BBC News – Mumbai: India hospital delivers 100 babies from Covid-19 mums

Soutik Biswas – India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 21 May 2020. More than 100 healthy babies have been born to mothers infected with the novel coronavirus in one hospital in India’s western city of Mumbai.

Three of the 115 babies born to infected mothers at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital in the past month initially tested positive for Covid-19, but subsequent tests cleared them, doctors said.

Two other infected pregnant women died at the hospital, including one who died before her baby was born. With nearly 24,000 reported infections and more than 840 deaths so far, India’s financial and entertainment capital has become the epicentre of Covid-19.

More than half of the babies born to infected women at the hospital, also called Sion Hospital, were delivered through C-section, while the rest were natural births, officials said.

Fifty-six of them were boys, while 59 were girls. Twenty-two of these infected mothers were referred to from other hospitals: it is not clear whether the majority of these women contracted the infection at home, outdoors or in a hospital ward.

A team of 65 doctors and two dozen nurses have been treating these Covid-infected mothers in a 40-bed special ward. With the surge of infections, the hospital is planning to add another 34 beds for infected pregnant patients.

The deliveries are happening on half a dozen tables in three operation theatres where doctors, and nurses and anaesthetists are using protective gear.

“We are fortunate that most of the women who have tested positive are showing no symptoms at all. Some of them had fever and reported breathlessness. We have treated them and sent them home after delivery,” Dr Arun Nayak, head of gynaecology at the hospital, said.

“There is a lot of anxiety among the mothers. They keep telling us they might die but we have to make sure that the child is healthy.”

After giving birth, the mothers remain in the special ward for Covid-19 patients for a week and are administered hydroxychloroquine. After that they are quarantined up to 10 days in a separate centre. The babies are not isolated and are breastfed by mothers wearing facemasks.

In February, a Chinese newborn was diagnosed with the new coronavirus just 30 hours after birth in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.

And in March, an infant who had tested positive for Covid-19 died in Chicago, the first known death of a child younger than a year infected with the virus in US.

A six-week-old infant reportedly died of complications relating to Covid-19 in Connecticut. And earlier this month, a three-day-old baby died after his mother tested positive for the virus in Wales.

Mother to child transmission of the virus, in the womb or at the time of delivery, prior to contact of the infant with the mother’s respiratory secretions, is rare, Dr Adam Ratner, the director of paediatric infectious diseases at New York University School of Medicine and Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health, told me.

This is, of course, with a caveat, he says, that “this is a rapidly changing situation and new data may arise”. Dr Ratner says there is some emerging data that suggests that the novel coronavirus can be detected in placental tissues.

There have also been reports of babies dying in the foetus in pregnant women with acute infection, he said, “but that may be for reasons other than direct infection of the foetus”.

Dr Ratner said there has also been a report of “antibody responses” in newborns that could be “consistent with infection in the womb or at delivery”. That would mean that the baby could have been infected in the womb.

“It is very important to continue to examine these questions and look at the outcomes of infants born to mothers with Covid-19, even if they are not infected in the womb,” Dr Ratner said. Dr Ratner said he had helped care for a number of infants born of infected mothers at his hospital.

“We have allowed feeding of expressed breast milk and we are trying to find arrangements to protect the infant from acquiring the virus in early life. “The very young children that I have seen with the infection have generally done well,” he said.

At the Mumbai hospital, the number of infants born to Covid-19 positive mothers have been a little more than 20% of the total babies born in the same period.

“The one time we felt really upset when a 28-year-old infected mother passed away last week after delivering a healthy boy. Her liver was failing and she was sinking fast,” Dr Nayak told me.

“He realised how helpless we were during treatment. She kept asking, helplessly, ‘Can anything be done?'”

The Tribune – Deported from the USA – 167 illegal immigrants reach Amritsar

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2020. The US has deported 167 illegal Indian immigrants through a special flight that landed at the airport here around 4 pm on Tuesday.

On their arrival, they were shifted to a high-security area where medical teams screened each one of them. They had reports of rapid diagnostic test (Covid-19) conducted before boarding the plane in the US. As the protocol demands, all will be placed under the 14-day quarantine in their home districts.

Ajnala SDM Deepak Bhatia said, “The medical examination of the returnees is underway. So far, no suspected case of Covid-19 has surfaced.”

Of the 167 illegal immigrants, 79 are from Haryana, 67 from Punjab, eight from Gujarat, three each from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, two each from Kerala and Telangana, and one each from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Goa.

The SDM said, “Of the 67 returnees from Punjab, five each belong to Amritsar and Tarn Taran. Besides, 21 others will stay in Amritsar temporarily before they will be sent to their native states. We are working on the modalities in this connection.”

Sources say the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 1,793 illegal Indian immigrants.

