China has acknowledged four of its soldiers were killed during an Indian mountain border clash last year for first time

Line of Actual Control (LAC
Screenshot of footage recorded in mid-June 2020 shows a wounded Chinese soldier receiving medical attention from his comrades in the area of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Himalayas, released by China Central Television (CCTV) on February 20, 2021.

  • The death of the 4 soldiers came as China and India fought in the Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020.
  • China confirmed this for the first time in the PLA Daily for the first time.
  • It relates to a shared 2,100 mile-long de facto border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
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China has acknowledged that four of its troops were killed during a mountain border clash with India last summer for the first time.

The death of the soldiers, the youngest of whom was 19, came as China and India fought in the Himalayan Galwan Valley in June in the deadliest confrontation between them for almost 46 years.

China confirmed this for the first time in its official military newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily (PLA Daily).

PLA Daily identified them as Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran and said the first three were killed in the fight while Wang died trying to cross a river to help his comrades.

Battalion commander Chen Hongjun and the three other troops who died, whose ranks remain unknown, were all named martyrs and given posthumous honors alongside a fifth individual, it added.

Immediately after the clash, India said 20 of its soldiers had been killed while China simply said that there had been fatalities on both sides but refused to share the exact number of deaths among their troops despite various, unconfirmed reports estimating more than 40.

China and India share a 2,100 mile-long de facto border in the Himalayas called the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which was created in 1962 following a war between them for the stretch of land.

It has been a source of tension ever since, with each side regularly stating the other has overstepped the somewhat poorly defined boundary into their territory in the Pangong Tso area of Ladakh.

In early May, Chinese and Indian troops and tanks were in the middle of a stand-off in the Karakoram mountains and engaged in shouting matches, stone throwing and fistfights since a bilateral accord prevents the use of guns by either side, France 24 reported.

By the following month, things had escalated and eventually spread north into the Galwan Valley, where India has built an all-weather military road along the much-disputed border, Sky News added.

Although both countries agreed not to send more troops in September and began talks that temporarily resolved the issue, there was a “minor” incident last month. However, they have since agreed to “disengage” and are beginning to withdraw from the LAC.

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India’s sudden drop in coronavirus cases has puzzled disease experts. Strict public-health measures and difficulty recording rural cases may have factored in.

india school coronavirus
A student gets her body temperature taken in Hyderabad, India on February 1, 2021.

  • India’s daily coronavirus cases have plummeted since September.
  • The nation is now reporting just 8 daily cases per one million people, among the lowest per-capita rates in the world.
  • Experts say the decline is puzzling. The difficulty of recording rural cases, combined with strict public-health measures, may offer some explanation.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

At the start of the pandemic, few countries were more ripe for a major coronavirus outbreak than India.

Not only is India the world’s second most populous country, it’s also one of the densest, with around 1,200 people per square mile. Cases there climbed steadily from April through September, reaching a peak of nearly 100,000 daily cases on September 16.

Then something unexpected happened: India’s daily cases plummeted from mid-September until February, with average weekly cases dropping by roughly a third each month. The nation is now reporting fewer than 11,300 daily cases, on average – around 8 per 1 million people, among the lowest per-capita rates in the world.

India’s health ministry has attributed this success to a few factors, including a robust testing and contact-tracing effort. But infectious-disease experts say the quick turnaround is puzzling.

India only began administering coronavirus vaccines in mid-January, so it’s probably too soon for vaccinations to affect transmission. Some public-health experts say India’s strict mask mandates may have helped lower cases, but masks have been required there since April, so that don’t fully explain why cases dwindled so dramatically in the fall.

“There are a lot of questions and lessons to be learned, and I think that we need to do a deeper dive into what they’ve done well,” Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, told Insider.

Kuppalli’s previous research focused on barriers to medical care among women with HIV in southern India.

“I know from having worked and lived in India that they have a lot of challenges in terms of dealing with large populations that are in close quarters, infection control issues, hygiene issues, ventilation issues – all the things that we are concerned about in terms of how this disease spreads,” she said.

Kuppalli added that it’s worth studying whether India’s population may have unique genetic or demographic characteristics that make people less susceptible to symptomatic COVID-19 infection. It’s also possible, she added, that coronavirus cases are simply hard to record in rural areas.

