A dredger bearing the brunt of high waves due to cyclone Tauktae at Surathkal Beach near Mangaluru on Sunday | pti tirupati l monday l MAy 17, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 28 l late city EDITION Tauktae pounds West coast, gujarat landfall on may 18 It has intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm, with wind speed reaching 175 kmph. Orange alert in three Kerala dists Kerala dams opened, evacuations in k’taka Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday virtually met chief ministers of states on the west coast to discuss preparedness. Faced with copious inflow, Kerala opened floodgates of dams, while downpour in Karnataka, where four deaths were reported in rain-related incidents, prompted large scale evacuations. Response teams on the Maharashtra coast on high alert ■ High alert gujarat coast braces for impact ■ ■ Squally winds and heavy rains reported in Goa. Mumbai officials shifted Covid patients, fearing power failure due to the cyclone Tauktae to make landfall between Porbandar and Mahuva in Bhavnagar district; fishers, coastal residents being evacuated Huge tidal waves, strong winds and heavy downpour predicted officials working to ensure uninterrupted Covid care CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOgGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI Slow off the starting blocks for Covaxin mass production Except Delhi, lockdown NATIONWIDE MAY 15 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths MAY 16 senior Bharat Biotech official. Sudhanshu Vrati, a viroloUK confident vaccines can gist, told TNIE, “The govern-against shield India variant ment laboratories we have at present across India is only meant for research and are not designed for production. Even if a pharma company starts work to set up a BSL 3 lab, it cuba home-grown will take at least three to six rolls outin trial phase Unusual heart study sheds light on best aspirin dose vaccines still All you need to months to do so, after which it know on biosafety will require certification.” “Even if we assume that govstandards Space weather mystery solved 5 ernment does the certification 2 page 12 in a week’s time, vaccine pro- May 15 Take 17,14,247 doses your May 16 shot 17,33,232 doses Total doses: 18,22,20,164 Jab-o-meter 3,26,098 3,11,170 3,53,299 3,62,437 3,890 4,077 Chief of Centre’s Covid advisory group resigns Shahid Jameel was critical of govt’s Covid response during the ongoing second wave S u m i S u k a n ya D u t ta @ New Delhi ter concerns over B117 variant, first detected in the UK, having Senior virologist Shahid reached India. Jameel on Sunday resigned as Under the consortium, 10 nathe chair of the scientific advi- tional laboratories equipped to sory group of Indian SARS- study virus variants were CoV-2 Genomics Consortium brought under the aegis of the (INSACOG), a forum estab- National Centre for Disease lished by the Centre in Decem- Control. The regional genome ber last. It was set up for lab sequencing labs, which are part and epidemiological surveil- of the project, include CSIR Inlance of strains of the Covid-19 stitute of Genomics and Intevirus circulating in India. grative Biology in Delhi, CSIR It is not clear why Centre for Cellular Jameel, who is the and Molecular Bioldirector of the Triveogy in Hyderabad, di School of BioDBT National Instisciences at Ashoka tute of Biomedical University, stepped Genomics near Kolkdown as the chief adata, DBT- Institute of visor to the forum, Life Sciences in Bhubut sources pointed b a n e s w a r, D B T out that he had been NCBS in Bengaluru, ‘Stubborn critical of the CovDBT-Centre for DNA response’ id-19 policies of the Fingerprinting and government. Jameel, Jameel was critical D i a g n o s t i c s i n formerly the CEO of of the government’s Hyderabad. the Wellcome Trust Covid policies. Most It also includes recently, he had DBT India Alliance NIV and DBT Nawritten a piece in and known for his retional Centre for Cell search on hepatitis E the New York Times, Science in Pune, Navirus, confirmed to saying scientists in tional Centre for DisIndia were facing this newspaper his ease Control in Delhi decision, but refused “stubborn response and the National Into evidence-based to comment further. stitute of Mental policy making”. No response was reHealth and Neuroceived to a request Sciences in Bengalufor comment from health secre- ru. The forum has been marred tary Rajesh Bhushan either. by severe fund crunch since the INSACOG was set up by the beginning as a result of which Centre less than five months the work it was tasked to do has ago, mainly to detect genomic progressed on a much lesser variants of the SARS CoV 2 af- speed than projected. WITH THIS ISSUE THE ESSENTIAL CAMPUS DIGEST YOUR LIFE COACH 28 PAGES, INCLUDING 16 OF edex (TABLOID) Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were the most common medical conditions linked with all Covid-19 deaths reported in 2020 in Canada. The brain disorders were the most common comorbidity among women (41%), while among men, it was the second most common comorbidity at 31%, CTVnews.ca said, citing a new report from Statistics Canada. 