Punjab allows free walk-in Covid test, gears up to fight rumours - The Daily Guardian
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Punjab allows free walk-in Covid test, gears up to fight rumours

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Punjab has decided to allow free walk-in test in government hospitals and mobile vans, and similar test at a nominal manpower cost not exceeding Rs 250 by private doctors and hospitals. People who want their result immediately can opt for Rapid Antigen testing while RT-PCR testing will also be similarly available.

The state will also explore similar arrangements for Rapid Antigen testing by pharmacists/chemists, on the lines of private hospitals and doctors.

The decision was taken on Thursday by Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan, who said the government will provide training and kits to private hospitals and doctors for the tests, which will be allowed on the basis of Aadhaar card and mobile numbers, without any questions asked or need for ‘parchis’. With test results available for RAT in 30 minutes, this will lead to substantial increase in testing and early diagnosis and treatment, she said.

Those who test positive through RAT or are symptomatic but negative can be tested again through RTPCR test for confirmation, said the Chief Secretary, while reviewing the Covid situation with the DCs and Civil Surgeons of Patiala, Bathinda, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Mohali districts.

The Chief Secretary also asked DCs to explore RAT testing at private hospitals and pharmacies/chemist shops, at a nominal manpower cost not exceeding Rs 250 per test, with proper training and kits to be provided by the government. The test results and data so collected by private hospitals and chemists, etc, can be uploaded on the government portal for further action, she added.

 Taking note of the widespread rumour mongering and fake news being spread on Covid, Vini called for elected representatives to step in and reach out directly to the people to clear their misconceptions on the issue. She also underlined the need to involve NGOs, religious organizations, etc, to spread awareness through expansion of the outreach. BDOs should be properly briefed and asked to reach out to the sarpanches in villages to counter the false propaganda, which was endangering lives of people, she added.

Health Secretary Hussain Lal underlined the need for extensive sampling and testing in the five worst affected districts of Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Mohali and Amritsar, with focus on the 40+ age group.

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We take pride in trying our best to save lives: Marina Shaikh & Nandini Singh Jhabua

Marina Shaikh and Nandini Singh Jhabua from The Rising World Foundation recently joined NewsX on its special series NewsX India A-List to share how they helped thousands of people across India during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Rising World Foundation (RWF) is a not-for-profit charitable organisation dedicated to relieving the impact of Covid-19 on India’s most vulnerable communities. Marina Shaikh, Founder of The Rising World Foundation, and Nandini Singh Jhabua, Communications Director of The Rising World Foundation recently joined NewsX for its special series NewsX India A-List to speak on how they helped thousands of people across India during the second wave of the pandemic.

Marina, an experienced social organiser and philanthropist with international experience began the conversation and said, “I was in Brussels since 2017 when I found this organisation and it was my work with the international development committee in the European Parliament that gave me much understanding of what kind of work I wanted to do basically. I did a lot of public service projects and worked a lot with the international government. But I also realised that I wanted to come back and serve the people of my own country and hence The Rising World Foundation was formed.”

Nandini threw light on their collaboration and said, “Marina and I belong to Madhya Pradesh, our families are two generation’s friends and we grew up together. We both always liked community service as children. I remember we used to always plan that we’re going to do something and serve a community in a way that we wanted to, especially to the needy, to the marginalised community.”

Through her work with Marina and the RWF, Nandini hopes to combine her two greatest passions: her family’s connection to tribal art forms and giving back to the community. Talking about how the foundation operated and helped the community at large, Marina said, “The rural is our target. Rural communities in Madhya Pradesh is what we have been targeting and recently we have started with a fundraiser for oxygen supplies in Madhya Pradesh.”

“We have been working on that lately, as we got a lot of calls from a lot of villages that we have been working in for the past whole year. We started a fundraiser with Milaap. We hope a lot more people can contribute to this cause and you know help the state,” she added.

Elaborating on the working of RWF, Nandini said, “We have been working for the past year and a half ever since Marina started the NGO in 2015. The pandemic hit us and at that time we weren’t sure how would we start, we were immediately started relief works. Between Marina and I, we covered five different states along with Madhya Pradesh.”

“It was amazing the kind of work we have done along with drives including the educational, agricultural drives and breast cancer awareness drive. It was really nice that we were able to reach out to almost over 1 lakh people with information, mask sanitisers, hygiene kits, so I think we have made a tremendous difference in these five states,” she added.

Marina told us about her on-ground experiences during the devastating second wave of the Covid pandemic, “It’s extremely intimidating going to hospitals and distributing to their families, food and hygiene kits for women. It’s been very intimidating with whole new black fungus. I mean I’m glad that we’re doing whatever we can and yeah it’s very tough for us. We are trying our best to save lives and I take pride and say it’s alright to just go out. Somebody has to do it.”

