COVID Test Kits: ICMR orders Millions, Chinese Kits Fail in Europe

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has estimated that India may require around 1 million Coronavirus test kits and has put a bid for the same. Recently, a Pune-based company Mylabs got approval for testing kits and is likely to bid for manufacturing testing kits at nearly one-fourth the rate.
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Coronavirus Update
In India, Coronavirus cases have crossed the 700-mark and the death toll is nearing 20 as on 27 March. The government has declared a shutdown to stem the spread of virus. But that may not be enough if proper Coronavirus testing is not carried out.

It is evident from USA’s current predicament, what harm lack of proper testing can do. It has more than 85,000 COVID-19 patients, surpassing the number of Coronavirus cases in China. The global count of Coronavirus cases is now more than half a million.

India Looks Inward for Solutions
To meet the demand of 1 million Coronavirus testing kits, Ahmedabad-based CoSara Diagnostics has become the only Indian company so far to receive the consent to manufacture test kits. Following suit, Pune-based microbiology lab Mylab got approval from Indian FDA-CDSCO for its indigenous COVID-19 testing kits that reduces testing time from 6 hours to 2.5hours. It has assured the government that it can produce 1 lakh testing kits per week and even increase production if needed.

ICMR has also said that it will begin conducting tests for antibodies. This is called Serological test. It looks for antibodies in a person’s blood. It tells the doctors if the patient had developed antibodies to Coronavirus.

Chinese Kits – A Noose for Countries
Till date, countries like Spain and the Czech Republic were using a faulty testing kit produced by China. Spain said that the test kits could only detect 30% of the cases correctly. Spain currently has more than 4,000 deaths, world’s second-highest.

Thus Indian authorities have decided the standards of the test kits to be equivalent to the criteria set by US Food and Drug Administration or the European regulator’s CE in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) certification. It can also be validated through a validation certificate issued by the National Institute of Virology in Pune.

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The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world. The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. ICMR’s 26 national institutes address themselves to research on specific health topics like tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera and diarrhoeal diseases, viral diseases including AIDS, malaria, kala-azar, vector control, nutrition, food & drug toxicology, reproduction, immuno-haematology, oncology, medical statistics, etc. The Indian Journal of Medical Research is published under the auspices of the council. More Info

Pandemic Profiteering 2020: About US Senators’ Insider Trading & Chaotic Coronavirus Market

The American nonprofit organization ProPublica and US tabloid Daily Beast have reported that members of Congress sold equities after receiving briefings on the Dow Jones (DJIA) stock market dangers of COVID-19, much before the Trump administration announced it publicly. Two Senators, Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler that came in the red limelight of insider trading, have conveniently denied the allegations.

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Public Servants by Day, Perpetrators by Night?
Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee downplayed the financial threat to the American citizens while he was hastily unloading between $628,000 and $1.72m of personal holdings. Next in the row, Senator Kelly Loeffler, wife of New York Stock Exchange’s chairman, sold a substantial amount of stock while buying shares in the teleworking company Citrix.

Public Servants’ ‘Insider Edge’
Insider trading/dealing occurs when someone who has a fiduciary duty to another person, or to an institution, corporation, partnership, firm, or entity, makes a trade of stock based on information that’s not available to the general public. This can directly lead to the former’s unfair gain and the latter’s unfortunate loss. Just like in the aforementioned cases wherein Members of Congress are legally barred from buying and selling based on the information they get in classified briefings.

This practice wasn’t considered illegal at the beginning of the 20th century and a Supreme Court ruling once referred to it as a “perk” of being an executive. A whistleblower, while in conversation with a popular US Daily, once claimed that members of Congress and higher-ups in government jobs were not only trading on inside information they gleaned from their regular assignments, but were also being fed tips from agencies like the Internal Revenue Service on corporate takeovers.

Nonetheless, after feeling the negative shift in public opinion regarding the decade-old deleveraging, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) became involved and the Securities Exchange Act was passed in 1934. Section 16 of this act requires that when an “insider“, defined as all officers, directors, and 10% owners, buys the corporation’s stock and sells it within six months, all of the profits must go to the company. Additionally, they ought to disclose the changes in the ownership of their positions, including all purchases and dispositions of shares. This aims to remove major trading activities when it’s impossible for insiders to personally gain from small moves.

STOCK v/s Private Moonlighting
The STOCK (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) Act is a law that was passed during the Obama era, in 2012 and it clearly states that members of Congress and other government employees are not allowed to engage in insider trading based on information they learn through their jobs. Even the President, the Vice President, executive branch employees and judges were included in this law, making it a far stricter enforcement from the previous two trading laws.

However in 2013, it did get rid of a provision that the financial disclosures required by the law be posted online on official websites. Burr, who had opposed the bill passed for STOCK, said in his defence to this ongoing pandemic stock market wrongdoings that he relied solely on public news reports. He tried to offer alternate explanations for choosing to make money at a time when he should have been offering Americans the truth.

Can They ever be Tamed? SEC to the Rescue?

Make blind trusts mandatory for Members of Congress to end Congressional Insider Trading once and for all.