16 Monday vellore newindianexpress com 17 05 2021 l l WHy iS tHiS iMportant? File How viruses are contained in labs Regular checks is carried out in BSL 3 and 4 labs to ensure the facilties are functioning properly. No objectthat is brought into the lab from the outside world returns to it again, particularly clothes and jewellery The inactivated version of the coronavirus that is used in the Covaxin shots needs to be processed in laboratories that have a Biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) classifcation, said Niti Aayog member Dr VK Paul, recently. Dr Paul, who heads the national task force on Covid, also said "none of the other companies in India" have BSL 3 standards right now, making the technology transfer of Covaxin (to increase vaccine production) difficult. We look at what these biosafety levels are inFraStructure requireMentS BioSaFety riSk Scale The pyramid shows the risk group associated with the biosafety level of a lab 4 Isolation of laboratory Room sealable for decontamination ventilation: Inward airflow Controlled ventilating system HEPA filtered air exhaust Double door entry Airlock Airlock with shower Anteroom Anteroom with shower Effluent treatment autoclave (heated container): On site In laboratory room Double-ended Biological safety cabinets Personnel safety monitoring capability*** A pathogen that usually causes serious human or animal disease and can be readily transmitted from one individual to another, directly or indirectly. Effective treatment and preventive measures are not usually available hiG h RiS K MiC RoB l BS A pathogen that usually causes serious human or animal disease but does not ordinarily spread from one infected individual to another. Effective treatment is available l BS 3 A pathogen that can cause human or animal disease but is unlikely to be a serious hazard. Though lab exposures can cause serious infection, the risk of spread is limited. Effective treatment is available l BS eS 2 RoB LONDON: Britain is confident that existing vaccines will provide protection from a more transmissible Indian coronavirus variant now spreading across the country, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday . Hancock told Sky News the government had a “high degree of confidence” that vaccines would stand up to the B1.617.2 variant, following new early data from Oxford University . Britain, one of the countries the worst hit by in the world with over 1.2 lakh deaths, has also seen a rapid deployment of vaccines with nearly 20 million people fully vaccinated. According to government data the case numbers of the Indian variant have risen from 520 to 1,313 this week. Hancock warned because of the high transmission of the Indian variant it could “spread like wildfire amongst the unvaccinated groups” and because of this the government “need to get as many people vaccinated as possible”. eS Medicine l BS 1 A microorganism that is unlikely to cause human or animal disease Risk gRoup Biosafety LeveL (BsL) 1 LaBoRatoRy type 3 Yes Yes 4 Yes Yes Desirable Desirable No No No No No No No Yes Yes Yes/No Yes No No Yes Yes/No** Yes/No** Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No No No Desirable No No Desirable No Yes Desirable Desirable Yes Desirable Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Source: Text largely based on guidelines from India’s National Centre for Disease Control and the WHO’s Laboratory Biosafety Manual, third edition LaBoRatoRy pRactices safety equipment BSL 1 Basic teaching, research BSL 2 Primary health services, diagnostic services, research GMT, protective clothing and biohazard sign 3 BSL 3 Special diagnostic services, research Level 2 plus special clothing, controlled access, directional airflow BSC and/or primary devices for all activities BSL 4 Dangerous pathogen units Level 3 plus airlock entry, shower exit, special waste disposal Good microbiological techniques (GMT) Class III BSC, or positive pressure suits in conjunction with Class II BSCs, double ended autoclave (through the wall), filtered air reSearcH calling its own shots If any of Cuba’s vaccines get the final green light, it will be the first Covid vaccine developed in Latin America WASHINGTON: An unusual study that had thousands of heart disease patients enroll themselves and track their health online as they took lowor regular-strength aspirin concludes that both doses seem equally safe and effective for preventing additional heart problems and strokes. But there’s a big caveat: People had such a strong preference for the lower dose that it’s unclear if the results can es- None, open bench work Open bench plus Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) for potential aerosols tablish that the treatments are truly equivalent, some independent experts said. Half who were told to take the higher dose took the lower one instead or quit using aspirin altogether. “Patients basically decided for themselves” what they wanted to take because they bought the aspirin on their own, said Dr. Salim Virani, a cardiologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who had no role in the study . Still, the results show there’s little reason to take the higher dose, 325 mg, which many doctors assumed would work better than 81-mg Results were published on Saturday by the New England Journal of Medicine. Aspirin helps prevent blood clots, but it’s not recommended for healthy people who have not yet developed heart disease because it carries a risk of bleeding. Its benefits are clear, though, for folks who already have had a heart attack, bypass surgery or clogged arteries re- CoroNAVIruS VACCINES CuBA IS workINg oN People wait to be vaccinated in a socially-distanced queue in Havana, Cuba | aP Medicine 2 No No No No No No No No No No No 4 2 World is closely watching the only Latin American nation to develop own Covid vaccines, which could do much to ease global shortages