Covid-19: What you need to know today
Six cases of Covid-19 caused by Sars-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 (or B.1.1.7 as some are calling it) have been diagnosed in India. All six are patients who flew in from the UK over the past week, who tested positive for the virus, and whose samples were then sent for genome sequencing which confirmed the presence of the mutant strain – it has up to 23 mutations – of the coronavirus that was first sequenced in the UK in September. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone (over the past week, I’ve repeatedly emphasised that there is a high likelihood of the variant already being in India). The new strain is the predominant one in the UK, especially London; there have been 70 flights a week from the UK to India since May; and until last Monday, when it was tightened, the screening process for passengers arriving in India was a sham (it had started off well, but, over time, came to rely more on documentation and self-declaration and less on the actual screening itself).
The identification of the new strain here should spur health authorities in India to aggressively trace all those who travelled to India from the UK over the past month (at the least). Some of them may be asymptomatic carriers who have passed on the virus to others. The contact tracing process is hampered by human stupidity – at least some of the people who have travelled into India from the UK, it emerges, have provided false addresses or phone numbers; some recent travellers are believed to be keeping their phones switched off so that they cannot be reached (see page 11). This is behaviour that is potentially harmful not just to themselves and the people in their immediate vicinity (friends and family), but the public at large.
Dispatch 233, on December 28, explained that researchers in the UK have found out that the new strain is 56% more infective than the old one. It isn’t known whether the mutant strain causes more severe cases of Covid-19 or results in more fatalities, but this is actually irrelevant. The mere fact that the variant is more infective is enough: this logically means more cases of the coronavirus disease. Even assuming that the rate of hospitalisations and deaths does not change at all for the new variant (and is exactly the same as it is for Sars-CoV-2), the higher number of cases (caused by the higher infectiveness of the variant) will mean more hospitalisations and more deaths. And even assuming the proportion of hospitalisations that turns into severe cases remains constant, it means an increase in the number of severe cases. Indeed, because the higher infectiveness means more infections, which means even more infections, and so on, in a classic exponential progression, the new strain leads to a scenario which results in more deaths than even an increase in the case fatality rate would. That’s all the more reason for health authorities here to trace and isolate, something that most states have become pretty careless about, with the number of daily new cases falling. India ended Monday with just around 270,000 active cases, according to the HT dashboard (the US has 7.7 million).
Also Read | Where India stands in global Covid-19 spread
India is the 21st country to have identified the new variant of the virus. The others are: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Israel, Canada, Lebanon, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, and France. There is another strain, which shares some characteristics of B.1.1.7 that has been identified in South Africa and Nigeria. Over the course of the week, the last of the year, more countries will identify the UK strain in people testing positive, just as India itself will see more cases caused by the new strain. It’s a year-end challenge that the country should negotiate carefully.
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- For 2020-21, Delhi had pegged budgeted revenue receipts (excluding borrowings) at ₹55,309 crore. Revised estimates for the year will be mentioned in the upcoming budget (2021-22) and actual revenue receipts for the year will reflect in the budget after that.
- Court-appointed amicus curiae senior advocate Siddhartha Dave prepared a chart indicating unsatisfactory response from states as well with some proposing to achieve compliance of Court’s December 2, 2020 order by end of 2023.
- The judgment, which involved approximately ₹500 crore in tax revenue, will impact companies such as IBM India Ltd, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Hewlett Packard India, Mphasis Ltd, Sonata Software Ltd, and GE India, among others.
- The girl's family lodged a complaint three day after she went missing.
- Shubhendu Shubham, 23, a 2016-batch student of Patna’s Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH), had taken the first shot of Covaxin in the first week of February, but tested positive for the viral infection later last month before he could take the second shot
- For the past 13 days, the Durga-Nag market at Dalgate in Srinagar has been desolate and locals and traders in grief
- TMC’s leader in the Rajya Sabha Derek O, Brien asked the Election Commission to stop the Prime Minister "from taking unfair advantages and undue publicity at tax payer’s cost during the conduct of elections".
- Ghulam Nabi Azad detractors and supporters in the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Committee accused each other of acting at the behest of the BJP.
- Jailed Assam leader urges parties to put up common candidates against BJP