JNCASR develops antimicrobial coating to stop spread of viruses 

The Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore, an autonomous institute under Department of Science and Technology (DST) developed anantimicrobial coating, which controls the spread of deadly influenza virus and COVID-19. 

  • The Science and Engineering Research Board, a unit of the DST also supports the further development of this coating for the country’s war against COVID-19. 

Antimicrobial coating:  

  • The antimicrobial coating can be coated with a number of PPEs (personal protective equipment), such as masks, gloves etc., used by doctors & nurses which provides safety to them in order to fight against COVID-19. 
  • The coating displays excellent antiviral activity against influenza virus completely killing them within 30 minutes of contact. 
  • During the research, the coated surfaces also completely killed different drug- resistant bacteria & fungi such as methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and fluconazole resistant C. albicans spp, within 30- 45 minutes, thus shows rapid microbicidal activity. 

TRIFED in collaboration with UNICEF & WHO launched digital campaign 

#GS1 #Society #Tribes 

TRIFED launched through a Webinar, Virtual training to its Trainers and Self Help Groups (SHGs) on basic orientation on Covid-19 response and key preventive measures to ensure tribal gatherers carry on their work safely.  

  • It is aimed to reach more than 18,000 participants and would cover tribal regions across all the 27 States.  
  • To ensure tribal gatherers carry on their work safely, TRIFED has collaborated with UNICEF and WHO for developing a digital communication strategy for promoting a digital campaign for Self Help Groups (SHGs) involved in this work, highlighting the importance of Social Distancing. 
  • The target of this Digital Campaign is to reach up to 50 lakh tribal gatherers to ensure their safety. 
  • It is the peak season for collection and harvest of Minor Forest Produce (MFP)/Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) in many regions.  
  • Certain proactive measures need to be initiated to ensure the wellbeing of the tribals and their economy by providing them safety and ensuring their livelihoods. 
  • UNICEF is providing the necessary support to the SHG Centers in the form of Digital Multimedia content, Webinars for Virtual trainings (basic orientation on COVID response, key preventive behaviours), Social Media campaigns (on social distancing, home quarantine, etc.) and Vanya Radio. 
  • Additionally, TRIFED has reached out to the Art of Living Foundation’s #iStandWithHumanity Initiative with a Stand With Tribal Families component in providing much needed food and ration for survival of the tribal community. 
  • A total of 1205 VanDhanVikasKendras (VDVKs) have been sanctioned in 27 States and 1 Union territory involving around 18,075 Van Dhan Self Help Groups.  
  • This involves over 3.6 Lakhs tribal gatherers in the Scheme. To start with, 15,000of these SHGs will be promoted as Van Dhan Social Distancing Awareness cum Livelihood centers’ through a digital training program.  
  • The SHGs will create awareness among the community about social distancing and steps to be followed.  
  • Do’s and Don’ts Advisories relating to NTFP to be kept in mind during Covid-19, providing suggestive practices for maintaining personal hygiene, adopting cashless practices, among others will be shared. 

What is Van Dhan SHG & Van Dhan Vikas Kendras?  

  1.  A Van Dhan SHG will comprise tribal or non-tribal MFP gatherers and can have maximum of 20 members. The SHG can have non-tribal members but majority (more than 60%) members should be tribal and leader of the SHG should be a tribal member.  
  2. Around 15 Van Dhan SHGs will together form a VDVK group of around 300 members. The VDVK can have non-tribal members but majority (more than 60%) members should be tribal and leader of the VDVK should be a tribal member.  


#GS3 #Science #Technology 

Scientists at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt of India have designed and developed a highly efficient superabsorbent material for liquid respiratory and other body fluid solidification and disinfection for the safe management of infected respiratory secretions. 

About AcryloSorb 

  • AcryloSorb can absorb liquids at least 20 times more than its dry weight and also contains a decontaminant for in situ disinfection.  
  • Containers filled with this material will immobilize the contaminated fluid by solidifying it (gel-like), thus avoiding spillage and will also disinfect it.  
  • The canister containing the solidified waste canister can then be decomposed as all other biomedical waste by incineration.  
  • This technology reduces the risk for the hospital staff, the need for personnel for disinfecting and cleaning the bottles and canisters for reusing them and makes the disposal safer and easier. 

