29 private lab chains approved for testing of coronavirus 

#GS2 #Health #Governance 

A total number of 29 private laboratory chains have been given approval for testing of corona virus. These private labs have 16 thousand collection centers across the country. In addition, 118 government laboratories have been given permission for testing which have a capacity to test 12 thousand samples per day.  

  • Giving these information in a media briefing in New Delhi today, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said government is continuously increasing its testing infrastructure.  
  • He said, private labs must adhere to the norms laid down by the Indian Council of Medical Research.  
  • He added that hydroxy-chloroquine for prophylaxis should only be used with the advice of doctors. 
  • There is no evidence of community transmission of corona virus in the country. 
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has said that government is ensuring the supply of essential items with the help of states and union territories.  

Meanwhile, total confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country reached 606 today. Out of these, 43 have been cured and discharged so far. Tenth death was reported today from Maharashtra. This is the third death in the state due to the virus outbreak.  

Source : AIR 

 

EC allows use of indelible ink stamp for home quarantine 

Election Commission has decided to allow usage of indelible ink on persons for stamping for home quarantine by health authorities in view of COVID-19. 

  • The commission said, the Health Ministry may standardise the mark and the location on the body where the mark has to be applied so that it does not come in the way of conducting elections. 
  • It said, the concerned authorities will be instructed not to use the Indelible Ink on any finger on left hand of any persons. 
  • Also said, the authorities concerned shall be instructed to maintain the record of the persons to whom Indelible Ink is applied. It said, the authorities shall also be instructed to ensure that the Indelible Ink shall not be used for any other purpose. 

Source : AIR

 

What exactly are the testing techniques being used to find whether a person is infected with novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) or not? 

The virus that has caused the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is small. Each particle is just between 50–200 nanometres in diameter. 

This makes direct observation under a microscope difficult. A pipeline assessment by Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, a global non-profit that drives research on diagnostics has divided the tests for COVID-19 into molecular assays and immunoassays.  

Molecular Tests 

  • Currently, molecular assays are being used. These can be manual or automated.  
  • When a person is suspected to be suffering from COVID-19, an oral swab is taken.  
  • Viral Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) is isolated from these swabs using a variety of chemicals. But as this amount is very small, it is impossible to figure out the pathogen directly from this sample.  
  • To increase the test material, the polymerase chain reaction technique (PCR) is used. The coronavirus is an RNA virus and to use the PCR technique in such a sample, an additional step of treating the sample with enzyme reverse transcriptase is needed.  
  • Once the RNA is converted to a complementary strand of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), this DNA can be replicated many times over — generally 40 times.  
  • During the replication process, other than primers (which are specific to the viral genetic material), enzymes and nucleotides, fluorescent probes are added.  
  • These fluorescent probes are released from each strand when the copying of the strand is complete and provide a visual signal. 
  • If the sample had the coronavirus RNA, replication would occur and the visual signal would be there.  
  • So far, India has been using imported RT-PCR test kits. On March 23, 2020, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approved two test kits after finding them to be 100 per cent sensitive to true positive and true negative samples.  
  • In their press release, ICMR provided the sensitivity data for nine test kits and only Mylab Discovery Solutions Pvt Ltd’s PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit and Altona Diagnostic’s RealStar SARS CoV-2 RT-PCR kit were found to be reliable.  
  • Fourteen more private companies have been given test license by the drug regulator Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for evaluation of the quality of their testing kits, according to media reports.  
  • These include Roche Diagnostics India, CoSara Diagnostics from Ahmedabad and CPC Diagnostics from Chennai. These companies will evaluate their kit and present the data to the DCGI. 

Immunoassays  

  • Other than the PCR technique, rapid tests have been launched in the market. These are immunoassays, which can be manual or automated immunoassays and rapid diagnostic tests. 
  • These follow the same principle used in pregnancy tests. They identify the IgM and IgG antibodies developed against the SARS-CoV-2.  
  • For the test, whole blood, serum and plasma can be used and if antibodies are present in the sample, these bind to the antigen immobilised on the test strip and give a coloured reaction. 
  • Such test kits are easy to use, provides quick results and also are effective in identifying asymptomatic patients.  
  • There is a risk of getting false positives and results need to be confirmed using a more advanced test. Many such tests are available globally but not in India. 

