Current Affairs, 15 April 2020
- May 28, 2020
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THE PANDEMIC AND THE CONTOURS OF A HEALTH RESPONSE
RELEVANT FOR: DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES | TOPIC: HEALTH & SANITATION AND RELATED ISSUES
- India is facing the worst public health crisisin its independent history which pales the earlier ones such as AIDS, SARS and H1N1 into insignificance. The speed at which the virus entered the country and the multiple challenges it has posed before the people and the government are unprecedented.
- While the initial response of the government was quick in restricting the entry and the quarantine of travellers from China and other South East Asian countries, the subsequent wave of international travellers has completely caught everyone off guard.
- Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India| State-wise tracker for coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates
- The 21-day national clampdownfollowing the Janata curfew —and now extended — was and will be a timely step to stem the tide of rising infection levels. While this has confined the pool of infected persons to their homes, the aftermath of the lockdown when they will start moving out will pose enormous challenges. Central and State Governments should plan to adopt a public health approach to address the situation and use days ahead to ready with the strategy and tools for rolling it out.
- We should realise that despite the best response, the epidemic will not be going away for all time to come. It is a novel virus and people have no immunity to protect themselves. Prevention, care and support are the only strategies that will succeed in mitigating the crisis. This will need a carefully planned public health approach which identifies the risks based on evidence and pro-actively intervenes to mitigate them.
- The foremost task is to identify people and the households of those who returned from abroad in the last two months and who have turned symptomatic. They need to be immediately quarantined either in their homes or in community care centres identified by the State and district authorities. Civil society should be invited to be partners in organising the care centres and managing them.
India coronavirus lockdown Day 21 updates
- Only the serious cases among them should be referred to hospitals for treatment. The intermediate step of quarantine will check a huge rush of patients even with minor symptoms to hospitals, choking health-care facilities and depriving the more serious and needy cases of emergency medical care.
- To supplement this effort, large-scale supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves and face masks would become necessary. Community organisations can be mobilised to procure and supply such equipment to complement government efforts. Ventilator demand will also go up very soon and advance planning for emergency procurement would be necessary.
- As the flood of patients starts increasing in hospitals, counselling services for patients and members of their families would be of utmost necessity. Large number of counsellors can be mobilised at short notice from existing national programmes and communities which have the necessary experience in counselling.
- Trained counsellors in care centres and hospitals can relieve the huge pressure on doctors and nursing staff and will make a huge difference to the quality of care to infected persons.
Coronavirus | Longer lockdown essential to break chain of infection, says government
- Families of infected persons face a challenging task. Until they show symptoms of COVID-19, they need to remain in isolation and at the same time look after their wards who are admitted in care centres and hospitals. Local communities are best suited to provide support to the families of infected persons and ensure that they are not stigmatised in the locality or neighbourhood. In metropolitan cities, resident welfare associations and mohalla committees can play a very proactive role in addressing this need. In the smaller towns and villages, the district administration can mobilise local communities to provide supporting services.
- A critical gap in the level of response is the limited testing facilities available for people to know their COVID-19 status. Current testing procedures which depend on viral tests are expensive and time consuming. It is high time that rapid testing is introduced on a large scale in the country using the window of opportunity the lock down provides.
- Rapid test kits should be made available in care centres and people who test negative should be asked to remain in isolation at home. As these test kits become available in large quantities at a lower cost, community-level testing can be introduced to enable people to check their COVID-19 status if they get accidentally exposed to the risk of infection. This measure will also help in normalising the disease in the community and lift the stigma and fear surrounding it to a great extent.
A UPI MODEL FOR HEALTH
RELEVANT FOR: DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES | TOPIC: HEALTH & SANITATION AND RELATED ISSUES
- The principles that have propelled two domestic digital payments’ platforms also offer India an opportunity to show how the tracing of COVID-19cases can be done at scale and with greater speed. The JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) trinity for DBTs (Direct Benefit Transfers) and UPI (Unified Payments Interface) have made India a technology leader in money transfers. The former has lent efficiency to the transfer of funds to the needy. It was drafted into action recently to channel payments to the more vulnerable who need help in dealing with the adverse economic consequences of the lockdown. The latter is emerging as a transaction vehicle of choice for all retail payments. In March, 148 banks were on the UPI platform, helping process over 120 crore transactions worth over Rs 2 lakh crore.
- The success of India’s Aarogya Setu mobile application will depend on its widespread adoption. The app, like other similar products, relies on bluetooth technology to map and deconstruct the contact history of individuals who may have come in contact with potential carriers of the coronavirus. If two individuals are at the same place at the same time, their apps can exchange information (up to a maximum distance of about 15 feet) without the server knowing anything about it. Further, the app notifies users and authorities of individuals who are at risk. Some privacy safeguards have been put in place to ensure that individuals do not share personally identifiable information with each other but only with authorities — that too, in select cases. A confidence-building measure would be to release the code for public scrutiny with the aim of further bolstering privacy standards.
- The distribution of the detection framework necessitates a rethink, beyond an app. Given the numbers we deal with, the government and its agencies have been going all out to push downloads. As Nandan Nilekani has underlined earlier, app downloads in India are perhaps the most expensive compared to any other developed or fast-developing nation, despite the falling cost of data, since Indian users pass potential downloads through several filters such as required storage space, the potential impact on battery and data usage. Given India’s open internet, several publishers from across industries and geographies are vying for smartphone real estate. In such a situation, drawing attention to particular use-cases (howsoever urgent) is challenging.
