#GS2 #Health 

News : The government has decided to ease its ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has garnered global interest in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. 

  • On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump tweeted about “retaliation” if India did not heed his request for the drug.  
  • Later, India said it would supply to countries that needed it the most, and to neighbours who were “dependent on India’s capabilities”. 


  • Hydroxychloroquine is used to prevent or treat malaria infections caused by mosquito bites. 
  • It does not work against certain types of malaria (chloroquine-resistant). 

Pls take a note- 

  • Hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, are currently under study as possible treatments for COVID-19. 
  • These drugs have not yet been approved for this use. 
  • Do not use these medications to treat COVID-19 unless your doctor recommends that you do so. 

What are Schedule H1 drugs? 

  • The sale of the Hydroxychloroquine drug from now on should be in accordance with the conditions for sale of drugs specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. 
  • In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (23 of 1940), the Central Government can direct that sale by retail of any drug. 

Why such move? 

  • The Central Government is satisfied that the drug ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ is essential to meet the requirements of emergency arising due to pandemic COVID-19. 
  • And in the public interest, it is necessary to regulate and restrict the sale and distribution of the drug ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ and preparation based thereon for preventing their misuse. 

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announces 5T plan to control the spread of  COVID-19 

On April 7, 2020 Delhi Chief Minister(CM) Arvind Kejriwal announced a 5T plan which includes- Testing, Tracing, Treatment, Teamwork & Tracking and monitoring to control the spread of COVID-19 in the state. 

  1. Testing- Only through testing, the infected person can be detected & aggressive testing is crucial to prevent the spread of the virus. 
  2. Tracing- Persons associated with a positive patient are identified and asked for self-quarantine. 
  3. Treatment- If someone is infected with COVID-19, they will be provided treatment. 
  4. Teamwork- The virus can be combated & defeated through teamwork. 
  5. Tracking & Monitoring- Active tracking & monitoring the developments will help to take action to deal with the spread of the virus. 

Govt. mulls lockdown extension amid requests from the States 

#GS2 #Governance 

Many States have appealed for its continuation in the face of rise in COVID cases 

  • The Union government indicated that it was actively considering an extension of the 21-day nationwide lockdown that began on March 25 and is due to end on April 14, as many States have openly appealed for its continuation as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise. 
  • While Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhara Rao had requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend the lockdown on Monday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday echoed the plea. 
  • Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also called for a phased withdrawal of the lockdown, saying that saving lives was important. 
  • The GoM recommended steps to enhance testing facilities in laboratories and expressed satisfaction over the measures in place to provide shelter and food to migrant workers. 

India lifts ban on export of hydroxychloroquine 

#GS2 #Internationalrelations 

Move comes hours after Trump warned of ‘retaliation’ 

  • India announced that it had rescinded its earlier ban on the export of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which is now being used in countries such as the U.S. as a possible line of treatment for COVID-19.  
  • Ministry of External Affairs announcement came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump said that India could invite “retaliation” if it withheld supplies of HCQ, for which the U.S., Brazil and other countries have already placed advance orders.  
  • While the drug’s efficacy is not yet clinically proven, Mr. Trump has been a proponent of its use, calling it a “game changer”. 
  • The Indian Council for Medical Research has also cleared HCQ to be used as a prophylaxis, or preventive medication, by doctors, nurses and other health staff. 
  • Despite the requirement, the Centre said it had assessed that current stocks of HCQ and other drugs that had been freed for export were sufficient for “for all possible contingencies”. 
  • The MEA also denied criticism that its decision to reverse its ban had been taken under pressure from the U.S. and other countries. 