Source : DownToEarth 

Centre postpones NPR update, first phase of Census 

#GS2 #Polity #Governance 

Amid the nationwide lockdown to curb the COVID-19 spread, the Centre has decided to postpone the process of the updating the National Population Register (NPR) and the house listing phase of Census 2021.  

  • Both were supposed to start on April 1 and be completed by September 30. 
  • Several states had even written to the Centre, expressing their inability to implement the process given that their manpower was engaged in fighting the pandemic. 
  • Registrar General of India’s office said the Census 2021 was scheduled to be conducted in two phases — House listing & Housing Census during April-September 2020 and Population Enumeration between February 9 to 28, 2021.  
  • The updation of NPR was proposed to be done along with Phase I of Census 2021 in all States/UTs, except Assam, as it has already gone through the process of preparing National Register of Citizens. 

Source : Indian Express 

Double-digit MGNREGA hike for all states, UTs 

#GS2 #Polity #Governance 

The Centre has hiked wage rates for unskilled manual workers by double digits across all states and Union territories under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for the financial year 2020-21.  

  • This comes after the allocation of the rural job guarantee scheme was increased to a record level in the revised estimate of the current year. 
  • Some states saw zero increase in the wages rates for 2019-20 as against 2018-19. The increase this year ranges from Rs 13 to Rs 34 for all States and UTs. 
  • The new wages will be effective from April 1, 2020. 
  • After the increase, the average wage per day will be Rs 202 during 2020-21 and this is Rs 20 higher than the current financial year. 
  • The hike is due to the increase in CPI-AL (consumer price index for agriculture labourers) which reflects the increase in the inflation in rural areas. 

Source : Indian Express  

7% jump: Sensex logs best single-day gain in over 10 years 

#GS3 #Economy 

Stock markets on Wednesday posted their best single-day rise in over 10 years in percentage terms aided by a strong rally in the global markets and expectations of a stimulus package by the government to revive the economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic.  

  • The BSE Sensex skyrocketed 1,861.75 points, or 6.98 per cent, to settle at 28,535.78 and the NSE Nifty zoomed 516.80 points, or 6.62 per cent, to end at 8,317.85. 
  • Despite the nationwide lockdown, markets rallied on strong buying support, mainly driven by banks and financials.  
  • “Global markets have been trading in the green, driven by expectations of stimulus measures to support the respective economies … A more stable rally can happen only after any news regarding virus containment comes in,” said an analyst. 
  • Bourses in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul rallied up to 8 per cent. Benchmarks in Europe were also trading up to 4 per cent higher. 

Source : Indian Express 

Oil rises for second day amid hopes for output cut by US producers  

#GS3 #Economy  

Oil prices climbed for a second day on Wednesday, lifted by hopes that U.S. producers will cut output, but gains were limited compared with Monday's crash after Saudi Arabia and Russia triggered a price war. 

  • Brent crude futures rose $1.44, or 3.9%, to $38.66 a barrel by 0226 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained $1.12, or 3.3%, to $35.48 a barrel, following a jump of over 8% the previous day. 
  • Oil and equity markets had staged solid rebounds on Tuesday after the previous day's pummelling, supported by signs of co-ordinated action by the world's biggest economies to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic. 
  • But growing scepticism about Washington's stimulus package to fight the coronavirus outbreak knocked the steam out of an earlier rally in Asian shares. 
  • Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it would boost its oil supplies to a record high in April, raising the stakes in a standoff with Russia and effectively rebuffing a suggestion from Moscow for new talks on production levels. 
  • The clash of the two oil titans sparked a 25% slump in crude prices on Monday. 

