Press Information Bureau (PIB) IAS UPSC – 6th April to 12th April – 2020
Steps for Fund Utilisation for COVID-19
(Topic: Government measures to utilise funds to fight COVID-19)
- Cabinet approves Non-operation of Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years (2020-21 and 2021-22) for managing COVID 19.
- COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package: GoI has announced significant investments to the tune of Rs.15000 crores for ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package’. The funds sanctioned will be utilized for immediate COVID-19 Emergency Response (amount of Rs.7774 crores) and rest for medium-term support (1-4 years) to be provided under mission mode approach.
- Mounting emergency response to slow and limit COVID-19 in India through the development of diagnostics and COVID-19 dedicated treatment facilities
- Centralized procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs required for treatment of infected patients
- Strengthen and build resilient National and State health systems to support prevention and preparedness for future disease outbreaks
- Setting up of laboratories and bolster surveillance activities, bio-security preparedness, pandemic research
- Proactively engage communities and conduct risk communication activities
Ensuring Food Security
(Topic: Government measures to ensure food for all to fight COVID-19)
- FCI is working tirelessly and has ensured that enough food grain stocks are made available in every part of the country during countrywide lockdown. In last 13 days since 24.03.2020 when the lockdown was announced to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, FCI moved an average of 1.41 Lakh MT food grain per day as against the pre-lockdown daily average of about 0.8 Lakh MT.
- NGOs permitted to buy food grains directly from FCI for Relief operations
- As part of maintaining smooth supply of essential items in the country, states have been directed to take urgent steps to ensure availability of essential goods, by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act 1955. These measures include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions.
- Government of India has directed Food Corporation of India (FCI) to provide food grains @5 Kg per person per month for 3 months at the rates of Rs. 21/Kg for wheat and Rs. 22/Kg for rice uniformly across the country to all beneficiaries not covered under NFSA to whom ration cards have been issued by state governments under their schemes.
Elements of Smart Cities playing a ‘smart’ role
(Topic: Government measures to fight COVID-19 in the urban setting)
- Cities are developing predictive analytics using heat maps and taking action in monitoring the movements (using geo-fencing) as well as periodic health status of suspected cases.
- Telemedicine has emerged as an important technology to ensure citizen safety through efficient communication and is being used by doctors to provide online medical consultation facilities to citizens. Remote delivery of medical services during the lockdown period is allowed.
- Disinfection of public spaces
- Though the virus survives on environmental surfaces for varied period of time, it gets easily inactivated by chemical disinfectants.
- Indian Cities have been making significant efforts in sanitizing the cities, especially the public spaces which are considered risk prone areas for local spread of virus.
- City Governments have collaborated with Fire Departments and used fire-tenders, water wash pumps, etc., to sanitize all the streets in the city by spraying disinfectants.
- Cities are taking up innovative approaches for disinfection of public places using sodium hypochlorite
Assistance provided by the Defence Services
(Topic: Government measures to fight COVID-19)
- Police Security to Doctors and Medical Staff fighting COVID-19: In view of reported incidents of harassment of Doctors and Medical Staff, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has directed all States/UTs and respective Police authorities to provide necessary Police Security to them in hospitals and at places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 positive or where suspected cases are quarantined.
- Ministry of Defence (MoD) has allowed temporary employment of NCC cadets last week under ‘Exercise NCC Yogdan’. Civil and police administration have started requisitioning for services of senior division National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets in fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- IAF has earmarked aircraft at nodal points to airlift medical supplies and equipment at short notice to proactively support operations against COVID-19.
- Ex-Servicemen (ESM) belonging to Army, Navy and Air Force are assisting the civil administration and providing their services voluntarily and selflessly.
Provision of Medical Essentials
(Topic: Government measures to ensure medical supplies for all to fight COVID-19)
- 132 Lifeline UDAN flights operated till date to transport more than 373.23 tons of medical cargo to various part of the country
- Oxygen supply: There is a critical need to maintain adequate supply of medical oxygen in the country in the wake of COVID-19 Pandemic and as medical oxygen is also included in the national list and WHO’s list of essential medicines.
- Construction of hospitals: Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) will finance all expenses of the COVID-19 country’s second largest COVID-19 hospital in Bhubaneswar including cost of treatment of patients for which MCL has already released Rs 7.31 Crores as immediate advance.