HAVANA: Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have begun receiving new, locally produced vaccines against COVID-19 in the past few days as the socialist government has ramped up an inoculation campaign — even before releasing formal Phase III data on the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety . The island’s health minister, José Angel Portal Miranda, announced on May 7 that officials are still processing information from the large Phase III trials of the two vaccine candidates (see right sidebar). But he said that beginning mass vaccines now “has more benefits than risks. ... The number of sick and deceased is going to decrease.” The vaccines are a point of pride for a small and relatively poor nation of 11 million people that has prioritised its medical sector and has long boasted of exporting its own pharmaceuticals across the globe. Officials say they pushed forward wide-scale inoculations BioSaFety leVel 1 No No **Depending on agents ***Glass windows, closed circuit television, two-way communication BSL=BioSafety LeVeL due to early evidence that the vaccines are safe and work and because of a recent upsurge in coronavirus infections. Cuba has a long tradition of making its own vaccines, dating back to the 1980s. Change in plan Initially, the government had planned to roll out its vaccine program to the public in June, after authorization. “If it were not for this epidemical situation, (the authorities) would have waited longer,” said molecular biologist and researcher Amilcar Perez-Riverol of the Sao Paulo University re, ferring to the infection surge. Portal said between 1.7 million of the 2.1 million inhabitants of Havana, the epicentre of the outbreak, will be vaccinated between now and August. Of the island’s total population, 22.6% should have received both shots by June, 33.5% by July and 70% by Aug, he said. , “We have had very few adverse events. Some patients experience a little tiredness,” said Dr. Naicy Guzmán, director of quiring a stent. But the best dose isn’t known, and the study aimed to compare them in a real-world setting. About 15,000 people received invitations to join through the mail, email or a phone call and enrolled on a website where they returned every three to six months for follow-up. A network of participating health centers supplied medical infor mation on participants from their electronic records and insurance claims. reSearcH candidates — Abdala & Soberana 2 — have either completed Phase 3 trials or are soon to complete them 4 lakh people covered by the Phase 3 trials — an unusually large number 3 doses LONDON: Scientists have long questioned why the bursts of hot gas from the sun do not cool down as fast as expected, and have now used a supercomputer to find out. When the solar wind hits the Earth, it is almost 10 times hotter than expected, with a temperature of about 100,000 to 200,000 degrees Celsius. The outer atmosphere of the sun, where the solar wind originates, is typically a million degrees Celsius. Using these simulations, the team, led by University College London (UCL) researchers, deduced that the solar wind stays hot for longer because of smallscale magnetic reconnection that forms in the turbulence of the solar wind. This phenomenon occurs when two opposing magnetic field lines break and reconnect with each other, releasing huge amounts of energy This is the . same process that triggers large flares erupting from the sun’s outer atmosphere. “Magnetic reconnection occurs almost spontaneously and all the time in the turbulent solar wind,” said lead author Jeffersson Agudelo of UCL. duction and hitting the market will take more than 6 months.” Eminent virologist Dr Jacob John concurred. He said even if the Centre ropes in additional labs to produce vaccines, it may take from three to six months for the vaccine to be produced.“By that time, the pandemic itself would be over. We must have done this by October 2020, so that there was enough vaccine by January this year,” Dr John said. Continued on P8 A’pur hosps face bed shortage, delay in allotment proves fatal for some while most other vaccines have relied upon a two-dose regime, Abdala requires three doses to be applied at 14-day intervals, news reports indicated a clinic in Havana’s Habana del Este neighborhood. “All this is moving for me,” she said. The clinic uses the Abdala vaccine, Guzmán said. “My people, my brothers, my community will be vaccinated against this disease that has really shaken us. It has been a long and intense fight.” Volcano touriStS People venture dangerously close to a lava eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland | aP New booster shots needed in 2022: German expert Medicine THE head of Germany’s independent vaccine advisory panel says it’s likely that everyone will have to get vaccinated a g ain next year a g ainst Covid-19. Thomas Mertens told the Funke newspaper group in comments published Sunday that there isn’t yet enough data to say when exactly booster shots will be needed, and officials will have to wait a few months to see whether protection against the coronavirus weakens in some groups. But he stressed that “the virus won’t leave us again” and so the vaccinations currently under way won’t be the last. He added: “In principle, we have to prepare for everyone possibly having to refresh their vaccine protection next year.” Nearly 30.4 million people in Germany or 36.5% of the popu, lation, had received at least one vaccine shot by Friday. More than 9 million, or 10.9% of the population, had been fully vaccinated. Hunting