Current Affairs 31st May

Number of new cases across India dips further to 1.5 lakh #GS3 #SnT

India recorded 1,50,527 new COVID-19 cases and 3,028 new deaths till 9.30 p.m.. The country has so far reported a total of 2,80,44,137 cases and 3,29,026 deaths.

Tamil Nadu reported 28,864 new infections, followed by Karnataka (20,378) and Kerala (19,894). Maharashtra recorded 814 new casualties on the day, followed by Tamil Nadu (493) and Karnataka (381). Maharashtra’s fatalities include backlog deaths which were missed in the previous reports.

The figures do not include cases and deaths from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sikkim and Ladakh. The data are sourced from the respective States’ health bulletins.

Around 20.64 lakh samples were tested in the country on Saturday (the results for which were made available on Sunday), which is around 16,000 fewer tests than those conducted on Friday. It is also nearly 60,000 less than those conducted on the previous Saturday (May 22).

Positivity rate falls

India’s average daily test positivity rate (positive cases identified for every 100 tests) continues to decline. It was 9.4% on May 29, compared to 13.4% recorded a week earlier.

About 30.36 lakh vaccine doses were administered in the country in the 24 hours ending 7 a.m. on Sunday, which is close to 27,000 doses fewer than what was recorded in the previous 24 hours. However, it is 14.31 lakh more doses than what was recorded during the same period a week ago.

Govt. cited ‘Indian double mutant strain’ in SC affidavit #GS3 #SnT

The Centre used the term “Indian double mutant strain” in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court just days before it officially objected to affixing nationality to the virus variant.

A May 9 affidavit referred to “Indian double mutant strain” while detailing the steps taken by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology to develop Covaxin. The affidavit was filed in the court three days prior to a Ministry of Health statement on May 12, taking exception to media reports which referred to the B.1.617 variant as an “Indian variant”.

It said the World Health Organization (WHO) had not associated B.1.617 with the term “Indian variant”. Instead, it considered the virus a variant of “global concern”.

The WHO had also clarified that it “does not identify viruses or variants with names of countries they are first reported from”. “We refer to them by their scientific names and request all to do the same for consistency.

But the affidavit runs contrary to the WHO even in this aspect. In fact, the affidavit calls variants “UK variant, Brazil variant, South African variant” and caps the list with the “Indian double mutant strain”.

The Ministry of Health was one among the many Ministries consulted before the affidavit was filed. The introductory paragraph in the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs said the document was filed in compliance with the instructions received from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce, Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Ministry of Railways.

‘Aggressive vaccination is key to fighting COVID-19’ #GS3 #SnT

An aggressive, liberalised vaccination program is key to prevent another surge of COVID-19, say health experts, warning that pandemics often persist for years presenting in-surges.

It is important to accept that COVID-19 is here to stay and the focus should be on long-term management of the virus, say doctors.

The warning comes as India has managed to vaccinate just over 21.20 crore of its population (including those that have got the first dose and those with two shots) as of Sunday morning. The Health Ministry on Sunday announced that to hasten the vaccination drive, nearly 12 crore vaccine doses will be made available for June.

Giving the break-up, the Health Ministry said that for June, 6.09 crore doses will be supplied for vaccination of priority group of Health Care Workers (HCWs), Front-Line Workers (FLWs) and persons aged above 45 years as free supply from the Centre. In addition, more than 5.86 crore doses will be available for direct procurement.

Appropriate behaviour

Meanwhile, doctors said that liberalised vaccination, making masks mandatory, following strict norms of social distancing are vital to prevent another surge.

Sanjeev Bagai, Chairman of Nephron Clinic added that it was also important to protect the vulnerable and the immune-compromised populations, and make health insurance mandatory.

Puneet Nigam, senior vice-president, medical services at Metropolis Healthcare Ltd., said creating the right infrastructure, making available equipment, consumables and drugs is key in the preparation for another surge. “Teleconsultation to the needy can reduce the load on hospitals and only moderately or severely sick should be hospitalised.”

Cautioning that a third wave is likely, Monalisa Sahu, consultant, Infectious Diseases, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, said the virus is highly mutagenic in nature.

“Elders in the family should follow strict COVID-appropriate behaviour and get vaccinated at the earliest. As no vaccine in India is approved for children, it makes them more vulnerable to contracting the infection from their family members.

The third wave can be prevented to a great extent by observing COVID-appropriate behaviour, even months after we get over the second wave. Achieving a good level of herd immunity by adequately vaccinating a majority of the population can serve as a game-changer,” said Dr. Sahu.

On the possible vulnerability of children during the third wave, Lokesh Mahajan, HOD, Pediatrics, QRG Hospital in Faridabad, said, “In the first wave, less than 1% of the children were infected but in the second wave, the infection rate among children increased up to 10%.

