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Supreme Court asks why quarantine period of doctors, health workers treated as leave

The apex court also asked the Centre why the quarantine period for doctors and health workers is being treated as period of leave.

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Coronavirus Hospital Staff

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said the Centre is not powerless to ensure that state governments obey its directive in connection with the release of salaries of doctors and healthcare workers, and also asked why quarantine period of doctors and health workers is treated as leave.

The Centre informed the apex court that some state governments have not paid salaries to doctors and health workers regularly despite the Centre’s directive.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said that the Centre is not powerless to ensure states obeyed its directive, and asked the Centre’s counsel to ensure that doctors and health care workers are paid their salaries. The top court has listed the matter for further hearing on August 10.

On the non-payment of salaries, the apex court told the Centre’s counsel, “You are not helpless. You have to see to it that your order is implemented. You have powers under the DM Act. You can take steps also.”

The apex court also asked the Centre why the quarantine period for doctors and health workers is being treated as period of leave.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, contended before the bench that it should be treated as on duty. The bench asked Mehta to provide necessary clarification.

The apex court said the Centre should apprise its stand on this issue on the next date of hearing.

The observations were made by the bench during hearing of a petition seeking timely payment of salaries to frontline Covid-19 warriors and doctors. The Centre had informed the top court that it has written to states but all haven’t replied.

Disaster

India’s Covid-19 testing rate lower than other nations, says WHO Chief Scientist

The Chief Scientist of WHO, Soumya Swaminathan, in an interactive session through video conference said,as of now about 28 vaccine candidates for Covid-19 are under clinical trial, of which five are entering Phase-II and over 150 candidates are in pre-clinical trials across the globe.

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Soumya Swaminathan

Noting that lockdown was a temporary measure to contain the spread of coronavirus, a senior official of the World Health Organisation on Tuesday said India has a low testing rate when compared to some of the countries that are successfully trying to curb it.

The Chief Scientist of WHO, Soumya Swaminathan, in an interactive session through video conference said,as of now about 28 vaccine candidates for Covid-19 are under clinical trial, of which five are entering Phase-II and over 150 candidates are in pre-clinical trials across the globe.

“India as a whole, the testing rates are much lower compared to some of the countries, who have done well like Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan.

Even the United States is testing a huge number of people. So we need to have some benchmark and every public health department needs to have benchmarks on what is the rate of testing per lakh or per million, what is the test positivity rate,” she said.

Without adequate number of tests, fighting the virus is like “fighting fire blindfolded,” she pointed out.

According to Swaminathan, the number of tests being conducted is not adequate if the Covid-19 test positivity rate is above five per cent.

Governments need to constantly monitor the availability of beds, quarantine facilities, ICUs and oxygen supplies in district hospitals.

“So there is a set of 8 to 10 indicators that the government needs to keep a close watch on. And you can ramp up or ramp down based on what you are seeing on the ground,” she said.

Observing that the scientists’ community was still studying the body’s immune response to coronavirus and the next 12 months were crucial to put in place the public health and social measures, she said the virus has spread to every country in the world and “established community transmission”.

“We know that lockdowns are temporary measures or a temporary measure which reduces the spread because it prevents people from getting closer together and the idea of the lockdown is to buy time for the government to put in place the system needed to tackle the virus,” the WHO official said.

On the ongoing vaccine trials, she said the WHO has issued guidelines on it and if the efficacy rate of the vaccine is 70 percent, then it is considered to be a good one.

On the COVAX facility, a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, Swaminathan said by the end of 2021 it is aimed to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification.

All the 194 member countries of the WHO need to come together and take a decision on the way they want to proceed for the equitable and fair distribution of vaccine (once successfully comes out) and other products that are being developed for Covid-19, she opined.

Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Biotech, which is into developing Covaxin, a vaccine candidate for Covid-19,said the Centre needs to decetralise some of the regulating authorities such as Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO for faster approvals.

Telangana Minister for IT and Industries KT Rama Rao acted as a moderator for the session titled The Vaccine Race- Balancing Science and Urgency.

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PGI-Chandigarh among 17 trial sites for Oxford vaccine Covishield

The permission was granted after the Serum institute satisfied certain requirements sought by the Drug Controller in the design of the proposal.

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Covid 19 Vaccine

Chandigarh, Aug 4 : The PGI Hospital here is among the 17 trial sites in India for conducting the second and third phases of human clinical trials of Covishield, the potential vaccine developed by Oxford University, its director said on Tuesday.

The trials would involve administration of the vaccine to 1,600 healthy adults across 17 sites.

Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Director Jagat Ram said, “It’s an honour to be entrusted with this vital responsibility of being one of the sites for phase two and three trials on Covishield vaccine.

“The results of phase one trials in the UK have been encouraging and did not present any serious adverse side effects. Phase two and three trials will be done on a larger human population to see its efficacy and requisite protection against COVID-19 in humans.”

Further detailing, the Director added, “As the results of the trials will have far reaching impact, we will strengthen our capacities, wherever required, to come out with tangible outcomes.

“A core group will be constituted to work out the modalities and comprehensive plan along with timelines to meet the desired expectations of Drugs Controller General of India and contribute towards containing the pandemic to the best of our abilities.”

Earlier, a committee of experts on COVID-19 under Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) had recommended the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to grant approval to the Serum Institute of India (SII) for conducting the Phase two and three trials.

The permission was granted after the Serum institute satisfied certain requirements sought by the Drug Controller in the design of the proposal.

In addition to PGIMER Chandigarh, the other sites for trials include AIIMS in Delhi, ABJ Medical College in Pune, Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (RMRIMS) in Patna, AIIMS in Jodhpur, Nehru Hospital in Gorakhpur, Andhra Medical College in Visakhapatnam and JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research in Mysuru.

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Disaster

COVID-19 pandemic “once in a century”, but still “in our hands”: WHO

“I’m not saying there is no solution now. Whatever happens in the next few months or years, I also believe that it’s in our hands,” he said.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus WHO

Geneva, Aug 4 : The chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the COVID-19 pandemic is “a once-in-a-century health crisis,” but it is still “in our hands.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual press conference on Monday that the world has never seen anything like this pandemic for decades, and its effects might last for decades more, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Since we started probably recording, this is the first ever coronavirus-caused pandemic which has two dangerous combinations: it moves fast, and at the same time it’s a killer,” the WHO chief explained.

However, he noted, although the crisis is very severe, there are still solutions and hopes.

“I’m not saying there is no solution now. Whatever happens in the next few months or years, I also believe that it’s in our hands,” he said.

“Since the outbreak started, many countries have shown that it can be controlled, or serious transmission can be suppressed,” Tedros said, adding that he has mentioned many such countries in the past, including Spain, Italy, China and South Korea.

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