Current Affairs 7th May

SC wants formula on oxygen supply ahead of third wave #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court highlighted the need for the Union government to start preparations for oxygen allocation to the States and its supply and distribution ahead of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The court drew the attention of the government to reports that children may be affected in the next wave.

A Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said the government needed to finalise a formula for allocation, supply and distribution of oxygen in a “scientific manner” ahead of the coming wave. It said the “rough-and-ready” formula devised presently on the “oxygen-for-bed” arrangement would hardly work.

The current formula of allocating oxygen to Delhi, for example, on the basis of the number of ICU/non-ICU beds grossly underestimated need for oxygen.

Also, not everyone who went to a hospital required an oxygen bed and not everyone required ICU or ventilator. There are many who have been asked to stay at home and quarantine.

The court said the formula for allocation and distribution of oxygen should be based, among other things, on an “oxygen audit”, that is, to determine the actual need of oxygen in a State.

“We need to reassess the basis for oxygen allocation. We are in stage two of the pandemic. Stage three might have very different parameters… But, if we prepare today, we will be able to handle stage three. It is about proper allocation of oxygen and working out the modalities, including proper distribution. A buffer stock has also to be created.

The court underlined the importance of vaccination. “Children are going to be affected. They will be taken into hospitals. They will be accompanied by parents. Vaccination needs to be done,” it stated.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, while informing the court that 730.7 MT (metric tonnes) of oxygen was received in Delhi as directed by the Bench, agreed that a “minimum fault prone formula” for oxygen supply, allocation and distribution was the need of the hour. The government agreed to revisit the formula.

At one point, the court suggested incentivising young doctors, who have completed their courses, and young trained nurses to augment the fatigued healthcare professionals.

Supreme Court declines EC plea to restrain media reports #GS2 #Governance

Real-time reportage of court proceedings, including the oral exchanges in courtrooms between judges and lawyers, is part of the right to freedom of speech, the Supreme Court held in a judgment.

“With the advent of technology, we are seeing reporting proliferate through social media forums which provide real-time updates to a much wider audience. This is an extension of the freedom of speech and expression that the media possesses. This constitutes a virtual extension of the open court.

Such live reporting of court proceedings is a cause of celebration rather than apprehension.

Madras HC remarks

The court declined a plea made by the Election Commission of India to restrain the media from reporting oral remarks made by a Division Bench of the Madras High court. The HC judges had said that poll body officials should be charged with “murder” for allowing rallies and mass gatherings during the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. The judges had remarked that the EC was solely responsible for the COVID surge.

In the judgment, Justice Chandrachud said the case posed a delicate balancing of powers between the HC and the ECI, which are both constitutional authorities.

The court said that except in cases of child sexual abuse and marital issues, the phenomenon of free press should extend to court proceedings.

“Citizens have a right to know about what transpires in the course of judicial proceedings. The dialogue in a court indicates the manner in which a judicial proceeding is structured… Arguments addressed before the court, the response of opposing counsel and issues raised by the court are matters on which citizens have a legitimate right to be informed,” Justice Chandrachud observed.

The court referred to how the Gujarat High Court had recently introduced live-streaming of its proceedings in a bid to enhance public participation in the dispensation of justice.

“In this backdrop, it would be retrograde for this court to promote the rule of law and access to justice on one hand, and shield the daily operations of the High Courts and this court from the media in all its forms, by gagging the reporting of proceedings,” Justice Chandrachud said.

The court said oral observations made during course of a hearing do not bind the parties and do not form a part of the judgment. An exchange of views was intrinsic to the applicability of mind and the process of judging.

On the nature of the remarks made by the Madras HC, the apex court said “a degree of caution and circumspection would have allayed the problems in the present case. All said and done, this is in the past and does not constitute a part of the record”.

The court said the remarks may have been a manifestation of anguish at the rising cases of COVID.

“We must emphasise the need for judges to exercise caution in off-the-cuff remarks in open court, which may be susceptible to misinterpretation. Language, both on the Bench and in judgments, must comport with judicial propriety. Language is an important instrument of a judicial process which is sensitive to constitutional values.

