India’s Covid-19 tally of cases rose to 1,07,90,183 with 12,899 new infections being reported in a day, while the recoveries surged to 1,04,80,455 on Thursday. The death count increased to 1,54,703 with 107 daily new fatalities, the data showed. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,04,80,455 pushing the national Covid-19 recovery rate of 97.13 per cent, while the Covid-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.43 per cent. The total Covid-19 active cases remained below 2 lakh. There are 1,55,025 active coronavirus infections in the country which comprises 1.44 per cent of the total caseload.
The national capital reported 150 fresh Covid-19 cases and six deaths due to the disease today. Delhi vaccinates 7,365 healthcare workers and more than 80,000 beneficiaries vaccinated so far.
Active Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra dropped below 40,000 with over 7,000 fresh recoveries. With the addition of 2,992 coronavirus positive cases on Wednesday, the infection count in Maharashtra reached 20.33 lakh. There are 37,516 active cases in the state at present. A total of 35,889 healthcare staffers and frontline workers were administered Covid-19 vaccines in Maharashtra, taking the total count of those inoculated in the state so far to 3,54,633. The second dose will be administered after a gap of four weeks.
Karnataka recorded 474 new Covid-19 cases, 470 discharges and 2 deaths today. With this, the total number of cases in the state have reached 9,41,070 including 9,22,907 recoveries. The death toll in the state stands at 12,227. There are 5917 active cases in the state.
Rajasthan reported 139 new Covid-19 cases, 192 recoveries and 1 death in the last 24 hours. There are 3,17,905 cases in the state, including 3,13,496 recoveries. The death toll stands at 2771 while there are 1638 active cases in the state.
Telangana recorded 177 new Covid-19 cases, pushing the total caseload to 2,95,101, while the death toll rose to 1,606 with two more fatalities on Thursday.
Chhattisgarh’s Covid-19 tally rose to 3,06,370 with 351 fresh cases, seven more fatalities taking the death toll to 3,718 on Thursday.
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DIGITAL HEALTH WOULD MAKE HEALTHCARE ACCESSIBLE FOR INDIANS: PRAVEEN SINGHAL
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Praveen Singhal, co-founder and director of BeatMySugar, spoke about his venture which is a one-stop platform for pre-diabetic and diabetic patients. BeatMySugar is a tech-powered, comprehensive, and unique platform that focuses on making best-in-class diabetes care effortless, affordable, and easily accessible to everyone. Speaking about the ethos of the company, Praveen Singhal said, “BeatMySugar is a platform for people with diabetes with an intent to be true partners in life. So the ethos driving the corporate culture is in sync with it and our ethos are collaborative, transparent, progressive, and integrity. We believe in growing along with all our stakeholders and delivering the best solutions to our customers using the progressive tools and technologies available in the area of healthcare.”
Talking about how the platform is inclusive for its customers, Singhal stated, “There are three main pillars of BeatMySugar: education, product, and service. In education, we have very exclusively self-curated content from various key opinion leaders and our internal medical affairs team to disseminate the right information and knowledge to diabetic people. Along with that, we have come up with a diabetes education programme co-authored by leading diabetologists of national and international repute to help people understand the basics of diabetes so that they can start self-monitoring. On the product side, whatever a person with diabetes needs, such as food, supplements, books, medicines, and devices, we make it available to them. The core of BeatMySugar services is to help them manage their lifestyle in terms of doctor’s consultation, diet, fitness plans, lab services and fulfilling their other requirements. That’s why we call it an inclusive model for diabetic people.”
Speaking about the idea of starting a one-stop platform for people with diabetes, he said, “It came from within the families of co-founders with two of them being diabetic. Shaurya was diagnosed with type II diabetes at the age of 12 and Atul had type II diabetes for over two decades. Having understood the pain and the trouble they had in finding all the requirements in one place, led to the thought of creating a one-stop platform. After that, we found that though India is becoming the world capital of diabetes, awareness, and the right information about the same is completely missing. That’s when we came up with the concept of BeatMySugar.”
Sharing the offers and the benefits that BeatMySugar provides to its customers and how can it serve those who have diabetes, Singhal elaborated, “The help is in the form of complete care and that is what we intend to provide. It is driven by our concept which is in the DNA of our company and that is: Educate, empathise, engage, and evolve. With this, we are there to take care of all the requirements and be the true partners to our customers in their journey with diabetes.”
