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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 10 April 2020

Contents:

  1. Increase rate in COVID-19 Positive cases, Plasma Therapy in Kerala, Odisha Lockdown
  2. MSMEs need huge package
  3. ‘Operation SHIELD’ at 21 locations in Delhi
  4. Ahmedabad adopts South Korean model
  5. Study points to community transmission
  6. World faces new ‘Great Depression’, Half a billion people face Poverty
  7. Inflation may drop to 2.4% in FY21: RBI
  8. Industrial output grows 4.5% in Feb

INCREASE RATE IN COVID-19 POSITIVE CASES, PLASMA THERAPY IN KERALA, ODISHA LOCKDOWN

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on 9th April said the country has maintained a steady rate of COVID-19 positive cases — 3% to 5% over the past month and half — and has registered no significant increase in this trend so far.
  • Kerala has won ICMR approval for the clinical protocol exploring the feasibility of an experimental therapy, convalescent plasma transfusion, which may be administered to severe COVID-19 patients.
  • The Health Ministry added that two of its labs have started whole genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Twenty companies are manufacturing PPE in India and orders for 1.7 crore PPE and 49,000 ventilators have already been placed, hence, there is no reason to believe any rumours or have any fear regarding PPE.

Details

COVID -19 spread in India States with testing Kerala has recorded relatively fewer confirmed cases with high testing rate
  • The country currently has 5,865 confirmed cases and 169 deaths. This includes 591 new cases and 20 deaths in the last 24 hours.
  • Of the 1,30,792 individuals tested as on April 9 – 5,734 samples tested positive. Positivity rate ranges between 3%-5% with no major increase.
  • ICMR is in the final stages of drawing up a protocol for trial on convalescent plasma therapy, for which approvals have to be taken.
  • 10 teams of COVID-19 specialists have been sent to nine States including — Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat — to oversee preparedness and ensure maximum containment of cases.
  • Indian Railways has produced about six lakh reusable face masks and over 4,000 litres of hand sanitiser; it has also converted 3,250 coaches into COVID-19 isolation units with beds. Total 5,000 coaches are to be converted

Current stand on Convalescent Plasma therapy

  • At present there are no specific antiviral agents which have been found to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19.
  • Convalescent plasma therapy is not new and have been used by doctors to treat critically ill patients during earlier epidemics too, during H1N1, SARS and Ebola.
  • The proposal submitted to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says that the Transfusion Medicine Department of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology would help the Health Department in exploring the possibility of convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19 treatment.
  • Getting the clinical protocol for administering plasma therapy cleared ahead by the ICMR is just part of Kerala’s preparedness, that should Kerala get severe COVID-19 patients during the second or third wave, they should be able to make use of this option.
  • Drugs Controller General’s approval and institutional ethics committee approval would have to be there before the treatment can be administered.
  • CP therapy shows a potential therapeutic effect and low risk in the treatment of severe COVID-19 patients.
  • It said that one dose (200 ml) of convalescent plasma with a high concentration of neutralising antibodies was well-tolerated by patients and that it can rapidly reduce the viral load in patients and improve clinical symptoms significantly.

Plasma therapy

Convalescent Plasma Therapy Involves transfusing certain components from the blood of people who have recovered from the virus attack
  • Convalescent plasma (CP) therapy, a classic adaptive immunotherapy, has been applied to the prevention and treatment of many infectious diseases for more than one century.
  • Over the past two decades, CP therapy was successfully used in the treatment of SARS, MERS, and 2009 H1N1 pandemic with satisfactory efficacy and safety
  • Nevertheless, the potential clinical benefit and risk of convalescent blood products in COVID-19 remains uncertain.
  • In this therapy, plasma from a COVID-19 recovered patient is transfused into an infected severely ill patient so that the specific antibodies in the blood of the recovered patient can help fight the infection.
  • This is done for very ill patients on ventilators and has given good results in some studies abroad

Complications of plasmapheresis therapy

  • Insertion of a rather large intravenous catheter can lead to bleeding, lung puncture (depending on the site of catheter insertion), and, if the catheter is left in too long, it can get infected.
  • Bleeding or hematoma from needle placement
  • Hypotension
  • Potential exposure to blood products, with risk of transfusion reactions or transfusion transmitted diseases
  • Suppression of the patient’s immune system

Odisha becomes first State to extend lockdown till April 30

  • Odisha government on 9th April decided to extend lockdown until April 30 to contain the spread of COVID-19, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced after the State Cabinet held a meeting through video-conferencing.
  • Union government was also requested not to start airline and railway services till April 30.
  • Educational institutions in Odisha would remain closed till June 17.
  • Activities related to agriculture, animal husbandry and MGNREGS would be facilitated during the lockdown period adhering to social distancing norms.
  • Food security of the people was a major priority of his government.