- Isolation Units: 2500 Coaches converted as Isolation Coaches by Railways with 40000 isolation beds ready for contingency
- Swasth ke Sipahi deliverying essential services and medicines at doorstep of patients and elderly under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)
- Proposals for developing antiviral Nano-coating and new nano based material for use in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – for producing anti-COVID-19 Triple Layer Medical masks and N-95 respirator or better masks in large quantities and PPEs for safeguarding health care workers against COVID-19
- Central Government has granted exemption from Basic Customs Duty and Health cess, on the import of the following goods, with immediate effect:
- Face masks, surgical Masks,
- Personal protection equipment (PPE)
- Covid-19 test kits
- inputs for manufacture of the above items
Monitoring COVID-19 data – COVID-19 War Rooms
(Topic: Government measures to monitor the situation due to COVID-19)
Smart Cities of Pune, Surat, Bengaluru and Tumakuru are using the integrated data dashboards, developed by the data analysts and data experts working with their ICCCs (also functioning as COVID-19 War Rooms in many cities) to provide up-to-date information about the status of corona virus in different administrative zones of their cities –
- CCTV Surveillance of Public Places
- GIS Mapping of COVID Positive cases
- GPS Tracking of Healthcare workers
- Predictive Analytics (Heat Maps) for virus containment across different zones of the city
- Virtual Training to Doctors & Healthcare professionals
- Real-time tracking of Ambulances & Disinfection Services
- Medical Services through Video Conferencing
- Tele-Counselling and Tele-Medicine
Measures for Students
(Topic: Government measures to ensure e-learning for students and their well-being)
- Digital learning: Nearly five times rise in access to HRD Ministry’s E-Learning platforms
- Launched SAMADHAN – to test the ability of students to innovate – search and develop such measures that can be made available to the government agencies, health services, hospitals and other services for quick solutions to the Coronavirus epidemic and other such calamities.
- Mental Health & Well-Being: Set up help lines, Regular mentoring of students through interactions, and appeals/letters by the Universities/Colleges to remain calm and stress free, Form COVID-19 help groups of students, to identify friends/classmates in need of help and provide immediate necessary help
- MHRD Launches ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign for Crowd sourcing of Ideas for Improving Online Education ecosystem of India
Financial Support to Citizens
(Topic: Government measures to ensure financial support for all to fight COVID-19)
- With a view to provide immediate relief to the business entities and individuals, it has been decided to issue all the pending income-tax refunds up to Rs. 5 lakh, immediately. This would benefit around 14 lakh taxpayers.
- Extension of premium payment period for Postal Life Insurance & Rural Postal Life Insurance till 30th June 2020
- Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), an statutory body under Union Ministry of Labour & Employment has processed about 1.37 lakh claims across the country disbursing an amount of Rs. 279.65 crore under a new provision especially formulated by amending the EPF Scheme to help subscribers fight Covid-19.
Integrated Government Online training’ (iGOT) portal on DIKSHA platform of MHRD
(Topic: Government measures to ensure appropriate skills for COVID-19 warriers)
Launched to train all healthcare and COVID-19 warriors of India to equip them with the training and updates in coping with Pandemic
CSR expenditure related to COVID-19
(Topic: Contribution by companies to uplift the society and assist in the fight agaist COVID-19)
Whether contribution made to
- ‘PM CARES Fund’ shall qualify as CSR expenditure? Yes, as CSR expenditure under item no (viii) of Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013
- ‘Chief Minister’s Relief Funds’ or ‘State Relief Fund for COVID-19’ shall qualify as CSR expenditure? Not included in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013 and therefore NO.
- State Disaster Management Authority shall qualify as CSR expenditure? Yes
- Spending of CSR funds for COVID-19 related activities shall qualify as CSR expenditure? Spending CSR funds for COVID-19 related activities shall qualify as CSR expenditure. It is further clarified that funds may be spent for various activities related to COVID-19 under items nos. (i) and (xii) of Schedule VII relating to promotion of health care including preventive health care and sanitation, and disaster management.
Self-care Measures by Ministry of AYUSH
(Topic: Health; Government measures to ensure well-being for all)
(Topic: Infrastructure: Roads)
NHAI achieves highest ever construction of National Highways in FY 2019-20 since its inception in 1995, under Bharatmala Pariyojana – 3,979 kms
Bharatmala Pariyojana: Focuses on optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through effective interventions like development of Economic Corridors, Inter Corridors and Feeder Routes, National Corridor Efficiency Improvement, Border and International connectivity roads, Coastal and Port connectivity roads and Green-field expressways.
