High Courts pull up Centre on pandemic #GS2 #Governance
The Madras High Court and the Delhi High Court, hearing separate cases, questioned the Centre’s actions during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hearing asuo motupublic interest litigation, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Sanjib Banerjee wondered what the Centre had been doing for the past 12 to 14 months without anticipating the second wave. The court said there cannot be adhocism in dealing with a pandemic and that the Centre should have acted in a planned and informed manner with expert advice.
A Delhi High Court Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli asked the Centre why States such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were allotted more oxygen than they had asked for, while Delhi was not even allotted its projected requirement.
We are not asking you [Centre] to stop giving to these States. But the point is, on April 20, Delhi’s projected demand was 700 metric tonnes, but you allocated 480 meric tonnes. It doesn’t appear to be falling in line.
‘Intramural spread of COVID is most difficult to control’ #GS3 #SnT
The nature of the virus is such that entire families are getting infected by just staying at home. How do you deal with such a situation?
The intramural spread, which is the spread of the virus inside a household or a closed space, is perhaps the most difficult to control. When you go out, you are wearing a mask but inside a building or office you are not.
You obviously can’t wear a mask all the time but even if a person is infected and you are sitting around a table eating lunch, everybody around can get it. So at the slightest suspicion of a person developing an upper respiratory infection or fever, the patient must wear a light surgical mask if he or she is not breathless, and others around should wear an N95 mask.
There is an overwhelming consensus that this is an air-borne infection in addition to being a droplet infection that is spread by coughing or sneezing. Aerosols are produced even when speaking and linger around a room like a cloud. Especially now in summers, with air conditioners on most of the time, the virus thrives and can be around for a few hours depending on the viral load of the person. So, it is important to ventilate the space.
RTPCR tests results are taking long. Do you think people are not starting to take precautions early and are waiting for validation from test results?
In terms of precaution, it must be treated as COVD if a person has fever or an upper respiratory infection. However, medication or treatment should not be started without consulting a doctor. The report sometimes can also be a false negative depending on the quality of the test kit used. Some variants are also evading the RT-PCR test. Communal air then is the biggest source of contagion.
I am not saying that one should wear a mask indoors all the time, but if someone in the house has fever, which is a sign of infection or high-grade fever and is a sign of pneumonia, they should sleep in a separate, well-ventilated room. Loss of smell is also another indicator that should not be ignored even if the RT-PCR test result comes negative.
We have seen a lot of rush at hospitals over the past few weeks. In such a scenario, how do you choose who to admit and who not to?
Most hospitals are following a system of rationalisation of beds and there is a system of who requires admission and who does not. This is where some of the blood tests advised to look for inflammatory markers assume significance because if there is a rapid or significant rise in inflammatory markers, then that could be suggestive of underlying pneumonia or a spiraling turn for the worse.
Most cases of mild and moderate COVID can be managed and have been successfully managed at home if you are in constant touch with a physician over the phone and following advice strictly.
The government has been engaged in firefighting to upscale health infrastructure. What more needs to be done apart from adding more beds, ensuring medicines are not in short supply and uninterrupted supply of oxygen?
Nobody could have anticipated this kind of surge so our unpreparedness for this has been exposed. Both Central and State governments are, I am sure, doing everything possible to deal with the load of cases in the short term, but this is the time to rationalise. What happens is a blood test, for instance, is being prescribed numerous times even for a mild case of COVID.
What it does is that it ends up clogging the system and increasing the turnaround time for a test result. A severe patient can’t wait three-four days to get their results as several important decisions, such as starting steroids, can get delayed that could lead to a patient not getting timely treatment. You can’t squander your resources on patients who don’t really require such extensive investigations.
The government will get more beds and streamline supplies to deal with the surge, but this is the time to double down on masking and non-pharmacological interventions because you have to block transmission. Remember, somebody dying of COVID obviously got it from someone else who got it from someone else. If you block the chain of transmission, you are doing your bit.
‘Vaccine Maitri may have to wait till July’ #GS2 #Governance #GS3 #SnT
India is unlikely to resume its Vaccine Maitri programme for the neighbourhood, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, until at least July, given the sudden shortage of vaccines amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the government’s plan for vaccination for all adults set to start on May 1.
India has had to suspend the export of both commercial and grant-based vaccine doses, including to countries in the neighbourhood which had already paid for the shipments, with the last batch going out at the beginning of April, after the second wave of the pandemic hit.
However, at least two officials said South Block is aware of the problems this has created for India’s neighbours. India’s last shipment to Bangladesh was a grant of 1 lakh doses sent on April 2, while commercial shipments have not been sent since February 21, when 20 lakh doses were shipped.
Bangladesh had contracted for 30 million doses of Covishield at 5 million doses a month for six months, but only 7 million of the paid shipments actually arrived between January and February.