Penalties for not wearing masks 

india mask school
Students wearing face masks attend class in Hyderabad, India on February 1, 2021.

Widespread adherence to public-health measures may partly explain why India has gotten its outbreak under control. Several large cities and states there began requiring masks in public places in April, two months before the World Health Organization recommended face coverings for the general public.

Since then, the nation’s largest city, Mumbai, has levied fines against those who violate the rule. By October, Mumbai had collected a total of more than $70,000 in fines from more than 14,000 people who’d failed to wear masks in public. By early December, Delhi had also issued around 500,000 mask fines, The Wall Street Journal reported

For the most part, Indians have been supportive of mask requirements: In an October survey from social media platform LocalCircles (which included more than 15,000 responses across roughly 200 districts in India), nearly 90% of respondents said they were in favor of a mask mandate. About 40% said they would support increased penalties for those who didn’t comply.

The US, by contrast, has struggled to convince large segments of the public that masks are an effective tool. 

“The United States very much failed from a lack of national leadership, miscommunication, and a lack of community engagement. I think we can really boil it down to those three things,” Kuppalli said, adding, “we still have people who don’t believe the pandemic is real in this country.”

A focus on ‘test, trace, isolate’

india contact tracing
A member of the internal medical team at the Ahmedabad One Mall checks a staffer’s Aarogya Setu app, India’s virus contact-tracing app, on June 7, 2020.

Epidemiologists typically rely on a three-step strategy to contain a virus: test, trace, isolate.

Though India’s testing got off to a slow start, it has ramped up considerably since the summer. By August, the nation had nearly 1,600 testing labs, up from just 14 in February 2020. India is administering nearly 486,000 daily tests. Only two other countries, the UK and the US, are testing more.

India’s large population also worked to its advantage when it came to enlisting contact tracers.

From March through April, tens of thousands of health workers traced the contacts of more than 435,000 infected people across two southern states, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The workers reached more than 3 million contacts, around 575,000 of whom had available COVID-19 test results.

These efforts were made easier by a longstanding disease surveillance network that began monitoring COVID-19 cases in late January 2020.

As of April, Indian residents could download the nation’s contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu, to find out if they had been been within 6 feet of an infected person. Indian residents are asked to download the app if isolating due to a positive COVID-19 test and report any symptoms to a local surveillance officer.

Possible immunity to new pathogens

India covid
A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a resident during a coronavirus screening at a civic clinic in Mumbai on October 12, 2020.

India has indeed seen fewer COVID-19 deaths per million than many developed nations. As of Wednesday, 113 out of every million people in India had died of COVID-19, compared to nearly 1,500 out of every million in the US and 1,755 per million in the UK.

India is now recording fewer than one daily death per million people.

Kuppalli said India’s rapidly falling cases raises another important question: “Are there things about this particular population, this ethnicity, that puts them at decreased risk?” 

An August study suggested that populations with a higher exposure to diverse types of bacteria – predominantly due to poor sanitation – might see fewer COVID-19 deaths per million, perhaps because of an acquired or innate immunity to new pathogens. This line of thinking isn’t new: A 2006 study found that developing countries may have a different “immunological experience” with tuberculosis than the US and Europe.

“Look at the average Indian: He or she has probably had malaria at some point in his life or typhoid or dengue,” Sayli Udas-Mankikar, an urban policy expert at the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai, recently told NPR. “You end up with basic immunity toward grave diseases.”

The idea remains a theory for now, however.

Rural populations are harder to surveil 

rural india coronavirus
Chhayarani Sahu, an Indian farmer, plucks vegetables at in Bhadrak on September 14, 2020.

The coronavirus spreads best in dense, crowded environments. That means countries like the US, where more than 80% of residents live in urban areas, face an uphill battle to contain the virus’ spread.

India, on the other hand, is less urbanized: Around 65% of Indian residents live in rural areas. 

Though the virus has undoubtedly reached India’s rural population, the nation’s cities have been particularly hard-hit. By May, nearly 80% of India’s total COVID-19 cases hailed from just 30 cities. A January survey found that 56% out 28,000 people sampled in Delhi tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

But Kuppalli said health trends among India’s rural population are difficult to track.

For one thing, rural areas are larger and more spread out. Many Indians living in these communities also lack internet access, which prevents them from plugging into the nation’s surveillance network.