– Peter Schweizer, author of Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite.

The first thing that pops in the mind now is that can these people be trusted to make laws neutrally, if they are financially invested in only the outcome of those laws? Is this simply an invitation for more corruption? After all, unethical behavior becomes especially more unacceptable in the midst of a deadly pandemic like COVID-19 that has infected more than 450,000 and killed more than 20,000 to date.

Can the eagle clear the current mess ?

SEC has officially announced the provision of conditional regulatory relief for certain publicly traded companies. The order, in an effort to address potential compliance issues, gives public companies an additional 45 days to file certain disclosure reports that would otherwise have been due between March 1 and April 30, 2020. Among other conditions, companies must provide a summary of why the relief is needed in their particular circumstances.

Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin, co-directors of the SEC’s division of enforcement, have urged public companies to be mindful of their disclosure controls and procedures, insider-trading prohibitions, codes of ethics and Regulation FD. This step has been rightfully taken to prevent improper dissemination and use of material non-public information.

Additionally, whistleblowers, including those who reside outside of the United States, can qualify for financial awards under the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower provisions. In case they qualify SEC’s confidential filing procedures, they can file potential fraud violations to the Commission anonymously via the TCR (“tip, complaint, and referral”) form. They are even eligible for a reward once the SEC issues sanctions based on the whistleblower’s information of $1 million or more. The office says it has paid over $300 million to the anonymous tippers in the past.

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Stock market refers to the collection of markets and exchanges where regular activities of buying, selling, and issuance of shares of publicly-held companies take place. Such financial activities are conducted through institutionalized formal exchanges or over-the-counter (OTC) marketplaces which operate under a defined set of regulations. There can be multiple stock trading venues in a country or a region which allow transactions in stocks and other forms of securities. The leading stock exchanges in the U.S. include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Nasdaq, and the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). These leading national exchanges, along with several other exchanges operating in the country, form the stock market of the U.S. More Info

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), is a stock market index that measures the stock performance of 30 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States. The value of the index is the sum of the price of one share of stock for each component company divided by a factor which changes whenever one of the component stocks has a stock split or stock dividend, so as to generate a consistent value for the index. Investing in the DJIA is possible via index funds as well as via derivatives such as option contracts and futures contracts. More Info

E-Commerce Players to Help Deliver Essentials in India

Delhi Police notified that e-commerce or online delivery services will be included in essential services. Those e-commerce operators who supply essentials like food, groceries, medicines and household necessities have been allowed in many parts of the country. They had halted their operations after PM Modi announced a 21-day lockdown to stem the spread of Coronavirus.
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Owing to the lockdown, E-commerce operators had halted their services. Figuring out safe passage was becoming hard for them. Amazon’s pantry page had announced that it was unable to deliver because of the local restrictions and they were in talks with the government authorities to allow them to deliver the essentials.

Medlife CEO Ananth Narayanan said that one of the company’s delivery person was hit by cops in Delhi. Flipkart, Amazon, Big Basket, etc. had announced that their services would be suspended temporarily during the lockdown. However, the government later notified that delivery operators of essential goods like groceries, food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, etc. will be allowed to operate.

We have been assured of the safe and smooth passage of our supply chain and delivery executives by local law enforcement authorities and are resuming our grocery and essentials services later today (Wednesday).

– Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Flipkart Group CEO

Industry experts also voiced their concerns over the proper classification of essentials across states. They also said that challenges in front of delivery operators are not less as the interstate movement of goods besides the local movement of delivery persons have been affected due to the lockdown.

In the National Capital Region and many parts of the country, online delivery operators like Flipkart, Amazon, Swiggy, Zomato, UrbanClap, Big Basket, Grofers, Reliance Fresh, Medlife, Pharmeasy, etc will be allowed to operate.

Curiopedia

E-Commerce in India – India has an internet user base of about 475 million as of July 2019, about 40% of the population. This number is expected to be 627 million by the end of 2019. Despite being the second-largest userbase in world, only behind China (650 million, 48% of population), the penetration of e-commerce is low compared to markets like the United States (266 million, 84%), or France (54 M, 81%), but is growing, adding around 6 million new entrants every month. The industry consensus is that growth is at an inflection point.

Foreign e-commerce is subject to regulations in India; under local law, foreign companies are to serve solely as marketplaces between vendors and their customers, and are forbidden from holding inventory in the country. Under new regulations effective 1 February 2019, foreign companies will be forbidden from selling any products from vendors that they control or have equity stakes in, and it is forbidden to enter into exclusivity deals between vendors and websites. This regulation is seen as a counter to Amazon and Walmart’s influence on the market, which have given smaller traders a disadvantage in the market. More Info

Largest Ration Subsidy During Corona Lockdown

While India has been put under lockdown for 21 days, the Central Government approved the food distribution subsidy scheme that will benefit 80 crore Indians, the largest ration subsidy scheme to date. FM Nirmala Sitharaman also announced a relief package of ₹1.7 lakh crores to help the underprivileged people of the country survive the Coronavirus pandemic.
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Largest Ration Subsidy
Amid the ongoing health crisis and lockdown across the whole nation due to COVID-19, Union Cabinet Minister Prakash Javadekar addressed a press conference and informed that the government has decided to reduce the price of Wheat from ₹27/kg to ₹2/kg and Rice from ₹32/kg to ₹3/kg under the subsidy scheme for next three months.