Sri Lanka placed a commercial order for 1.5 million (15 lakh) doses of Covishield, of which just 5 lakh doses have arrived so far. Sri Lanka and Nepal were last sent shipments through the COVAX alliance on March 6 and 28, respectively, while commercial shipments stopped at the end of February.
Sources said Bangladesh and Nepal have raised concerns about the interruption in supplies officially.
U.S. military aircraft bringing critical supplies to New Delhi #GS3 #SnT #GS2 #IR
Supplies and assistance to help India battle a second COVID-19 wave began making their way from the United States on Wednesday, with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announcing that the “world’s largest military aircraft” had left Travis Air Force Base in California for New Delhi.
The aircraft is carrying supplies that included 440 oxygen cylinders donated by the State of California, 1,00,000 N95 masks and 960,000 rapid diagnostic tests, USAID said. The agency is procuring 1,000 oxygen concentrators and said it had sent over $23 million in assistance to India since the start of the pandemic.
The White House also released a list of materials and other assistance it was sending to India. It said an initial delivery of 1,000 cylinders will stay in India, getting repeatedly refilled via local supply centres and “more planeloads” would come. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was also procuring oxygen locally (in India) and will be coordinating with the government to deliver them to hospitals.
Other supplies included 1,700 oxygen concentrators, oxygen generation units (supporting 20 patients each), 15 million N95 masks, 1 million rapid diagnostic tests and the first tranche of 20,000 doses of anti-viral remdesivir (the U.S. manufacturers and patent holders, Gilead Sciences has already committed at least 4,50,000 doses).
The U.S. government has also diverted its order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India as The Hindu had reported earlier this week.
U.S. CDC experts will work hand-in-hand with India’s experts in the following areas: laboratory, surveillance and epidemiology, bioinformatics for genomic sequencing and modelling, infection prevention and control, vaccine rollout, and risk communication.
Ventilators, drugs come from Russia #GS2 #IR
Two planeloads of COVID-19 supplies from Russia landed here , comprising ventilators, oxygen concentrators and medicines, including a Russian-made version of the widely used drug Favipiravir.
The cargo, weighing 22 tonnes, which came as a grant from Moscow, followed a telephone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on Wednesday, in which the two leaders decided to upgrade contacts and institute a “2+2” format of talks between Foreign and Defence Ministers.
“Further development of bilateral relations of the especially privileged strategic partnership was discussed, including a schedule of contacts at various levels,” a statement issued by the Kremlin said, noting that Mr. Modi had thanked Mr. Putin for the aid, which is in “great demand” in India.
The Russian flights operated by Emercom included 20 oxygen production units, 75 lung ventilators, 150 medical monitors and 2,00,000 packs of medicine.
The Russian aid is part of an international effort that now involves about 40 countries, and has meant a major policy shift for the government, which has refused to accept foreign aid for more than 17 years, as India faces an unprecedented number of coronavirus cases, deaths and a shortage of oxygen and medicines.
“Russia is closely watching the situation in India, which is becoming more and more alarming due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Ambassador Nikolai Kudashev in a video statement, adding that Russia had appreciated India’s gesture in 2020 of making stocks of the drug HCQ available to the country.
India and Russia are also discussing how to ramp up production of Sputnik V vaccine, which is also being accepted in parts of the subcontinent like Bangladesh. Indian companies are expected to produce about 850 million doses of the vaccine annually, with production expected to begin in May.
“The leaders welcomed the registration of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in India and noted its high efficiency and safety
MHA issues containment guidelines #GS3 #DM
The Union Home Ministry issued guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 on Thursday to implement containment measures in districts where either the test positivity is more than 10% in the past one week or where the bed occupancy is more than 60%.
A similar advisory was issued on April 26 based on Health Ministry guidelines, where States were asked to impose localised restrictions for at least 14 days to curb the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines will be applicable till May 31.
India accounts for 1 in 4 of world’s deaths #GS3 #SnT
For the third consecutive day, India recorded over 3,000 deaths due to COVID-19, with 3,443 fatalities until 11 p.m. on Thursday. The country accounted for nearly one in every four deaths in the world due to the virus as on Wednesday.
The country also surpassed 3.8 lakh infections for the first time, with as many as 3,86,795 new cases on the day. India has so far reported a total of 1,87,55,126 cases and 2,08,255 deaths.
Maharashtra reported 66,159 infections, followed by Kerala (38,607), and Uttar Pradesh (35,156). Maharashtra also recorded 771 casualties, followed by Delhi (395) and Uttar Pradesh (298).
The figures do not include cases and deaths from Ladakh. The data are sourced from covid19india.org, an independent aggregator of daily figures.
As many as 2,89,998 new recoveries were recorded on Thursday, taking the total to 1,53,72,243. India’s average daily deaths over the last seven days rose to 2,882 and remained the highest in the world.
Among the five countries with the highest death toll due to the virus — the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, India and the U.K., fatalities are on a rising trend only in India.