Source : Indian Express 

 

Glaciers in Sikkim are losing mass faster than other parts of the Himalaya 

#GS1 #Geography #GS3 #Environment #ClimateChange 

Scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun an autonomous research institute for the study of Geology of the Himalaya under the Department of Science and Technology, have found that glaciers in Sikkim are melting at a higher magnitude as compared to other Himalayan regions. 

  • The study published in Science of the Total Environment assessed the response of 23 glaciers of Sikkim to climate change for the period of 1991-2015 and revealed that glaciers in Sikkim have retreated and deglaciated significantly from 1991 to 2015.  
  • Small-sized glaciers in Sikkim are retreating while larger glaciers are thinning due to climate change. 
  • Compared to other Himalayan regions, the magnitude of dimensional changes and debris growth are higher in the Sikkim.   
  • A major shift in glacier behavior has occurred around 2000. Contrary to the western and central Himalaya, where glaciers are reported to have slowed down in recent decades, the Sikkim glaciers have shown negligible deceleration after 2000.  
  • Summer temperature rise has been prime driver of glacier changes. 

Understanding Glaciers 

  • To understand the various parameters of Sikkim Himalayas glaciers such as length, area, debris cover, snow-line altitude (SLA), and how they respond to global warming Scientists from WIHG selected 23 representative glaciers from this region. 
  • The behavior of glaciers in the region is heterogeneous and found to be primarily determined by glacier size, debris cover, and glacial lakes.  
  • Though a generalized mass loss is observed for both small (less than 3 km square) and large-sized glaciers (greater than 10 km square), they seem to adopt different mechanisms to cope with the ongoing climatic changes.  
  • While the first adjust mostly by deglaciation, the latter lose mass through downwasting or thinning. 

Way Forward 

  • This study, for the first time, studied multiple glacier parameters, namely length, area, debris cover, snowline altitude (SLA), glacial lakes, velocity, and downwasting, and explored interlinkage among them to present a clear picture about status and behavior of glaciers in the Sikkim. 
  • Accurate knowledge of magnitude as well as the direction of glacier changes, as highlighted in the present study, can lead to awareness among common people regarding water supplies and possible glacier hazards, particularly to those communities that are living in close proximity.  
  • The study can provide ample baseline data on glacier changes and systematically explore the causal relationship between glacier parameters and various influencing factors. A clear understanding of glacier state will help orienting future studies as well as taking necessary measures.  

Source : PIB  

 

Scientists of ARI, Pune develop biofortified, high protein wheat variety 

#GS3 #Science #Technology 

Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, have developed a biofortified durum wheat variety MACS 4028, which shows high protein content. 

  • The wheat variety developed by the ARI scientists group on Wheat improvement, shown high protein content of about 14.7%, better nutritional quality having zinc 40.3 ppm, and iron content of 40.3ppm and 46.1ppm respectively, good milling quality and overall acceptability. 
  • MACS 4028, the development of which was published in the Indian Journal of Genetics and Plant Breeding, is a semi-dwarf variety, which matures in 102 days and has shown the superior and stable yielding ability of 19.3 quintals per hectare.  
  • It is resistant to stem rust, leaf rust, foliar aphids, root aphids, and brown wheat mite. 
  • The MACS 4028 variety is also included by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) programme for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to alleviate malnutrition in a sustainable way and can boost the Vision 2022 “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”, the National Nutrition Strategy.  
  • An endeavor to tackle the hidden hunger in the rural areas of India is being continued using traditional plant breeding approach to achieve “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat.” 
  • Wheat crop in India is grown under six diverse agroclimatic zones. In the peninsular zone of India (Maharashtra and Karnataka states), wheat cultivation is majorly done under rainfed and limited irrigation conditions.  
  • Under such conditions, the crop experiences moisture stress. Hence, there is a high demand for drought-tolerant varieties.  
  • Efforts for the development of high yielding, early maturing varieties with good quality and disease resistance for rainfed conditions are carried out at Agharkar Research Institute, Pune under All India coordinated Wheat and Barley improvement programme, coordinated through Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research Karnal governed by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research.  
  • The MACS 4028 is an outcome of such intervention for the farmers. 

Source : PIB 

 

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