Kuppalli also noted that it’s difficult for patients who are sick in rural places to get to large urban hospitals because of transportation or financial issues. A 2018 report found that only one state-run hospital is available for every 90,000 people in India’s rural communities. That could mean that India simply isn’t recording as many rural cases.

That too, is just a possibility, though. For now, Kuppalli said, “it’s great that they’ve had this turnaround.”

“It’s an opportunity for us to study this population,” she added. “There are lots of things to think about and try to understand.”

This article was originally published on February 3. It has been updated to reflect the latest data on India’s coronavirus cases.

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Meet the Indian potters who are keeping an ancient tradition alive for just $40 a week

  • Potters in India hand-make thousands of small clay oil lamps in the months leading up to Diwali each year.
  • But potters make as little as $4 for every 1,000 pots they make – not nearly enough to support a family.
  • We visited potters in Delhi to see what goes into their work and how their ancient tradition is still standing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
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Tesla edges closer to launching sales in India by registering a company in the country

Elon Musk SpaceX Starlink
Elon Musk speaking at the Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington, Monday, March 9, 2020.

  • Tesla has registered a company in India as it prepares to launch operations there in “early 2021,” according to the country’s transport minister.
  • India is pushing for a boost in electric vehicle sales as it focuses on cutting emissions.
  • It has the world’s fifth biggest car market – but Toyota and Ford have been scaling back operations in the country.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tesla is coming closer to launching sales in India later this year.

The electric vehicle giant has now registered a company in the country, Reuters reported, citing documents filed on Tuesday.

India is home to the world’s second largest population and fifth biggest car market.

The company, called Tesla Motors India and Energy Private Limited, was incorporated on January 8, Reuters reported. Its office is registered in Bangalore, a city in the south that has become the country’s technology hub, and it has three listed directors.

The company’s registration came less than two weeks after Nitin Gadkari, India’s transport minister, told The Indian Express that Tesla would launch operations in India in “early 2021.” The company would start with sales then potentially moving on to assembly and manufacturing, he said.

CEO Elon Musk has been teasing Tesla’s entry into the Indian market for years.

“Next year for sure,” he said in October in response to a tweet asking when Tesla would sell its electric cars in India.

“Thanks for waiting!” Musk added.

Read more: Tesla’s new ‘tabless’ battery design eliminates the power pack’s ‘weakest link,’ a top researcher says – and could cut production costs by 50%

The Indian government is pushing for a boost in electric vehicle sales as it increasingly focuses on cutting emissions and other sustainability measures.

In September 2017, the government said all of the roughly 250 million vehicles on the road must be electric by 2030. But after fierce criticism, the government lowered this target to just 30% in February 2018.

And Delhi, the national capital, will have as many as 2,000 electric public transport buses by the end of 2021, the city’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot announced in August 2020. The ministry for power is also looking into setting up electric vehicle charging points at all gas stations in Delhi, he added.

“I am confident that in five years Indian will become the number one hub for manufacturing electric buses, cars and two-wheelers,” Nitin Gadkari, the county’s minister of road transport and highways, said in June

“It is interesting, and highly ambitious, to see that (Musk) is hoping to make inroads in a country which has a reputation for huge levels of air pollution, particularly in the big cities,” Sam Bailey from intellectual property firm Mewburn Ellis told Insider. 

“It is also evidence of his belief that Tesla is now getting closer to a price point that is attractive and affordable for people in all economies and no longer the preserve of the very rich early adopters of new technology.”

India is the third-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, after China and the US, according to the World Economic Forum, and accounts for around 7% of total global emissions.

“Tesla has rightly identified India as a market with great demand growth potential,” David Leggett, automotive analyst at GlobalData, said. “There is a large and affluent middle class developing in its many urban centres.”

“India has a population comparable in size to that of China – it is approaching 1.5 billion people – but its car market is only around 3 million, around a tenth of China’s. Over the next five years, we expect India’s car market to double in size, with electric vehicles increasing their share.”

Read more: A former Tesla employee who filed a whistleblower tip is paying the company $400,000 for divulging trade secrets, following a 2-year dispute with Elon Musk

Musk has been discussing Tesla’s launch in India for years.

Back in February 2017, Musk said he hoped to launch sales in India that summer.

Four months later, he said he was in talks with India’s government about Tesla.