- An alternative strategy that we can pursue is delinking the technology we want to use for tracing (the backend) from the channels (the front end). A fine-tuned backend can be pushed to, and used by, publishers (other apps) who already have the reach. This is akin to the UPI being used by several banks and technology firms for payment. The government did build its frontend in the form of the BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app but mostly for signalling purposes. In the current context, the government can consider using its own app for tracing and for additional use-cases such as passes and approvals for movement when the lockdown is gradually eased out. It could even host other health-related features. Expanding its ambit and making it a conduit like JAM will likely increase the incentive for people to embrace it.
- Another area where improvisations are called for is the tooling for tracking. While reports have indicated that the developers are using bluetooth for tracing and are also capturing GPS coordinates, both users and device manufacturers limit their usage of these technologies in favour of other optimisations. Users are concerned with both data and battery usage while device manufacturers kill background jobs even if the publishers have sought and secured permissions from users. These tendencies are pronounced on Android, the dominant mobile operating system in India. In such a scenario, developers ought to think about using other techniques. For instance, using cell tower data and WiFi identifiers to bolster tracing efforts. This is especially important in a context where only a third of our population has smartphones and even fewer people have devices with bluetooth capability. Even the recently announced Google-Applepartnership may not have meaningful results in this setting.
- With the potential ramifications of COVID-19’s spread in India and across the globe, the nation’s recent history of technological successes and a government committed to agile governance, the pandemicpresents an opportunity for the country to show its people and the world how technology is a force of good.
HALTING THE MARCH OF RUMOURS
RELEVANT FOR: SECURITY RELATED MATTERS | TOPIC: ROLE OF MEDIA AND SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES IN INTERNAL SECURITY CHALLENGES
- In 1984, just as Delhi was engulfed by a pogrom against the Sikhs, the city was rife with the rumour that they had poisoned the entire water supply. Such rumours are not new. For centuries, European Jews were falsely accused of poisoning wells during wars, epidemics or civic unrest. Late 18th century Paris, witness to deep polarisation along class lines, was replete with the rumour that the rich had distributed lethal, contaminated flour to the poor.
- It is no surprise then that during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the rumour mill has Muslims deliberately throwing infected ₹2,000 notes on the road or Muslim street vendors spitting on vegetables and fruits. Periods of social stress or natural disasters are fertile ground for rumours, which not only spread like wild fire but have grave consequences — scapegoating, social boycott, violence and arson, even lynching and murder.
- Where do rumours spring from and why and how do they spread so fast? Why do they thrive in a crisis? Not all rumours are pernicious. Some are potentially harmful, but like meteors in the sky, they disappear without much impact. But the ones that concern us here are toxic, occur with cataclysmic events and have devastating results. How must such rumours be checked?
- For a start, a rumour is an untested piece of information, opinion, report or story. Therefore, its veracity is doubtful. This unverified, ambiguous status is at the heart of a rumour, making it largely what it is. The moment an account is publicly demonstrated and accepted to be true or false, it ceases to be a rumour. In a sense then, a rumour’s truth or falsity is irrelevant to its efficacy or impact. Yet, every unconfirmed account is not a rumour. To become one, it must have other features. First, it must have a ring of truth. Something in it must make it contextually plausible for the listener or the reader. If an account is obviously bizarre — the sun will freeze overnight — or instantly falsifiable — Sachin scored a thousand runs in an ODI — it cannot become a rumour. Second, it short-circuits reason. Laced with passion, it works by seizing the collective psyche of victims. Suddenly, many start to believe it. This also lends it a third important feature — it circulates rapidly. Fourth, it manifests itself through an event. It is a passing gust, sometimes a tornado that leaves devastation in its wake but is ephemeral. Fifth, even when deliberately planted by only a few, it derives authority largely from the mob. Indeed, expert-authority is helpless against its seductive power. So, a rumour is a useful half-truth with strong emotional overtones that spreads fast, gripping individual minds to create a common consciousness and agency, often with grave social consequences.
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- Rumours are efficacious in societies already prepared to receive them. What then are the conditions that beget them? First, a context where there is either an information void or an information overload. Unable to satisfactorily make sense of their world in these uncertain contexts, humans become cognitively unstable and anxious. To meet their cognitive needs, they are forced to rely on bits and pieces of available knowledge, on a patchwork of half-truths, a rag bag of allusions that together provide a fragile, uncorroborated framework for interpreting events. Rumours feed on this mythic framework. Add emotional anxiety to this cognitive framework, and one has a ready-made arena for rumours to flourish. An overheated mind burns all evidence that comes its way and surrenders to rumours, often in the service of emotional needs. Recall how, during demonetisation, amidst despair and anxiety at losing their own money, the poor still found emotional satisfaction in the rumour that crores of rupees secretly stored in cash by the rich were rendered worthless.
- Jamuna Prasad, a psychologist at Ranchi and Patna Universities, was among the first to establish a link between high levels of anxiety and the easy spread of rumours. Typically, unrecognised when alive but posthumously celebrated as a pioneer in the social psychology of rumours, he did so by studying the social impact of the deadly Bihar-Nepal earthquake of 1934. Others have shown that, in times of acute crisis, people lean on knee jerk speculation and prejudice. A group consisting of ‘outsiders’, already distrusted and disliked, becomes an easy target, ready to be blamed for the current mess. Rumours succeed in societies ridden with an us-them syndrome, already polarised. Indeed, by binding people, creating temporary solidarities against a perceived enemy, they only deepen polarisation. No wonder they come in handy to those who benefit from such divisions.
