Current Affairs 1st May

Amid vaccine shortage, States put off rollout for 18-45 group #GS3 #SnT

Amid a lack of vaccine supplies and uncertainty over availability in the next few weeks, several States have postponed the scheduled May 1 rollout of phase III of the COVID-19 immunisation for those between 18-44 years.

Maharashtra said the rollout would begin as scheduled but would depend on supplies. Several States, including Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Punjab, have written to the Centre seeking urgent replenishing of vaccine supplies.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said the Capital would not join the wider vaccination drive as the required doses had not been received yet. He requested people in the newly added age group not to queue up at vaccination centres on May 1 as this might lead to violation of social distancing and create a law-and-order situation.

“In the next one-two days, around three lakh Covishield vaccines will be received and the drive for vaccinating people in the age group 18-44 will commence. He added that the Delhi government had placed an order for 67 lakh doses each of Covishield and Covaxin from manufacturers and once received, the entire population of Delhi would be able to get vaccinated within three months.

T.N. awaits supplies

The Tamil Nadu government also deferred the rollout as it had not yet received the required vaccines from the Central government. Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan told mediapersons in Chennai that the Chief Minister had written to the Centre, seeking 1.5 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin.

“But till date, the Centre has not given information about the number of doses the State will receive. We have sufficient vaccines for those over 45. The same problem is being faced by other States as well. The State was in touch with the Serum Institute of India, Pune, and Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/amid-vaccine-shortage-states-postpone-rollout-for-18-45/article34454544.ece

Do not clamp down on citizens’ SOS calls via social media: SC #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court warned the State governments and the police against clamping down on the spread of information or calls for help through social media from citizens affected by COVID-19.

A Special Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat said any move by any State to punish citizens who take to social media to seek help for oxygen cylinders, COVID-19 drugs, beds and hospitals amid a rampaging second wave would attract contempt of court action.

“We don’t want any clampdown of information. We will treat it as a contempt of court if such grievances are considered for action. Let a strong message go to all the States and DGPs of States. Clampdown of information is contrary to basic precepts.

Justice Chandrachud said free flow of information in the 1970 famine enabled the government to tackle problems effectively as compared to the clampdown during the 1918 pandemic. Justice Rao reminded the States that this was a time of great crisis. The Bench said empathy and action should be the rule of the day.

At one point, Justice Chandrachud questioned how the Centre intended to ensure registration for vaccines for illiterate people, considering the fact that registration on the CoWIN app was mandatory. The Bench also asked how the Centre expected a sense of equity from the vaccine manufacturers.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/do-not-clamp-down-on-citizens-sos-calls-via-social-media-sc/article34454555.ece

Centre to train doctors in remote areas #GS3 #SnT

With the pandemic spreading to tier-2 and tier-3 cities and towns, the Centre will set up regional training centres, in assistance with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), to organise training programmes for doctors on appropriate COVID-19 management practices.

“It is possible that doctors in many towns and villages don’t have access to the right information regarding management. We are preparing a protocol and training module that will be used to conduct sessions via the network of AIIMS hospitals across the country.

At the event, the second this week and a departure from a practice for most of this year when the Health Ministry would only have a single meeting every week, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, said that in assessments by the government of public perception of the coronavirus there were three categories of people — one were those with “misplaced bravery” who believed that the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax and that there was no need to mask up.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/centre-to-train-doctors-in-remote-areas/article34454545.ece

Xi sends message to Modi, offers China’s help #GS2 #IR

China’s President Xi Jinping sent a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering China’s support in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“Humanity is a community with a shared future. Only through solidarity and cooperation can countries around the world ultimately defeat the pandemic,” he added. “The Chinese side stands ready to strengthen cooperation with the Indian side in fighting the pandemic and provide support and help in this regard. I believe that under the leadership of the Indian Government, the Indian people will surely prevail over the pandemic.”

