IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


6th April, 2020


1. Rapid antibody testing for hotspots first: ICMR

-The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said the rapid antibody based blood test for COVID­19 would be deployed by this Wednesday in clusters and hotspots showing high incidence of confirmed cases.

-       The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world.

-       The Council's research priorities coincide with the National health priorities such as control and management of communicable diseases, fertility control, maternal and child health, control of nutritional disorders, developing alternative strategies for health care delivery, containment within safety limits of environmental and occupational health problems; research on major non-communicable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, blindness, diabetes and other metabolic and haematological disorders; mental health research and drug research (including traditional remedies). All these efforts are undertaken with a view to reduce the total burden of disease and to promote health and well-being of the population.

-       The Governing Body of the Council is presided over by the Union Health Minister.

- Overall, testing for COVID­19, using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR), a laboratory technique combining reverse transcription of RNA into DNA, is increasing and that India would be approaching full capacity soon.

- Centre has decided to provide free testing and treatment of COVID­19 under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme. The move will benefit more than 50 crores beneficiaries across India.

About Ayushman Bharat Yojana:

- Also known as, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) is a scheme that aims to help economically vulnerable Indians who are in need of healthcare facilities.

- It is National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crores poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crores beneficiaries) providing coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-rapid-antibody-testing-for-hotspots-first-says-icmr/article31265319.ece

2. Reducing farm distress during a pandemic

- Signs of a collapse in agricultural prices are visible.

- The food price index of the Food and Agricultural Organization, which was showing a rising trend in food prices until January 2020, reported a 1% decline in prices month on-month in February 2020.

- This is likely to worsen further, particularly for cash crops due to declining demand.

- The slowdown in the economy domestically and the expected recession worldwide will contribute to lower demand for agricultural commodities.

What the government can do?

- Political expediency and fiscal concerns led the government to stock up food grains, with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) reporting 77 million tonnes of cereals in stocks as against the buffer requirement of 21 million tonnes as on April 1.

-       The Food Corporation of India was setup under the Food Corporation's Act 1964 , in order to fulfill following objectives of the Food Policy:

-       Effective price support operations for safeguarding the interests of the farmers.

-       Distribution of foodgrains throughout the country for public distribution system.

-       Maintaining satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of foodgrains to ensure National Food Security

-       Since its inception, FCI has played a significant role in India's success in transforming the crisis management oriented food security into a stable security system.

- The Central government has already announced that for the next three months, 5 kg of free grains will be distributed in addition to what people are entitled to under the National Food Security Act, but this has not yet reached the State governments due to the lockdown.

- While this may free up FCI godowns to some extent, it will be prudent to extend the scheme to all residents, particularly migrants who may not be able to avail of free grain in urban areas.

-The state is also expected to intervene and assure remunerative incomes to farmers. One way of ensuring this is to reduce the input costs through existing schemes of subsidies such as the fertilizer subsidy and through price reduction in petrol/diesel meant for agricultural purposes.

-But for the immediate short-term, farmers need to be compensated for the loss of income and the best way to do it is through the PM­KISAN scheme.

-       Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) is a Central Sector scheme with 100% funding from Government of India.

-       Under the Scheme an income support of Rs.6000/- per year is provided to all farmer families across the country in three equal installments of Rs.2000/- each every four months.

-       Definition of family for the Scheme is husband, wife and minor children.

-       The entire responsibility of identification of beneficiary farmer families rests with the State / UT Governments.

-       The fund is directly transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

About FAO’s Food Price Index

-It is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities. It consists of the average of five commodity group price indices, weighted with the average export shares of each of the groups for 2002-2004.

-Those 5 commodities are: cereals, vegetable oil, dairy, meat and sugar.

About FAO

- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security. Its Latin motto, fiat panis, translates to "let there be bread".

-It is headquartered in Rome, Italy.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/reducing-farm-distress-during-a-pandemic/article31264242.ece

3. Why everyone should wear masks?

- There are two ways of flattening the curve: imposing a strict lockdown for a number of weeks or use of facemasks all the time when outside our homes.

- There are four reasons for the universal use of masks.

-       First, any infected person will not infect others because the droplets of fluids that we let out during conversations, coughing or sneezing will be blocked by the mask.

-       Second, uninfected people will have some protection from droplet infection during interactions with others.

-       Third, the mask wearers will avoid inserting their fingertips into their nostrils or mouths. Viruses deposited on surfaces may be carried by hand if we touch such surfaces; if we do not touch our eyes, nostrils or mouth; this mode of transmission is prevented.

-       Fourth, everyone will be reminded all the time that these are abnormal days.

- Taiwan and the Czech Republic depended primarily on universal mask use and slowed down the epidemic.

- In the Czech Republic, people made their own masks.

- Cotton pieces, preferably coarse, three layers, stitched with two straps, make masks of sufficient quality. These masks should cover the nose from just below the eye level and reach and cover the chin. All adults, and children who are old enough to wear masks, should wear them. At the end of the day, cotton masks can be washed in soapy water and hung to dry for re­use.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/why-everyone-should-wear-masks/article31263979.ece

4. India bans export of hydroxychloroquine

- India has changed its official policy and prohibited export of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has uses in the treatment of COVID­19, hours before U.S. President Donald Trump urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release the quantity of the drug that the U.S. had ordered. 

