A dredger bearing the brunt of high waves due to cyclone Tauktae at Surathkal Beach near Mangaluru on Sunday | pti BHUBANESWAR 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 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 It has intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm, with wind speed reaching 175 kmph. Orange alert in three Kerala dists ■ 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, 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 Burning pyres, search for new cremation grounds belie official death figures Hemant kumar Rout @ Bhubaneswar Amid the State government’s efforts to ramp up medical infrastructure and facilities to weather the impact of the Covid-19 second wave, a sheer urgency to expand cremation grounds cannot just go unnoticed. Across districts, work is going on in war-footing to expand existing crematoriums or designating new grounds for funeral of the deceased. The Capital city of Bhubaneswar is adding two more cremation sites at different locations apart from the main Satya Nagar crematorium. So NATIONWIDE MAY 15 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths MAY 16 3,26,098 3,11,170 3,53,299 3,62,437 3,890 4,077 is neighbouring Cuttack. Besides expanding its existing cremation grounds, the Cuttack municipal body has floated tender for selection of agencies to provide manpower for conducting the funerals. While Sambalpur has already added another crematorium, the district administrations of Sundarg arh and Koraput are exploring places that can be developed to cremate bodies as the existing ones are overburdened. But, what is the need for addition of new cremation grounds when the Covid death figures proclaimed by the government are hardly more than 20 a day even as the State has been reporting over 10,000 cases daily? As per the official figures, Odisha has recorded only 395 Covid deaths at an average six deaths a day since the beginning of second wave in midMarch. The highest death toll on a day declared on May 14 was 22. Does this warrant the frantic scramble to spruce up crematorium facilities? The existing facilities can easily handle such meagre numbers. The ground reality is, however, vastly different. While the government is given to suppressing death count under various alibis, the people of ODISHA MAY 15 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths Take your shot Bodies being cremated at Satya Nagar crematorium | Express 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 ru- P u sh k a r B a n a k a r @ New Delhi Chief of Centre’s Covid advisory group resigns 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, Shahid Jameel was critical of govt’s Covid response during the ongoing second wave Slow off the starting blocks for Covaxin mass production 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 E x p r e ss N e w s S e r v i c e @ New Delhi (INSACOG), a forum estab- National Centre for Disease lished by the Centre in Decem- Control. The regional genome India got off the blocks slowly to make Bharat ber last. It was set up s e q u e n c i n g l a b s, Biotech’s Covaxin an open source vaccine within for lab and epidemiwhich are part of the the country for its mass production, as any comological surveillance project, include CSIR pany that participates in it would need at least six of strains of the Institute of Genommonths for the assembly line to start rolling. Covid-19 virus circuics and Integrative For, jabs such as Covaxin need highly sophistilating in India. Biolog y in Delhi, cated Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) labs, which is only It is not clear why CSIR Centre for Celavailable with Bharat Biotech at the moment. Jameel, who is the lular and Molecular BSL-3 labs work with agents that could cause seridirector of the TriveBiology in Hyderaous or potentially lethal disease through inhaladi School of Biobad, DBT National InShahid Jameel tion to the personnel, and may contaminate the sciences at Ashoka stitute of Biomedical 16 environment, hence University, stepped Genomics near Kolk‘Stubborn UK confident the high safety down as the chief adata, DBT- Institute of can vaccines HOW VIRUSES ARE CONTAINED IN LABS response’ shield against parameters. visor to the forum, Life Sciences in Bhu- variant India Jameel was critical While India has just but sources pointed baneswar, DBT-NCBS 4 of the government’s over a dozen such labs out that he had been in Bengaluru, DBT3 Covid policies. Most at present, most of critical of the CovCentre for DNA Fin2 recently, he had them are with academid-19 policies of the gerprinting and Diag1 written a piece in ic institutions for testgovernment. Jameel, n o s t i c s i n the New York Times, All you need to know on ing and research. Upformerly the CEO of Hyderabad. biosafety standards saying scientists in grading existing BSL-3 the Wellcome Trust It also includes NIV page 12 Cuba rolls out home-grown Unusual heart study sheds light on best aspirin dose India were facing labs to produce Covaxin DBT India Alliance and DBT National vaccines still in trial phase “stubborn response is a long term process, says a senior Bharat Bioand known for his Centre for Cell Scito evidence-based Calling its tech official. Sudhanshu Vrati, a virologist, told research on hepatience in Pune, Nationown shots policy making”. TNIE, “The government laboratories we have at tis E virus, conal Centre for Disease Space weather mystery solved present across India is only meant for research firmed to this newsControl in Delhi and 5 and are not designed for production. Even if a paper his decision, but refused the National Institute of Men2 pharmalakh to comment further. No re- tal Health and Neuro-Sciences 4 company starts work to set up a BSL-3 lab, it will take at least three to six months to do sponse was received to a request in Bengaluru. The forum has 3 doses so, after which it will require certification.” for comment from health secre- been marred by severe fund New “Even if webooster shots needed in 2022: Germangovernment does the assume that expert tary Rajesh Bhushan either. crunch since the beginning as a certification in a week’s time, vaccine production INSACOG was set up by the result of which the work it was and hitting the market will take more than 6 Centre less than five months tasked to do has progressed on months.” Eminent virologist Dr Jacob ago, mainly to detect genomic a much lesser speed than neighbours scramble to sequence genomes amid sharp increases in Covid cases John conIndia’s curred. He said even if the Centre ropes in addivariants of the SARS CoV 2 af- projected. tional labs to produce vaccines, it may take from three to six months for the vaccine to be produced.