Mr. Jaishankar said he had received a call from his Chinese counterpart “conveying China’s sympathies at the COVID challenge now faced by India”. “Discussed the international cooperation aspects of the public health response to this difficult situation, adding that he had “highlighted the importance of supply chains and air flights being kept open in these circumstances” and “welcomed his assurances in that regard, as also more openness to Indian chartered flights”.

Both sides also “discussed the issue of full and sincere implementation of the Moscow Agreement of complete disengagement at all friction points along the LAC and full restoration of peace and tranquility in Eastern Ladakh” and “agreed to continue discussions in this respect”.

Talks between military commanders are ongoing and have made slow progress since February following the first phase of disengagement at Pangong Lake, with the Chinese military dragging its heels on pulling back in other areas. Anti-pandemic materials produced in China are entering India at a faster pace to help India fight the epidemic”.

A large number of orders for oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other medical supplies are in the process of being sourced from China. A first batch of 800 oxygen concentrators was flown in from Hong Kong earlier this week and Mr. Sun, the Chinese envoy, said on Thursday China had, since April, “supplied more than 5000 ventilators, 21,569 oxygen generators, over 21.48 million masks & around 3,800 tons of medicines to India” according to Chinese customs data. These were acquired on a commercial basis.

More supplies

“The Red Cross Society of China, local governments, many non-governmental organisations and Chinese enterprises are trying their best to collect anti-epidemic supplies urgently needed by India, and deliver them to the Indian people as soon as possible,” he said.

Chinese manufacturers of anti-epidemic supplies and medical equipment are racing against the clock in full speed to ensure production. In the next few days, more anti-epidemic materials will be sent.”

He said “freight air routes from China to India are operating normally” and “in the past two weeks, a number of freight flights from China to India remain in operation”. “Relevant Chinese authorities have provided and are providing convenience in customs clearance and transportation for India to transport liquid oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators and other materials from many cities in China,” he added. “China will continue to ensure the smooth functioning of the export channel of materials to India.”

On Friday, China joined Australia in effectively barring its nationals in India from returning. While there was no formal announcement, Chinese nationals in India have been told they would no longer be issued “health codes” by the Embassy in New Delhi that are needed to travel to China.

Last week, the Embassy in Delhi imposed new curbs by barring transit through some countries, including Nepal, as there are no direct flights between India and China. Now, the issuance of health codes on the only allowed transit routes through Germany and Oman has also been temporarily suspended. Indians and foreigners based in India have been barred from travelling to China since November 2020.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/xi-sends-message-to-modi-offers-chinas-help/article34454467.ece

Delhi HC: State has failed to protect most basic fundamental right…the right to life’ #GS2 #Governance

THE DELHI High Court said the State has failed to protect the most fundamental of rights — the right to life — after it was informed of the death of a person who had petitioned the court for an ICU bed.

The court expressed its anguish when, in the midst of the day’s hearing, advocate Amit Sharma said, “My lord, my brother-in-law has expired. No more efforts should be made. I have completely failed. So grateful to you.”

At this, the division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said, “No. The State has failed. We have failed. We all have failed.”

The court later recorded in the order, “During the course of hearing, Mr Amit Sharma has informed that Atul Kumar Sharma has expired. We may at this stage record our complete helplessness with the situation. We can only say that the State has failed in performing its fundamental obligation of protecting the most basic fundamental right, that is right to life contained under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

As Sharma broke the news, the virtual courtroom was engulfed in silence. Only minutes ago, the court had heard Sharma’s request for help for his brother-in-law.

On Friday, the court requested the lawyers, including Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, to make efforts in this regard. Chetan Sharma told the court that a bed had become available on Thursday at Safdarjung Hospital, but it was not possible to shift the patient there given his serious condition and, in the meantime, the bed was provided to some other serious patient.

While hearing a petition filed by the Bar Council of Delhi, the court earlier in the day also said that it is a “complete failure of the State” that everything, including medical oxygen and hospital beds, is in short supply. “It is a war and it would be wrong to call it a battle,” said the court on the ongoing Covid-19 situation in the country.