Hence, we have to work on keeping our children safe by following COVID appropriate behaviour and boosting their immunity. Train your children to follow good hygiene practices and don’t send them outside if they have a fever or any other illness.”

“People have to accept and understand COVID 19 is here to stay in our lives. He said that vaccinating people, encouraging all to stay away from crowds, testing-isolating-treating, building hospital infrastructure and providing robust surveillance is the way forward.

‘Accused denied anticipatory bail can be given protection’ #GS2 #Governance

A Supreme Court judgment said an accused denied anticipatory bail can, in exceptional circumstances, still be given protection from immediate arrest if his sudden incarceration by the State will plunge his personal affairs and family into crisis.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, said the black-and-white of the written text of law did not provide for all the grey spots in human life. Chief Justice Ramana, in the judgment pronounced underscored the “reality that no law or rule can possibly account for the complexities of life, and the infinite range of circumstances that may arise in the future”.

An accused, besides being an accused, may also be the primary caregiver or sole breadwinner of the family. His arrest may leave his loved ones in a state of starvation and neglect.

In such “exceptional” cases, Chief Justice Ramana observed that courts had the power to allow an accused, while dismissing his anticipatory bail plea, to retain his personal liberty for “some time” — the shortest duration reasonably required — in order to make arrangements for his family before surrendering in the trial court.

He urged judges to pay equal attention to the humane side of criminal law while hearing pleas for anticipatory bail. The grant or rejection of bail in such cases had a direct bearing on the fundamental right to life and liberty of an individual.

The concept of anticipatory bail germinated from Article 21 of the Constitution. At times, courts may need to look beyond the strict confines of the written text to secure complete justice. The High Courts and the Supreme Court had the powers to do so.

Even when not inclined to grant anticipatory bail to an accused, there may be circumstances where the High Court is of the opinion that it is necessary to protect the person apprehending arrest for some time, due to exceptional circumstances, until they surrender before the trial court.

However, he said courts should not use this discretion to grant “judicial largesse” to accused persons.

“Therefore, such an order [to grant protection from arrest despite denying anticipatory bail] must necessarily be narrowly tailored to protect the interests of the applicant [accused] while taking into consideration the concerns of the investigating authority. Such an order must be a reasoned one.

Monsoon onset over Kerala delayed: IMD #GS1 #Geography

The arrival of the southwest monsoon over Kerala has been delayed to June 3. The agency had last month forecast that the onset would be on May 31.

“As per the latest meteorological indications, the south-westerly winds could strengthen further gradually from 01st June, resulting in likely enhancement in rainfall activity over Kerala. Hence the monsoon onset over Kerala is likely to take place by 03rd June 2021.

However, the IMD had, until Saturday evening, maintained that the monsoon would keep its May 31 schedule. All monsoon onset forecasts have a built-in error window of four days, and so, June 3 still falls in this window.

“The monsoon winds haven’t picked up. We expected that in the aftermath of the cyclone [Yaas] there would be a pickup in windspeeds but that hasn’t happened. We expect the wind flows to strengthen in the next few days.

Weak onset: Skymet

Skymet, a private weather forecast agency, however, said the monsoon had arrived. This was because two of the three criteria — as defined by the IMD — had been met.

The criteria are rain-bearing westerlies being at a minimum depth and speed; at least 60% of the available 14 stations in Kerala and coastal Karnataka, namely Minicoy, Amini, Thiruvananthapuram, Punalur, Kollam, Allapuzha, Kottayam, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Thalassery, Kannur, Kudulu and Mangalore reporting rainfall of 2.5 mm or more for two consecutive days after May 10; a certain degree of clouding, indicated by a parameter called ‘outgoing longwave radiation’ (OLR), being below 200 W/square metre.

Mr. Palawat said IMD’s own data indicated that except for the OLR, the other criteria were met. “This is certainly a weak onset and the OLR was actually below 200 two days ago but has now increased to 250. There is an element of subjectivity in arrival and even IMD has, on previous occasions, relied on the two out of three criteria to declare monsoon onset.” Skymet added that conditions were favourable for further advancement of the monsoon to more parts of south Peninsula and east central Bay of Bengal.

Last year, the IMD announced the onset date over Kerala of June 1, whereas the monsoon actually arrived on June 5. There is no correlation between the date of onset of the monsoon and the actual quantum of rain that is received during these months. The IMD and Skymet have forecast normal monsoon from June-September this year.

To herald the onset, initial rains first occur over south Andaman Sea and the monsoon winds then advance across the Bay of Bengal. Since 2005, the monsoon has arrived within the error margin of the IMD’s weather models, except in 2015.