Schools, colleges may remain closed till May 15 

#GS2 #Governance 

Nationwide COVID-19 toll touches 124 

  • Amid calls from the States on the need for a calibrated lifting of the lockdown, a meeting of the Group of Ministers on COVID-19, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, recommended that the closure of all educational institutions and restrictions on all religious activities having public participation be extended till May 15, irrespective of the government decision, official sources said. 
  • Stating that India had moved from local transmission phase to the next higher scale of large outbreaks amenable to containment phase, Union Health Ministry Lav Agrawal said three types of health care facilities have been set up for various categories of COVID-19 cases for triaging and decision-making. 
  • State government have now been asked to offer COVID Care Centres (CCC) for mild to very mild cases, dedicated COVID health units or blocks for moderate cases and dedicated COVID hospitals for cases clinically assigned as severe. 
  • Government has been adopting a strategy for cluster containment and for outbreaks that are amenable to management. This strategy is producing positive results. 
  • Indian Railways has prepared 40,000 isolation beds in 2,500 coaches and they are making 375 isolation beds daily and this is going on across 133 locations across the country. 
  • The Ministry added that technology-led initiatives for undertaking surveillance, monitoring quarantine facilities, tracking the health of suspected patients and their contacts placed under home quarantine, providing up-to-date information to citizens, making predictive analytics using heat maps, with real-time tracking of ambulances and disinfection services are being conducted across districts. 

Kerala-Karnataka border row sorted out, Centre informs SC 

#GS2 #Justice #IntertstateConflicts 

‘Agreement has been reached on protocol to allow patients’ 

  • The Supreme disposed of a bunch of petitions concerning the Kerala-Karnataka border sealing case after the Union government informed that a consensus had been worked out to allow patients requiring urgent medical treatment to cross the Talapadi border and access hospitals in Mangaluru. 
  • Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said a meeting was held among the Union Home Secretary and the Chief Secretaries of the States to amicably resolve the crisis. An agreement had been reached on the parameters and protocol for allowing patients into Karnataka. 
  • On April 3, the court ordered the Centre, Kerala and Karnataka to confer immediately and “formulate parameters for passage of patients for urgent medical treatment at the border at Talapadi”. The court then listed the case on April 7. 
  • The April 3 order was based on petitions highlighting how Karnataka had enforced a blockade which, the court was informed, had resulted in deaths as ambulances bound for Mangaluru were not being permitted to cross the border.  
  • The petitions asked the court to intervene to facilitate free movement of vehicles carrying persons who need urgent medical treatment across the border. 
  • Karnataka argued that the blockade was put in place in the interest of public health. The situation regarding COVID-19 was “really dire”. Kerala was the “worst-affected” State in the country, with nearly 194 cases. In this, Kasaragod, adjoining Karnataka, was the “worst-affected” district of Kerala with over 100 positive cases, it said. 

‘Starting early gave Chhattisgarh a head start in tackling COVID-19’ 

#GS2 #Governance #PandemicStragegies 

  • Approaching each family to record their travel history and symptoms bolstered efforts, says State Health and Family Welfare Minister 
  • With nine of its 10 patients having recovered from COVID-19 in just 20 days, Chhattisgarh is in the limelight for one of the best recovery rates in the country.  
  • Starting early helped, says State Health and Family Welfare and Panchayat and Rural Development Minister T.S. Singh Deo.  

What are the strategies that have worked so far in Chhattisgarh in its continuing efforts in containing the virus spread? 

  • We started early. The day after the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, we set up a war room in Raipur and deployed rapid response task force in districts headed by the Collector.  
  • The war room meets daily to ensure the delivery of the protocol. Once we had the rapid response teams going, we were able to put procedures in place, right from identifying places where people could be kept to being prepared for contact tracing, the most important measure in the absence of a much wider testing protocol. 
  • Through these procedures, 77,847 people,who had possibly come into contact or travelled from outside, were home quarantined until April 6.  
  • In addition, 146 people were placed in government quarantine facilities. Each of the 26 districts was asked to put up an independent facility of 100 beds. 
  • We set up verticals for various activities like the command centre, medical equipment supply, quarantine in home, facility quarantine, mobility and logistics support, media, data management, contact tracing, community tracing, hospital management and treatment, volunteer doctors, testing, training, planning and management.  
  • An IAS officer has been placed in charge of each vertical with a support team comprising related experts. 
  • We are encouraging home-based activities. Self-help groups have sold more than a crore face masks. Similarly, they are making soap and sanitiser. 
  • Through the MGNREGA, we are encouraging activities within a compound, say preparation of organic manure. These activities are remunerative and are not target-based. 
  • We did not go in for a stronger protocol for testing as widely as many other countries did. If South Korea was testing 4,000-6,000 people per million, we were testing three per million owing to our protocol. 

