New Strain Of Covid-19, Good News For Us?

New Strain In Covid-19, Good News For Us?

Reports of a new strain of Covid-19 D614G emerging in Asia, Europe & North America are circulating, creating a new wave of panic. We will tell you why it just might be good for us, what is a new vulnerability discovered and what are the overall long lasting symptoms.

Crux of the Matter

New Strain In Malaysia?
A new strain of the SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus, has been found in Malaysia. The D614G mutation is 10x more infectious than Covid-19. The same strain was also detected in Philippines, Europe & North America.

It reportedly started after a restaurant owner returned from India and violated his 14-day home quarantine. As of now, the man has been sent to prison for five months and fined.

Less Fatal, More Infectious?
Paul Tambyah of the International Society of Infectious Diseases and NUS, Singapore said evidence points out that the emergence of D614G mutation has coincided with a drop in death rates.

Most viruses tend to become less virulent/harmful as they mutate. Since a virus depends on the host for food and for shelter, it is in the virus’s interest to infect more people but not to kill them. This makes them more infectious but less fatal than the original virus strain.

What Does WHO Have To Say?
The WHO confirms that there is no evidence the mutation has led to more severe disease. Their analysis in Asia-Pacific adds that the COVID-19 spread is being intensified by younger people in age group 20-30.

According to a virtual briefing by WHO’s Western-Pacific regional director Takeshi Kasai, many have mild or no Covid-19 symptoms but they risk infecting the elderly and other vulnerable population.

New Vulnerability Found?
A new vulnerability has also been discovered in the spike protein of the novel coronavirus, which enables the virus to enter and infect the host cells of the body.

This study published in the journal ACS Nano, uses simulations of this protein at microscopic scales, and finds out about a polybasic cleavage site.

What’s A Polybasic Cleavage Site?

  • It is a positively charged site located 10 nm from the actual binding site on the spike protein. This site allows strong bonding between SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein and the negatively charged human-cell receptors.
  • Thus they designed a negatively charged molecule to bind to the positively charged cleavage site and confirmed that blocking this site, prohibits the virus from bonding to the host cell.
  • Scientists plan to work with chemists and pharmacologists to design a new drug that could do the same in real-time.

Long Lasting COVID-19 Symptoms Found?
There’s an increasing no. of people globally who have been declared Covid-19 free, only to find persistent symptoms lasting weeks or months later on.

A new survey of 1,567 such ‘long-haulers’ shows how wide-ranging these symptoms are. The results grew out of a Facebook page called Survivor Corps, devoted to educating Covid-19 long-haulers and connecting them to the research communities.

As per epidemiologist and Covid survivor Margot Gage Witvliet, their problems are real and are being ignored by the medical fraternity and dismissed as psychological issues.

  • In biology, saltation is a sudden and large mutational change from one generation to the next. This was historically offered as an alternative to Darwinism.
  • Natural selection is a key mechanism of evolution which differentiates survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. Charles Darwin popularised the term “natural selection”.
  • On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. The book presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution.

India’s Air Bubbles In Times Of Covid-19

India's Air Bubbles In Times Of Covid-19

India recently signed an ‘air bubble’ deal with Maldives, making it the 6th such agreement of air bubbles of the former amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, where some relief to the economy and passengers is being provided.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Declaration
India and Maldives signed an “air bubble agreement” on 13th August, 2020, with the first flight to Maldives leaving from India on 18th August.

India has signed air bubble agreement with these 6 countries so far:

  • France
  • Germany
  • The US
  • The UK
  • Kuwait
  • Maldives

What Is An Air Bubble?
The air bubble deal allows passengers to travel between the two countries without having to go under quarantine on arrival. The testing of passengers on arriving is also discarded. The deal is reciprocal in nature, meaning that both the countries should have the same measures for the visitors.

Some experts have cited the deals as unnecessary, as several countries have under-reported the Covid-19 cases. However, the upside of such deals is that they provide a boost to the economy, which is especially beneficial for the developing nations.

Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have created an air bubble between themselves, but have no air bubble for outsider nations.

Aid To Maldives
On 13th August, India also announced a $500 million package for the Maldives, making India’s total financial aid to the Maldives cross $2 billion. The latest package is divided into a Line of Credit of $400 million and a direct grant of $100 million. The aim of the funds is to aid the Greater Male Connectivity Project, which is a project connecting the capital Male to Villingili, Thilafushi, and Gulhifalhu islands.

Resurgence In Relationship
India and Maldives have seen a resurgence in their relationship since the election of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in 2018. Maldives defended India against the accusations of Islamophobia by Pakistan at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has also labelled the Kashmir issue as an “internal matter” of India while snubbing Pakistan’s request to condemn India.

  • The 2011–2012 Maldives political crisis began as a series of peaceful protests that broke out in the Maldives. The protests continued and eventually escalated, forcing the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in disputed circumstances in February 2012.
  • Mumbai-Juhu Airport is used by small General Aviation aircraft and helicopters. It was founded in 1928 as India’s first civil aviation airport. In 1932, JRD Tata landed at the Juhu aerodrome, inaugurating India’s first scheduled commercial mail service.
  • The Airports Authority of India is a statutory body working under the Ministry of Civil Aviation. It provides Communication Navigation Surveillance / Air Traffic Management services over Indian airspace and the adjoining oceanic areas.

New Zealand: 100 Days Without Covid-19

New Zealand: 100 Days Without Covid

After New Zealand recorded no locally transmitted Covid-19 case since the last 100 days, let us take a look at its unorthodox leader Jacinda Ardern and her response to the pandemic, along with a glance at the history of reforms done by her.

Crux of the Matter

On 9 August 2020, New Zealand completed 100 days without recording a Covid-19 case transmitted locally, with the last case due to a community spread being reported on 1 May. 9 August was also the fourth consecutive day with no new Covid-19 cases reported in the country.

1,569 cases of Covid-19 and 22 deaths due to the virus have been recorded since the outbreak, with the country having only 21 active cases as of 9 August.

Similar Cases
Taiwan had reported in July that no local case of Covid-19 had emerged in more than 66 days. Vietnam had completed 99 days without any cases due to community transmission until July. The situation turned out for the worse as Vietnam’s Da Nang city became the epicentre of the disease by the end of the month.

How Did They Do It?
In her statement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that her strategy regarding the Covid-19 pandemic was to “go hard, and go early”. Her statement matched her actions as a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 23, which was strict even by the international rules.

The lockdown rules were clearly communicated to the people, with the citizens also being reminded of their responsibilities. The Government did send texts to all citizens saying “This is a message for all of New Zealand. We are depending on you.”

As part of the strategy, New Zealand did intensive testing to find and quarantine the patients as early as possible, with a rate of 99,280 tests per million people. In contrast, the rates of testing per million in countries like France, Netherlands, and India stand at 65,548, 63,006, and 17,795 respectively.

The lockdown was officially lifted on 8 June, after 40,000 tests done in the previous 17 days gave 0 positive cases. Notably, New Zealand did not mandate the use of masks as protection against Covid-19.

Finally, the country was also helped by a low population density and a low population. With a population of only 4.8 million, the density of the country stands at 18 people per square kilometre of area.

On Jacinda Ardern’s Reforms
Jacinda Ardern, belonging to the Labour party of New Zealand, became the Prime Minister in 2017. She is the third female PM of the country and is the youngest leader of New Zealand in the last 150 years. In 2008 she was elected as the youngest Member of Parliament. She was also the youngest female leader of the world until 2019, when she was replaced by Sanna Marin who became the PM of Finland at the age of 34. Ardern also worked for more than 2 years in the office of Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister of Britain.