Most of them sneaked in to Texas, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta illegally through Mexico border illegally and sought asylum on the pretext of “atrocities and persecution” in India. They were, however, nabbed and lodged in 95 detention centres in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco.


28 March 2020

Taken from the footbridge
Looking towards Merelbeke station

Looking towards Gent

Looking towards Merelbeke and Melle

The stairs to/from the footbridge

Looking towards Gent
Left tracks to Gent-Sint-Pieters
Right tracks to Gent-Dampoort

On the Merelbeke side of the railway you’ll find streets
that belong to the city of Gent and to
the municipalities of – Merelbeke and Melle

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – Sikh student called a terrorist, targeted with racial slurs while school did nothing, suit claims

Matt Gray

Gloucester County – New Jersey – USA, 20 May 2020. Students targeted a Sikh high schooler with racial slurs and called him a terrorist, while school officials failed to stop the abuse, according to a lawsuit filed in Superior Court.

The Gloucester County Institute of Technology student’s mother has filed a lawsuit on her son’s behalf alleging the county special services school district board of education violated the state Law Against Discrimination by refusing to address the bullying, which she says was based on his religious faith and national origin.

She also alleges he faced retaliation for speaking up about the mistreatment.

Her 17-year-old son, identified only by the initials A.M. in the lawsuit, has suffered from health problems as a result of the abuse and has been forced to continue his schooling from home, the suit states.

A.M. is of “South Asian descent, has brown skin and is a member of the Sikh religion,” according to the suit, which claims he was targeted over his religion and appearance.

Trouble began in his freshman year, when a student allegedly called him a terrorist in front of others in the school cafeteria. Issues continued in 10th grade, when that same student called A.M. “sand cricket” and “sand n—–,” the suit claims. Other students began joining in, with one repeatedly calling him “sand cricket” during gym class.

In addition to these terms, A.M. was targeted for his religious wear, “including the kara, a Sikh article of faith, which he wears around his wrist.” Two gym teachers were present when students “would openly bully and harass” A.M.

“We believe that the facts show that he was being harassed, intimidated and bulled and that it was motivated by his being Sikh and/or of Indian descent,” said the family’s attorney, Brian M. Cige. “That’s bad in and of itself, but the failure of the school to take the allegations seriously allowed this behavior to continue.”

GCIT officials did not respond to a request for comment.

In December 2018, A.M. and his mother met with Assistant Principal Joyann Ford to report the behavior, but say nothing changed. After that meeting, A.M. tried to resolve the issue himself by asking the students to stop using “racial slurs and derogatory names,” but the behavior continued.

A.M. began meeting with a therapist a month later and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, according to the lawsuit.

The family met with Ford and a school HIB (harassment, intimidation, bullying) specialist to explain that the mistreatment was continuing and that A.M. “was suffering from medical issues and under professional care as a result of the constant bullying, mocking, intimidation and harassment.”

The school began an investigation but found no evidence that A.M. was the target of harassment, intimidation or bullying, according to the suit.

The complaint describes another incident from January 2019 when one of the students in homeroom said “Look, it’s sand cricket” and “sand cricket looks upset.” Another student took out his phone to show an image he had created by taking a character from an animated film and placing A.M.’s face on the figure.

A.M. got up and asked his teacher for permission to go to the nurse’s office, where he explained what had just happened. Later that day, he said he received a message via Snapchat from one of the students involved in the homeroom incident, saying that A.M. had snitched on them and may have ruined a student’s career at GCIT.

After A.M. filed a complaint with the school, one GCIT official allegedly told him that another student identified in the complaint had done nothing wrong by calling him “sand cricket,” saying it was simply a nickname.

School officials also demanded A.M. “stop turning in students, as it was making them do too much work,” according to the suit.

Because of his issues at school, A.M.’s pediatrician recommended that he only go to GCIT for testing and only under adult supervision, and later advised that homeschooling may be necessary because of the teen’s PTSD, extreme anxiety, depression and blackouts caused by stress from the bullying.

He began homeschooling in February 2019 and has remained in that situation ever since. Before the coronavirus pandemic closed schools in March, A.M. was receiving five hours a week of in-person instruction from a school employee who came to his home.

Now that all students are learning remotely, A.M.’s schooling has been reduced to about 90 minutes a week of remote instruction, with no teacher coming to his home. Meanwhile, other GCIT students are receiving full schedules of remote instruction each school day, Cige said.

In return for raising concerns, A.M. was forced to isolate himself and take classes from home, since the district didn’t address the problem, according to his attorney. He remains separated from his classmates even while all students are now learning remotely. “Even after all the other children were receiving homeschooling, he was not reintegrated into his classroom,” Cige said.

A.M. continues to experience “difficulties with isolation as a result of being home schooled,” according to the suit, and would like to return to school in September if the district can address his complaints.