Hospitals warned of cyberattacks 

#GS1 #World&Society 

Cybercriminals are targeting critical healthcare institutions, says Interpol 

  • The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has warned member countries that cybercriminals were attempting to target major hospitals and other institutions on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 with ransomware. 
  • In an alert sent to 194 nations, including India, Interpol said organisations at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 outbreak had also become targets of ransomware attacks, which were “designed to lock them out of their critical systems in an attempt to extort payments”. 
  • The agency’s Cybercrime Threat Response Team had detected an increase in the number of attempted ransomware attacks against key organisations and infrastructure engaged in the virus response. 
  • Cybercriminals are using ransomware to hold hospitals and medical services digitally hostage, preventing them from accessing vital files and systems until a ransom is paid. 
  • Interpol also issued a ‘Purple Notice’. At this point, the ransomware appears to be spreading primarily via e-mails —often falsely claiming to contain information or advice regarding the coronavirus from a government agency, which encourages the recipient to click on an infected link or attachment. It added that prevention and mitigation efforts were crucial to stopping the attacks. 
  • As hospitals and medical organizations around the world are working non-stop to preserve the well-being of individuals stricken with the coronavirus, they have become targets for ruthless cybercriminals who are looking to make a profit at the expense of sick patients.  
  • Locking hospitals out of their critical systems n will not only delay the swift medical response required during these unprecedented times, it could directly lead to deaths. Interpol continues to stand by its member countries and provide any assistance necessary to ensure our vital healthcare systems remain untouched and the criminals targeting them held accountable. 

Pattern of crimes 

  • Separately, Interpol warned that with a majority of people working from home due to the pandemic, there was a change in the pattern of crimes. The lockdown period had not only led to a “significant” increase in domestic violence but made business establishments/factories vulnerable to thefts. 
  • A spurt in drug commerce via social media/encrypted apps, fraudulent trade in personal protective equipment and anti-viral medicines, and individuals/businesses on reduced income becoming potential targets of loan sharks were among the threats perceived by the organisation. 
  • Alerts had been received from the Government of India on the threat of ransomware/malware attacks and the same was communicated to the concerned departments. 

Gender violence is a shadow pandemic: UN 

#GS1 #World&Society #Women 

‘Tackle it as part of action plan’ 

  • The UN Women has urged member-states to include prevention of violence against women in their action plans on COVID-19 and consider shelters and helplines essential services, calling the rise in gender-based violence a “shadow pandemic”.  
  • Helplines, psychosocial support and online counselling should be boosted, using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and to reach women with no access to phones or Internet.  
  • Police and justice services must mobilise to ensure that incidents of violence against women and girls are given high priority with no impunity for perpetrators.  
  • According to UN Women, globally 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months. 
  • As per data compiled by the U.N. body, France has seen a 30% increase in domestic violence since the lockdown on March 17.  
  • In Argentina, emergency calls for domestic violence cases have increased by 25% since the lockdown on March 20 and Cyprus (30%), Singapore (33%) have also registered an increase in calls.  
  • Canada, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. have also registered an increase in cases of domestic violence and demand for emergency shelter. 
  • In an earlier message, U.N. Chief Antonio Gueterres appealed for a ‘ceasefire’ on domestic violence after “a horrifying global surge in domestic violence”. 

Centre files report on migrant workers 

#GS2 #Governance 

Kerala has most shelters for them, Ministry of Home Affairs tells Supreme Court 

  • A status report filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Supreme Court on Tuesday shows that Kerala government operates over 65% of the total number of active shelters and relief camps for stranded migrant workers run by various States governments in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Maharashtra government comes a distant second with 1135 camps, though NGOs in this State run 3397 camps. Tamil Nadu government operates 178 active relief camps and shelters for migrant workers. Two in the State are run by NGOs. 
  • While the number of relief camps run by other State governments for migrant workers is in two and three digits, there are 15541 such camps and shelters in Kerala, all of them run by the State government. 
  • The total number of active relief camps and shelters for migrant workers run by various State governments and NGOs are 22567 and 3909, respectively. 
  • The MHA report also shows that 15 lakh stranded migrant workers were given shelter and food by their own employers/industry following the COVID-19 lockdown. 
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde was informed that the government, Centre and States gave food to 54,15,458 migrant workers while NGOs fed over 30 lakh. 