Then in March 2019, he tweeted: “Would love to be there this year. If not, definitely next!” when asked when Tesla would launch sales there.

As Tesla plans its launch into the Indian markets, other vehicle manufacturers continue to pull out.

In September, Harley-Davidson announced it would stop manufacturing in India, despite its status as the world’s largest motorcycle market, and Toyota said that same month it was halting a planned expansion due to India’s high tax regime.

General Motors left India in 2017 after failing to expand its market share, and Ford said in October 2019 it was moving the majority of its assets into a joint venture with Indian vehicle firm Mahindra & Mahindra.

Earlier this month Tesla announced it had begun producing Model Y vehicles in China, the world’s largest car market, which experts say could be crucial to Tesla’s success. It also slashed the pre-order sales price for the vehicle by 30%.

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AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for emergency use in India, along with a local drugmaker’s alternative shot

India covid 19 vaccine December 2020.JPG
A man applies finishing touches to graffiti representing a vaccine in Kolkata, India.

  • Health officials in India approved two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, including one made by AstraZeneca, for emergency use. 
  • While announcing the emergency use, VG Somani, the country’s drug’s controller general said the vaccines were “110% safe,” according to The Times of India.
  • “A decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight,” India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said on Twitter.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Health officials in India on Sunday approved two COVID-19 vaccines, including one made by AstraZeneca, for emergency use. 

“A decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight,” India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said on Twitter.

The drugs controller general of India approved a local drug made by Bharat Biotech, along with the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, according to officials and media reports. 

In announcing the emergency use, VG Somani, DCGI chief, said the vaccines were “110% safe,” according to The Times of India.

AstraZeneca’s manufacturing partner, Serum Institute of India, will work to produce its drug locally, according to CEO Adar Poonawalla. AstraZeneca’s drug is called Covishield in India. 

The UK on Wednesday became the first country to approve AstraZeneca’s vaccine for emergency use. The company has reportedly increased production, with the goal of producing 2 million doses per week. 

Although the drugs were approved for emergency use, they haven’t finished clinical trials, the government said. Phase 3 trials for Bharat’s drug, Covaxin, are underway with about 20,000 volunteers in 26 hospitals, said Suchitra Ella, Bharat’s joint managing director, in a televised interview with Rajya Sabha TV on Friday. 

With a population of 1.3 billion people, India is the world’s second-most populous country. It plans to vaccinate 300 million people by July, according to Gulf News. That will include 30 million healthcare and frontline workers.

The country has been hard hit by  COVID-19. About 149,435 people have died from it in India, according to figures from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 

With 10.3 million confirmed cases, it’s behind only the US’s 20.4 million cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Like elsewhere, rumors have spread about vaccine side effects. In India, some worried the vaccine would make people impotent, a falsehood Somani sought to end on Sunday. 

“Some side effects like mild fever, pain & allergy are common for every vaccine. [The impotence rumour] is absolute rubbish,” he said, according to the Times of India. 

After the emergency approval announcement, Modi thanked frontline workers for their work battling COVID-19. 

“We reiterate our gratitude to doctors, medical staff, scientists, police personnel, sanitation workers and all Corona warriors for the outstanding work done, that too in adverse circumstances. We will remain eternally grateful to them for saving many lives,” he said. 

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Facebook reportedly hasn’t banned a violent religious extremist group in India because it fears for its business prospects and staff’s safety

Mark Zuckerberg Narendra Modi.JPG
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015.

  • Facebook’s safety team determined earlier this year that Bajrang Dal, a religious extremist group in India, was likely a “dangerous organization” that should be banned from the platform under its rules, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
  • But, The Journal reported, Facebook became concerned about banning the group after its security team warned that doing so could lead to attacks against Facebook’s staff.
  • Facebook’s inconsistency in enforcing its rules in India has also been motivated by fears that backlash from India’s nationalist ruling party could hurt business, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.
  • The social media company has increasingly come under fire over its struggle to effectively and consistently police its platform — especially outside of the US, where users have leveraged its platform to facilitate ethnic violence, undermine democratic processes, and crack down on free speech.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook determined that a religious extremist group in India likely should be banned from the platform for promoting violence, but it has yet to take action because of concerns over its staff’s safety and political repercussions that could hurt its business, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Bajrang Dal, a militant Hindu nationalist group, has physically assaulted Muslims and Christians, and one of its leaders recently threatened violence against Hindus who attend church on Christmas.

