Current Affairs 28th January

Conservationist joins panel on elephant corridor case #GS3 #Environment

The Supreme Court appointed conservationist Nandita Hazarika as Member of a Technical Committee constituted by it on October 14 last year to hear complaints by land owners against the action taken by the Nilgris Collector, which included sealing of their buildings and allegations about the “arbitrary variance in acreage of the elephant corridor.”

On October 14, the top court upheld the Tamil Nadu government’s authority to notify an ‘elephant corridor’ and protect the migratory path of the animals through the Nilgiri biosphere reserve. The reserve is the largest protected forest area in India, spanning across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

A three-judge Bench led by CJI Bobde had said it was the State’s duty to protect a “keystone species” such as elephants, immensely important to the environment.

The corridor is situated in the ecologically fragile Sigur plateau, which connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats and sustains elephant populations and their genetic diversity.

It has the Nilgiri Hills on its southwestern side and the Moyar River Valley on its north-eastern side. The elephants cross the plateau in search of food and water.

Benefit of the News- About Elephant Corridor & Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

A global challenge to deliver vaccine #GS3 #SnT

If 2020 was the year of discovery of COVID-19 vaccines, 2021 will be the year India faces the challenge of getting them to people across the world who most need it, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who is the Chairman of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization.

Dr. Fauci acknowledged the role of the WHO in leading the global public health response to the outbreak, convening scientists and researchers to help accelerate the development of vaccine therapeutics and diagnostics and tracking the latest developments for keeping the member-states informed.

The Board, according to the release, welcomed the Immunisation Agenda 2030 and was unanimous in recognising the central role played by immunisation programmes in safeguarding public health globally. The member-states also called for early and equitable availability of COVID-19 vaccines, including 

Immunisation has been a singularly successful global programme in preventing vaccine-preventable morbidity and mortality and the WHO must continue providing evidence-based and scientific advocacy to support member-states in effectively implementing the Immunisation Agenda. Vaccine coverage must continue to improve, particularly to reach vulnerable sections and reduce inequities.

Benefit of the NewsRole of WHO; Immunisation Agenda 2030

Covaxin effective against U.K. virus variant, says study #GS3 #SnT

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been found to neutralise the U.K. variant of the COVID-19 virus with “similar efficiency” as the strain used for making the vaccine and hence “dispels the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape” following vaccination. 

The sera from people vaccinated with Covaxin were tested against the same strain used for making the vaccine, another strain found in India , and the U.K. variant.

The median ratio of 50% neutralisation of sera was found to be 80% for the U.K. variant and 90% for the strain circulating in India, but different from the one used for making the vaccine.

The study was conducted using sera collected from 38 people who have been vaccinated with Covaxin during the Phase-2 trial. Researchers from ICMR’s Pune-based National Institute of Virology and Bharat Biotech found that the vaccine has “comparable neutralisation activity” against the U.K. variant and the strain used for making the vaccine.

Explaining how the neutralisation studies are carried out, Dr. Panda said that the virus isolated from people is grown in the lab using cell lines. When viruses successfully grow in them, the pathogenic effects of the viruses are observed in the cells. The sera taken from vaccinated people are then added to the cell line culture system, and its ability to prevent the virus from causing pathogenic effects is observed. In this case, the sera taken from vaccinated people was able to neutralise the virus and hence prevent pathogenic effects being produced in the cell lines containing the virus.

Benefit of the NewsNeutralisation program; Covaxin effective against UK variant.

Chinese media takes aim at India over COVID-19 vaccines #GS2 #IR

China’s government said this week there was “no place for malign competition” on the issue of supplying vaccines. 

There are multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates out there on the market, and countries should be able to make their choices on the vaccines independently,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said this week when asked by Chinese State media about reports of India’s “vaccine diplomacy” in the neighbourhood. This issue can afford no place for malign competition, let alone the so-called ‘rivalry’

China has offered its vaccines to a number of countries in South Asia, including Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Pakistan is the only country in the region to have given the green light for a Chinese vaccine. According to Chinese media reports, more than 20 countries, predominantly in West Asia and Southeast Asia, have begun using Sinovac’s vaccines.

India has been smearing China’s cooperation with countries in South Asia in cooperation on the anti-epidemic fight as the region is traditionally under India’s influence.

China’s State media have slammed foreign observers, including those in India, for raising questions about Sinovac’s vaccine, after authorities in Brazil reported a 50.4% efficacy rate, a number questioned by the Chinese media.

State media has also raised unfounded questions about the Pfizer vaccine, calling for an investigation into reports of deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway which the media in China has widely covered, while not highlighting the fact that a WHO panel said the vaccines did not play a “contributory role”. The Global Times also reported of deaths in India but without offering evidence they were connected to vaccines.

Benefit of the NewsIndia’s Vaccine Diplomacy

Russia gives nod to extend START treaty #GS2 #IR

Russian lawmakers quickly approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. arms control treaty, a fast-track action that comes just days before it’s due to expire.

Both houses of Parliament voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years, a day after a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said they agreed to complete the necessary extension procedures in the next few days.

The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move and Mr. Putin has to sign the relevant Bill into law.

Benefit of the NewsSTART Treaty

High debt burden could hamper India’s ability to provide stimulus #GS3 #Economy

India’s high government debt could limit its ability to give a fiscal stimulus to the economy, Moody’s Investors Service noted in a report on credit conditions in Asia.

Job losses, income shocks and the gaps in health infrastructure pose ‘highly negative risks’ for the country’s growth prospects. “In India, a high government debt burden will limit the extent of fiscal support, although the government has undertaken a number of measures to improve policy transmission and broader structural reforms.

It warned that the sheer magnitude of the recession would lead to a degree of economic scarring in the more vulnerable Asian economies, which was likely to have persistent effects on potential output.

Moody’s expects income and social inequality to widen in 2021, while the number of people falling into poverty will rise significantly, erasing three to four years’ gains on poverty reduction.

The ratings agency said the traditional emphasis on infrastructure spending to support growth may now have to expand to include social spending on healthcare and pensions.