Lockdown robs Mumbai’s dabbawalas of lunch 

#GS1 #History&Culture 

As thousands switch to working from home, the iconic deliverymen have lost their livelihood 

  • Today the iconic dabbawalas of Mumbai are staring at starvation as the 21-day nationwide lockdown has left them without a livelihood. 
  • The dabbawalas, who have been an integral part of the city’s history for more than a century, had announced that they would be suspending services in light of the coronavirus crisis.  
  • Depending on how far a tiffin box had to be delivered, a dabbawala could earn between ₹13,000 to ₹15,000 a month. 
  • The dabbawalas’ predicament is exacerbated by the fact that many of their wives, who worked as cooks or domestic help, have also been laid off due to the need for minimal outside contact and social distancing with the virus outbreak. 
  • The dabbawalas have now approached charitable trusts and institutions they once visited as guest lecturers to speak about supply chain management, for help. 

About Dabbawalas 

  • In 1890 Bombay, Mahadeo Havaji Bachche started a lunch delivery service with about a hundred men. In 1930, he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawalas.  
  • Later, a charitable trust was registered in 1956 under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. The commercial arm of this trust was registered in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier's Association.  
  • The service was born during the British Raj in the 1890s out of sheer necessity. With more and more migrants of varying communities reaching the big city in those days and no fast food culture and office canteens around to calm the hunger pangs at noon, there was a lack of an effective system to ensure that office-workers could eat at lunchtime. 
  • The dabbawalas constitute a lunchbox delivery and return system that delivers hot lunches from homes and restaurants to people at work in India, especially in Mumbai.  
  • The lunchboxes are picked up in the late morning, delivered predominantly using bicycles and railway trains, and returned empty in the afternoon.  
  • They are also used by meal suppliers in Mumbai, who pay them to ferry lunchboxes with ready-cooked meals from central kitchens to customers and back. 

Early summer rain eases forest fire threat 

#GS3 #Environment #Wildlife 

Early summer rain in parts of the State has reduced the incidents of forest fires that had seen a surge in the last few weeks. 

  • Apart from the searing heat with temperature upward of 38 degrees Celsius in most places, the dry deciduous nature of most of the forests and the proliferation of weeds like Lantana camara in national parks and tiger reserves had contributed to spike in fire incidents. 
  • There were 1,863 fire incidents — big and small — across the State from March 1 to 31 as per the Forest Survey of India (FSI), which generates fire alerts on near real-time basis. March saw an average of 60 fires a day.  
  • From April 1 to 5 with the temperatures hovering above 38 degrees C to 40 degrees C in most forest regions, the FSI alerts indicated 448 fires spread across Karnataka covering Belagavi, Shivamogga, Dharwad, Mangaluru, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, Ballari, and Mysuru circles, among others. 
  • Parts of south Karnataka region have continued to receive moderate to heavy rains. Hence most forests in the region, including Bandipur, Nagarahole, MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, and BRT Tiger Reserve, have seen a reprieve and relief from the scourge of forest fires. 
  • At Bandipur, even the major fire prone areas with vast swathe of dry deciduous and scrub vegetation over run by Lantana, has received good rains during the week, here last year more than 15,000 acres of forests were gutted. 

Kerala gets nod for trial of plasma therapy 

#GS3 #Science&Technology 

ICMR approval of its clinical protocol may help critically ill COVID-19 patients 

  • The State has gone a step ahead and won the Indian Council of Medical Research’s approval to explore the feasibility of administering convalescent plasma transfusion on critically ill patients. 
  • Convalescent plasma therapy is not new and has been used by doctors to treat critically ill patients during earlier epidemics like H1N1, SARS and Ebola.  
  • The expert committee which is guiding the State’s containment and mitigation strategies against COVID-19 had recommended exploring the plasma therapy following the report in JAMA of a pilot study done by doctors in China. 
  • It may be noted that plasma from the blood of previously infected yet healthy individuals had been transferred to five critically ill patients in China and their condition had steadily improved and were subsequently discharged from hospitals. 
  • The proposal submitted to the ICMR says that the Transfusion Medicine Department of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology would help the State Health Department in exploring the feasibility of plasma therapy for COVID-19 treatment. 

