Current Affairs 4th May

7 Myanmar refugees can approach UNHCR #GS2 #IR

The High Court of Manipur allowed seven Myanmar nationals, who entered India secretly following the February military coup, to travel to New Delhi to seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Though India is not a party to the UN Refugee Conventions, the court observed that the country is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.

“The far-reaching and myriad protection afforded by Article 21 of our Constitution, as interpreted and adumbrated by our Supreme Court time and again, would indubitably encompass the right of non-refoulement.

Non-refoulement is the principle under international law that a person fleeing from persecution from his own country should not be forced to return.

Hiding in Moreh

They had been hiding in the border town Moreh until they were brought to Imphal following an order of the High Court on April 20.

We continue to be deeply concerned about the plight of thousands of other Myanmar nationals taking shelter in the bordering villages of Manipur without any support and protection apart from the hospitality and warmth of the poor villagers,” Mr. Loitongbam said.

The humanitarian sub-committee CCM has provided food, clothing, medicines and utensils donated by the people of Manipur in four villages in Kamjong district and three each in Tengnoupal and Churachandpur districts, housing more than 500 refugees from Myanmar, he said.

ICMR to get royalty from sale of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin #GS3 #SnT

The intellectual property governing the use of Covaxin, jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research, was “shared” and the ICMR would receive royalty payments.

The Public-Private Partnership was executed under a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the ICMR and the BBIL which includes a royalty clause for the ICMR on net sales and other clauses like prioritisation of in-country supplies. The product IP is shared. It is also agreed that the name of ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV) will be printed on the vaccine boxes. The same is being done now. However he did not say how much money was spent.

The partnership between the two organisations involves 12 activities that include clinical and preclinical studies. Five of these were funded entirely by Bharat Biotech: Candidate vaccine development, preclinical safety and toxicity studies in small animals (rats, mice and rabbits), phase-1 clinical trials including funding of sites, hiring Clinical Research Organisation (CRO) for trial monitoring, insurance, laboratory testing; phase 2 clinical trials including funding of sites, hiring CRO for trial monitoring, insurance, laboratory testing and all other logistics and hiring a CRO for phase-3 trial monitoring, insurance and laboratory testing.

The activities funded by the ICMR were: isolating the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a “huge number” of clinical samples, passage testing and confirmation; BSL-3 facility validation of BBIL for Covaxin production; vaccine strain characterisation by ELISA tests, electron microscopy, next generation sequencing; testing serum samples from preclinical studies in small animals; preclinical safety and efficacy in golden Syrian hamsters and preclinical safety and efficacy studies in rhesus macaques (monkeys); testing sera of Covaxin vaccinated individuals for U.K. strain, Brazil strain, South African strain and double mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2; U.K. variant virus isolation and characterisation, titration, sequencing from clinical specimens and funding the site for the phase 3 clinical trial.

Vaccine pricing

Covishield constitutes over 90% of the country’s vaccine supply so far and has been developed as partnership between the Oxford University and AzstraZeneca. Serum Institute of India is one among the many manufacturers in the world with a production licence and has to pay royalty to a foreign company.

Covaxin on the other hand is almost entirely indigenous and yet is priced higher than Covishield. Both are so far being bought by the Central government for Rs. 150 a dose. However, Covishield was first offered to States at Rs. 400 a dose and Rs. 600 to private hospitals and Covaxin was offered at Rs. 600 for State governments and at Rs. 1,200 for private hospitals.

Later Covishield’s price was reduced to Rs. 300 a dose for States and Covaxin reduced theirs to Rs. 400.

Adequate oxygen available, says Home Ministry official #GS3 #SnT

A senior official of the Ministry of Home Affairs said that there was adequate oxygen supply available in the country, despite the recent spike in demand.

Speaking during the government’s briefing on the COVID-19 situation, MHA Additional Secretary Piyush Goyal said he wanted to “reassure all citizens, that despite the increase in oxygen demand, there is adequate supply of oxygen in the country”. He added that the government was importing oxygen to meet future needs.

Mr. Goyal said the government was working on the transportation of oxygen from production centres to hospitals. He said the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had developed a real-time tracking system for oxygen tankers. He said States and Union Territories were provided air-lifting facilities for oxygen tankers by the Air Force as many times as they demanded in the past two weeks.