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- With uncertainty, fear, and the radical other already firmly in place, the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle is provided by a vivid story of grave wrongdoing by an ‘enemy’ who has allegedly unleashed the calamity. A rumour is that story. And the more horrifying, outrageous and disgusting the story, the greater its emotional resonance and quicker its spread. But as mentioned, to get kickstarted, it must already be believable. Some factual detail needs to be added to the fiction to give it plausibility that it otherwise lacks.
- It is a fact that the 1984 carnage compelled Sikhs to go to gurudwaras in large numbers. But then a baseless rumour surfaced that they were stockpiling arms, planning to attack and plunder posh colonies. The truth, altogether different, is that they went there seeking refuge. So, in the entire narrative, one detail was factually correct — and this little truth alone made a giant lie plausible. Likewise, it is a fact that many Muslims have experienced arbitrary violence, stigma and ostracisation in contemporary India. Given this threat, panic-stricken Muslims in Indore unjustifiably beat up a team of doctors who had come to test them for COVID-19. They easily succumbed to the rumour that it was not medical quarantine but needless, malicious separation from their families that motivated the visit.
- In polarised societies, fear and vulnerability make rumour-mongering easy. But there are other reasons for why they get widely entrenched. Three of them stand out. First, the desire to conform gets the better of a questioning mind. Rather than face sanction and ostracisation for sticking out, people find it safer to emulate members of their group. Second, ironically, a belief gets entrenched after like-minded people discuss it among themselves. Discussion has a cascading effect; the more one talks about it, the more the biased rumour grows. Third, a denial by a mistrusted outsider, no matter how great her expertise, only ends up solidifying rumours. Group dynamics in polarised societies works with a logic all of its own; every person is necessarily partisan. A neutral ground for impartial voices is simply unimaginable.
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- So here in brief is the conundrum: Since societies can never be fully informed or secure, rumours are inevitable and in times of acute crisis, they are a menace. Yet, providing rational rebuttal or furnishing relevant information is unable to stem the tide. Must rumours then be viewed like a tsunami before which we are helpless?
- This fatalism is unwarranted. Transforming conditions conducive to rumours can reduce their efficacy. Depolarising society, loosening the grip of prejudice and calmly addressing the collective anxieties and obsessions of a group are deterrents, but, alas, only in the long run. In the short run, regulatory laws to check rumours are imperative. As also, the need to have critical insiders, those with authority within a community, deny injurious rumours, not least on the ground that eventually they harm even those who propagate, spread and exploit them. Community leaders and democratically elected office holders must play a crucial role in halting the march of dangerous rumours.
ECONOMIC LIBERALISATION AND ITS FAULTS
RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO PLANNING & ECONOMIC REFORMS
- “India is not able to get required quantities of test kits, PPE and parts of ventilators through importation.” Central Reserve Police Force soldiers stitch personal protective equipment suits for health workers in New Delhi. AP
- Manmohan Singh’s 1991-92 Budget speechmarked the beginning of the end of the ‘Licence Raj’ in India. The Budget also announced the reduction of import duties and paved the way for foreign-manufactured goods to flow into India. Following this, most of the manufacturing sector was opened up to foreign direct investment. India’s industrial policy was virtually junked, and policymakers and the political leadership became contemptuous of the idea of self-reliance.
- In the late 1980s, transnational corporations started shifting the production base to smaller companies in developing countries, especially Asia, in search of cheap labour and raw materials. Developed countries supported the move because shifting the polluting and labour-intensive industries suited them as long as ownership remained with their companies. Thus, the world witnessed the development of global supply chains in many products starting with garments, wherein huge companies with massive market power dictated the terms to smaller manufacturers down the value chain to produce cheaply.
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- Though many developing countries participated in the global production/value/supply chains, the substantial value addition in developing countries happened in a few production hubs, of which China emerged to be a major one. Manufacturing shifted from a decentralised production system spread across different counties to just a few locations. However, countries like China defied the logic of supply/value chains ensuring substantial value addition for themselves. They even carried out backward integration and thus emerged as global manufacturing hubs for certain products. In the case of health products, China became the global supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical devices diagnostics.
- This has major implications for the COVID-19 outbreak. The resultant loss of manufacturing base has affected the ability of many governments, including of developed countries, to put up an effective response to the crisis. The U.K. Prime Minister asked the country’s manufacturers to produce ventilators in order to provide care for critical COVID-19 patients. Similarly, the U.S. President invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to ramp up N95 mask production. Under this legislation, the U.S. President can direct U.S. manufacturers to shift from their normal manufacturing activities to produce goods according to the directions of the government. Similarly, the French Health Minister stated that the country may nationalise vaccine companies if necessary. Spain nationalised all its private hospitals. Israel and Chile issued compulsory licences to ensure that medicines are affordable. In an indirect show of power, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma sent a flight containing 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields to the U.S. This exposes the poor state of preparedness and dependence on imports for essential goods required to meet the challenge of any major disease outbreak. This shows that what is good for the company may not be good the country in all circumstances. So, the overwhelming objective of private sector-led economic growth has proved to be disastrous.