-       Hydroxychloroquine is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria in areas where malaria remains sensitive to chloroquine. Other uses include treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and porphyria cutanea tarda.

- The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had prohibited the export of the drug on March 25. However, it left the option of export open to fulfill “export obligation” and on “humanitarian grounds”.

- On April 4, the DGFT issued a new notification, ending the exception mentioned in the previous order. As a result, India will not export hydroxychloroquine even “against full advance payment”.

About DGFT

-- Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) organization is an attached office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and is headed by Director General of Foreign Trade.

-- Right from its inception till 1991, when liberalization in the economic policies of the Government took place, this organization has been essentially involved in the regulation and promotion of foreign trade through regulation.

-- Keeping in line with liberalization and globalization and the overall objective of increasing of exports, DGFT has since been assigned the role of “facilitator”.

-- The shift was from prohibition and control of imports/exports to promotion and facilitation of exports/imports, keeping in view the interests of the country.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-banned-hydroxychloroquine-export-just-before-trump-modi-call/article31264079.ece

5. Anganwadi workers get online sessions on COVID-19 steps

- The Women and Child Development Ministry is regularly holding online interactive sessions with anganwadi workers to ensure the safety of pregnant women and lactating mothers after the 21­ day lockdown ends.

About Anganwadi Services Scheme

- It is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by the States / UTs as per the guidelines/instructions issued by Government of India.

- All the issues pertaining to implementation of the scheme including the enrolment and recruitment of the Anganwadi staff rests with the concerned States/UTs.

- As per norms, one post of Anganwadi Worker and one post of Anganwadi Helper are sanctioned for main Anganwadi Centers (AWCs).

- The beneficiaries under the Anganwadi Services Scheme are identified on the basis of Aadhaar which is used as identity document for delivery of services or benefits.

- The main role of the Anganwadi worker is to assist health staff (such as the ANM) to maintain records, motivate the parents, and organize immunization sessions.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/anganwadi-workers-get-online-sessions-on-covid-19-steps/article31264237.ece

6. Explained: Is burial or cremation safe?

What do the central guidelines say?

---The Health Ministry’s detailed guidelines are for handling of bodies of COVID-19 patients. These allow both cremation and burial, and make no mention of any risk of contamination from bodies if buried.

---The body must be sealed in a leak-proof plastic bag. The guidelines allow only the face to be viewed by unzipping the bag, and do not permit bathing, kissing or hugging of the body.

--- Family members are allowed to read religious lines and sprinkle holy water, as long as no one touches the body.

---Embalming and autopsy must be avoided as the lungs of a COVID-19 patient can be infectious during an autopsy. If tubes or a catheter is removed, the wounds must be disinfected with one per cent hypochlorite solution and dressed in impermeable (leak-proof) material to ensure body fluids don’t ooze out.

---The nose and mouth must be plugged to prevent body fluids from oozing out.

---After the body is put in it, the bag must again be disinfected with hypochlorite. The bag can be covered in a cloth provided by the family.

---The disinfected bag does not pose a risk during transportation or handling. But those handling it should wear personal protective equipment.

Does burial pose a risk of infection?

---Bodies of people infected with microbes such as HIV and SARS-CoV-2 come under Biosafety Levels II and III. Burial is considered safe as the body is sealed.

---The body takes 7-10 days to decompose, and the body fluids can take 3-4 days to dry up. Theoretically speaking, the virus lives until there are body fluids. But this infection spreads by droplets. There has been no case recorded where body fluids leaked from a body contaminated groundwater and spread infection.

---If the body is cremated, the ash does not pose any risk either. Infection is a risk only for mortuary workers, doctors who do the autopsy and those who handle the body.

--- If all precautions are followed, then both burial and cremation are considered safe. Large gatherings are to be avoided because family members are possible contacts.

How soon must burial or cremation take place?

--- A body must be disposed quickly.

---If it has to be kept in a mortuary, it should be preserved between 4-6°C.

--- For disposing of infectious animal carcasses, the World Health Organization mandates a proper incinerator, its primary chamber at 800°C and secondary chamber at 1000°C; for biomedical waste, an auto-clave machine is used.

Reference: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/coronavirus-is-burial-or-cremation-safe-how-to-handle-bodies-of-covid-19-patients-6348832/

7. Explained: Can a mother transmit the COVID-19 virus to foetus or newborn?

--Last week, a three-day-old baby and his mother tested positive for COVID-19 in a private lab in Mumbai, but subsequently tested negative in Kasturba Hospital.

--It is still unclear whether a pregnant woman runs the risk of transmitting the virus to her baby during pregnancy.

--While there is no concrete evidence for vertical transmission of SARS-CoV2 from mother to foetus, it is known that pregnancy involves a risk, after birth, of adverse outcomes from many respiratory viral infections.

--A virus may be transmitted after delivery either from mother during breastfeeding or from the hospital environment, various experts have said.

--The World Health Organization notes that there is no evidence yet to show that pregnant women are more vulnerable or are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than the general population.

Reference: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/can-a-mother-transmit-the-covid-19-virus-to-foetus-or-newborn-6348840/