Talking about the reluctance and the fear in the minds of those having the disease, he shed some light upon the transparency of the company and gaining the trust of the customers, ”Our ethos of transparency and integrity drive people’s trust and that gets reflected in the results we have had so far. At present, we have over 35% orders from our customers. This also gets accelerated as this is one place where they get all the right information. The doctors that are associated with us and the available content is a way of helping them get the right information about diabetes,” he said.
Speaking about the common queries, Singhal underlined, ”The major query that we get is surprisingly from various brands and vendors wherein they are showing interest to collaborate with us and asking how they can do so or how their products can be onboarded with BeatMySugar. It is very interesting and motivating for us as it shows the kind of traction and visibility this platform has already built.”
EXAMINING WOMEN’S ROLE IN PANCHAYATI RAJ
With the recent election of Kamala Harris as the first female Vice President of the United States, the global discourse around gender equity has moved to the skewed participation of women in politics. Although Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discriminating Indian citizens based on gender, women have been marginalized and excluded from the decision-making and political process. In terms of women’s participation in the government, India is ranked 148th in the world out of 193 nations. With 65.5% of the Indian population living in rural areas, powerful institutions such as the Panchayati Raj can empower the community to make decisions for themselves. Before 1985, only two women had participated in the Panchayati Raj Institutions in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal and Rajasthan. Additionally, Uttar Pradesh had had no political participation from women (Ahmad et al, 2008). This had led to the introduction of the 64th Amendment Bill, which had a special feature for 30% reservation for women. Although the bill was not passed, it had been a step in the right direction.
In April 1993, India took a landmark step towards development with the implementation of the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution which provided reservations for weaker segments of the population in Panchayat Raj Institutions. Through this Amendment, one-third of the seats are reserved for women as members and chairpersons of these institutions. By 1995, the number of women in Panchayats rose sharply, with the highest representation in Kerala and Madhya Pradesh where women filled 38% of the seats (Ahmad et al., 2008). There are 1.3 million women out of the 3 million representatives who are now actively participating in Panchayats (Bhatnagar, 2019). Currently, 20 states in India have made provisions in their respective State Panchayati Raj Acts and increased the reservation of women to 50%. Additionally, states such as Odisha have made it mandatory that if the chairperson in a village is a man, the vice-chairperson must be a woman (Mohanty, 1995). The reservation provisions for women have transformed grassroots democracy and given rural women the power to exercise their right and be involved in village governance.
Women’s participation in grassroots politics has been low due to the patriarchal mindset that women belong at home, where their responsibilities are confined to domestic work and child rearing (Chhibber, 2002). Women are thus actively discriminated against and since they have limited decision-making powers at home it is unrealistic to assume that they have many opportunities to make decisions for the community. With the foundation of change being laid by the 73rd Amendment, there has been a shift in the political landscape and women are becoming more proactive. Elected women representatives have transformed local governance by strengthening the status of marginalised sections of society and empowering those who don’t have a voice. Moreover, they inspire other women in society to break gender stereotypes and include themselves in the decision-making process.
Another important role that elected women representatives play is to bring about rural development. They have been able to tackle various political obstacles and introduce changes that are paramount to the well-being of their communities. Women are known to be effective leaders and bring in transparency and efficiency in their daily duties and administration. They understand the needs of their community and work well to bring awareness and solve issues that the community faces. Hence, in many cases, despite tackling various obstacles such as having to lobby hard for extra funds and resources, women leaders bring faster rural development than their male predecessors. Furthermore, women are considered to be the perfect agents of social revolution, standing up against socially regressive practices such as child marriage, the purdah system and dowry system to build a society free from oppression and discrimination.
With the entry of women in the political arena, the face of democracy has changed from a representative democracy to a participatory one. With women taking the leadership role in villages, they are mobilised with resources to take action against any form of caste-based or gendered violence. From viewing women as recipients of welfare benefits to involving them as successful agents of revolution, the debate on female empowerment has progressed (Zahir, 2018). However, despite being leaders, women continue to face numerous obstacles which make them vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.