Without referring to any particular government, the division bench observed that the country is witnessing a huge surge of Covid-19, which has impacted the entire medical system. “Nobody could have imagined it would attack us this way,” said the court.

On the crisis of infrastructure, the court said, “There is such a great dearth of oxygen that hospitals that have beds have stopped admissions because they are unable to service the patients. Doctors are breaking down, crying.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/hc-covid-death-healthcare-crisis-delhi-government-7297349/

Armed forces get powers for relief work #GS3 #Defence

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has invoked special provisions and granted emergency financial powers to the armed forces to empower them and speed up their efforts to tide over the current COVID-19 situation.

The emergency financial powers will help formation commanders to establish and operate quarantine facilities, hospitals and undertake procurement, repair of equipment, items, material and stores, besides provisioning of various services and works required to support the ongoing effort against the pandemic.

Under these powers, Vice Chiefs of the armed forces, including the Chief Of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs Of Staff Committee (CISC) and General Officer Commanding-in-Chiefs (GOC-in-Cs) and equivalents of all three Services have been given full powers, whereas Corps Commanders and Area Commanders have been delegated powers up to Rs. 50 lakh per case and Division Commanders, Sub Area Commanders and equivalents have been delegated powers up to Rs. 20 lakh per case.

These powers have been devolved initially for three months from May 1 to July 31, 2021. These are in addition to the emergency powers delegated to the medical officers of the armed forces last week,” the Ministry said.

To meet the urgent requirement of oxygen in various parts of the country, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is arranging big size oxygen cylinders for fulfilling requirements of different hospitals. “In this regard, the DRDO has handed over 75 such cylinders to the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of NCT of Delhi.

Forty cylinders of same capacity were handed over to Cabinet Secretariat officials on Friday for utilisation at the Sardar Patel COVID Care Centre at Radha Soami Satsang Beas at Chhatarpur in New Delhi.

These cylinders are of 80 litres water capacity each and can be pressurised up to the 130 bar because of which each of these cylinders can store 10,000 litres of oxygen, the statement said.

Navy contingent

The Navy has sent a 76-member medical contingent from five Naval hospitals around the country to bolster availability of trained manpower in the 900-bed COVID hospital in Ahmedabad.

The Cantonment Boards have extended support to civil administration in various parts of the country to tide over the surge in cases. “Presently, 39 Cantonment Boards (CB) are maintaining 40 general hospitals with 1,240 beds. CB hospitals at Pune, Kirkee and Deolali with 304 beds have been designated as dedicated COVID hospitals.,” a Defence Ministry statement said.

Cantonment General Hospitals of Kirkee, Deolali, Dehuroad, Jhansi and Ahmednagar have been designated as COVID care centres with 418 beds.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/armed-forces-get-powers-for-relief-work/article34454498.ece

India first country to report 4 lakh cases in single day #GS3 #SnT

With 4,08,323 new COVID-19 cases recorded till 11 p.m. on Friday, India became the first country in the world to register over 4 lakh infections in a single day. The day also saw 3,464 deaths.

Maharashtra reported 62,919 infections, followed by Karnataka (48,296), and Kerala (37,199). Maharashtra also recorded 828 casualties, followed by Delhi (375) and Uttar Pradesh (332). The country has so far reported a total of 1,91,63,488 cases and 2,11,778 deaths.

The figures do not include cases and deaths from Ladakh. The data are sourced from covid19india.org, an independent aggregator of daily figures from State health departments. As many as 2,97,488 recoveries were recorded on Friday, taking the total to 1,56,71,536.

As many as 19,20,107 samples were tested on Thursday (results of which were made available on Friday). This is the first instance when the daily tests have crossed the 19-lakh mark. On April 28, 17.68 lakh samples were tested. A total of 28.64 crore tests have been conducted in the country till April 29, since the beginning of the pandemic.

22.24 lakh doses given

Around 22.24 lakh vaccination shots were given in the 24 hours ending 7 a.m. on Friday, which is only 31,267 doses more than what was recorded in the previous 24 hours.