vaRiants India’s neighbours scramble to sequence genomes amid sharp increases in Covid cases Science Researchers in South Asia are racing to scale-up their highly limited genome sequencing abilities to find out whether India’s coronavirus wave is spilling over into their countries. The news section of the prestigious Nature journal reported the researchers are also working to identify which variants are in circulation. Neelika Malavige, who runs Sri Lanka’s only lab that sequences coronavirus genomes, found in the middle of April CP Ven u g o pa l @ Anantapur Andhra Pradesh Micro Irrigation Project (APMIP) Project Director S Subbarayudu, who tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday morning, died while waiting for an ICU bed in the government super speciality hospital in the city late night. It reflects the sorry state of affairs in Anantapur, which recently hit the headlines when some Covid patients allegedly died due to shortage of oxygen. Anantapur Government General Hospital, the super speciality hospital, and even private corporate hospitals in that 66 out of 78 Covid-19 swab samples sequenced by her team had the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant — the strain first detected in UK and classified as a variant of concern by the WHO. Malavige warns that the “situation in Sri Lanka is looking very grim”, with hospitals filling up fast, Nature reported. “It’s important to ramp up our sequencing to make sure we detect these variants in the community as soon as possible,” Malavige was quoted as saying. She is doubling the av- erage number of samples sequenced every month from May to nearly 200. In Bangladesh, too, scientists are worried about variants. “We all have the question of why is it happening? Why is this wave now? And why is it so bad?” asks Senjuti Saha, a molecular geneticist in Dhaka. Labs in the country are increasingly getting involved in sequencing genomes, though Bangladesh’s coronavirus cases have fallen from their midApril peak of 7,000 a day, Nature reported. % of cases sequenced & shared through GISAID, a database of genomes India Bangladesh Sri Lanka Nepal 0.05% 0.19% 0.27% 0.005% Even as India reels under a massive surge of cases, its neighbours are experiencing their largest outbreaks yet Medical Board finds No injuries on Rebel ysrc MP E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Vijayawada The Medical Board constituted by the Andhra Pradesh High Court to examine the injuries on rebel YSRC MP K Raghu Rama Krishnam Raju of Narasapuram allegedly inflicted by CID, has concluded that there were no new injuries on him. The report of the board stated that the MP is in good health. Even before the board submitted its report to the court, the MP was shifted to prison in Guntur. The HC directed the CID to shift Raju to Ramesh Hospital in Guntur. The HC asked the board headed by the Superintendent of Guntur Government General Hospital, to check the veracity of the MP’s allegation that he was beaten during the custody of CID. Raju was arrested on Friday for his alleged hate speeches against certain communities and spreading disaffection against the government. The board’s report was submitted to the HC by the district court. When the matter came up for hearing, the division bench of Justice C Praveen Kumar and Justice K Lalitha read out the report, which stated that there were no injuries on the YSRC rebel MP and his health condition is good. Raju’s counsel B Adinarayana said the CID did not implement the court order to get the MP examined at Ramesh Hospital. The counsel further informed that a senior CID official met Raju when the latter was in judicial custody and , P4 it is against the rules. AP village shows the way to keep virus at bay S i s t l a D a k s h i n a M u r t h y @ Vijayawada Villagers spray disinfectant at Duggiralapadu village in Andhra Pradesh | special arrangement to the village being barricaded. G Mallikharjuna Rao (54), a resident of Duggiralapadu, attributes non-emergence of even a single Covid case in the village to strict adherence to Covid guidelines by all. “No one in Gavin Smith, a viral evolutionary biologist at Duke–NUS Medical School in Singapore, told the outlet: Sequencing has always been important, but it is critical now, because we are getting to a stage where more and more new variants are cropping up.” “We need sequence data to see what is going on.” Bangladesh’s coronavirus surge has been linked to broad detection of the B.1.351 variant, which was first found in South Africa and has been known to reduce the effective- ness of the Covishield vaccine. This is particularly worrying for Bangladesh because most of its vaccine stock is Covishield. Nature reported that researchers in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have not yet found the Indian variant, B.1.617, in their countries, though the strain may be circulating undetected due to a limited infrastructure for genome sequencing. But Nepal has reported at least 11 cases of B.1.617 variant, suggesting that it is in circulation. Genome sequencing is not easy and takes time to process. Malavige’s lab uses a shortcut by employing RT-PCR tests that “detect three widely circulating variants of concern: B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P But kits .1. that detect B.1.617 have only just been developed and they cannot identify newly emerging variants,” Nature said. “We are at a critical point where we need to keep sequencing to identify anything as soon as possible,” Malavige was quoted