Talking about their ongoing fundraiser, Marina said, “We have people who supported us from across the world. We have received about 20 lakhs and our target was 30 lakhs. We have already donated 26 oxygen concentrators to various districts in Madhya Pradesh.”

On a concluding note, Nandini mentioned how one can reach out and support the ongoing cause of RWF, “They can DM us and follow The Rising World Foundation. We hope every individual put the tools they need to thrive. The sky is vast the opportunities are limitless. Come out and support us to help us in every way to save lives, as many as we can.”

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A FATHER’S LOVE IS LIKE AN UNENDING TRIP OF JOY AND HAPPINESS

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Whenever we talk about God, One word that always resonates with it is father. Whether it’s our dad, brother, son, or any other father figure, these men need to know what a huge difference their presence makes in society.

Many of us are lucky to have our dad by our side. But for others who lost their fathers, this day is a painful reminder that their dad is no longer around. I hope they’re able to find peace during these testing times and if it makes any better, your dad will always be watching over you from the sky to keep you warm and protected.

Several atrocities came in where others left me midway. But it is my father who has always grabbed my hand and tirelessly crossed the other side with me. In every sphere of my life, I wouldn’t have become self-reliant without his blessings and constant support. His never forgetting life lesson made me who I am today. 

Here’s a part of him left in his diary, which I discovered on his bookshelf after he passed away. Unfortunately, the diary pages were left blank. That made me a bit curious. Why didn’t he write anything? By the time I flipped to the last page, I got to know what he wanted me to become. There was a crumpled piece of paper on the last page. Therein, it was written, “I know you would search for it someday. I just want to tell you one thing that you were born to rule the world and I can’t wait to see you conquer everything you touch upon from up here. I love you to the core, my strongest child.” – Your One and only Daddy

Losing a father is devastating. So, grieve as much as you want and cry and sulk but then think about your father’s hopes and dreams about you, he’d never want to see his little child so distressed. So collect the broken pieces of your heart and stand tall for him. You will discover this new strength that resides in you. Sharing photos and memories, and taking part in meaningful activities centred around your father’s life and tradition, will make this a more meaningful day for you.

And for the lucky ones who have the angels called dad around, here’s what can you do to make his day memorable: 

SPEND TIME WITH HIM 

Make his presence felt. You would certainly not like to see him neglected on this occasion. Spend little time with your dad on Father’s Day thanking God for the blessing of their presence; pray for their strength and guidance.

GATHER AROUND WITH FAMILY

A father loves to see all his family together. Make sure to plan a get-together on this occasion so that your father enjoys quality time with the family. Plan for a retro event along with homemade food that he loves so that he feels overjoyed and special. 

REMEMBRANCE

One of the most important things is to remember him forever. Not to forget that he made you feel jubilant whenever you felt gloomy. It is rightly said, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” And Father’s Day is a chance for us to make that happen. 

Lift their spirits, celebrate their joyous moments, and remind them how much they’re appreciated every single day. Remember his life mantra, do not exaggerate things, and always show your affection. 

Though it can be difficult — especially if your loss is sudden or recent — remembering dad openly and together will help your appreciation for your father grow. And you will be comforted as you hear the things that others remember most about your dad — stories you’ve never heard before or forgotten.

On this Father’s day where the world is a bit helter-skelter due to Covid-19, spend some quality time with your father. As you never know what would happen in the future. Cherish these moments because these moments would last forever in your memories. No matter how you reach out, your encouragement is sure to make this Father’s Day one they’ll always remember.

The writer is president, Purush Aayog.

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Genome surveillance for pandemic disaster preparedness

Covid-19 has ushered in a new digital era and is rewiring the world’s perspective to genomic science and sensibilities to personal data privacy in public health management.

Suravi Sharma Kumar

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Besides uncovering the gaps in healthcare infrastructure, the pandemic has thrown up the lack of a data-driven ecosystem and culture in the country at various levels of the healthcare system. In today’s world, as much we appreciate the potential of genome science, we need to know that it’s a resource-intensive work around quality data (input, storage, and analysis). Over the last few decades, the strong ties between DNA and Computer Science have revolutionised genomics technologies. At this juncture, about Covid genome sequencing we must know that we are now in an era of rapid (and cheaper) sequencing. But today the ability to determine DNA sequences is starting to outrun the ability of researchers to store, disseminate, and analyse data. Genome studies need pre and post-sequencing data management to make sense of the genome mapping and work towards the epidemiological goals. Genomic surveillance is the best we can do to track the virus and prepare public health defence measures against it. The importance of this aspect of pandemic management can be ignored only to our detriment in the face of the third wave/ future waves. 