- In India, economic liberalisation has damaged the government’s capacity in two ways. First, it incapacitated the government to respond to emergencies based on credible information. The dismantling of the ‘Licence Raj’ resulted in the elimination of channels of information for the government, which is crucial to make informed policy choices. For instance, as part of the removal of ‘Licence Raj’, the government stopped asking for information from the manufacturer to file the quantity of production of various medicines. As a result, it has taken weeks now and a series of meetings for the government to gather information about stocks and the production capacity of pharmaceutical companies. Similarly, there were difficulties in finding out India’s production capacity of PPE, medical devices and diagnostics. The only government data available in the public domain is with regard to the production of vaccines.
- Second, the logic and policies of economic liberalisation seriously undermined the manufacturing capabilities of health products in India. The short-sighted policy measures, with the objective of enhancing profitability of the private sector, allowed the import of raw materials from the cheapest sources and resulted in the debasing of the API industry, especially in essential medicine. According to a report of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), nearly 70% of India’s API import is from China. The CII report lists nearly 58 API where the dependence is 90% to 100%. The disruption in the supply of API due to the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the production of not only medicines required for COVID-19 patients, but also of other essential medicines in India. As a cost-effective producer of medicines, the world is looking to India for supply, but it cannot deliver due to its dependence on China, which has also forced India to impose export restrictions on select medicines.
- Similar dependence exists with regard to PPE, medical devices and diagnostic kits. The 100% dependence on Reagents, an important chemical component for testing, is limiting the capacity of the government from expanding testing because the cost of each test is ₹4,500. A population of 1.33 billion requires a large number of tests. Dependence on imports affects the ability of Indian diagnostic companies to provide an affordable test for all those who want to test for COVID-19. There are only a few domestic manufacturers who can produce PPE and medical devices like ventilators. Now the country is not able to get required quantities of test kits, PPE and parts of ventilators through importation. In the name of economic efficiency, India allowed unconditional imports of these products and never took note of the dangers of dependency.
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- Global supply/production chains not only destroyed the manufacturing base in developed and developing countries; they also resulted in loss of jobs and poor working conditions in these sectors. Developing countries were asked to ease their labour protection laws to facilitate global production and supply chains popularly known as global value chains. As a result, people were forced to work in precarious working conditions without any social security net. This created an unorganised army of labourers and is preventing many developing country governments from effectively offering relief.
- A virus has made us rethink our obsession with the economic efficiency theory. It implores us to put in place an industrial policy to maintain core capacity in health products so that we can face the next crisis more decisively.
CENTRE MAY PUT RS 1-LAKH CRORE INTO RURAL HANDS
RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATED TO POVERTY, INCLUSION, EMPLOYMENT & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
WORLD ECONOMIC OUTLOOK REPORT: IMF
RELATED FOR: – ECONOMY / TOPIC: -ISSUES RELATED TO IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, EFFECT OF POLICIES & POLITICS OF COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS, GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released its World Economic Outlook (WEO) report.
- The Covid-19 pandemicis having a severe effect on the world economy. As countries implement necessary quarantines and social distancing practices to contain Covid-19, the world has been put in a Great Lockdown.
- It is expected to cause a –3% change (i.e., a contraction) in global output in 2020,which is much worse than the 2008-09 financial crises.
- Case of India:India’s growth is expected to dip to 1.9% in 2020 and rebound to 7.4% in 2021.
- India’s growth projection for 2020 is 9% less than what was projected for the countryin the January update to the WEO while its rebound in 2021 is 0.9 % higher than the January projection.
- Emerging Asia is projected to be the only region that grows in 2020, at a rate of 1.0% –still more than 5 percentage points below the previous decade’s average.
- In China, where the coronavirus’s impacts were first recorded this year, first quarter economic activity could have contracted by 8% year on year. China is projected to grow at 1.2% in 2020 and 9.2% in 2021.
- Apart fromIndia’s modest 1.9% in 2020, Indonesia is expected to grow at 0.5%, while others in the region experience contractions.
- Advanced economies will have an output change of -6.1% (i.e., a contraction) in 2020followed by 4.5% in 2021.
- The S. is projected to contract by 5.9%in 2020 and grow by 4.7% 2021.
- The Euro area, will contract by 7.5%in 2020 and grow by 4.7% 2021.
Impact on Global GDP:
- The cumulative loss to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP)over 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic crisis could be around 9 trillion dollars, greater than the economies of Japan and Germany, combined.
- Assuming that the pandemic fades in the second half of this year, with containment efforts gradually easing up, the world economy is projected to grow at 5.8% in 2020as economic activity normalizes, aided by policy.
- If the pandemic does not recede in the second half of 2020, global GDP wouldfall an additional 3% in 2020.
Measures to combat the impact:
- Policymakers have to make targeted fiscal, monetary and financial sector interventionsto support impacted households and businesses.
- Fiscal measures should be two-fold:
- Cushioning the impact on the most-exposed households and businesses
- Reducing firm closures, i.e., preserving economic relationships.
- Monetary stimulusby large central banks and liquidity facilities to reduce systemic stress will help limit the shock, positioning the economy for a better recovery.
- Strong multilateral cooperationis essential to overcome the effects of the pandemic, including to help financially constrained countries facing twin health and funding shocks, and for channelling aid to countries with weak healthcare systems.
International Monetary Fund
- IMF is an organization working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
- Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership. India Joined on December 27, 1945.
- The IMF’s primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other.
- The Fund’s mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
World Economic Outlook
- WEO is a survey by the IMF that is usually published twice a year in the months of April and October.