Although there are no constitutional obstacles for the participation of women at the grassroots level, there are prevailing structural, functional and societal constraints that affect their political participation (Dubey et al., 2013). The 73rdAmendment was intended to include women in the political narrative however, women serving as proxies for their male relatives have questioned the efficacy of reservations for women. In some cases, these men cannot stand for elections because they do not fulfil the education requirements and take advantage of the seats reserved for women in their area (Mayal, n.d.). Under these circumstances, women are just politically unaware figureheads, while the men hold the real decision-making powers.
Additionally, elected women representatives have a tedious job with a myriad of roles and responsibilities to ensure the well-being of their community but earn meagre salaries. Some only receive an honorarium of Rs 3,000 in states such as Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu (Chandra & Banoth, 2020). Furthermore, women who are panchayat presidents are not allowed any salaried jobs or employment under government-funded schemes, which renders these women economically powerless.
Historically, it is believed that women aren’t capable of making decisions and taking up leadership roles despite performing more duties than their male counterparts. Cultural barriers and a patriarchal mindset still plague many villages where men view women who are empowered leaders as a threat. Elected women representatives face obstacles such as a lack of faith in their decision-making capacities as a leader and the dominance of male members in the panchayat. Furthermore, women are subjected to politically motivated and gender-based violence in various forms which stagnate their participation in grassroots politics (Rao, 2018). However, women leaders can have an enormous impact in reshaping society and thus there is a need to tackle the obstacles that hinder women from discovering their full potential as leaders and change-makers.
Representation is a measure of equality. However, in India it is effective representation that truly matters. This can only occur when there are no structural, functional and societal constraints that impede women’s participation in grassroots politics. By removing gender-based discrimination in politics, India will be one step closer in empowering its women. Women empowerment, which is the need of the hour, can therefore be achieved through political participation where women would have a chance to broaden their horizons and make a change in society.
Avantika Singh is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at O.P. Jindal Global University.
REPURPOSED DRUGS FOR COVID-19: WHY WHO DOESN’T TRUST THEM?
There is evidence that many repurposed antivirals, antiprotozoal, and anti-bacterial drugs have hidden talents to combat Covid-19, at least partially, and it might be logical to use them when the virus is replicating in the patient’s body.
Horace Greeley once said, “Common sense is very uncommon!” The recently published interim report of extended solidarity trial published in NEJM on 2 December 2020, “Repurposed Antiviral Drugs for Covid-19”, reported that antiviral drugs (hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir, lopinavir, interferon) failed to win the race when compared to the placebo, in an assigned group of patients.
The WHO does not trust drugs like ivermectin, Doxy, etc. Many senior microbiologists and intensivists would laugh it out, arguing that these drugs would only help in controlling parasitic infestations. Harrington et al, therefore, appropriately chose a title (“A Large, Simple Trial Leading to Complex Questions”) for their argumentative editorial. They wrote, “No intervention acts on two persons in an identical fashion: patients present with different risk factors, are treated in different healthcare settings, and begin treatment at different stages of illness. In particular, the effectiveness of an antiviral agent can depend on whether a patient presents early (during viral pathogenesis) or later (when immunopathologic conditions or other complications may be more important).” They also pointed out the usefulness of the result of the ‘solidarity trial’ in denying the role of antiviral agents in patients who have entered in the second phase of illness described as the cytokine storm. Rightly, they asked, “What is a more effective timing for the use of Remdesivir, and should it be used in combination with other agents? How is the course of hospitalization affected by the type and level of care delivered in particular settings?”
This is the question of common sense: why not use an antiviral agent when the virus is replicating? What role can they play once the war for life has entered a phase where the virus itself has been cornered?
This is the argument extended in the recovery trial against the early use of steroids, so not to time it with viral replication phase. The results of the recovery trial, however, supports the use of the steroids in late first and second weeks when evidence of lung involvement is evident by rising oxygen requirement and falling SPO2 <95%. In various articles, it has been shown that viral replication in the upper respiratory tract, to a larger extent, is immunologically inert. Once the virus climbs down to the pneumocyte type II cells, its pathological journey starts and gets reciprocated by the dysregulated immunological response, sequentially leading to diffuse alveolar damage, inflammatory infiltrates, microvascular thrombosis, resulting in a simulating picture of adult acute respiratory syndrome. No wonder, classical findings of rising levels of interleukins 10/6, TNFα, evidence of lymphocyte exhaustion and lymphopenia come almost hand in hand.