IOC plans to double LPG imports as demand rises 

#GS3 #Economy 

  • Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) plans to double its LPG imports amidst rising demand for cooking gas in India arising in the course of the COVID-19 lockdown. 
  • The Corporation has tied up for additional imports of the product for April and May (to the tune of about 50% over normal imports) to ensure uninterrupted availability of bulk LPG for its bottling plants. 
  • IndianOil had delivered more than 3.38 crore LPG cylinders to its customers in the last 15 days since the lockdown was implemented, that is, 26 lakh cylinders every single working day. 

Extended hours 

  • IndianOil is taking steps to increase LPG production at its major refineries by optimising operations, improving LPG yield in LPG producing units. The Corporation’s LPG bottling plants, too, are working extended hours, operating night shifts and on public holidays/Sundays, to meet the growing demand. The transport infrastructure linking the plants to the distributors has also been optimised for quick turnaround of cylinders. 
  • IndianOil has also advised its distributors to give priority refill deliveries to LPG customers under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojanafor whom the Centre has extended three LPG refills free of cost during the months of April, May and June 2020. 

‘Half a billion people face poverty due to virus’ 

#GS1 #World 

Richer countries should help: Oxfam 

  • Around half a billion people could be pushed into poverty as a result of the economic fallout from the pandemic unless richer countries take “urgent action” to help developing nations, a leading aid organisation warned. 
  • Oxfam has urged richer countries to step up their efforts to help the developing world. Failing to do so, it added, could set back the fight against poverty by a decade and by as much as 30 years in some areas, including Africa and West Asia. 
  • But for poor people in poor countries who are already struggling to survive there are almost no safety nets to stop them falling into poverty. The report, which is based on research at King’s College London and the Australian National University, warns that between 6% and 8% of the global population could be forced into poverty. 

The facts about furry friends and COVID-19 

#GS3 #Science #Wildlife 

‘No clear evidence of human-to-animal transmission’ 

  • While the WHO has initiated a study into the possibility of the novel coronavirus infection spreading from humans to domestic animals after a four-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo became the first of its kind to test positive for the virus, some veterinarians have argued that there is so far no clear evidence of human-to-animal reverse transmissions. 
  • At the Bronx zoo, a total of four tigers and three African lions were also said to have developed a dry cough, a typical symptom of COVID-19 patients. Further, a study published this week on the website of the journal Science, found that ferrets could also potentially become infected with SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The study, however added that dogs, chickens, pigs and ducks are not likely to get infected. 
  • PCR testing conducted in these cases only concludes that virus material is present — a case of passive contamination — but that does not necessarily imply an ongoing infection in the animal that could be further transmitted. To be sure that there is an infection in the animal, antibodies testing must be performed. 
  • The presence of the coronavirus in case of the Bronx zoo tiger, Nadia, was said to be due to the animal’s exposure via contact with a zoo employee who was actively shedding the virus. 

Different viruses 

  • Domestic animals including dogs naturally carry other coronaviruses in their gastro-intestinal, respiratory tract, which are different from the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19. 
  • Even if a companion animal presents respiratory or gastro-intestinal signs they should not be routinely tested for COVID-19 at this time, lest it exacerbates the scarcity of testing kits for humans. 
  • Instead, the animal’s owner should first consult with the veterinarian via phone to determine whether an in-clinic examination is needed. Where appropriate, testing for infectious diseases that commonly cause companion animal illness should be conducted. 
  • If a new, concerning illness is observed that cannot be otherwise explained, and the companion animal has had close contact with a person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection, the vet should contact the state public health veterinarian or designated health official to discuss whether or not there is a need to test that animal for COVID-19. 
  • During this pandemic emergency, pets and people each need the support of the other and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both. 