- It analyzes and predicts global economic developments during the near and medium term.
- In response to the growing demand for more frequent forecast updates, the WEO Update is published in January and July between the two main WEO publications released usually in April and October.
RELATED FOR: – INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS: – IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, REGIONAL GROUPINGS
Vietnam chaired the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit held online. The discussions pertained to the impact of Covid-19 on southeast Asia.
- Leaders from China, Japan and South Korea joined the summit.
- ASEAN leaders have warned of the crippling economic cost of Covid-19 and called for trade routes to reopen to protect jobs and food supplies, as well as the stockpiling of medical equipment.
- The Covid-19 has ruined the region’s tourism and export-reliant economies.
- Vietnam has urged Southeast Asian leaders to set up an emergency fund to tackle the coronavirus.
Existing Fears on the impact of Covid-19 on the Region:
- Limited testing in Indonesia has resulted in the lower number of cases — and under 400 deaths — for a country of 260 million.
- Health systems from Myanmar to Laos are widely believed to be missing the true scale of infections.
- A recent surge in cases in Singaporehas raised fears the pandemic could rebound in places which had batted back the initial outbreak.
- The Thai economy, the second largest in ASEAN, is expected to shrink by3% in 2020 — a 22-year low — with millions left jobless.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- ASEAN is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation.
- It was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
- Ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
- Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
- ASEAN countries have a total population of 650 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.8 trillion.
- The group has played a central role in Asian economic integration, signing six free-trade agreements with other regional economies and helping spearhead negotiations for what could be the world’s largest free trade pact.
COVID-19 IMPACT ON MEASLES IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM
RELATED FOR: – GOVERNANCE / TOPICS:- HEALTH , ISSUES RELATED TO CHILDREN
According to the United Nations (UN), due to the Covid-19 pandemic, measles immunisation campaigns have been delayed in 24 countries and will be cancelled in 13 other countries.
The reason being that the healthcare workers are required to deal with the pandemic in countries where healthcare systems are inadequate.
- The coronavirus pandemic,which has necessitated many prevention measures including strict lockdowns, has kept infants from getting routine immunisation services from some other diseases such as polio, yellow fever and cholera.
- Countries including Mexico, Bolivia, Lebanon, Nepal and Chile are among others who have delayed their immunisation campaigns.
- Some of the countries currently amid measles outbreakinclude Nigeria, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Kazakhstan among others.
- According to a report in the journal Nature, the reproduction number for measles,which is the number of people who get infected by an individual who has the disease, is somewhere between 12-18, which makes measles the most contagious virus known.
- According to theWorld Health Organization (WHO), mass immunisation drives and routine vaccination for children are the key public health strategies against the Measles. Therefore, delaying the campaigns affects these strategies, potentially putting the life of thousands of children at risk.
- The WHO released an interim guidelinefor carrying out immunisation activities during Covid-19 on 26th March, 2020.
- It says if immunisation activities are negatively impacted during the pandemic, respective countries will need to design strategies for delivering “catch-up” vaccines after the outbreak subsides. Implementing this will require strategies to track and follow-up with individuals who missed getting vaccinated,assessing immunity gaps and re-establishing community demand.
- Further, it has advised that mass immunisation campaignsbe “temporarily suspended” in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and that countries should monitor the necessity of delaying these campaigns at regular intervals.
- Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and despite the availability of a vaccine against it, it remains to be a leading cause of death among young children globally.
- The disease is transmitted via droplets released from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.
- The initial symptoms occur 10-12 days after contracting the infection and include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes and the appearance of white spots on the inside of the mouth.
- Some of the most serious complications arising out of the disease include blindness, encephalitis (brain swelling), severe diarrhea, dehydration and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
- The disease is common in parts of Africa and Asia and is more likely among poorly nourished children, especially those who are deficient in vitamin A.
- Measles claimed 140,000 lives in 2018, mostly of children and babies.
- The measles vaccine has been in use since the 1960s. It is safe, effective and inexpensive.
- As per the WHO, reaching all children with 2 doses of measles vaccine, either alone, or in a measles-rubella (MR), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) combination, should be the standard for all national immunization programmes.
- In India, the first dose of measles vaccine was introduced in the 1990s.
- India introduced the second dose from 2010 onwards. India was one of the last countries to add a second dose of measles vaccine.
- In 2019, Sri Lanka became the fifth country in the WHO southeast Asia region to eliminate measles. The other countries in the region which have eliminated measles in their geographical area are Bhutan, Maldives, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste.
SAHYOG APP: SURVEY OF INDIA
RELATED FOR: – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS: – E-GOVERNANCE, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS
The Survey of India (SoI) has developed an e-platform that will collect geotagged information on the nation’s critical infrastructure in order to help the Government and public health agencies take critical decisions in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic situation.
To support this platform, a mobile application called Sahyog has also been created. This app will help collect location specific data with the help of community workers.
Survey of India
- It is the National Survey and Mapping Organization of the country under the Department of Science & Technology.
- It was established in 1767 and is the oldest scientific department of the Government of India.
- It is headquartered at Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
- The Survey of India acts as adviser to the Government of India on all survey matters, viz Geodesy, Photogrammetry, Mapping and Map Reproduction.
- Geodesy is the science of accurately measuring and understanding the Earth’s geometric shape, orientation in space and gravity field.
- Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs.