Notable Reforms

  • 2018: Started the Families Package in the country, which provides tax credits to low-income families with children. The package also provided $60 per week to the families having a child born on or after 1 July 2018, with the family receiving the weekly amount until the child turns 1. The scheme also extended parental leave.
  • 2019: After more than 50 people were killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings, Ardern announced stricter gun control laws and banned the sale of most of the semiautomatic weapons in the country.
  • June 2020: Started the provision of free sanitary products to girls in schools.
  • 2020: Praised for her response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As of 9 August, 100 days have passed since a locally transmitted case was detected.

  • Abel Tasman was a Dutch seafarer, explorer, and merchant. He was the first known European explorer to reach the island of New Zealand. Tasman Glacier, the largest glacier in New Zealand is named after him.
  • Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island. It is the world’s southernmost capital of a sovereign state.
  • The Taiwan Miracle refers to the rapid industrialization and economic growth of Taiwan during the latter half of the twentieth century. As it developed alongside Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong, Taiwan became known as one of the “Four Asian Tigers”.

On SII & Its Big Gamble On Covid Vaccine

On SII & Its Big Gamble On Covid Vaccine

The Serum Institute of India (SII) announced mass production of Covid-19 vaccine even before its clearance, taking a chance to ensure speedy delivery of vaccines if they clear the tests. Let us take a look at the history of the firm, with several achievements already in its collection.

Crux of the Matter

Serum Against Covid
The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) recently cleared the Serum Institute of India (SII) to conduct Phase II and III trials of Covid-19 vaccine in India, after successfully clearing the Phase-I. The vaccine is named ‘AZD1222’, and is being developed by the Oxford University in tie up with the British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca.

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had announced to start production as soon as the Phase-I was cleared, and the institute has initiated the production after the recent clearing of Phase-I. The aim to make the vaccine available on a large-scale in a short time is cited as the reason for starting the production before the clearance, and the vaccines would be available to public only after the clearance of all requisite tests.

Poonawalla recently declared that he would be spending $450 million on the mass production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Serum Testing
Mylabs Discovery Solution and the SII recently launched Covid-19 testing kits that can conduct 32 tests/hr.

History Of The Serum Institute Of India

  • The Serum Institute of India (SII) is the largest vaccine producer in the world, producing over 1.5 billion vaccine doses per year against diseases like Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis-B, etc.
  • The company was founded in 1966 by Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, who started with a fund of $12,000 to “diversify” his income from ‘horse-breeding’. The Poonawalla family owns the largest stud farm in India.
  • Currently, Dr. Cyrus is the 165th richest man in the world with a worth of $11.8 billion, and was ranked 19th in the list of the richest Indians (2019).
  • The company started with the production of ‘Tetanus Antitoxin’ in 1967.
  • The SII recorded a revenue of $840 million as of November 2019.
  • The Poonawallahs invested $4.1 billion to open the Poonawalla Biotech Park in Majari, Pune, which is the largest vaccine facility in the world.

Vaccine Empire

  • 65% of children worldwide are estimated to receive at least one vaccine dose produced by the SII.
  • 2010: The SII launched the Nasovac nasal vaccine for H1N1 (Swine flu) virus, which is a single dose vaccine to be sniffed once in each nostril.
  • 2012: The SII acquired Bilthoven Biologicals of Netherlands, and obtained technology to make the IPV (Injectable Polio Vaccine, Salk) which was possessed by only 3 other vaccine producers earlier.
  • November 2014: Serum signed a deal with Cipla to market its paediatric vaccines across the world.
  • May 2015: Cipla agreed to market the influenza drug made by Serum across India.
  • 2017: The SII launched Rabishield (Rapid action drugs against Rabies) in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
  • July 2020: The SII developed the first Indian vaccine against pneumonia, named the “Pneumosil” or ‘Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Conjugate Vaccine (PPSV23)’.
    The firm is expected to produce 100 million doses per year, with 40-50 million doses being reserved for Indians.
  • SII has received approbation for its low cost of vaccines, with doses of several of Serum’s vaccines costing as low as ₹5 per dose.