PILs criticised 

  • The Ministry criticised the PILs asking questions about the plight of migrant workers following the lockdown. 
  • The hearing was based chiefly on a petition filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj. The case was listed for further hearing on April 13.

Loss of smell may be linked to cells: study 

#GS3 #Science #COVID-19 

‘Virus could be inflicting an indirect attack on olfactory sensory cells’ 

  • Multiple reports have surfaced, primarily from Europe and the United States, from physicians and ear, nose and throat specialists, of COVID-19 patients complaining of an inability to smell — or anosmia.  
  • However, it is not clear whether neurons in the brain that are responsible for recognising various odours are damaged, or whether other cells may be involved. 
  • Researchers at Delhi’s Indrapastha Institute of Information Technology report in the study that is still being peer-reviewed but available as a public preprint, that it is not neurons but a class of cells in the upper regions of the nasal cavity that may be involved: these are called sustentacular cells and horizontal basal cells.  
  • Crucially, both are not directly involved in helping us smell, but nourish and support the cells that help us do, and so the virus may be inflicting an indirect attack on the olfactory sensory cells. 
  • While research on this aspect of the disease is emerging, studies say the loss of smell is different from diminished smell or a lack of perceiving flavour in food when one is afflicted with a cold or stuffy nose. 
  • Bio-informatics tools and estimating the presence of a key enzyme — called ACE 2 (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme) — in these olfactory cells.  
  • The coronavirus has spike proteins that bind to ACE 2 receptors on human cells and the enzyme’s presence is a proxy to revealing the signature of the virus in the body’s cells. 

Amid lockdown in Russia, Gaganyaan trainees healthy 

#GS3 #Science&Technology 

‘Training neither stopped nor suspended; it is on track’ 

  • Countries and organisations around the world have halted routines and chosen isolation as the way to check the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidently the four Indian astronaut candidates training in Moscow are no exception to a lockdown in their own spaces — for at least this month. 
  • While space missions have been quietly suspended and deferred in India and everywhere else. 
  • Russian space company Glavkosmos JSC (Joint Stock Company) quoted its Director General Dmitry Loskutov as saying that isolation applied to the Indian astronaut trainees as employees across Moscow switched to tele-work from March 30 up to the end of April.  
  • Glavkosmos stressed that the training has been neither stopped nor suspended and is going on as scheduled. They are healthy and have been working and exercising on their own for the last week or so at the GCTC. 
  • The four candidates are pilots in the Indian Air Force. They started their year-long general training programme in early February. The finalist/s will circle Earth for a few days as part of the first Indian human space mission, Gaganyaan, which is planned for the year 2022. 
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had not replied to a similar query at the time of going to print. 
  • The candidates are healthy and have completed 25% of the programme and continue working according to their training plan. 