‘Gamosa’ evolves from memento to mask in Assam 

#GS1 #Art&Culture 

The ubiquitous decorative cotton towels are being repurposed as protective gear to fight the coronavirus 

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made the ubiquitous gamosa, a decorative cotton towel, evolve from memento to mask. 
  • For Pratibha Das, Mamani Malakar, Rebati Baishya and other members of the non-profit Hargila Army in Pacharia, a village 25 km northwest of Guwahati, sewing the gamosa masks is more than just keeping themselves engaged to beat the lockdown inactivity. 
  • They have been designing the masks with motifs of the endangered hargila (greater adjutant stork), rhino and elephant to add a dash of wildlife conservation to the protection of human faces. 
  • Purnima Devi Barman, stork conservationist and founder of the Hargila Army, were not the first to improvise. A Fine Arts student named Phanindra Pradhan had transformed the gamosa after pharmacies in his town of Gohpur ran out of masks. 
  • Assam has traditionally had two types of gamosas — the uka or plain kind used to wipe sweat or dry the body after a bath, and the phulam, which is decorated with floral motifs to be gifted as a memento or during festivals such as Bihu. 

Cultural identity 

  • Cultural historians say the gamosa came to symbolise Assamese nationalism in 1916 when the Asom Chatra Sanmilan, a students’ organisation was formed, followed by the Assam Sahitya Sabha, a literary body. Wearing the phulam gamosa around the neck became a standard for cultural identity. 
  • The Assamese way of life is woven in the gamosa, whether plain or decorative. From a cultural symbol, it became a political symbol before designers explored its potential as dress material such as distinctive shirts 
  • Thegamosa’s graph as a symbol of protest rose during the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation from 1979 to 1985.The extremist United Liberation Front of Asom too used the towel with “revolutionary” motifs. 
  • The gamosa staged a comeback as a political statement with the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act from mid-December 2019. The protests have continued intermittently after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. 

BEL, AIIMS develop remote monitor 

#GS3 #Science&Technology 

The system seeks to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for health workers 

  • A remote patient health monitoring system that can be installed at homes or hospitals promises to spare healthcare workers the risk of exposure to COVID-19, while attending to persons undergoing isolation either for suspected infection or as precautionary quarantine. 
  • Jointly developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd. and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the system reduces the need for scarce personal protective gear.  
  • The solution aims to significantly reduce the risk of exposure to infection for healthcare workers. It is also expected to reduce the increasing demand of PPE [personal protective equipment] and logistics. 
  • The device has non-invasive sensors to measure the main parameters of a person who may be a COVID-19 patient: temperature, pulse rate, SPO2 or saturated oxygen level, and respiration rate. 
  • A mobile app and Web browser have been developed. People who show symptoms of infection get enrolled with AIIMS. Patient health parameters, along with patient location, are uploaded to a centralised command & control centre on cloud using either the patient’s mobile phone or integral GSM SIM card.  
  • The use of cloud will facilitate seamless scaling of the database of COVID-19 suspects/patients. When the monitored parameters exceed preset thresholds, the software would send out alerts to the medical officers. 

Study points to community transmission 

#GS3 #Pandemic 

40% of patients with severe respiratory illness lacked travel history, suggest ICMR scientists 

  • There was evidence of community transmission — or instances of COVID-19 in patients who had no established contact with someone who had picked up the disease from abroad — from as early as March 22, suggests a research study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, authored by several ICMR scientists. 
  • The ICMR’s official position continues to be that there is no evidence for community transmission. With the case load increasing on an average of 500 per day for nearly a week, the Health Ministry and the States have stepped up surveillance and testing at hotspots and announced indefinite extensions of the 21-day lockdown. 
  • The ICMR’s testing strategy has been to check those who showed symptoms of the disease — cough, fever and laboured breathing — in those with international travel history, their contacts and health-workers tending to those with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI-a syndrome of COVID-19). 
  • To check whether there was a wider prevalence of COVID-19, it began to randomly test samples of hospitalised SARI patients from February 15, and from March 20, all patients who exhibited the syndrome. 
  • Of the 102 COVID-19 positive SARI patients, 40 (39.2%) did not report any history of contact or international travel. About a third of the COVID-19 positive SARI cases did not have any history of contact with laboratory-confirmed cases or international travel, and such cases were reported from 36 districts in 15 States.  
  • These districts need to be prioritised to target COVID-19 containment activities, the study underlines. 2.3% of those SARI patients who tested positive were male, and positivity among women was only 0.8%. The 50-59 age group was most likely to test positive for the infection.
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