- Swift Solution:Data collection by formal land survey is a lengthy and time taking process but the mobile app can help crowdsource data quickly.
- Complement Arogya Setu App:This will complement the recently launched Aarogya Setu App that helps trace the contacts of those who may have been infected by Covid-19.
- Relevant Information:Information regarding biomedical waste disposals, containment areas, available hospitals for Covid-19 cases, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) testing laboratories and quarantine camps will be integrated on this platform with their latitudinal and longitudinal parameters. This could be customised to a variety of ‘Covid-related applications’ such as healthcare facilities, infection clusters and disaster management
- Data Localisation:Data collected using Sahyog application will be used for creating various applications for everyone’s usage and would facilitate building a dataset that remains inside India.
- Support System:The data fed by the volunteers working on the ground such as the ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) and Anganwadi workers will lead to a good support system for the government and doctors on ground.
- Health Delivery System:This will strengthen the public health delivery system of the central and state governments by providing necessary information support to workers dealing with the challenges of health, socio-economic distress and livelihood changes.
- Integration on Single Platform:A lot of geospatial data about locations of fire services, banquet halls etc. is already present with the Government which was not integrated in a single platform. This is a step in that direction.
CYBER FRAUDS AND COVID-19
RELATED FOR:- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY / TOPICS :- HEALTH, IT & COMPUTERS, CYBER SECURITY, MONEY LAUNDERING
The Covid-19 outbreak presents a global challenge for the medical fraternity and society as well as for law enforcement agencies, due to the rising cases of cybercrime.
- Novel ways (fake accounts and exploiting vulnerabilities of various applications)of defrauding people using information and technology are being used to siphon off the money.
- The lockdownhas forced employees to work from home. Use of public platforms may result in loss of confidential data if an organisation does not have its own infrastructure and does not use VPN (Virtual Private Network) for accessing its resources.
Recent Cases of Cyber Fraud
Fake UPI of PM CARES Fund
- An alert has been issued about phishing of the UPI (Unified Payments Interface) ID of the PM CARES Fund, in which the offender created a similar-looking ID to deceive users.
- UPI is a real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India(NCPI) for inter-bank transactions.
- The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and instantly transfers funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform. The NPCI keeps a record of all the accounts and transactions.
- Cases have been reported of fake Facebook accounts where money has been fraudulently asked for the treatment of alleged patients by hacking their accounts.
Zoom App Mishap
- The Computer Emergency Response Team-India(CERT-In) circulated a vulnerability note giving Zoom a ‘medium’ security rating.
- The permission to Zoom for accessing the user’s microphone, web-cam and data storage can result in hijacking and loss of private data.
- ‘Zoom raiding’ or ‘Zoom bombing’can be started, in which hate speech, pornography or other content is suddenly flashed by disrupting a video call on Zoom.
- In the app, meeting IDs can be shared through a link, on screen and other mediums which give the chances to uninvited guests to join a meeting and gain access to sensitive information.
- Verification of the destination UPI ID, blocking a stolen mobile phone with a UPI-enabled appand adherence to the KYC guidelines issued by the RBI.
Social Media Related:
- Following best practices to protect privacy.
- Staying cautious while using free apps for confidential meetings and using organisational infrastructure to ensure authentication, access control and integrity of data through VPN or other options.
- People are recommendedto avoid opening suspicious emails and clicking links in unrecognised emails and attachments, backup files regularly, use strong passwords, keep softwares updated, etc.
- In guidelines for law-enforcement agencies, Interpolwarned about the emerging trend of false or misleading advertisements about medical products, setting up of fraudulent e-commerce platforms, phishing etc during the
- A person should report the police immediately if he/she becomes the victim.
- Computer-related wrongs are covered under theInformation Technology Act (IT Act), 2000 and wrongdoers are liable for penalty, compensation and criminal liability in appropriate cases.
LAUNCH OF COLLAB CAD IN ATAL TINKERING LABS
RELATED FOR:- GOVERNANCE TOPICS :- GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, EDUCATION
Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) have jointly launched Collab CAD in Atal Tinkering Labs (or ATL schools) to provide students experience in creating and modifying 3D designs.
- Collab CADis a collaborative network enabled and desktop CAD (Computer -Aided Design) software system, which provides a total engineering solution from 2D drafting & detailing to 3D printing.
- 3D printingor additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
- 3D printing has been used to create car parts, smartphone cases, fashion accessories, medical equipment and artificial organs.
- Developed By:It is an initiative of National Informatics Centre (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), New Delhi, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Department of Atomic Energy), Navi Mumbai and Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (Department of Space, ISRO), Thiruvananthapuram.
- Rationale Behind Launch in ATL Schools:To provide a great platform to students of Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) across the country to create and modify 3D designs with free flow of creativity and imagination.
- This software would also enable students to create data across the network and concurrently access the same design data for storage and visualization.
Atal Tinkering Labs
- Atal Innovation Missionhas established Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) in schools across India. The objective of this scheme is to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds; and inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing etc.
- Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is Government of India’s flagship initiativeto promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
- AIM’s objectiveis to develop new programmes and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of the economy, provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness and create an umbrella structure to oversee the innovation ecosystem of the country.
- ATL is a work space where young minds can give shape to their ideas through hands on do-it-yourself mode; and learn innovation skills. Young children get a chance to work with tools and equipment to understand the concepts of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
- AIM provides grant-in-aidthat includes a one-time establishment cost of Rs. 10 lakh and operational expenses of Rs. 10 lakh for a maximum period of 5 years to each ATL.
