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Lockdown alone won’t flatten India’s COVID-19 curve: Experts




New Delhi, March 26 : The 21-day nationwide lockdown gives India an opportunity to flatten the new coronavirus curve, especially if widespread testing is carried out during this period — the absence of which will increase chances of resurgence of cases after the lockdown period is over, leading health experts warned on Thursday.

Total number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 649 from 606 a day before, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Thursday. The number of cases were just about half four days ago.

“The number of cases doubling in a few days is not actually a surprise because these people acquired infection sometime in the past before the lockdown. They are developing symptoms and coming to light now,” Professor Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director at The George Institute for Global Health in India told IANS.

In fact, the number of cases are likely to continue to increase in the next one or two weeks at least.

“Because the incubation period is two weeks, if someone got infected, for example the day before yesterday, that patient may develop symptoms even after two weeks,” Jha informed.

“The lockdown will obviously flatten the curve somewhat, but there is a risk of resurgence of the disease. Or the curve will go up again unless in the meantime we strengthen our healthcare system, both in terms of providing more testing, but also in terms of augmenting our hospitals so that if cases appear later on, the hospitals will be able to provide appropriate care to those people,” he emphasised.

There are 29 private laboratory chains, accredited by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting tests for novel coronavirus, Joint Secretary of Health Ministry Lav Agarwal told reporters on Wednesday.

These labs have 16,000 collection centres across the country, where at least 12,000 tests can be conducted per day.

Besides private labs, there are 119 government laboratories approved by ICMR, of which 104 are operational for testing COVID-19 and 15 are in the process of being functional according to ICMR data put out on March 24.

Mugdha Tapdiya, Associate Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj in New Delhi also agreed that “only lockdown is not enough” to flatten the coronavirus curve in India.

“We have to lead by the examples of South Korea and Japan, where they have managed to flatten the curve with wider testing and lockdown with self-discipline. There are lots of minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic people (without a history of travel) at this time who are sitting at home with the elder family members,” Tapdiya said.

“Once they become sick they will never be tested because there is no travel history which is a huge mistake. Test, treat, isolate should be the norm. Larger bounce back will be staring at us once the lock down is over if we do not test more and allow positive people to spread undiagnosed infection in community,” Tapdiya added.

According to the revised strategy of testing for COVID-19 infection, issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare last week, all asymptomatic individuals who have undertaken international travel in the last 14 days, should stay in home quarantine for at least 14 days.

They should be tested only if they become symptomatic (fever, cough, difficulty in breathing). Besides, all family members living with a confirmed case should be home quarantined.

The revised strategy further stated that all symptomatic contacts of laboratory confirmed cases will be tested, all symptomatic health care workers will also be tested. All hospitalised patients with severe acute respiratory Illness (fever and cough and/or shortness of breath) will also be tested for novel coronavirus.

What is needed now is more effective isolation of infected people and continued education and communication to raise awareness among people, said Navin Kumar, Head of Clinical Microbiology & Infection Prevention, Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, New Delhi.

Meanwhile, according to the Medical Technology Association of India (MTaI), an association of research-based medical technology companies, in the current situation, quick movement of medical equipment is paramount for timely diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients suffering from COVID-19 and other critical ailments.

However, manufacturers and distributors of crucial medical devices are facing several logistical challenges due to restrictions on inbound passenger flights and as well as movement of vehicles between cities and states, it added.

The lockdown is majorly affecting courier agencies like Bluedart, SafeExpress, and FedEx which are not allowed to move freely even while carrying medical devices. If the logjam continues, hospitals could face an acute scarcity of medical devices very soon, MTaI said in a statement on Thursday.

(Gokul Bhagabati can be contacted at [email protected])


The US presidential elections and future of India-US relations




Donald Trump Joe Biden

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on November 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of US-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the US and India is “functional”. The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media s saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedlly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005. At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the US had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)

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Covid-19 toll across world crosses 35,000

The COVID-19 is affecting 132 countries and territories around the world.



Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

New Delhi, March 30 : The death toll around the world due to coronavirus crossed 35,000 on Monday evening, with Italy heading the list of 35,097 deaths with 10,779, while the number of cumulative cases rose to 737,929, with US leading with 143,055 of them, as per data from the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Spain was second with 7,340 deaths, followed by China with 3,308 (3,186 of them in Hubei where the outbreak was first recorded), Iran with 2,757 deaths, France with 2,606 deaths, the US with 2,513 (776 of them in New York) and the UK with1,228 deaths.

In number of cases, Italy was second with 97,689, followed by Spain with 85,195, China with 82,198, Germany with 62,435, Iran with 41,495 and France with 40,747.

Meanwhile, 156,652 people around the world had recovered, with nearly half of them (75,923) in China, followed by 16,780 in Spain, 13,911 in Iran and 13,030 in Italy.

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45% of Indians do not back up their data, files: Survey

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.




Data Privacy

New Delhi, March 30 : Nearly half of Indians do not back up because they think their data or files are not important enough and most of those who back up their data, do it once a month, a survey said on Monday.

Other reasons cited by the respondents for not backing up their data included not knowing how to do it, not having time and forgetting about it, according to the survey by cybersecurity company Avast.

“It could be that many aren’t aware they are backing up, as it could be happening automatically, in the background, however, others really might not be backing up at all, thinking it is not worth it,” Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast, said in a statement.

“Losing personal documents, photos and videos can be a painful experience and it’s not until this happens that they realize how valuable it actually is,” Corrons added.

Of those who do back up their data, nearly 42 per cent Indians back up to a cloud storage, 36 42 per cent back up their data to an external hard drive, 23 42 per cent back up to a USB or flash disk, 18 42 per cent back up their phone to their PC, and 10 42 per cent back up to a network storage drive, the results showed.

Corrons recommended to back up data to two different locations, like the cloud, and a physical storage, like an external hard drive.

When it comes to iPhone and Android phone owners, the percentage that backs up is nearly the same, 69 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

The percentage of smartphone owners that don’t know how to back up their data does not vary much between iPhone and Android owners, with 13 per cent and 17 per cent claiming not knowing how to, respectively, the study revealed.

Data loss can be caused by users accidentally deleting their data themselves, hardware damage and failure, as well as malware, causing valuable data such as photos, videos, documents, and messages to be lost forever.

Ransomware and other malware, such as wipers, can either encrypt or completely destroy files, and there is no guarantee that files can be decrypted if a ransom is paid.

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.

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