Earlier this year, Facebook’s safety team determined that Bajrang Dal likely was a “dangerous organization” and, per its policies against such groups, should be removed from the platform entirely, according to The Journal.

But Facebook hesitated to enforce those rules after its security team concluded that doing so could hurt its business in India as well as potentially trigger physical attacks against its employees or facilities, The Journal reported.

“We ban individuals or entities after following a careful, rigorous, and multi-disciplinary process. We enforce our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy globally without regard to political position or party affiliation,” a Facebook company spokesperson told Business Insider.

According to the Journal, Facebook refused to say whether it ultimately decided to designate Bajrang Dal as not dangerous.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has faced criticism over how it has – or hasn’t – enforced its rules, even within India or even within India in the past few months.

The Journal reported in August that Facebook refused to apply its hate speech policies to T. Raja Singh, a politician from India’s nationalist ruling BJP party, despite his calls to shoot Muslim immigrants and threats to destroy mosques.

Facebook employees had concluded that, in addition to violating the company’s policies, Singh’s rhetoric in the real world was dangerous enough to merit kicking him off the platform entirely. However, Facebook’s top public policy executive in India overruled them, arguing that the political repercussions could hurt the company’s business (India is its largest and fastest-growing market globally by number of users).

The internal tension over Bajrang Dal reflects the frequent challenges Facebook faces when its profits come into conflict with local governments and laws, rules the company has established for its platform, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pledges to uphold free speech and democratic processes.

In August, Facebook took the rare step of legal action against Thailand’s government over its demand that the company block users within the country from accessing a group critical of its king, though it’s complying with the government’s request while the case proceeds in court.

But BuzzFeed News reported in August that Facebook ignored or failed to quickly address dozens of incidents of political misinformation and efforts to undermine democracy around the world, particularly in smaller and non-Western countries.

And even as Zuckerberg has defended Facebook’s exemption of President Donald Trump and other politicians from its hate speech and fact-checking policies, human rights activists around the world have slammed the social media giant for refusing to protect the free speech of those not in power.

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A mysterious disease has killed at least one person and hospitalized hundreds in India, with officials finding traces of lead and nickel in their blood

india unknown illness
Patients and bystanders are seen at the district government hospital in Eluru, India, on December 6, 2020.

  • A mysterious illness in Eluru, India, which was first reported on Sunday, has led to at least one death and the sickening of more than 500 people.
  • Many of the people who were found sick had suddenly passed out and started convulsing. 
  • A preliminary analysis of the blood samples of ten patients found traces of lead and nickel, suggesting possible heavy metal poisoning. But the sample size is too small to make any direct connection yet.
  • Some health officials have also said that the pattern of people getting sick doesn’t reflect how heavy metal poisoning usually happens.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Officials are slightly closer to solving the mystery of an unidentified illness that suddenly sickened more than 500 people, and killed one man, in southeastern India over the weekend.

The outbreak started on Saturday, when residents Eluru started passing out and convulsing, and experiencing other symptoms like nausea and anxiety, according to the Associated Press. One person even died – a 45-year-old man who was admitted to the hospital for epilepsy-like symptoms, according to USA Today

None of the 555 people treated for the mysterious illness tested positive for COVID-19, likely ruling out a possible correlation to that outbreak, according to Deutsche Welle.

More than 300 of the patients were also children, Deutsche Welle reported. 

A possible cause

On Tuesday, health officials appeared closer to finding the cause of the illness, with a preliminary analysis suggesting that it was heavy metal poisoning.

Researchers at India’s All-India Institute of Medical Sciences conducted a preliminary analysis using the blood samples of 10 patients, and found traces of lead and nickel particles, Reuters reported.

However, the sample size is too small to be sure heavy metal poisoning is the cause, according to Deutsche Welle.

india illness 1
A young patient is carried by a man at the district government hospital in Eluru on December 7, 2020.

It’s so far unclear how Eluru citizens may have been exposed to heavy metals. A government inquiry has been launched into the source of the heavy metals, according to The Telegraph.

A state health commissioner told The Telegraph that initial tests of the local water and food supply came up negative for the chemicals found in the patients, but the Times of India reported on Wednesday that a leading private lab had found high levels of pesticides in the drinking water. 