- In light of the current situation (Covid-19), the ATL program has launched a‘Tinker from Home’ campaign to ensure that the children across the county have access to useful easy-to-learn online resources to keep themselves fruitfully occupied.
- AIM has also launched theGame Development module as part of the ‘Tinker from Home’ campaign. It is an online platform through which students can learn to create their own games and also share it with others. This platform envisages to make students transition from ‘game players’ to ‘game makers’.
RELATED FOR: – GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS: – GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Recently, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued an order under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005.
The order has directed the Chairman of the National Executive Committee, that existing lockdown measures be continued to be implemented in all parts of the country till May 3,2020.
- The order is in response to the Prime Minister’s announcement that the lockdown measures imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic would have to be extended till May 3,2020.
- TheMinistry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued the order to all States and Union Territories (UTs) that with the extension of the lockdown, all restrictions that have been imposed in various sectors, and on various activities, will continue to remain in force.
- The first set of such guidelines to be followed by States for containment of Covid-19 pandemic was issued on March 24,2020 under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005,invoked for the first time in the country.
- The DM Act, 2005is a national law that empowers the Central Government to declare the entire country or part of it as affected by a disaster and to make plans for mitigation to reduce “risks, impacts and effects” of the disaster.
- Covid-19has been declared as a national disaster.
National Executive Committee
- A National Executive Committee (NEC) is constituted underSection 8 of the DM Act, 2005 to assist the National Disaster Management Authority in the performance of its functions.
- Union Home secretary is its ex-officio chairperson.
- NEC has been given the responsibility to act as the coordinating and monitoring body for disaster management,to prepare a National Plan, monitor the implementation of National Policy etc.
National Disaster Management Authority
- NDMA is the apex statutory bodyfor disaster management in India, under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The NDMA was formally constituted on 27thSeptember 2006, in accordance with the Disaster Management Act, 2005 with the Prime Minister as its Chairperson and nine other members, and one such member to be designated as Vice-Chairperson.
- Mandate:Its primary purpose is to coordinate response to natural or man-made disasters and for capacity-building in disaster resiliency and crisis response. It is also the apex body to lay down policies, plans and guidelines for Disaster Management to ensure timely and effective response to disasters.
- Vision:To build a safer and disaster resilient India by a holistic, proactive, technology driven and sustainable development strategy that involves all stakeholders and fosters a culture of prevention, preparedness and mitigation.
ICMR ADVISES ‘POOL TESTING’ OF COVID-19
RELATED FOR: – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/TOPICS: – HEALTH, SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS & DISCOVERIES, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has advised the feasibility of using pooled samples for molecular testing of Covid-19 citing the rise of cases in India.
The advisory also stated that it is important to increase the number of tests being done in laboratories in India.
- A pooled testing algorithm involves the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)screening of a specimen pool comprising multiple individual patient specimens, followed by individual testing (pool de-convolution) ONLY IF a pool screens positive.
- As all individual samples in a negative pool are regarded as negative, it results in substantial cost savingswhen a large proportion of pools tests negative.
- This method is effective in two ways. First, it increases the capacity of testingand second, it saves a lot of resources — time, cost and manpower.
- Maximum Number of Samples:Pooling of more than 5 samples is not recommended to avoid the effect of dilution leading to false negatives.
- Pooling & Positivity Rates:The ICMR has suggested three different approaches based on the percentage of positive cases. These are:
- Pooling of samples should be done only in areas withlow prevalence of Covid-19 (initially using a proxy of low positivity of <2% from the existing data).
- In areas with positivity of 2-5%,sample pooling for PCR screening may be considered only in community survey or surveillance among asymptomatic individuals, strictly excluding pooling samples of individuals with known contact with confirmed cases, Health Care Workers (in direct contact with care of COVID-19 patients). Sample from such individuals should be directly tested without pooling.
- Pooling of samples is not recommendedin areas or populations with positivity rates of >5% for Covid-19.
TEST POSITIVITY RATE
RELATED FOR: – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY / TOPICS: – HEALTH
Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has observed that the test positivity rate had not changed substantially over the last one to two months, maintaining between 3% and 5%.
Test Positivity Rate:
- It is the proportion of positive cases among all tests done.
- It is taken to be a useful indicator if a substantial section of suspected cases has been tested.
- It is one among the measures for assessing the spread of an infection.
- From data on tests for Covid-19and positive cases between 18th March and 13th April, it emerges that the test positivity rate in India has been between 1.1% and 4.3% (ratios based on cumulative counts until any date).
- If more people are testedand the positivity rate remains the same, it’s a clue that the infection is where it was and is not expanding.
- A sudden spike in the infection spread would be an alarming concern.
Indian Council of Medical Research
- It is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
- Its mandate is to conduct, coordinate and implement medical research for the benefit of the society, translating medical innovations into products/processes and introducing them into the public health system.
It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
RECOVERY CURVE AND CASE RATE CURVE
RELATED FOR: – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS: – HEALTH, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
The recovery rate of Covid-19 patients in India aligns closely with the curve of confirmed cases, with a lag of two weeks, according to an examination of absolute numbers of the cases.
- For making the global comparison, data from the Johns Hopkins University database was used.
- Mapping the global number of Covid-19 patients who recoveredlargely mimics the global case load, with a 14-day lag.