MSMES NEED HUGE PACKAGE

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Warning that the COVID-19 lockdown has thrown MSMEs — Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises — into deep distress, opposition has urged the Centre to set up a ₹1 lakh crore corpus fund as part of a relief package for the sector.

Views of the Opposition

  • There are over 6.3 crore MSMEs in the country, which account for almost half of all exports and a third of the national GDP.
  • They employed 11 crore people, and were struggling to pay wages, given the shutdown of many businesses, the sharp depression in demand and a massive cash crunch.
  • With the vast majority of MSMEs not obligated to have PF accounts for their workers, the measures announced by the Finance Minister to support organised sector workers would not give them much relief.

Recommendations of the opposition

Steps recommended apart from post-lockdown steps to improve consumer sentiment and investment appetite:

  1. tax sops and other measures to ensure liquidity
  2. preventing mass unemployment
  3. deferring payment of dues
  4. pausing litigation against MSMEs
  • Calling the corpus fund for an immediate rollout of distress relief measures.
  • A 24×7 control room and helpline were also needed to provide cross-country logistics support to ensure supply chain continuity during the lockdown
  • Loan restructuring options, and a 6-month moratorium on payment of dues to ensure liquidity.
  • Ad-hoc working capital loans up to a maximum of Rs. 30 lakhs could also be offered to enterprises which had no finance facilities from public sector banks.
  • Women entrepreneurs and those from disadvantaged communities should be given priority.
  • Tax payments could also be deferred for six months, while property taxes and other local body taxes could be waived for three months.
  • All government agencies and public sector units pay their bills to MSMEs immediately.
  • Provide wage subsidies to employers, and give tax credit to companies giving paid sick leave up to four weeks.
  • The self-employed, including hawkers, small shopkeepers, plumbers and electricians, should be given direct cash transfers as they do not receive salaries.

‘OPERATION SHIELD’ AT 21 LOCATIONS IN DELHI

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

The Delhi government will carry out ‘Operation SHIELD’ at 21 locations identified as containment zones in the capital, Delhi Chief Minister said on 9th April 2020.

What is Operation SHIELD?

  • S-Sealing of the immediate area after geographical marking, H-Home quarantine of all in the area, I-Isolation and tracing of people who have been first and second contacts, E-Essential supplies delivered at the doorstep, L-Local sanitisation and disinfection and D-Door-to-door checking, so that people having symptoms of the novel coronavirus infection are isolated, and testing can be done after taking samples.
  • The operation involves sealing, identifying and quarantining people, doorstep delivery of essential items and door-to-door checking of people.

Other Steps taken by Delhi Government

  • Need for wearing Masks – advised based on recent observations and news from across the world where authorities are advising everyone, and not just people infected with the coronavirus, to wear masks to protect themselves. Hence, Delhi Govt. Issued orders that everyone stepping out of their homes in Delhi should wear masks.
  • Government would take strict action against those misbehaving with healthcare professionals.
  • As no economic activities are taking place, tax collection has stopped. In view of this, we have decided that except for the expenses to contain the spread of the virus and provide free ration and food, no other expenses will be incurred by the government.
  • All government departments have been instructed to stop all expenses other than salaries. Any expenditure other than those for the virus containment and the lockdown will be incurred only with the permission of the Finance Department.

AHMEDABAD ADOPTS SOUTH KOREAN MODEL

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has now adopted the South Korean model of enhanced testing to ascertain the scale of the epidemic in the city of 6.5 million people.

Details

  • Ahmedabad is battling to contain the spread of the pandemic with intensive surveillance and aggressive testing to detect the maximum number of cases of infected people, and isolate them to curtail further spread of the disease and break the chain of transmission.
  • On 4th April, the number of samples tested from the city were 57 while after four days on 8th April, we tested 840 samples.
  • Along with aggressive testing, the civic body has hardened social distancing measures by strictly regulating goings and comings in the entire walled city area, from where the maximum number of cases have emerged.
  • AMC has identified 14 clusters or hotspots where intensive surveillance, mass testing and contact tracing of infected persons will be carried out with enhanced focus.