Objective: Development of about 65,000 km national highways
- Improvement in efficiency of existing corridors through development of Multimodal Logistics Parks and elimination of choke point
- Enhance focus on improving connectivity in North East and leveraging synergies with Inland Waterways
- Emphasis on use of technology & scientific planning for Project Preparation and Asset Monitoring
- Delegation of powers to expedite project delivery – Phase I to complete by 2022
- Improving connectivity in the North East
Initiatives that have been taken to revive the stalled projects and expedite completion of new projects:
- Streamlining of land acquisition and acquisition of major portion of land prior to invitation of bids
- Award of projects after adequate project preparation in terms of land acquisition, clearances etc.
- Disposal of cases in respect of Change of Scope (CoS) and Extension of Time (EoT) in a time bound manner
- Procedure for approval of General Arrangement Drawing for ROBs simplified and made online
- Close coordination with other Ministries and State Governments
- One time fund infusion
- Regular review at various levels and identification/ removal of bottlenecks in project execution
- Proposed exit for Equity Investors
- Securitization of road sector loans
- Disputes Resolution mechanism revamped to avoid delays in completion of projects
Management of COVID-19 in National Parks/Sanctuaries/Tiger Reserves
(Topic: Government measures to ensure safety of animals from COVID-19)
Motive: In view of the spread of COVID 19 in the country and a recent news report on a Tiger being infected with the COVID 19 in New York, the Ministry has felt that there are possibilities of spread of the virus amongst animals in National Parks/Sanctuaries/Tiger Reserves and also transmission of the virus from humans to animals and vice-versa.
- Reduce the human wildlife interface by restricting the movement of people
- Constitute a Task Force/Rapid Action Force with Field Managers, Veterinary doctors, Frontline staff, to manage the situation as quickly as possible.
- Create a ‘round the clock’ reporting mechanism with a Nodal Officer for swift management of any cases noticed.
- Set up essential services for emergency treatment of animals and their safe release back to their natural habitats, as and when required.
- Enhance disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring system through coordinated effort amongst various Departments.
Technological Advancement to Fight COVID-19
(Topic: New technological development to fight COVID-19)
Genome sequencing: To understand the evolution of the virus, how dynamic is it and how fast it imitates; Whole-genome sequencing is the method used to determine the complete DNA sequence of a specific organism’s genome.
Antimicrobial coating: Developed by JNCASR, Bangalore, an autonomous institute under Department of Science & Technology (DST), and has shown excellent results in tackling the spread of deadly influenza virus, the root cause of severe respiratory infections, by inactivating large loads of influenza virus. The coating may be effective in destroying COVID 19 – another enveloped virus upon contact. The technology which is simple and hence do not require skilled personnel for its development is already set to be tested against COVD 19. If found to be active, a number of PPEs, such as masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, used by doctors and nurses can be coated with it, imparting enhanced protection and safety to them. This will aid them to fight the battle against COVID 19 more effectively.
NIPER-Guwahati designs innovative 3D products:
- Product 1: The first product is a 3D-printed hands-free object that could be used to help open or close doors, windows, drawers (both vertical and horizontal), and refrigerator handle, or press elevator buttons, and laptop/desktop keyboards, including turning the switch buttons on/off.
- Product 2: The second product is a 3D-printed antimicrobial face-shield to control the spread of novel coronavirus. It was designed after a thorough study to understand how viruses spread through oral, ophthalmic, olfactory and other body cavities.
Exploring novel blood plasma therapy for COVID-19
(Topic: New technological development to fight COVID-19)
The treatment aims at using the immune power gained by a recovered person to treat a sick person
What is convalescent-plasma therapy?
- When a pathogen like novel coronavirus infects, our immune systems produce antibodies.
- Like the police dogs, the antibodies span out to identify and mark the invading virus. White blood cells attach the identified intruders, and the body gets rid of the infection.
- The therapy, like blood transfusion, harvests the antibody from a recovered patient and ingest into a sick person. Helped by the antibody, the immune system mounts robust combat on the virus.
What are antibodies?