- However, the high recovery rate does not take into account the severity of the diseaseduring the recovery process.
- Indian graph shows that the mortality rate in India is lower than global rates,so far.
- The graph for global rates shows the overall recovery rate as significantly flatter than the caseload.
- Thecases worldwide are growing exponentially but the global recovery rate has begun to fall flat.
- Globally, there is considerable research on the mortality of Covid-19but there is less literature to help understand the patterns of recovery.
Science of the Curves:
- The two curves would align exactlyif everyone who fell sick on Day 1 recovered 14 days later.
- Any discrepancybetween the two lines is either due to people who fell sick and died, or people who recovered earlier or later than the mean period of 14 days.
- People who recover before 14 days and the people who recover after 14 days, almost balance out each other and do not hamper the curve.
- This leaves only accounting for those who die.
- This is probably why the recovered curve is lower than the infected curve in the global figure.
Recovery Time for Covid-19
- There is no established recovery timeof Covid-19 patients.
- Recoveryis measured by a patient no longer showing symptoms and having two consecutive negative tests for the virus at least one day apart.
- According to an early World Health Organisation(WHO) report, mild cases have a recovery time of roughly two weeks and severe cases have the recovery time of somewhere between three to six weeks.
- However,countries measure recovery differently.
- The number of the global recoverieswill inevitably be an estimate in the absence of global recovery rates by the WHO and uniform methods of reporting recoveries.
RELATED FOR: – ECONOMY / TOPICS: – INDIAN SOCIETY
Recently, a 11 year old girl from Hyderabad has collected ₹6.2 lakh using crowdfunding to buy food for the less fortunate during the lockdown.
- Crowdfunding is a method of raising capital through the collective effort of a large number of individual investors.
- This approach taps into the collective efforts of a large pool of individuals, primarily online via social media and crowdfunding platforms and leverages their networks for greater reach and exposure.
Types of Crowdfunding
- The 3 primary types of crowdfunding are donation-based, rewards-based, and equity-based.
- Donation-Based Crowdfunding:Donation-based crowdfunding is a way to source money for a project by asking a large number of contributors to individually donate a small amount to it. In return, the backers may receive token rewards that increase in prestige as the size of the donation increases. For the smallest sums, however, the funder may receive nothing at all.
- Rewards-Based Crowdfunding:Rewards-based crowdfunding involves individuals contributing to a business in exchange for a “reward,” typically a form of the product or service which company offers. Even though this method offers backers a reward, it’s still generally considered a subset of donation-based crowdfunding since there is no financial or equity return.
- Equity-Based Crowdfunding:Unlike the donation-based and rewards-based methods, equity-based crowdfunding allows contributors to become part-owners of the company by trading capital for equity shares. As equity owners, the contributors receive a financial return on their investment and ultimately receive a share of the profits in the form of a dividend or distribution.
Benefits of Crowdfunding
- From tapping into a wider investor pool to enjoying more flexible fundraising options, there are a number of benefits to crowdfundingover traditional methods:
- Reach –By using a crowdfunding platform, one has access to thousands of accredited investors who can see, interact with, and share the fundraising campaign.
- Presentation –By creating a crowdfunding campaign, one goes through the invaluable process of looking at the business from the top level—its history, traction, offerings, addressable market, value proposition, with digestible packages.
- PR & Marketing –From launch to close, one can share and promote the campaign through social media, email newsletters, and other online marketing tactics.
- Validation of Concept –Presenting the concept or business to the masses affords an excellent opportunity to validate and refine offering.
- Efficiency –One of the best things about online crowdfunding is its ability to centralize and streamline fundraising efforts.
NIC AND COVID-19
RELATED FOR: – GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS: – HEALTH, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS
According to the National Informatics Centre (NIC), traffic on the websites of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has gone up significantly as people looked for information about Covid-19.
- Citizens look up to a source of genuine informationon the pandemic.
- Various State centres of the NIC are working with the State governments to develop tracking and management portalsto help the State and the district administration to combat the pandemic.
- This is done on similar lines of those already launched in Kerala and Meghalaya.
- For example, Covid-19 Jagratha:This portal was launched in Kerala.
- It is a one stop platform for the public to avail emergency services and information related to Covid-19 and ensures transparency and quality in public services and welfare measures.
NIC also highlighted some of the challenges of Work From Home(WFH) such as:
- Configuration Challenges:Configuring Virtual Private Network (VPN) access — core to enabling government employees to work from their homes — to a large number of employees in a span of three or four days.
- A VPN provides online privacy and anonymityby creating a private network from a public internet connection.
- Limited Manpower:Given most of the members at NIC were also working from home, executing change at different levels was difficult with a limited manpower.
- Logistical Constraints: Availability of laptops or a home desktopfor every resource was another challenge.
- Apart from increased traffic on ICMR’s and Health Ministry’s website, NIC’s videoconferencing serviceis also being extensively used due to social distancing norms.
- The videoconferencing service used by government officials, including the President and the Prime Minister, besides Union Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers.
National Informatics Centre
- NIC provides network backbone and e-Governance support to the Central Government, State Governments and UT Administrations.
- NIC has been closely associated with the Government in different aspects of Governance besides establishing a Nationwide State-of-the-Art information and communication technology (ICT) Infrastructure.
- it has also built a large number of digital solutions to support the government at various levels, making the last-mile delivery of government services to the citizens a reality.
- It is under the aegis of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
- It was established in 1976 and is located in New Delhi.