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29th November Current Affairs

Omicron- a new variant

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

The new variant B 1.1. 529, which was designated as a ‘Variant of Concern’ by World Health Organisation has been assigned the name Omicron.

Reported by public health officials of South Africa, the new variant has triggered a lot of concern worldwide over a probable resurgence of Covid infections.

How different it is from the original virus?

The B1.1.529 has more than 2 times the number of bad spike mutations than the Delta variant. The new variant has an extremely high 32 worrisome mutations in the spike protein, which is a real concern than the Delta variant.

The WHO currently lists 5 variants of concern:

  • Omicron (B.1.1.529), identified in southern Africa in November 2021.
  • Delta (B.1.617.2), which emerged in India in late 2020 and spread around the world.
  • Gamma (P.1), which emerged in Brazil in late 2020.
  • Beta (B.1.351), which emerged in South Africa in early 2020.
  • Alpha (B.1.1.7), which merged in Britain in late 2020.

VARIANTS OF INTEREST– There are currently two:

  • Mu (B.1.621), which emerged in Colombia in early 2021.
  • Lambda (C.37), which emerged in Peru in late 2020.

Variant of Interest (VOI) and Variant of Concern (VOC):

A SARS-CoV-2 VOI is a SARS-CoV-2 variant:

with genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape; AND

that has been identified as causing significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.

A SARS-CoV-2 VOC is a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI and, through a comparative assessment, has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance:

  • increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; OR
  • increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; OR
  • decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.

How do variants of a virus emerge and why?

Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate it from the other variants that are in circulation.

Essentially, the goal of the virus is to reach a stage where it can cohabitate with humans because it needs a host to survive.

Errors in the viral RNA are called mutations, and viruses with these mutations are called variants. Variants could differ by a single or many mutations.

Bharat Gaurav scheme

(GS-III: Infrastructure- Energy)

In News:

To tap the huge potential of tourism, the Railways has announced the ‘Bharat Gaurav’ Scheme.

About the Bharat Gaurav Scheme:

Under this Scheme, theme-based tourist circuit trains, on the lines of the Ramayana Express, can be run either by private or State-owned operators.

Key features of the scheme:

Service providers, who can be an individual, company, society, trust, joint venture or consortium will be free to decide themes/circuits.

They will offer an all-inclusive package to tourists including rail travel, hotel accommodation and sightseeing arrangement, visit to historical/heritage sites, tour guides etc.

They have full flexibility to decide the package cost.

The service providers will also be able to design/furnish the interior of the coaches based on the theme and put branding or advertising inside and outside of the train.

Benefits of such Scheme:

These trains will help realise India’s rich cultural heritage and magnificent historical places to the people of India and the world. They will also help in tapping the vast tourism potential of India.

Recent Decision of Ministry of Railways in this regard:

On July 1, 2020, the Ministry of Railways announced that 151 trains in 109 pairs of routes will be operated by private sectors. It comprises just 5% of the 2,800 Express and Mail services operated by Indian Railways.

Private trains will start operating tentatively in 2023 and in 12 clusters.

Private companies will be given the freedom to procure locomotives and trains from their source of choice.

Railways has invited Request for Qualifications proposals, for scrutiny of vendor capabilities, from those who can bring modern trains for operations on existing rail infrastructure.

Norovirus

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

In the wake of the detection of 13 norovirus cases in Kerala, Karnataka has sounded an alert in the bordering districts of Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada.

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a bug similar to the diarrhoea-inducing rotavirus.

It is a group of viruses that causes gastrointestinal illness.

It is the most common pathogen implicated in outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), according to the World Health Organization.

Symptoms:

Initial symptoms of Norovirus are vomiting and/or diarrhoea, which show up one or two days after exposure to the virus. Patients also feel nauseous, and suffer from abdominal pain, fever, headaches and bodyaches. In extreme cases, loss of fluids could lead to dehydration.

Spread:

Disease outbreaks typically occur aboard cruise ships, in nursing homes, dormitories, and other closed spaces.

Norovirus is highly contagious, and can be transmitted through contaminated food, water, and surfaces. The primary route is oral-faecal. One may get infected multiple times as the virus has different strains.

Norovirus is resistant to many disinfectants and can heat up to 60°C. Therefore, merely steaming food or chlorinating water does not kill the virus. The virus can also survive many common hand sanitisers.

What is the treatment for Norovirus?

The disease is self-limiting — the infection, even though it takes a lot out of the patient, normally lasts only two or three days, and most individuals who are not very young, very old, or malnourished can ride it out with sufficient rest and hydration.

Madhya Pradesh tribal outreach programme

(GS-I: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues)

In News:

Madhya Pradesh government has initiated a massive tribal outreach programme in the state.

Important tribes in the state include Bhils and Gonds.

As part of the tribals outreach programme, the state has undertaken the following measures:

Implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, which allows self-governance through traditional gram sabhas for people living in scheduled areas.

Legalising mohua, a staple drink of the tribals, which will be sold as ‘heritage liquor’.

The chief minister has also announced that petty cases registered against tribals will also be withdrawn, most of which are for production and sale of mahua-based liquor.

Home delivery of foodgrains distributed under public distribution across all 89 tribal blocks has also been announced.

University in Chhindwara to be named after Shankar Shah. Shankar Shah, son of Sumer Shah, was the last ruler of Garha Kingdom under Gond rule.

Railway station, bus stop to be renamed after Tantya Bhil, a memorial in his name in Khandwa.

A medical college in Mandla will be named after Raja Hirde Shah Lodhi, who had come from Kashi and settled in MP’s Bundelkhand region. His ancestors had established their kingdom in the present-day Damoh which was then under Gond rulers.

Bhopal’s Habibganj station renamed after Gond queen- Rani Kamlapati.

Raja Sangram Shah award for best work in tribal art and culture. He was the 48th Gond ruler of Garha kingdom.

Who was Rani Kamlapati?

Rani Kamlapati was the widow of Nizam Shah, whose Gond dynasty ruled the then Ginnorgarh, 55 km from Bhopal, in the 18th century.

Kampalati is known to have shown great bravery in facing aggressors during her reign after her husband was killed.

Kamlapati was the “last Hindu queen of Bhopal”, who did great work in the area of water management and set up parks and temples.