It is estimated that around 80 crore beneficiaries will be benefited by introducing a subsidy in the Public Distribution System (PDS). Each person will get 7 kg of food grains per month. Every state has been notified to collect grains from the Center in advance to distribute among the public, the minister said.

States Join the Effort
Meanwhile, different states have also declared relief packages to meet the specific regional and necessary demands of the public. The Delhi government has made shelters with food facilities to accommodate homeless people. CM Arvind Kejriwal also said that the Delhi government is in the process of introducing a relief package to provide free-ration and double pension to 72 lakh people whose jobs are affected by COVID-19 lockdown.

Punjab‘s CM Amarinder Singh has approved ₹20 crore relief packages for free food distribution and medical facilities in the state. In Haryana, families below the poverty line will get free ration from the state government from April, said CM Mahnor Lal Khattar. Kerala government has promised to provide every citizen of the state, irrespective of their economic condition, with a full supply of ration. Further, the state is also under process to build up fast track restaurants which will provide a meal at ₹20. The government of Tamil Nadu said that it will provide ₹1000 to all ration cardholders along with free rice, sugar and other essential commodities.

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Public Distribution System (PDS) – The central and state governments share the responsibility of regulating the PDS. While the central government is responsible for procurement, storage, transportation, and bulk allocation of food grains, state governments hold the responsibility for distributing the same to the consumers through the established network of fair price shops (FPSs). State governments are also responsible for operational responsibilities including allocation and identification of families below the poverty line, issue of ration cards, and supervision and monitoring the functioning of FPSs.

Under the PDS scheme, each family below the poverty line is eligible for 35 kg of rice or wheat every month, while a household above the poverty line is entitled to 15 kg of foodgrain on a monthly basis. A below poverty line card holder should be given 35 kg of food grain and the card holder above the poverty line should be given 15 kg of food grain as per the norms of PDS. However, there are concerns about the efficiency of the distribution process. A public distribution shop, also known as fair price shop (FPS), is a part of India’s public system established by the Government of India which distributes rations at a subsidized price to the poor. Locally these are known as ration shops and public distribution shops, and chiefly sell wheat, rice and sugar at a price lower than the market price called Issue Price. Other essential commodities may also be sold. To buy items one must have a ration card. These shops are operated throughout the country by joint assistance of central and state government. The items from these shops are much cheaper but are of average quality. Ration shops are now present in most localities, villages towns and cities. India has more than 5.5 lakh (0.55 million) shops, constituting the largest distribution network in the world. More Info

Indian COVID-19 Testing Kit Gets Approval

India will now be using indigenous COVID-19 detection testing kit after Mylab, a Pune-based molecular diagnostics company, developed a testing kit for Coronavirus and got approval from the India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
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Mylab Molecular Diagnostic Company developed a testing kit for Coronavirus in only 6 weeks. ‘Mylab PathoDetect Covid-19 Qualitative PCR kit’ will be a great help in India’s fight against coronavirus as it will reduce the screening and confirmation time for coronavirus symptoms from 6 hours to 2.5 hours.

Further, the Co-founder Mr. Shrikant Parole is quite confident to sell the test kit at one-fourth of the current COVID-19 testing price i.e. Rs. 4,500 per sample. According to the company, one test kit can be used to test around 100 people. If an average lab is equipped with automated PCR then 1000 tests could be completed in 1 day. The company will start producing 1 lakh kits per week, but if needed it will increase the production. Till now India was importing testing kits produced from Germany.

However, after Mylab gets confirmation from CDSCO, it will change the course of Indian’s fight against Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Test
Coronavirus is tested by a swab test in which a cotton ball passed through your throat or nose is taken to determine whether you have Coronavirus. Other tests like nasal aspirate, tracheal aspirate, sputum test, and blood test are also carried out.

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Laboratory Diagnosis of Viral Infections – In the diagnostic laboratory, virus infections can be confirmed by a multitude of methods. Diagnostic virology has changed rapidly due to the advent of molecular techniques and increased clinical sensitivity of serological assays. A wide variety of samples can be used for virological testing. The type of sample sent to the laboratory often depends on the type of viral infection being diagnosed and the test required. Proper sampling technique is essential to avoid potential pre-analytical errors. Viruses are often isolated from the initial patient sample. This allows the virus sample to be grown into larger quantities and allows a larger number of tests to be run on them. This is particularly important for samples that contain new or rare viruses for which diagnostic tests are not yet developed. Molecular techniques are the most specific and sensitive diagnostic tests. They are capable of detecting either the whole viral genome or parts of the viral genome. In the past nucleic acid tests have mainly been used as a secondary test to confirm positive serological results. However, as they become cheaper and more automated, they are increasingly becoming the primary tool for diagnostics. More Info