Drugs like doxycycline and ivermectin have been used rampantly in every nook and corner of northern-western India. Interestingly, ICMR is playing ‘once bitten and twice shy’, because India was the first country which boldly adopted HCQ prophylaxis and was thoroughly criticized by Americans. The criticism came in the wake of deaths reported in Covid patients receiving HCQ. Analysis says that HCQ and azithromycin are potential drugs which may adversely affect the conduction system; at least 60-70% patients with late phase Covid may have myocardial edema, making them a substrate for arrhythmia. It is the CDC which allows almost no medicines in the first week of illness. India has improved in its recovery rate, remarkably from 60% to 95%. How? I talked to many friends who were partying hard, and one after another, became Covid-positive. They consulted a local physician and got a prescription of Ivermectin 24 mg, Doxy 100 mg twice a day, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C, and even favipiravir, as soon as the report was received, and recovered completely. There are many patients who presented with anosmia. Those who were treated with ivermectin recovered within 7-10 days. I came to know about this in March but experienced it now when I became Covid-positive. Globally, people are experiencing good results from the use of ivermectin.
Therefore, there is evidence that many repurposed antivirals, antiprotozoal, and anti-bacterial drugs have hidden talents to combat Covid-19, at least partially. These drugs are less harmful when one compares them to the 5-10% chance of having serious lung, heart, kidney and brain complications. Patients probably need cardiac care, LMWH or antiplatelets, statins for a longer period, but in a nutshell, patients who recover the second or third phase are obviously not the fittest to survive.
Jeon et al wrote, “Among the 48 drugs that were evaluated in our study, 24 drugs showed potential antiviral activities against SARS-CoV-2, with IC50 values in between 0.1 and 10 μM. Few of them are as follows—tilorone, cyclosporine, chloroquine, mefloquine, amodiaquine, proscillaridin, salinomycin, ouabain, cepharanthine, ciclesonide, oxyclozanide, anidulafungin, gilteritinib, berbamine, ivacaftor, bazedoxifene, niclosamide, and eltrombopag.”
It is common sense that the first five days are of viral replication and subsequently 10% chance of having a vicious immunological storm. Conversely, it is logical to use repurposed antiviral drugs when the virus is replicating and steroids only when the body is brewing cytokines to bring a storm and lymphocytes in back-foot.
Vaccines are illusionary in view of the fact that the duration of trials has been accelerated too fast. Tinkering with the immune system is always a double-edged sword. The oral polio vaccine was introduced in the 70s and there were fears of its association with autism. It took more than 20 years to convince the government in the US. Till now the flu vaccine is not considered as the safest and most efficient vaccine for various reasons. We must remember that natural infection has failed to ensure long-lasting immunity. There are articles suggesting that the virus may co-exist with IgG in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients.
The author is a paediatric cardiologist at Manipal Hospital, Delhi. The views expressed are personal.
As film & TV shoots stalled in Mumbai, the industry turns to Goa and Gujarat
The Covid-19 pandemic last year slammed the entertainment industry and grieved the loss of 1200 crore making the showbiz come to a standstill. This year also the same scenario prevails where several film shoots are halted and major film releases have been postponed. Mumbai being the hub of the entertainment industry employs lakhs of people who are badly affected due to the Covid surge.
In view of the rapid growth in coronavirus cases in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government announced the stoppage of films and TV shoots. As tightening of restrictions took place, film and TV producers have scouted for locations outside the state in a desperate bid to complete long-stalled movie projects and build up episode banks. As the state government clamped down further on movement, following its announcement that all shootings stand suspended to curtail the spread of the infection. As a result, the neighbouring state of Goa has become the hot spot for most of these TV shoots. Hyderabad, Surat, Jaipur, and Delhi are other places where shoot locations are being shifted.
Before the mini lockdown was announced, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and some film personalities had a meeting in which it was kept by the government that the shooting would have to be stopped for a few days and the upcoming films would not be allowed to be shown in cinema halls.