  • Dr. Cyrus S. Poonawalla is an Indian Parsi businessman, also known as the “vaccine king of India”. Hurun Global Rich List – 2019 listed Dr. Poonawalla as the 4th richest person in India and 100th in the world with a net worth of $13 billion.
  • Adar Poonawalla is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Serum Institute of India. He initiated and launched in 2014 Serum Institute’s oral polio vaccine, which became a bestseller for the company. In 2017, Modi nominated Adar Poonawalla as brand ambassador for Swachh Bharat.
  • Serum is the fluid and solute component of blood which does not play a role in clotting. The study of serum is serology. Serum is used in numerous diagnostic tests as well as blood typing.

A Look At India’s Cinema Business

A Look At India's Cinema Business

The government has announced Unlock 3.0 and plans to open gyms and yoga centres, but cinemas have not been given a green signal. On the other hand, prominent cinema chains in India released Standard Operating Procedures regarding what kind of movie experience the audience can expect in the time of Covid-19. Let’s have a look at the business of cinema and how it has been affected by Coronavirus.

Crux of the Matter

Cinemas To Not Open In Unlock 3.0
The government has decided to open gyms and yoga centres, however, educational institutes and cinemas have not been given permission to open yet. It is expected that respective state governments will take the final call whether to open cinema houses once the Centre gives a nod. Producers and directors such as Anurag Basu, Sudhir Mishra, and others have said that theaters shouldn’t be open till the vaccine is found, whereas R Balki, Anubhav Sinha, and others have said that theaters should be opened with precautionary measures.

Propose Operating Producer
Cinema chains have proposed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for running theatres with precautionary measures. Theaters will screen movies with only 25-30% audience in the hall. Moreover, Arogya Setu would be mandatory for entering the theatre’s premises. Customer screening will be done and those having temperature of 100° F or more and/or with any symptoms of cold or fever will not be given entry.

The floor will be marked with spots 1 meter apart and sanitizers will be made available throughout the theatre. There will be a gap of one seat between viewers and interval timing will be extended to avoid crowding. Ultraviolet cabinets will be used to disinfect food servings. In addition to these precautions, the air-conditioning system will be revamped to pump fresh air into the theater.

How Do Cinema Houses Earn?
A Producer funds money for all expenses needed to make a movie including actors fee, promotion, and advertisement cost, etc. After the completion of the movie, produce sells the rights of the movie to the Distributors. Currently, there are 14 circuits in India and each circuit has its own “distributor representative”. These distributors sign agreements with theater owners. After signing the agreement theaters pay distributors on a weekly basis as per the agreement after deducting Entertainment Tax (different states have different entertainment tax). Once the distributor has received the sum, it disburses the share of theatre.

On average Entertainment Tax is around 30%. For multiplexes, the standard structure is this: the distributor gets 50% of what theatres earn in 1st week, then 42% of what is earned in 2nd week, then 37% of what is earned in 3rd week and then 30% fixed of what is earned from 4th week.

Emerging OTT Platforms A Threat?
OTT platforms are now bringing changes to the entertainment sector. Currently, there are 40 OTT platforms operating in India. The Indian film industry has suffered an estimated loss of ₹30 billion and the global industry has suffered ~₹750 bn loss due to lockdown. Time spent by the Indian OTT user base has increased from 20 minutes to 50 minutes per day during the lockdown. Theatres may become a luxury experience and experts say that the film industry can only thrive by integrating with new technology.

  • PVR Cinemas stands for Priya Village Roadshow. It’s a joint venture agreement between India’s Priya Exhibitors Private Limited and Australia’s Village Roadshow Limited.
  • Maratha Mandir is a cinema hall located in Maratha Mandir Marg, Mumbai. This cinema hall has a long-standing reputation and is one of the most famous landmarks in Mumbai. The theatre created a record after screening the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge for 1009 weeks since its release in 1995, on 19 February 2015.
  • A drive-in theater or drive-in cinema is a form of cinema structure consisting of a large outdoor movie screen, a projection booth, a concession stand, and a large parking area for automobiles. Theatre de Guadalupe from Mexico was one of the first drive-in theatres.