“We would like some sensitivity training so that the school recognizes the seriousness of the allegations that were raised and takes concrete action to educate so that this doesn’t continue to be an issue,” Cige said.

The Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group based in New York City, has joined as a non-profit co-counsel on the case.

In addition to seeking remedies to the alleged discrimination, the state Law Against Discrimination allows compensatory damages for emotional distress and to cover litigation costs.

A.M. continues to work hard, Cige noted.

“While some students facing similar challenges might see their academic performance plummet, that hasn’t been the case here,” the attorney said. “His grades are fine. I’m pleased to say that his academic performance is good.”

The Print – ‘Never seen such devastation before’: CM Mamata Banerjee says Amphan has completely destroyed Bengal

Cyclone Amphan causes massive destruction across at least 7 districts. Twelve dead, damage to public property pegged at over Rs 1 lakh crore. CM Mamata has urged Modi government for help.

Madhuparna Das

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 21 May 2020. Cyclone Amphan Wednesday ravaged several parts of West Bengal, including capital Kolkata, killing at least 12 people. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she had never seen in her lifetime this level of devastation as she requested the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for “help”.

In a live video session hours after the cyclone made landfall and affected at least seven districts, the CM said she was “shocked” to see such a massive disaster. She stressed the cyclone’s “unexpected scale” several times during the session.

Banerjee said 99 per cent of South 24 Parganas district has been wiped out, adding several structures of the newly-constructed secretariat building have been damaged too. Among the 10-12 killed was a 13-year-old girl, said the CM.

However, the casualty figure will be much higher in districts, especially in the coastal areas, said a senior official, who didn’t wish to be named, adding that details about the loss of lives are being ascertained. The communication channels were lost and information was not reaching the state secretariat, the official added.

The extent of damage, particularly the loss of public property, is over Rs 1 lakh crore, Banerjee said at the state secretariat, Nabanna. “I would urge the Centre to help us out and refrain from doing politics.

We were suffering from an economic meltdown following the outbreak, and somehow dealing with the reverse migration. With the cyclone, the state is now completely destroyed.”

She camped at Nabanna Wednesday night, as did all senior officials. Banerjee said many more people would have lost their lives had the government not evacuated nearly 5 lakh people in the last two days. She requested the villagers not to leave the relief camps now.

The government had earlier opened a control room with two dedicated numbers to help people “fight Amphan”.

‘Damage worse than coronavirus crisis’

The situation in West Bengal is “grim” and Cyclone Amphan has caused “unthinkable damage” across some south Bengal districts including Kolkata, the CM said. “It is a devastation I have not seen in my life. Nearly 99 per cent of South 24 Parganas, one of the districts where the cyclone hit, has been wiped out. The damage to the state is worse than that it suffered due to coronavirus,” she said.

“Communication across districts has been cut-off. Roads and bridges have been destroyed. Administration needs to reach those places. However, no communication is possible now. It will take at least 4 to 5 days for the government to understand the extent of damage and estimate the cost,” said Banerjee.

“We repaired the embankments and the bridges in South and North 24 Parganas districts just six months back, after Cyclone Bulbul hit us. Now we have to rebuild again. This time, the cyclone did not touch Odisha, and our Bangla is bearing the brunt,” she said.

Kolkata battered

Cyclone Amphan, which was initially classified as a ‘super’ cyclone but downgraded to ‘extremely serious’ later, destroyed several parts of West Bengal, with the state capital among the worst hit.

At least 1,000-odd trees got uprooted across different thoroughfares and in localities, causing immense damage. At least two people have been confirmed dead, a wall collapsed on a woman and her son in south Kolkata. In Howrah, a 13-year-old girl died after a portion of a house fell on her. A middle aged woman was killed in North 24 Parganas as a flying object hit her fatally.

Large parts of the city are still in dark as many transformers exploded during the storm surge. Most of Kolkata remains heavily inundated as the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) struggles to pump the water out.

“We have all our units working. There are at least 36 teams present in KMC, while all boroughs have separate teams. It is a damage that looks manageable now. (But) It will take time,” said Deputy Mayor Atin Ghosh.

Around early evening Wednesday, the city witnessed wind speeds of close to 130 kmph, which later went down to 105 kmph. Heavy-to-very-heavy rainfall led to waterlogging across many localities, said a senior official of the meteorological department.

Power outages too were reported from across the city.

According to weather experts, this is one of the major cyclonic storms to have passed through Kolkata in decades. The last time the city was majorly affected by a cyclone was when it was hit by the “the tail” of Aila in 2009. During last year’s Cyclone Bulbul, the city escaped any major damage.

‘Never seen such devastation before’: CM Mamata says Amphan has completely destroyed Bengal