Recently, actress Jhanvi Kapoor was seen shooting an ad in Goa. Many TV shows are also shooting in Goa or Gujarat. Star Plus shows such as Yeh Hai Chahatein, Ghum Hai Kisikey Pyaar Meiin, and Aapki Nazron Ne Samjha are currently being shot in the coastal state. Zee TV has also shifted the shoot of its popular shows Kundali Bhagya, Apna Time Bhi Ayega, and Qurbaan Hua to Goa. Hyderabad is the location for Imlie and Mehndi Hai Rachne Waali, and Ek Mahanayak Dr B R Ambedkar has moved to Umergaon in Gujarat.
Stringent curbs in the state also include the complete shut down of cinema halls and multiplexes. This has also hit the release schedule of films. While many films are premiered on OTT platforms, some were held out waiting for things to improve before releasing them in theatres.
FIVE-MONTH PREGNANT POLICE OFFICER URGES PEOPLE TO FOLLOW LOCKDOWN GUIDELINES
In a bid to ensure that people follow COVID-19 lockdown measures in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, a five month pregnant DSP, Shilpa Sahu came out on road to create awareness among the people to follow guidelines issued by the State government in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the country. With an aim to control the spread, a lockdown has been imposed in Dantewada district. We are on the roads to ensure people follow the protocols,” the Deputy superintendent of police (DSP) said on Tuesday. She further urged people not to come out of their houses and protect themselves from the deadly virus.
“We are outside to ensure the safety of people. We urge them to stay inside and not venture outside without any valid reason. If we are on the streets for the sake of your (people) safety, you should also be at home for your safety,” she said.
Shilpa Sahu, who is posted in Maoist affected Dantewada of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar division was seen asking a man, who was on his bike with family, the reason behind the family venturing outside.
This comes amid the lockdown across the state. There has been a significant increase in fresh COVID-19 cases in Chhattisgarh and other parts of the country. The state reported 13,834 fresh COVID-19 cases, 11,815 discharges, and 165 deaths in the last 24 hours on Tuesday. So far, 6,083 people have lost their lives to the disease in the state while the number of active cases currently stands at 1,29,000.
The COVID-19 situation in India has been worsening amid the second wave of coronavirus. For the past four days, the country has been reporting over two lakh coronavirus infections and over 1,000 related deaths on a daily basis.
(With ANI inputs)
AS CORONA NUMBERS SPIKE IN PUNJAB, CM REQUESTS UNINTERRUPTED OXYGEN SUPPLY FROM HEALTH MINISTER
Faced with a shortage of medical oxygen supply for Covid-19 patients, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday urged the Centre to ensure uninterrupted oxygen supplies, with at least 120 MT daily allocation for the state, while reiterating his request for urgent steps to set up two pending PSA plants approved by it two months ago.
There is a rapid surge in Covid-19 cases in Punjab, the state recorded 11,303 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, 3,393 active cases and 269 deaths. Also, 7641 people have recovered.
In a letter to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Chief Minister sought immediate consideration to his request for uninterrupted oxygen supplies from the Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) suppliers as per commitment on daily basis. He also requested that allocation to Punjab be kept at least at 120 MT daily excluding (22 MT) of Punjab quota in supply to PGIMER, Chandigarh.
While the capacity for storage of medical oxygen for all healthcare facilities in the state is around 300 MT, daily consumption/requirement of medical oxygen as per the present caseload in Punjab is around 105-110 MT, the Chief Minister pointed out, adding that this was expected to further rise to around 150-170 MT in the next two weeks as per the projections of an increase in hospital admissions due to the rising caseload.
Captain Amarinder noted that since the main requirement of the state is fulfilled from outside, adherence of supply as per the allocation made by the Centre for all states, including Punjab, is critical to be able to meet the daily requirements. The Central Control Group on Oxygen had allocated 126 MT (including 32 MT from the local ASUs) on 15 April. However, the allocation has subsequently been reduced to 82 MT from the week of 25 April, said the Chief Minister, adding this allocation would be grossly insufficient to meet the demand.
On the two pending Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants, which were approved by the Government of India two months earlier for Government Medical College and Hospitals (GMCHs) at Patiala and Amritsar, he urged the Union Minister to initiate the process for setting them up expeditiously, to reduce oxygen requirement from LMO suppliers.
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