States pick up huge haul of grains 

#GS2 #Governance 

But many are yet to begin distribution of free extra rations granted by Centre 

  • Several states, led by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have begun lifting additional foodgrain from the Food Corporation of India (FCI), in order to provide the extra free ration of 5 kg per person promised under the Centre’s COVID-19 welfare package. 
  • According to FCI data released, a total of 17.43 lakh tonnes of grains have been unloaded by more than 15 States since the lockdown began. This includes 7.25 lakh tonnes of wheat and 10.19 lakh tonnes of rice. 
  • Uttar Pradesh has been the largest beneficiary so far, lifting almost 2.5 lakh tonnes of foodgrains, followed by Bihar, which has lifted 2.1 lakh tonnes so far. Karnataka, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have also picked up large quantities. 
  • FCI has sent enough stocks to States throughout the country to implement the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) wherein 5 kg foodgrain per person per month for next three months has to be distributed free to all National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries. 
  • However, reports from around the country suggest that the extra free ration announced by the Centre has only started making it into the hands of consumers in a few States so far. 
  • Rajasthan ration card holders have reportedly begun receiving the double ration. In Tamil Nadu, a senior official of the Civil Supplies department said the distribution of additional rice to ration cardholders has also begun along with the original entitlement. This is over and above the State government’s move to give free rice, sugar, pulses and edible oil to all ration card holders, apart from a cash dole of ₹1,000 each. 
  • However, in some other States, the Centre’s extra allocation is being mixed up with benefits announced by the State. In Jharkhand, for example, the State government’s announcement to give two months worth of ration in April itself at a subsidised cost is creating confusion on whether this includes the Centre’s doubled ration amount or not.  
  • In Odisha, reports suggest that three months worth of regular ration is being given in advance in some areas, but the Central allocation has not yet been distributed. 
  • In States like Gujarat and Delhi, the State governments decided to give the regular allocation free of cost, but the Centre’s extra allocation is not yet being distributed, according to ground reports. In fact, FCI data shows that Delhi is yet to lift its allocation as well. 

Economy to contract 4.5% in fourth quarter, says ICRA 

#GS3 #Economy 

Ratings agency pegs FY21 GDP growth at 2% 

  • The Indian economy is likely to witness a sharp contraction of 4.5% during Q4FY20 and is expected to recover gradually to post a GDP growth of just 2% in FY21, rating agency ICRA said. 
  • Concerns have morphed from the impact of imports from China on domestic supply chains into domestic and external demand shock, with social distancing and lockdowns leading to production shutdowns and job losses in some sectors.  
  • Sectors that will be impacted the most are aviation, hotels, restaurants and tourism, auto dealerships, ceramic tiles, gems and jewellery, retail, shipping, ports and port services, seafood and poultry and microfinance institutions. 
  • The impact on sectors such as automobiles, auto components, building materials, construction, chemicals, residential real estate, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, logistics, banking, mining, paper, consulting, ferrous metals, footwear, glass, plastics, power and trading are going to be moderate. 
  • The low impact sectors will be education, dairy products, fertilisers and seeds, FMCG, healthcare, food and food products, insurance, telecom, utilities, sugar, tea, coffee and agricultural produce. 
  • The rating agency said extended demand disruptions are likely to lead to elongated payment cycles. 
  • Since an entity’s liquidity position is of paramount importance to support its credit profile, it is expected that several entities would seek to conserve cash, either by invoking force majeure clauses to revoke payments or by deferring payments to the extent possible, adding this could result in many entities facing working capital blockage as their receivables get stretched and inventory not reducing simultaneously. 

White House pushes unproven drug 

#GS1 #World&Society 

Scientists say more testing is needed before hydroxychloroquine is proven safe 

  • President Donald Trump and his administration are promoting an anti-malaria drug not officially approved for fighting the new coronavirus, even though scientists say more testing is needed before it’s proven safe and effective against COVID-19.  
  • The virus has killed more than 10,000 in the U.S., and measures meant to contain its spread have taken a painful economic toll and all but frozen life in large swaths of the country.  
  • But medical officials warn that it’s dangerous to be hawking unproven remedies, and even Trump’s own experts have cautioned against it. 

Severe side effects 

  • The American Medical Association’s president, Dr. Patrice Harris, said she personally would not prescribe the drug for a coronavirus patient, saying the risks of severe side effects were “great and too significant to downplay” without large studies showing the drug is safe and effective for such use. 
  • Mr. Navarro challenged the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, over his concerns about recommending the drug based only on unscientific anecdotal evidence. 

Off-label prescribing 

  • Doctors are already prescribing the malaria drug to patients with COVID-19, a practice known as off-label prescribing. 
  • Research studies are now beginning to test if the drugs truly help COVID-19 patients, and the Food and Drug Administration has allowed the medication into the national stockpile as an option for doctors to consider for patients who cannot get into one of the studies.
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