A dredger bearing the brunt of high waves due to cyclone Tauktae at Surathkal Beach near Mangaluru on Sunday | pti MADURAI 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 Unusual heart study sheds light best aspirin will take at least three to six rolls outinAll you needonto dose vaccines still trial phase months to do so, after which it know on biosafety will require certification.” standards Space weather “Even if we assume that govmystery 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 Senior virologist Shahid Jameel on Sunday resigned as the chair of the scientific advisory group of Indian SARSCoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a forum established by the Centre in December last. It was set up for lab and epidemiological surveillance of strains of the Covid-19 virus circulating in India. It is not clear why Jameel, who is the director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, stepped down as the chief advisor to the forum, but sources pointed out that he had been critical of the Covid-19 policies of the government. Jameel, formerly the CEO of the Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance and known for his research on hepatitis E virus, confirmed to this newspaper his decision, but refused to comment further. No response was received to a request for comment from health secretary Rajesh Bhushan either. INSACOG was set up by the Centre less than five months ago, mainly to detect genomic variants of the SARS CoV 2 after concerns over B117 variant, first detected in the UK, having reached India. Under the consortium, 10 national laboratories equipped to study virus variants were brought under the aegis of the National Centre for Disease Control. The regional genome sequencing labs, which are part of the project, include CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in Delhi, CSIR Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, DBT National Institute of Biomedical Genomics near Kolkata, DBT- Institute of Life Sciences in Bhubaneswar, DBT-NCBS in Bengaluru, DBT-Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics in Hyderabad. It also includes NIV and DBT National Centre for Cell Sci- Shahid Jameel ‘Stubborn response’ Jameel was critical of the government’s Covid policies. Most recently, he had written a piece in the New York Times, saying scientists in India were facing “stubborn response to evidence-based policy making”. ence in Pune, National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences in Bengaluru. The forum has been marred by severe fund crunch since the beginning as a result of which the work it was tasked to do has progressed on a much lesser speed than projected. 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 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 L BS 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 ES 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”. 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 ROB ES 2 L BS 1 A microorganism that is unlikely to cause human or animal disease RISK GROUP BIOSAFETY LEVEL (BSL) 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 1 No No **Depending on agents ***Glass windows, closed circuit television, two-way communication BSL=BIOSAFETY LEVEL 1 BIOSAFETY LEVEL INFRASTRUCTURE REQUIREMENTS BIOSAFETY RISK SCALE The pyramid shows the risk group associated with the biosafety level of a lab MEDICINE 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 Remdesivir to be given directly to pvt hospitals from Tuesday: State govt 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 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- e x p r e s s ne w s s e r v i c e @ Chennai IN the wake of second wave of Covid-19, the State government, on Sunday constituted a , consultative panel comprising 13 legislators from various political parties. The all-party panel will meet at regular intervals to suggest measures to be taken to control the virus spread. The public department secretary will act as member secretary for the committee, said the statement. Meanwhile, following warnings from health experts on overcrowding at the places 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 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths o m j a s v i n md @ Chennai BOTH public and private hospitals are hit by the scarcity of medical oxygen. But what is more shocking and inhumane is the private hospitals asking their Covid-positive in-patients to move out to government hospitals citing the lack of the life-saving gas. Priyadharshini (24) had her uncle gasping for oxygen at a private hospital in Nanganallur, Chennai. Suddenly on Sunday the hospital man, agement asked her to shift her uncle, whose oxygen saturation was at 70 per cent, to a government facility as the hospital could not afford to , have him anymore due to oxygen scarcity This . is the story in Chennai, where at least ten private hospitals asked their Covid-19 inpatients to move out to government facilities due to lack of adequate oxygen support. “The hospital said my uncle was consuming ‘more oxygen’ and his parameters were dipping. They gave a day’s time to find a bed in a government hospital,” Priyadharshini tells Express, pointing out that she also couldn’t get a bed for three hours despite calling 104. We made repeated calls and no one attended in 104, she laments. “However, through the help of volunteers on Twitter, we managed to find a bed in Kilpauk Medical College Hospital,” she says. The issue was the same at another private hospital in Kilpauk, where a patient, whose oxygen was dropping below 80, was asked to shift to a government hospital. P4 THE ESSENTIAL CAMPUS DIGEST YOUR LIFE COACH 28 PAGES, INCLUDING 16 OF edex (TABLOID) 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 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 tamil nadu MAY 15 o2 scarcity: private hosps ask patients to move out to gh WITH THIS ISSUE 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- 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. that are designated for purchasing Remdesivir drug in Chennai, the State government announced that the anti-viral drug will directly be given to private hospitals from Tuesday. A new portal would be launched soon through which private hospitals will be allowed to purchase Remdesivir directly from the sales centres, the government said. Referring to the WHO and 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. 33,658 20,905 303 MAY 16 33,181 20,905 311 medical experts, the government stated that Remdesivir should only be administered for patients who are under oxygen support. The private hospitals will have to furnish all information related to the patients in the soon to be launched portal and should accordingly place their requests online for Remdesivir. “After the drug is allotted, an authorised person from the hospital can purchase the Remdesivir from the government sales centre. The new procedures will come into effect from May 18,” said an official statement. P4 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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