Data generated from whole-genome sequencing is huge (in terabytes) and demands computational capabilities to manage it. Analysed genomic information requires to be combined with clinical/ epidemiological inputs that in turn can yield insights on the virus that can be used in public health interventions. The sequencing process needs a high level of laboratory infrastructure that is expensive. As India had spent very little per capita on healthcare before the pandemic, there is a lot needing investment/funding for the India genome project. The funding/investment, I believe should be through public and private involvement considering the immense capability of the Indian private sector in Genome Informatics when pitted against the public sector.

The convergence of biology and computing is necessary for this relatively obscure technology. Essentially a biologist and a programmer should work closely to facilitate the development of tools and systems that can solve a biological question. Many public health laboratories may not have the right bioinformatics capability (Kelly F. Oakes on Comments to Author, 2017) and data management resources for large scale public health projects. Also, Database management and big data analytical capabilities may not be in alignment with some of the public sector institutes’ objectives which are mostly around teaching and human resource capacity building in Biotechnology and microbial research. 

As we know detecting mutations/variations can identify the cause of outbreaks: the virus behaviour — the fast-spreading or the immune escaping variants — guide public health policies, and even find a drug/cure or inform vaccine researchers. To detect genome variations, millions or billions of data points have to be analysed through computational techniques — pattern analysing algorithms, mathematical models, image processing and so on. 

Apart from the public sector regional labs identified by the Genetic Consortium, there are Indian genomics companies in the private sector that have world-class capabilities. And apart from these, the IT giants of India, have one or two genomics labs each, and with state-of-the-art infrastructure handling liquid biopsies and doing work mostly in NGS (Next-generation Sequencing). These genome science labs of IT corporate houses are adept at preparing data files and computational techniques besides performing the steps of gene/ whole-genome sequencing. I believe, these capabilities in India’s IT sector can contribute to the country’s Covid scene by directly contributing to laboratory research work for its R&D experience in the field. This I believe will enable the delivery of standardised genomic data meeting international quality requirements; thereby catching up with the required GISAID or GenBank data contribution requirement for the country. 

In a well-designed PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) model, these Genomic labs in the private/corporate sector will be able to provide not only the required lab infrastructure for genome sequencing (or mapping) but also the much-required strong digital capabilities to complement the process and thereby support NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control). Authorities should find ways to incorporate these labs with high infrastructure that are not licensed for clinical use but have been contributing to high-level research work in tandem with renowned cancer hospitals and oncologists for their skill and include them in the genome surveillance efforts for the greater public good. The Bioinformatics capability of the Indian IT sector will be able to transform the genomic surveillance scenario of the country, thereby helping in pandemic preparedness.

As we know, by now India should have sequenced more than five million samples to have a good understanding of the virus and its strains, but so far 11,047 sequences have been performed (of the 1.4 million samples sequenced worldwide) according to GISAID. Currently, less than 0.05% of positive cases in India are subjected to such mapping while the recommended number is 5% of all samples. On the other hand, few countries (like the UK, the US, Belgium) have been doing whole genomic sequencing in real-time to inform/update the public health response system.

Unavailability of metadata along with Covid samples sent for genome evaluation is another concern which I believe is for data privacy or ethics issues. The authorities should address this the soonest and enable the collection of complete relevant epidemiological data (demographic, clinical and laboratory) through public health workers in the right format, and share it — anonymised or as-is with patient consent with the laboratories where the samples are sent for analysis. At this point, we must also remember that life sciences or healthcare data are always un-structured unlike other branches of science, and data scientists often find biological data technically trickier to organise. Readying the data for research use itself may be a struggle and may necessitate the use of high-end techniques like natural language processing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a new digital era and is rewiring the world’s perspective to genomic science and sensibilities to personal data privacy in public health management. Governments around the globe are imposing new digital surveillance tools to track and monitor individuals for the new norms of Covid etiquettes as well as the morphology of the virus for variations to bolster defences against the novel virus. 

The writer is a medical doctor (pathologist) and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London. The views expressed are personal.

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Despite pandemic, KVIC records highest ever turnover in FY 2020-21

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KVIC

In a year marred completely by the Covid-19 pandemic, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has just recorded the highest ever turnover in its history. In the year 2020-21, KVIC registered a gross annual turnover of Rs 95, 741.74 crore, as compared to Rs 88,887 crore turnover in 2019-20, and thus registering an increase of 7.71%.

KVIC’s record performance in 2020-21 assumes great significance as production activities remained suspended for more than three months during the nationwide lockdown announced on March 25 last year. During this period, all Khadi production units and sales outlets too remained closed that severely affected the production and sales. However, KVIC swiftly rose to the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s clarion calls for “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” and “Vocal for Local”. The innovative marketing ideas of Hon’ble MSME Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari further diversified KVIC’s product range, scaled up local production, and paved the way for Khadi’s successive growth.

Compared to the year 2015-16, the overall production in Khadi and Village Industry sectors in 2020-21 has registered a whopping growth of 101% while the gross sales during this period increased by 128.66%.