The daily vaccination rate has decreased significantly in the second half of April compared to the first. Between April 1-14, India administered 35.26 lakh doses on an average every day. However, between April 15-29, the average daily doses given fell to just 25.16 lakh.

Cumulatively, 15,00,20,648 vaccine doses had been administered till 7 a.m. on Friday.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/india-first-country-to-report-4-lakh-cases-in-single-day/article34455035.ece

Centre says curve flattened in Dec. #GS3 #SnT

Responding to a query raised by the Madras High Court on Thursday on what it was doing in the last 12 to 14 months without anticipating the second wave of COVID-19 and making preparations to face it, the Centre said the disease curve was flattening till December 2020 and that everything was fine by January this year. It was only thereafter, a surge was noticed in Maharashtra and Kerala, the Centre told the court on Friday.

Appearing before the first Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan said the Centre was now taking all steps to augment the supply of vaccines, drugs and oxygen to the States and Union Territories.

The submissions were made during the hearing of a suo motu public interest litigation petition taken up by the court to monitor COVID-19 related activities.

Later, passing interim orders in the case, the judges wrote: “Two aspects cannot be missed. The first is the Union’s endeavour to indicate that the surge in numbers may have been unexpected and that preparatory measures had been taken for quite some time.

The second aspect is the Election Commission of India’s concern at sensationalism [by the media]. The post mortem on either count may have to wait particularly in the light of immediate measures that may have to be put in place.”

The court also clarified that it did not regard itself to possess the expertise necessary to suggest measures to be adopted to fight the second wave of COVID-19.

“The object of the exercise is to ensure that the authorities tasked with such obligation devote their complete attention in such regard and to monitor the measures,” the Bench said. Later, deciding to hear the suo motu PIL during summer vacation too, the judges adjourned the case to Wednesday for further hearing.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/centre-says-curve-flattened-in-dec/article34454496.ece

Medical equipment flown in from U.S., U.K., Romania and Ireland #GS2 #IR

The United States, Romania, Ireland, and the United Kingdom on Friday flew in a large quantity of oxygen-related items and medicines to deal with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.

External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and “reviewed” the ongoing American efforts to bolster India’s position to counter COVID-19.

Two aircraft from the U.S. landed on Friday bringing a large quantity of essential supplies. The first flight brought 423 oxygen cylinders, 210 pulse oximeters, 1,84,000 Abbott rapid diagnostic test kits and 84,000 N-96 face masks. The second flight brought 17 large oxygen cylinders, and 7,00,000 Abbott rapid diagnostic test kits. The third flight from U.K. arrived in India carrying 280 oxygen concentrators and 40 ventilators.

A shipment containing 700 units of oxygen concentrators and 365 ventilators arrived from Ireland. Friday also saw increased flow of assistance from EU member countries.

One C-130 aircraft of the Romanian Air Force landed at Palam Air Base with oxygen and other medical supplies as part of a joint Romania-EU effort for India. This includes 80 oxygen concentrators, 75 oxygen cylinders and 20 high flow humidify oxygen therapy devices.

Ambassador of Romania Daniela Sezonov Tane said the medical supplies from Bucharest will be followed by “additional medical devices and equipment shipped by the other EU Member States”.

The medical supplies from Romania are among the first foreign assistance to arrive here which will be followed relief from Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden among other EU countries. The support from these countries is being channelled through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Two C-17 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) airlifted eight oxygen tankers from Singapore to Panagarh in West Bengal.

According to the Defence Ministry, as on April 29, IAF carried out 23 sorties from abroad, airlifting 39 oxygen containers with 670 MT capacity, while from within the country, it carried out 124 sorties, airlifting 87 containers with 1,798 MT capacity.

Japan is expected to provide 300 oxygen concentrators and 300 ventilators. Japan stands with India in her greatest time of need.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/medical-equipment-flown-in-from-us-uk-romania-and-ireland/article34455034.ece

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