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28 March Current Affairs

Digital Initiatives to Fight Coronavirus

In News:

Recently, the Government has developed a platform which will host webinars by All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) doctors for healthcare workers across the country.

It has also developed an app that will trace the paths of COVID-19 positive patients, serving as a warning to possible contacts.

Key Points:

Chat Boxes on Facebook and WhatsApp have been set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for providing information about COVID-19.

A portal to map the requirements of hospitals, and cross-referencing them with those who have offered to help with equipment is also being set up by the government.

A webinar platform has been developed in tandem with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The webinars are for the frontline health workers (nurses, paramedics, ASHA- Accredited Social Health Activist workers, anganwadi workers), who are more prone to COVID-19.

The webinars would be streamed on Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp.

The state governments would also be involved so as to make the content available in regional languages.

The government has also worked on a contact path tracing app, tentatively called ‘Corona Kavach’.

The app would store location data and would enter the credentials of the person if he/she tests positive. This information would be sent to the cloud.

A signal would come to the app which would convert it from green to red.

The server would then find out people who were in close proximity with the infected person in the last 14 days.

Their apps would turn yellow and they would get an alert that they should quarantine themselves.

Antibody Kits for COVID-19

In News:

Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has invited manufacturers to supply 5 lakh antibody kits for diagnosis of COVID-19 infection.

The antibody test will help in screening suspected patients.

Key Points:

  1. a) The Antibody Test:

The antibody test for COVID-19 will act as a screening process that will give quick results in a few hours.

The antibody test detects the body’s response to the virus. It gives an indication that a person has been exposed to the virus.

If the test is positive, the swab is collected and an Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) test is done using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kit. Therefore, this is a two-stage process.

However, the antibody test does not not definitely indicate that a person is infected with COVID-19 infection. It is only for screening.

Currently, India is only conducting the conventional RT-PCR test (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction).

  1. b) Antibody Kits vs RT-PCR Test:

RT-PCR test detects the virus genetic material, which is the RNA.

The antibody test detects the body’s response to the virus.

RT-PCR provides direct evidence whereas antibody kits provide the indirect evidence.

  1. c) Need for Antibody Kits:

Shortage of the PCR kits and thus the test is complicated, expensive and time-consuming.

The antibody test will be where a large number of people are being quarantined and where everybody cannot undergo an RNA test.

Results of Testing in South Korea:

The antibody test was done in South Korea, one of the few countries which has been able to flatten the pandemic curve.

In South Korea, people with a history of travel and contact are screened using the antibody kit.

Then, a large number of suspected patients were being quarantined in the country through contact tracing of just a single patient.

COVID-19 Economic Relief Package

In News:

The Union Finance Minister has announced Rs 1.70 lakh crore relief package under the newly framed Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor to help them fight the battle against CoronaVirus (COVID-19).

Details:

As part of the lockdown to stem the spread of the deadly virus, the government has stopped public transport, airlines and construction work, bringing to a halt most economic activities and leaving millions of workers in the informal economy without a livelihood.

The central government’s package comes a week after Kerala first announced a Rs 20,000-crore support for its people. Many states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Telangana and Rajasthan followed suit.

Key Components:

  1. a) Insurance Scheme for Health Workers:

The Centre would provide Rs. 50 lakh medical insurance cover for the next three months for about 22 lakh health workers in government hospitals fighting the spread of the virus at personal risk.

The health workers include ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, medical sanitary workers in government hospitals, paramedics, nurses and doctors.

  1. b) Food Security for the Next Three Months (PM Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojana):

Each person who is covered under the National Food Security Act would get an additional five kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised foodgrain already provided through the Public Distribution System (PDS).

One kg of pulse a household would also be provided for free, according to regional preferences. This is expected to benefit about 80 crore people.

  1. c) Cash Transfers and Other Benefits over Next Three Months:

About 3 crore poor pensioners above 60 years, widows and disabled people would be given ₹1000 in two instalments.

The 20 crore women holding Jan Dhan Yojana accounts would get ₹500 a month.

The 8.3 crore poor households, which received cooking gas connections under the Ujjwala scheme, would get free gas cylinders.

  1. d) For Workers:

Wages are being hiked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, from ₹182 to ₹202 a day.

The Centre is directing the States to use the ₹31,000 crore held by Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards to provide support to the 3.5 crore registered workers.

The States can also use the money available under District Mineral Funds for medical screening, testing and treatment.

  1. e) For Land-owning Farmers:

The first instalment of ₹2000 due to them under the PM-KISAN income support scheme will be paid promptly in April, the first month of the financial year.

  1. f) For Companies & SHGs:

For small companies with 100 employees or less, of whom 90% earn less than ₹15,000 a month, the Centre will bear the cost of both employer and employee contribution (a total of 24%) to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for the next three months. This will benefit 80 lakh employees, and incentivise 4 lakh establishments.

Collateral free loans provided for women self-help groups under the National Rural Livelihood Mission are being doubled to ₹20 lakh, potentially benefiting seven crore households.

District mineral foundation (DMF) funds

In News:

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said state governments should use district mineral foundation (DMF) funds for response and preparedness to fight the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

DMF funds may be used to supplement and augment healthcare facilities, screening and testing requirements and any other resources that might be required.

About DMFs:

DMFs were instituted under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Act 2015.

They are non-profit trusts to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations.

Objective: To work for the interest of the benefit of the persons and areas affected mining related operations in such manner as may be prescribed by the State Government.

Jurisdiction: Its manner of operation comes under the jurisdiction of the relevant State Government.

The fund is collected at the district level. There are certain high-priority areas identified in all states’ DMF rules, where at least 60 per cent of the fund must be used. These include vital and pressing concerns, including healthcare.

The various state DMF rules and the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Khestra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) guidelines stipulate some “high priority” issues for DMFs, including:

  • Drinking water.
  • Health
  • Women and child welfare.
  • Education
  • Livelihood and skill development.
  • Welfare of aged and disabled.
  • Sanitation

Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY):

The programme is meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining related operations, using the funds generated by District Mineral Foundations (DMFs).

Objectives of the scheme:

  • To implement various developmental and welfare projects/programs in mining affected areas that complement the existing ongoing schemes/projects of State and Central Government.
  • To minimize/mitigate the adverse impacts, during and after mining, on the environment, health and socio-economics of people in mining districts.
  • To ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods for the affected people in mining areas.

Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organization:

In News:

Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organization takes various measures to address the problems faced by Petroleum, Explosives, Oxygen and Industrial Gas Industries.

Key Points:

It is a department under Department for the Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade under Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

It is a regulatory authority with autonomous status.

It was established during the British India in 1890s as Department of Explosives and later expanded to various other activities.

As a statutory authority, PESO is entrusted with the responsibilities under the Explosives Act, 1884; Petroleum Act, 1934; Inflammable Substances Act, 1952, Environment (Protection Act), 1986.

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