STUDY POINTS TO COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

There was evidence for community transmission — or instances of coronavirus (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.

Background

  • On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown for three weeks.
  • 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).
Percentage of Patients hospitalized Severe Acute Respiratory Illness SARI Positive for COVID 19

Expansion of testing strategy

  • When the COVID testing strategy was expanded to include all SARI patients (from March 21), a total of 4,946 samples yielded 102 (2.1%) cases.
  • The positivity increased from zero during the initial weeks to 2.6% in the 14th week.
  • Of the 102 COVID-19 positive SARI patients, 40 (39.2%) did not report any history of contact or international travel.
  • Details of the States from which these cases were emerging also point to why certain districts are under increased surveillance.
  • 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%.

Significance of Testing

  • Tracking the spread of COVID-19 is critical to inform response activities, including testing, containment and mitigation measures.
  • The current SARI testing strategy will complement and strengthen the routine COVID-19 surveillance activities.
  • In the last two weeks as cases have ballooned, the ICMR has significantly increased testing and roped in more laboratories — state and private — for assessment.
  • It has increased testing, and has tested 1.3 million samples (including repeats) in the last month.

WORLD FACES NEW ‘GREAT DEPRESSION’, HALF A BILLION FACE POVERTY

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, Economic Development, Disaster Management

Why in news?

The global coronavirus pandemic is causing an economic crisis unlike any in the past century and will require a massive response to ensure recovery, IMF said on 9th April 2020.

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 on 9th April.

What to expect?

  • Global growth will turn sharply negative in 2020, with 170 of the International Monetary Fund’s 180 members experiencing a decline in per capita income.
  • Anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.
  • Even in the best case the IMF expects only a “partial recovery” next year, assuming the virus fades later this year, allowing normal business to resume as the lockdowns imposed to contain its spread are lifted.
  • But “it could get worse,” and “there is tremendous uncertainty around the outlook” and the duration of the pandemic.’
  • The bleak outlook applies to advanced and developing economies alike. This crisis knows no boundaries.

What IMF recommends?

Countries already have taken steps worth a combined $8 trillion, but IMF Chief urged governments to do more to provide “lifelines” for businesses and households to “avoid a scarring of the economy that would make the recovery so much more difficult.”

Oxfam on half a billion people facing Poverty:

  • 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.
  • The devastating economic fallout of the pandemic is being felt across the globe.
  • 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 warns that between 6% and 8% of the global population could be forced into poverty.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • It consists of 189 countries 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.
  • It periodically depends on the World Bank for its resources.
  • Through the fund and other activities such as the gathering of statistics and analysis, surveillance of its members’ economies, and the demand for particular policies, the IMF works to improve the economies of its member countries.

Objectives of IMF are to promote:

  1. International monetary co-operation
  2. International trade
  3. High employment
  4. Exchange-rate stability
  5. Sustainable economic growth
  6. Making resources available to member countries in financial difficulty

Functions of the IMF

  • To provide financial assistance to member countries with balance of payments problems, the IMF lends money to replenish international reserves, stabilize currencies and strengthen conditions for economic growth. Countries must embark on structural adjustment policies monitored by the IMF.
  • It oversees the international monetary system and monitors the economic and financial policies of its 189 member countries. As part of this process, which takes place both at the global level and in individual countries, the IMF highlights possible risks to stability and advises on needed policy adjustments.
  • It provides technical assistance and training to central banks, finance ministries, tax authorities, and other economic institutions. This helps countries raise public revenues, modernize banking systems, develop strong legal frameworks, improve governance, and enhance the reporting of macroeconomic and financial data. It also helps countries to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

INFLATION MAY DROP TO 2.4% IN FY21: RBI

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The consumer price index (CPI)-based inflation, which had stayed elevated in the last few months, is expected to soften during the course of the financial year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in its monetary policy report (MPR).

The Monetary Policy Report was published on 9th April 2020 following the unscheduled monetary policy meeting held in end March to discuss the uncertainties arising from the nationwide lockdown.

What RBI said in the MPR?