In addition, the government had identified industries and nitrogen plants that could be used to boost oxygen production.

When asked about the shortage of oxygen being reported in many parts, including Delhi, Health Ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said there were “challenges in the field”. On the vaccination front, he said 12 States had started the drive for 18-44 year olds from May 1.

Later during the briefing, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Delhi) director Randeep Guleria cautioned against the “misuse” of CT scans and biomarker tests. He said CT scans should not be done for mild cases and added that radiation from one CT scan of the chest was equivalent to 300-400 X-rays

India’s COVID-19 tally crosses 2 crore #GS3 #SnT

With 3,10,845 new cases until 9.30 p.m., India’s cumulative COVID-19 tally crossed 2 crore and stood at 2,02,30,708. The U.S. is the only other country to have crossed this mark. The country also recorded over 2,561 deaths due to COVID-19, taking the toll to 2,21,508.

Maharashtra reported 48,621 infections, followed by Kerala (44,438), and Uttar Pradesh (29,192). Maharashtra also recorded 567 casualties, followed by Uttar Pradesh (288) and Karnataka (239). Over 15 lakh tests were conducted in India on Sunday (results of which were made available on Monday).

As many as 2,75,792 new recoveries were recorded, taking the total to 1,65,57,734. The figures do not include cases and deaths from Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Ladakh. The data are sourced from the health bulletins of the respective States and UTs.

India on Sunday surpassed Mexico’s death toll due to COVID-19 to become the country with the third highest number of fatalities. The country continued to top the world in average registered daily deaths (3,405), over 1,000 more fatalities than Brazil, which ranked second. The U.S. was a distant third with 683 daily deaths on average.

Factory output growth decelerates: PMI #GS3 #Economy

India’s manufacturing sector activity was largely flat in April, as rates of growth for new orders and output eased to eight-month lows amid the rise in COVID-19 cases. The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was at 55.5 in April, little changed from March’s reading of 55.4. In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion while a score below 50 denotes contraction.

‘Further slowdown’

“The PMI results for April showed a further slowdown in rates of growth for new orders and output, both of which eased to eight-month lows amid the intensification of the COVID-19 crisis

Ms. Lima also noted that “the surge in COVID-19 cases could dampen demand further when firms’ financials are already susceptible to the hurdle of rising global prices.”

The daily COVID-19 cases in India showed a slight dip with 3,68,147 new coronavirus infections being reported, taking the total tally of cases to 1,99,25,604, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on May 3.

Surging input costs

On the prices front, survey participants also signalled a steep increase in input costs, the quickest since July 2014, and upward revisions to selling prices.

April saw the steepest increase in input costs for nearly seven years drive the sharpest upturn in output charges since October 2013. Data for the coming months will be important at verifying whether client demand is resilient to these challenges or if producers will have to further absorb cost burdens themselves to secure new work.

The survey, however, noted that while output and sales increased at the slowest rates since last August due to an intensification of the COVID-19 crisis, there was a faster upturn in international orders. New export orders increased for the eighth consecutive month in April and at the fastest rate since October 2020. The rise was associated with a pick-up in international demand for Indian goods, the survey said. On the job front, although manufacturing employment continued to fall, the rate of contraction recorded in April was marginal and the weakest in the current 13-month sequence of job shedding, it noted.

‘OPEC share slid as India’s oil imports shrank 11.8%’ #GS3 #Economy

OPEC’s share of India’s oil imports fell to the lowest in at least two decades in the year to the end of March as overall purchases by Asia’s third-largest economy fell to a six-year low, data obtained from industry and trade sources showed.

Total crude imports by the world’s third-biggest oil importer fell to 3.97 million barrels per day (bpd) in FY21, down 11.8% from a year earlier, data showed.

India bought more U.S. and Canadian oil at the expense of that from Africa and West Asia, reducing purchases from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to about 2.86 million bpd and squeezing the group’s share of imports to 72% from about 80% previously. That is the lowest share since at least FY02, before which crude import data is not available.

U.S. and Canadian oil accounted for about 7% and 1.3% respectively of India’s imports compared to 4.5% and 0.60% a year earlier.,industry%20and%20trade%20sources%20showed.

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