A host of initiatives like the launch of Khadi e-portal, Khadi masks, Khadi footwear, Khadi Prakritik Paint, Khadi hand sanitizers, etc., setting up of a record number of new PMEGP units, new SFURTI clusters, government’s push to “Swadeshi” and KVIC’s historic agreements with Paramilitary forces for the supply of provisions increased the turnover of village industry sector during the pandemic. Compared to the production of Rs 65,393.40 crore in 2019-20, the production in the village industry sector increased to Rs 70,329.67 crore in 2020-21. Similarly, in FY 2020-21, the sales of village industry products stood at Rs 92,214.03 crore as compared to Rs 84,675.29 crore in 2019-20.

The production and sales in the Khadi sector, however, declined by a small margin as spinning and weaving activities across the country took a major hit during the pandemic. The overall production in the Khadi sector in 2020-21 was recorded at Rs 1904.49 crore as compared to Rs 2292.44 crore in 2019-20, while the overall Khadi sales stood at Rs 3527.71 crore as compared to Rs 4211.26 crore in the previous year.

KVIC Chairman Shri Vinai Kumar Saxena said during the Pandemic people responded enthusiastically to the calls of “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” and “Vocal for Local”. “During this period, KVIC’s main focus was to create sustainable employment for artisans and unemployed youth. Faced with economic distress, a large number of youths took up self-employment and manufacturing activities under PMEGP which increased the production in the village industry sector. At the same time, the sales of Khadi and village industry products grew significantly following the Prime Minister’s appeal to buy Swadeshi products. This is evident from the fact that Khadi’s single-day sale at its flagship store at Connaught Place in New Delhi crossed Rs 1 crore mark four times in October – November last year,” Saxena said.

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32 MORE OXYGEN GENERATION PLANTS BEING SET UP IN J&K

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Oxygen

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in Jammu and Kashmir, the Health & Medical Education Department has taken an initiative to augment the existing oxygen generation capacity in 37 major hospitals of the UT by way of installation and commissioning of additional 84 medical oxygen generation plants having capacity of 71650 LPM.

44 oxygen generation plants (39350 LPM) have been installed and made operational so far. The remaining 40 oxygen generation plants (31750 LPM) are in the process of installation and likely to be installed by July 2021. Before April 2021, the oxygen generation capacity of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir was 15082 LPM only.

30 Oxygen generation plants (13300 LPM) are being installed in 30 CHCs/SDHs, 15 each in Jammu and Kashmir division under World Bank Funding. The installation of these plants is also in progress through J&K Economic Reconstruction Agency.

Considering further demand and need to make the oxygen generation facility available in all Tertiary Care Hospitals/District Hospitals and some major CHCs for tackling the second wave and possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir approached the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, GoI for providing additional Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants to the UT under PM CARES Fund.

The Government of India sanctioned additional 32 PSA plants of 24850 LPM, 13 for the Kashmir division (13550 LPM) and 13 for the Jammu Division (12350 LPM), thereby raising the total no of PSA plants to 146. The UT of Jammu and Kashmir shall have the capacity of generating oxygen to the extent of 1.26 lakh litres per minute after installation of additional 102 PSA plants including 32 sanctioned under PM CARES Fund by the Government of India.

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HARYANA ANNOUNCES COVID-19 PACKAGE OF RS 1,100 CRORE

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As the harrowing second wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc, the state government of Haryana has come up with a new strategy to help needy families. In the wake of the pandemic, the government decided to provide a financial assistance of Rs 600 crore to 12 lakh families, (Rs. 5000 each family) that have been affected by the pandemic. Addressing media personnel on the completion of 600 days of BJP-JJP led government, the Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal said that ruling faction is putting it’s best to provide all kind of assistance to families below poverty line and in continuation to thus, above scheme has been brought into existence.

Besides this, a relief package of Rs. 150 crore was also announced for small shopkeepers. Meanwhile, a discount of 25 per cent was provided to 600 farmers purchasing e-tractors. It also has been decided to waive off the entire property tax for the first quarter of the year 2021-22. With this, a financial burden of about Rs. 150 crore will be borne by the Urban Local Bodies Department. Besides, Motor Vehicle Tax for the first quarter of the year 2021-22 will not be levied on vehicles carrying passengers. Due to this, the financial burden of about Rs. 72 crore will be borne by the department. Ex-gratia grant on death, treatment and hospitalization will also be given to the eligible people which amounts to Rs. 50 crore.

Thus, Manohar Lal has announced an economic package of more than Rs 1,100 crore for the affected sections of the society.

Apart from above, the State Government has started a new programme ‘Drone Corporation of Haryana’. Under this, 100 drones will be procured in the first phase and 100 drones in the next phase. After this, whichever department would need a drone for conducting aerial survey, that work would be done by ‘Drone Corporation of Haryana’.

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