The number of daily vaccine doses administered in the country dropped for the second consecutive day, with 21.9 lakh shots given in the 24 hours ending 7 a.m. on Thursday, about 3.6 lakh doses less than what was recorded in the previous 24 hours.
Why markets are rising despite Covid surge, and what you should do #GS3 #Economy
As if in disregard for rising Covid-19 numbers — new cases touched 3.75 lakh on Wednesday — the Sensex has gained 1,887 points or 3.9% over the last four trading sessions, to close at 49,765 on Thursday. Market participants seem to be taking solace from the government decision not to go for a full-scale lockdown, the impending extension of vaccination to all adults, and hopes of things normalising in a couple of months.
Is the stock market detached from ground reality?
At a time everyone is focused on protecting themselves from the coronavirus, with even corporates are diverting their industrial resources towards the manufacture of oxygen, the rally in the markets has taken many by surprise.
“I think currently, there is a huge gap between the ground reality and market and I have a feeling that the ground reality will soon catch up. I also feel that foreign portfolio investment outflow, which started in April, will gather pace in the coming days and weeks if the healthcare situation does not come under control,” said the founder and CEO of a leading financial services firm.
Economists say that while the market is positively linked to economic growth in long periods of 10-20 years, the same cannot be said for the short term. “While the market is always forward looking, in the short term it is driven by daily news flow, and the news around vaccination of 18 and above, shortage of vaccines, rise or fall in daily cases etc are currently driving market movement
. Given the fact that in the next 3-4 years the economy is expected to go back to 7-8% GDP growth rates, one can only guess the levels at which the Sensex would trade at in three to four years,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings. He added, however, that over the last one year there has been no linkage between the economy and the market movement.
Why is the market rising?
A good earning season (Q4 2021 results) has come as a big positive for the markets; also, many feel the markets are looking at a bright scenario two months ahead as they always trade over the future outlook.
If the absence of a nationwide lockdown and the limited impact of lockdowns announced by the states have reduced anxiety, there is optimism surrounding the vaccination programme. Also, banks, which are considered a proxy for the economy, did not face asset quality crisis as had been expected.
The market’s big hope is on the vaccination drive. “While infection and mortality is low among people who have been vaccinated, the market is optimistic that in two months’ time when India would have vaccinated around 35-40 crore people, it will result in free travel and near opening up of the economy.
There is a sense that it is a pain of one to two months and normalisation will be faster. The hope is that the second quarter would be better and the festive season will be quite strong,” said Pankaj Pandey, head of research at ICICIdirect.com.
About the government’s decision to open vaccination for people above 18, a fund manager who did not wish to be named said since the majority of the workers in factories are up to the ages of 40-45, quick vaccination would ensure proper functioning of factories and better economic activity across the country.
Even a senior official with CII said, “We were pushing for vaccination of all above the age of 18 with the government as most workers employed in factories fall in the ages of 20 to 40. Their vaccination will be an additional security for industries to continue operations and avoid a full-scale lockdown.”
Also, the fact that most countries with resources are coming to India’s help has boosted sentiment. Over the last few days, while the US removed restrictions on export of vaccine raw materials, countries are helping India with oxygen concentrators, ventilators, vaccines and other materials.
So who is buying in the market?
If global liquidity and inflow of funds by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) led to the domestic market rally that began in October 2020, the current strength in the market is being provided by domestic institutional investors (DIIs) — mutual funds and insurance companies among others.
In April (until date), DIIs have invested a net of Rs 9,669 crore as against a net outflow of Rs 11,101 crore by FPIs. Market data shows that for the first time in seven months, DIIs have overtaken the FPIs in net investment in Indian equities.
In contrast, in the period October 2020-March 2021, while FPIs had pumped in a net of Rs 1.97 lakh crore that lifted the Sensex by over 31% from levels of 38,000 to over 50,000 in March, DIIs were busy selling. In the five-month period between October and February, DIIs pulled out a net of Rs 1.31 lakh crore from domestic equities.
While FPIs have been concerned over the rise in Covid cases around the world (especially in India) and are exercising caution, market participants say domestic investments have been strong on a variety of factors and on hopes that the impact on the economy will not be as hard as last year.
Can there be a correction, and what should you do?
While FPIs have been selling from the Indian markets, there are some who feel they may increase the pace of the sell-off if the healthcare situation does not come under control soon. If there is a sharp outflow of FPI money, there could be a correction in the markets. So it is a possibility. However, if things start improving in a week or two, markets may gain confidence and renewed strength.
Experts say investors should not look to speculate in the market at this time. While existing investments should continue, fresh investments for the long term can be made. Stock investments should, however, be in high-quality companies that are better equipped to handle the current crisis and are expected to increase their market share in the current environment.
As for profit booking, for those who are in need of funds and want to keep higher liquidity with themselves, since the markets are back at high levels, they could consider some profit booking.
Those who don’t need the money for the next one or two years can stay with their existing investments.
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