EU to discuss U.S. vaccine patent plan at Friday summit #GS2 #IR

France joined the United States in supporting an easing of patent and other protections on COVID-19 vaccines that could help poorer countries get more doses and speed up the end of the pandemic.

The move to support waiving intellectual property protections on vaccines under World Trade Organization rules marked a dramatic shift for the United States — and drew cheers from activists, complaints from Big Pharma, and a lot of questions about what comes next. Washington had previously lined up with many other developed nations opposed to the idea floated by India and South Africa in October.

Attention is now turning to those richer nations, notably in the European Union, and France was the first to voice its support. “I completely favour this opening up of the intellectual property,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday on a visit to a vaccine centre.

The EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said the 27-nation bloc was ready to talk about the U.S. proposal. We are ready to discuss how the U.S. proposal for waiver could help. Russian President Vladimir Putin also said he supported the idea of a waiver on patent protections for coronavirus vaccines.

‘Oxygen saturation of 92 or 93 must not be considered critical’ #GS3 #SnT

An oxygen saturation of 92 or 93 in COVID-19 patients should not be considered critical. Instead, this level is only a buffer that enables the patient to reach the hospital for treatment on time. In a statement released by the Health Ministry, he said the judicious use of oxygen was the need of the hour.

“Misuse of oxygen cylinders is a serious matter of concern these days. A few people stock oxygen cylinders at home, fearing that they may need it later. This is not advisable. If your oxygen saturation level is 94% or above, it still means there is sufficient oxygen in the body. There is no need to panic. Misusing the same by a person with normal levels of oxygen can deprive someone whose saturation level is well below 90 or 80,” he stated.

Oxygen therapy

The Ministry statement said, “Oxygen is crucial for the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19, since the disease affects lung functioning. Shortness of breath or difficulty of breathing is one of the most common symptoms in patients with severe COVID-19. It also hampers the supply of oxygen to various parts of the body. They, hence, need oxygen therapy, to be supplied through medical oxygen.”

According to a World Health Organization training manual on pulse oximetry, if the oxygen saturation is 94% or lower, the patient needs to be treated quickly. A saturation of less than 90% is a clinical emergency.

The latest clinical guidance for management of adult COVID-19 patients, issued by the Health Ministry, stated that an oxygen concentration less than or equal to 93% on room air requires hospital admission, while that below 90% is classified as a severe disease, requiring admission in the intensive care unit (ICU).

‘COVID wave may hit energy demand in first quarter’ #GS3 #Economy

Restrictions following the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could impact recovery in the growth in energy demand in the first quarter of this financial year.

In the April 2021 edition of its credit news digest on India’s power sector, the agency highlighted trends in the power sector, with a focus on capacity addition, generation, transmission, merchant power, deficit, regulatory changes and the recent rating actions by the ratings agency.

Ind-Ra said lockdowns on account of an increase in COVID-19 cases in various States could impact energy demand growth recovery in April-June 2022. However, all-India energy demand is expected to be higher year-on-year due to the low base effect as the country was under a stricter lockdown during the same period in 2020.

‘Price per unit rises’

The short-term power price at the Indian Energy Exchange continued its improving trend Rs. 4.07 per unit compared with Rs. 2.46 a year earlier, with average monthly price in April 2021 at Rs. 3.7.

Electricity generation rose 23.5% on a yearly basis to 118.6 billion units in March 2021, supported by 29.2% growth in thermal generation, although hydro generation fell 7.8%. Generation from renewable sources climbed 10.1% to 11.9 billion units in March 2021, with solar generation rising 21%.

The improvement in energy demand has helped the thermal plant load factor (PLF) increase to 66.5% in March 2021, from 51.5% a year earlier and 63.3% in February, it said.

Despite the onset of summer, stricter lockdowns in major manufacturing States could impact demand from the industrial segment, in turn affecting thermal PLFs, the agency said.

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