as saying. the district, face acute shortage of ICU and oxygen beds. According to his family members, Subbarayudu was administered Covid vaccine on Monday Later, the 58-year. old Anantapur APMIP Project Director developed fever. On Friday he tested positive , for Covid. With great difficulty , his family members managed to get an ICU bed in a private hospital. When his oxygen saturation levels dropped to 60 per cent, the private hospital referred the case to the super speciality hospital to keep him on ventiP4 lator support. right model Even as Covid-19 has been widespread across the country, here is a village in Andhra Pradesh, which has remained unaffected by the virus so far. Duggiralapadu in G Konduru mandal of Krishna district is probably the only village in the entire State with the distinction of not recording even a single Covid case so far. The village adjacent to neighbouring Telangana has a population of 1,000. Majority of people are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The villagers have taken all necessary precautions since the outbreak of pandemic to protect themselves. Curbs have been imposed on entry of outsiders, with entry points for any laboratory that is carrying research on pathogens, containment is top priority. Scientists are wrapped up in protective equipment and use battery-powered, air-purifying respirators in their suits. they also have several layers of materials between them and the virus while working HealtH K MiC India got off the blocks slowly to make Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin an open source vaccine within the country for its mass production, as any company that participates in it would need at least six months for the assembly line to start rolling. For, jabs such as Covaxin need highly sophisticated Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) labs, which is only available with Bharat Biotech at the moment. BSL-3 labs work with agents that could cause serious or potentially lethal disease through inhalation to the personnel, and may contaminate the environment, hence the high safety parameters. While India has just over a dozen such labs at present, most of them are with academic institutions for testing and research. Upgrading existing BSL-3 labs to produce Covaxin is a long term process, says a RiS @ New Delhi Low E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e the village ventures out without wearing a mask and carrying sanitiser,” he says. Sanitation workers carry out fogging operations and spraying of sodium hypochlorite solution in the village twice a week. Drains in the village are cleaned on alternate days. “We have eight provision stores in our village. People of one ward are allowed to purchase essential commodities on a particular day to avoid crowding,” says A Nagalakshmi, another resident. The people have unanimously decided not to conduct any festival, fair or other ritual in the village to avoid public gathering. No one in Duggiralapadu attends functions in relatives’ houses in neighbouring villages during Covid times. Two patients share a single bed in the Covid-19 ward of Government General Hospital in Anantapur | Express andhra pradesh may 15 May 16 Fresh cases 22,517 24,171 Recoveries 18,739 21,101 Deaths 98 101 Samples tested 89,535 94,550 didn’t give quick results P u s h k a r B a n a k a r @ New Delhi An analysis of the partial or full lockdowns imposed to combat the Covid second wave by various states since last month shows that apart from Delhi, most states have not seen a progressive reduction of fresh cases in the initial weeks despite the curbs. The graph began tapering only after May 9 (see table on P7). For instance, while Maharashtra had around 60,000 daily new cases from April 15 to 26, which dropped to 48,700 on April 27, the count subsequently climbed to the 55,000-60,000 range. It’s only after May 9 that there has been a progressive reduction of cases. Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said the lockdown helped bring down positive cases from the peak of 69,000 per day to below 40,000. “People should follow the lockdown restrictions strictly because it helps break the virus chain and reduce the burden on hospitals. However, in a rural area, positive cases are still rising. Self-discipline is very important to defeat the virus,” he said. Tope added that the state needed more restrictions to contain the virus. He was hopeful that by the end of May the , situation in Maharashtra will be much better. The positivity rate in the state also witnessed a decline from around 26% on April 15 to 16% on May 14. Dr D C S Reddy former head , of the department at the Institute of Medical Sciences at Banaras Hindu University, said to accurately analyse the data, a seven-day moving average is a better parameter as the number of cases tested and confirmed on a daily basis depends on various other factors and hence there are fluctuations in numbers. “In terms of lockdown, it was taken to ensure that transmission is slowed down both intra-state and interstate. Also, to get a better picture of the decline, we need to wait a little longer. The rate of decline is slow in the initial phases but speeds up with time. So, we will get a clearer picture in the coming weeks,” he said. Delhi, on the other hand, saw a progressive decline in the case count and the positivity rate. While the number of cases hovered in the 20,00025,000 range till May 2, it fell to just over 8,500 on May 14. Continued on P7
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