“By that time, the pandemic itself 28 PAGES, WITH would be over. We must have done this by October THE ESSENTIAL YOUR INCLUDING 16 OF THIS LIFE 2020, so that there was enough vaccine by JanuCOACH edex (TABLOID) ISSUE CAMPUS DIGEST ary this year,” Dr John said. Continued on: P8 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. MONDAY VELLORE newindianexpress com 17 05 2021 WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? FILE 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 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 B HIG H RIS K MIC RO 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 SL 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 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 RIS K MIC RO BE S BS A microorganism that is unlikely to cause human or animal disease L BS LO W 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”. BE S MEDICINE RISK GROUP BIOSAFETY LEVEL (BSL) 1 LABORATORY TYPE 2 No No 3 Yes Yes 4 Yes Yes No No No No No No No No No 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 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 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 4 2 RESEARCH MEDICINE BIOSAFETY LEVEL **Depending on agents ***Glass windows, closed circuit television, two-way communication BSL=BIOSAFETY LEVEL World is closely watching the only Latin American nation to develop own Covid vaccines, which could do much to ease global shortages 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 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 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. 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. 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. candidates — Abdala & Soberana 2 — have either completed Phase 3 trials or are soon to complete them people covered by the Phase 3 trials — an unusually large number 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 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.” 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. 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 VOLCANO TOURISTS People venture dangerously close to a lava eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland | AP 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 HUNTING VARIANTS 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 % of cases sequenced & shared through GISAID, a database of genomes India 0.05% Bangladesh 0.19% Sri Lanka Nepal 0.27% 0.005% Even as India reels under a massive surge of cases, its neighbours are experiencing their largest outbreaks yet Hope amid despair Infected by Covid, HIV+ve woman delivers girl In these times of gloom and despair, there was a moment of cheer at the City hospital in Berhampur, when a HIV positive woman battling Covid delivered a baby girl without any complications. What was more heartening for the doctors and staff was the newborn has tested Covid negative and in good health. The condition of both the mother and child is stable, said hospital authorities. The 35-year-old woman,a resident of Pattapur village in Ganjam district and mother of one, 11,732 12,077 19 the State are not only struggling to find beds in hospitals for treatment but also failing to ensure a proper funeral for their kin succumbing to Covid. Across the State, the crematoriums are overwhelmed with the sheer number of dead bodies. As per ground report, more than 2,000 bodies have been cremated at major cities and towns in the State between May 1 and 15. The Satya Nagar crematorium in Bhubaneswar is struggling to deal with dead bodies despite working round the clock. On an average, it is cremating 45 bodies a day, including 30 with all Covid pro- tocols. More than 650 bodies have been cremated at Satya Nagar so far this month, sources said. “We were cremating four to five bodies a day during January and February. Now the numbers have gone up beyond our capacity. The number of pyre bases has been increased to 14 from six last year. We have no rest as the pyres burn all the time. Sometimes people have to wait for hours to cremate the body,” a staffer at Satya Nagar crematorium said and added that he had never seen such an assembly line of bodies. Hospitals, both Covid and private, in Bhubaneswar recorded 138 deaths on May 15, 81 on May 14 and 72 on May 13. SUM and KIMS Covid hospitals have reported an average 15 deaths each a day. They seem to have vanished from the official death figures. At Satichaura in Cuttack in May, 560 bodies have been lit on pyre at an average of 40 bodies a day. As many as 420 bodies have been cremated in Sundargarh between April 14 and May 14. The number of bodies being cremated in Berhampur, Sambalpur, Balasore, Nuapada and Balangir is pegged at an average of 15, 12, 10, eight and six CONTINUED ON: P5 daily. Except Delhi, lockdown didn’t give quick results May 15 17,14,247 doses May 16 17,33,232 doses Total doses: 18,22,20,164 Jab-o-meter S i s i r Pa n i g r a h y @ Berhampur 11,805 10,781 21 MAY 16 developed labour pain a week back. She was brought to City Hospital by her family members and admitted to the gynaecology ward where her Covid test was conducted and she was found positive. “After being found Covid positive, she became extremely anxious. We kept her in isolation and staff nurses were constantly monitoring her vital parameters besides, counselling her to reduce her anxiety”, said a doctor of the City Hospital. She delivered a healthy baby girl weighing 2.6 kg through C-section on Saturday. Hospital authorities said Covid test on the newborn was conducted and she was found negative. A HIV test of the baby girl will be conducted after six weeks. While the baby is now under isolation, her mother was shifted to Covid ward of the City Hospital. She has been under treatment for HIV since 2014. Hospital authorities celebrated the safe delivery of the baby girl by cutting a cake. ral 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 inter-state. 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 20,000-25,000 range till May 2, it fell to just over 8,500 on May 14. Continued on: P7
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