Antibodies are one of the front-line immune response to an infection by a microbe. They are a particular type of proteins secreted by immune cells called B lymphocytes when they encounter an invader, such as a novel coronavirus. The immune system designs antibodies that are highly specific to each invading pathogen. A particular antibody and its partner virus are made for each other.
How the treatment is given?
- Blood is drawn from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 sickness.
- The serum is separated and screened for virus-neutralizing antibodies. Convalescent serum, that is the blood serum obtained from one who has recovered from an infectious disease and especially rich in antibodies for that pathogen, is then administered to a COVID-19 patient.
- The sick acquires passive immunisation. Potential donor would be examined before the blood serum is extracted and given to a sick person. First, the swab test must be negative and the potential donor has to be declared as cured. Then the recovered person has to wait for two weeks. Or else the potential donor should be asymptomatic for at least 28 days. Either of the two is mandatory
How is it different from vaccination?
- This therapy is akin to passive immunization. When a vaccine is administrated, the immune system produces the antibodies. Thus, in a later date, when the vaccinated person is infected by that pathogen, the immune system releases the antibodies and neutralise the infection.
- Vaccination provides lifelong immunity. In the case of passive antibody therapy, the effect lasts only up to the time the antibodies injected remain the bloodstream. The protection given is temporary.
Is it effective?
- We have effective antibiotics against bacterial infection. However, we do not have effective antivirals. Whenever a new viral outbreak takes places, there are no drugs to treat it. Hence, the convalescent serum has been used during past viral epidemics.
- During the outbreak of 2009–2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, patients with an infection requiring intensive care were used. After the passive antibody treatment, the serum-treated individuals showed clinical improvement. The viral burden reduced, and the death rate could be lowered. The procedure was also useful during the Ebola outbreak in 2018.
Is it safe?
With modern blood banking techniques that screen for blood-borne pathogens is robust. It is not difficult to match the blood type of donors and recipients. Therefore the risks of inadvertently transferring known infectious agents or triggering transfusion reactions are low.
How long the antibodies will remain in the recipient?
After the antibody serum is given, it will stay on the recipient for at least three to four days. During this period, the sick person will recover. Research reports from the USA and China indicate that the beneficial effect of transfusion plasma is obtained in the first three to four days and not later.
What are the Challenges?
This therapy is not simple to harness, primarily due to the difficulty of obtaining significant amounts of plasma from survivors. In diseases like COVID-19, where most of the victims are aged, suffering from other medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and so on, not all recovered patients can volunteer to donate blood.
Prelims oriented News
A. Biofortified carrot variety developed by farmer scientist benefits local farmers
- Madhuban Gajar, a biofortified carrot variety with high β-carotene and iron content developed by Shri Vallabhhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya, a farmer scientist from Junagadh district, Gujarat is benefitting more than 150 local farmers in the area.
- It is being planted in an area of over 200 hectares in Junagadh, and the average yield, which is 40-50 t/ha, has become the main source of income to the local farmers.
- The variety is being cultivated in more than 1000 hectares of land in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh during the last three years.
- The Madhuvan Gajar is a highly nutritious carrot variety. and among all the varieties tested, beta-carotene and iron content were found to be superior
B. The PC&PNDT (Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection)) Act 1994 has NOT been suspended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
C. Ionospheric based monitoring of large earthquakes: Scientists of Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) an autonomous institution of the Department of Science and Technology have extensively studied the signatures of recent large earthquakes into the ionosphere with an ambitious aim to derive the seismic source characteristics from the ionosphere.
D. Border Guarding Arrangements, at India – Pakistan and India – Bangladesh borders
- Vigil on border may be intensified, especially along the unfenced area, to ensure that no cross border movement is allowed
- Farmers in the border areas must be educated about COVID-19 and the preventive measures to be taken to prevent its spread in these areas
E. Sowing of Summer Crops continues uninterrupted
- Sowing of the Summer Crops has progressed satisfactorily despite the difficulties experienced due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown
- The total area under the Summer Crops (including Rice, Pulses, Coarse Cereals and Oil Seeds) cultivation has jumped significantly, registering 11.64 lakh hectare increase over last year, overcoming the restrictions and social distancing norms witnessed
- Among the Summer Crops, the main driver of this growth in cultivable area is Rice, clocking a robust 8.77 lakh ha increase in Sown area.