The lab said that the insecticide dichlorodiphenyldichlorethane (DDD) was found at levels of 14.21 and 15.23 per mg/I, far above the acceptable limit of 0.0001. Alachlor, a herbicide, was recorded at levels of 17.64, compared the to acceptable level of 0.001, according to the Times of India. 

G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, an Indian politician from the area, tweeted on Sunday that he had spoken with health experts who believe the “most likely cause”  of the mass illness “is poisonous organochlorine substances.”

DDD is an organochlorine insecticide.

india illness 2
A patient is assisted from an ambulance at the district government hospital in Eluru on December 8, 2020.

Organochlorine substances are used in pesticides and insecticides, but have been banned or restricted in many countries because of a link to cancer, Reuters reported. However, the use of the chemical is unregulated in India, where it has been blamed for deaths in the past, according to The Telegraph.

Exposure to organochlorines can lead to convulsions, headache, nausea, vomiting, tremors, confusion, muscle weakness, slurred speech, salivation, and sweating, according to Deutsche Welle. 

Residents in Eluru have been blaming the illness on organochlorine pesticides used in a recent anti-mosquito campaign, according to The Telegraph.

Unanswered questions

However, there’s still an added layer of mystery in that the pattern of people getting sick doesn’t reflect how heavy metal poisoning usually happens.

“If it was water or air-borne, people in a particular area would be affected. However, almost the entire [city of] Eluru is affected in this case. In most cases, only one member of the family was affected, which is also puzzling,” a scientist with the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad told the Indian Express

Most of the patients have since been discharged from the hospital, and Geeta Prasadini, the public-health director of the Andhra Pradesh state, told Reuters on Tuesday that there had not been a new case in the last 24 hours. 

It’s unclear what – if any – longterm issues patients will have.

Dr. AVR Mohan, the Medical Superintendent for the district hospital in Eluru, told The Telegraph that many of the discharged continue to suffer from amnesia.

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Amazon is reportedly eyeing a $100 million investment in the Apollo Pharmacy chain, further expanding its healthcare plans

Amazon Pharmacy
Amazon considers $100 million investment in India’s pharmacy chain

  • Amazon is looking to invest nearly $100 million in Apollo Pharmacy, the Indian pharmacy chain, two people familiar with the plans told the Economic Times Wednesday.
  • Amazon’s plans to expand in India come after the launch of its own Amazon Pharmacy service in the US November 17, allowing people to buy prescription drugs through its website.
  • The potential investment would come amid competition in India from Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance, which recently bought a majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds.
  • Indian trader groups say online drugstores can contribute to medicine sales without proper verification.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon is reportedly considering a nearly $100 million investment in India’s pharmacy chain Apollo Pharmacy, close on the heels of its launch of an online pharmacy to deliver prescription drugs in the US.

The company is looking to face up to Reliance Industries Ltd and Tata Group in India’s fast-growing drug market, the Economic Times reported Wednesday, citing two people aware of the plans. 

Amazon already delivers medicines in India and the potential investment would come amid rising competition from Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance, which bought a majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds.

Both Amazon and Apollo Hospitals, which owns Apollo Pharmacy, declined to comment to Reuters.

The growth of e-pharmacies has left many Indian trader groups feeling threatened. They say online drugstores can contribute to medicine sales without proper verification and the entry of large players can cause unemployment in the sector.

Amazon’s plan to further expand in India comes after it launched its US Amazon Pharmacy service November 17, increasing its competition with drug retailers such as Walgreens, CVS Health and Walmart.

US customers can now buy drugs through Amazon’s main website.

Amazon Prime members would get benefits from the service including two-day delivery and big price cuts on generic and brand-name drugs, the company said.

Read more: Read the leaked talking points that Amazon Web Services employees are using to explain its recent massive cloud outage: ‘There is no compression algorithm for experience’

Since 2018, when the company bought a small drug-delivery startup called PillPack, industry watchers have been expecting Amazon to move into delivering drugs.

In June 2019, Amazon launched a brand of over-the-counter medication, and in August 2020, the company launched a health-monitoring wristband called Halo.

Business Insider reported in November that as the retail firm expands into healthcare, it would need to be careful not to scare consumers who may be concerned about their data privacy.

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