  • CPI inflation is tentatively projected to ease from 4.8% in Q1 of 2020-21 to 4.4% in Q2, 2.7% in Q3 and 2.4% in Q4, with the caveat that in the prevailing high uncertainty, aggregate demand may weaken further than currently anticipated and ease core inflation further, while supply bottlenecks could exacerbate pressures more than expected
  • Looking ahead, the balance of inflation risks is slanted even further towards the downside.
  • For 2021-22, assuming a normal monsoon and no major exogenous or policy shocks, structural model estimates indicate that inflation could move in a range of 3.6-3.8%.
  • Under highly fluid circumstances in which incoming data produce shifts in the outlook for growth on a daily basis, forecasts for real GDP growth in India are not provided here, awaiting a clear fix on the intensity, spread and duration of COVID-19.
  • The sharp reduction in international crude oil prices, if sustained, could improve the country’s terms of trade, but the gain from this channel is not expected to offset the drag from the shutdown and loss of external demand.
  • The RBI said relatively modest upsides are expected to emanate from monetary, fiscal and other policy measures and the early containment of COVID-19, if that occurs. However, it added, such uncertainties make the forecasting of inflation and growth highly challenging.
  • On exchange rates, the central bank said renewed bouts of global financial market volatility caused by the uncertainty of macroeconomic impact of the COVID-19, as in February-March 2020, could exert pressure on the Indian rupee.

Monetary Policy Report

  • The RBI carries out India’s monetary policy and exercises supervision and control over banks and non-banking finance companies in India.
  • Monetary policy refers to those policies of Central Bank (Reserve Bank of India) which are used to control interest rates, money supply in the economy and the availability of credit in the economy.
  • In other words, monetary policy is the use of monetary instruments such as Repo rate, Reverse repo rate, CRR, SLR etc., by RBI to regulate interest rates, money supply, credit availability and to control inflation etc. in the country.
  • Monetary Policy Committee is a committee of the “Reserve Bank of India” that is responsible for fixing the benchmark interest rate in India.
  • The resolution adopted by the MPC is published after the conclusion of every meeting of the MPC.
  • Once in every six months, the Reserve Bank is required to publish a document called the Monetary Policy Report to explain the sources of inflation and the forecast of inflation for 6-18 months ahead.

INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT GROWS 4.5% IN FEB

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

India’s factory output accelerated 4.5% in February in comparison to the previous year.

The growth in the Index of Industrial Production came on the back of higher output in mining, electricity and manufacturing sectors, according to the data released by the National Statistical Office on 9th April 2020.

Details of Growth

  • The cumulative growth for the financial year so far, from April to February 2019-20, stands at 0.9%
  • February saw the second straight month of improved industrial output after a contraction in December 2019.
  • The mining sector saw a robust 10% growth in production in February, while the electricity sector saw 8.1% growth in comparison to the previous year.
  • Manufacturing sector output grew more cautiously, at a rate of 3.2%.
  • In terms of industries, 13 out of 23 groups in the manufacturing sector showed positive production growth in February 2020.
  • Industries manufacturing basic metals saw the highest output growth of more than 18%, while chemicals manufacturing saw production rise 8%.
  • Primary goods saw output grow more than 7% and intermediate goods grew over 22%, the data showed.

Industries that slumped

  • The auto sector saw a major slump in February 2020, with the manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers contracting 15.6%.
  • Computer and electronics manufacturing output also saw negative growth of almost 15%.
  • Overall, capital goods contracted almost 10%, while consumer durables saw negative growth of 6.4%.

What to Expect?

The IIP is likely to plunge drastically again for March, due to the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a halt in most business.

About IIP

  • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index that shows the growth rates in different industry groups of the economy in a fixed period of time.
  • It is compiled and published monthly by the Central Statistical Organization (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • IIP is a composite indicator that measures the growth rate of industry groups classified under:
  • Broad sectors, namely, Mining, Manufacturing, and Electricity.
  • Use-based sectors, namely Basic Goods, Capital Goods, and Intermediate Goods.
  • Base Year for IIP is 2011-2012.
  • The eight core industries of India represent about 40% of the weight of items that are included in the IIP.

The Eight Core Sectors/Industries are:

  • Electricity
  • Steel
  • Refinery products
  • Crude oil
  • Coal
  • Cement
  • Natural gas
  • Fertilisers

Significance of IIP :

  • IIP is the only measure on the physical volume of production.
  • It is used by government agencies including the Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank of India, etc., for policy-making purposes.
  • IIP remains extremely relevant for the calculation of the quarterly and advance GDP estimates.

Core industries in the IIP

The following table represents the weight of the eight core industries in the IIP.

Industry Weight
Coal 10.33
Electricity 19.85
Crude oil 8.98
Cement 5.37
Natural gas 6.88
Steel 17.92
Refinery products 28.04
Fertilisers 2.63
Total 100
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