India imposed its lockdown March 24 have begun to return, enticed, in some cases, by employers offering free room and board.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has used the health crisis along with a military standoff with China over a disputed border region to rally the country around the idea of a “self-reliant India” whose home-grown industries will emerge stronger. Approval ratings that US pollster Morning Consult estimate at 82% suggest many Indians are with him, even after the hasty lockdown triggered a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of migrant workers fleeing on foot toward their natal villages, and as two top government scientists on the front lines of the coronavirus fight stepping down in recent weeks. With the coronavirus nowhere near abating in India, how Modi will fare as the toll of infections and deaths continues to rise is still unclear.