Chinese Scientists Explored Weaponising Coronavirus, Claims New Report

Early theories of Coronavirus being a man-made biological weapon have resurfaced again in the light of recent reports, which claim that China had first discussed the idea in 2015. However, US, which is alleged to have found that report, is also being linked to it. Let’s look at what’s going on.

Crux of the Matter

Reports in Australia have claimed that a 2015 document was obtained by US State Department while investigating origin of Coronavirus.

What DidThe Paper Say
The paper, titled “The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons”, was reportedly written by scientist of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

As per the alleged paper, Chinese scientists labelled SARS coronavirus as new era of genetic weapons. The scientists also claimed that those viruses could be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human-disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.

The News
The news has come after WHO investigation claimed that it was ‘unlikely’ the virus was man-made. However, the investigation was widely called ‘incomplete’ as China gave ‘limited access‘ to investigators. It has also brought the Wuhan Institute of Virology to forefront again, as the institute is associated with controversial gain of function research.

Gain Of Function Research
The research is also done in other countries, most notably in US. Several reports claim that it was banned under Obama, only to be allowed again under Trump. Some reports also claim that US has backed China’s ‘gain of function’ studies.

For example, as per Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, New York’s EcoHealth Alliance had “funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology”.

Take a look at what is Gain of Function research here: Why Is Gain Of Function Research Making News Amidst The Pandemic?

  • Opened for signature on 10 April, 1972, Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is a disarmament treaty banning biological and toxin weapons. 183 States have ratified or acceded to the treaty as of May, 2021.

How DRDO Is Acting As India’s Defence Against Covid

How DRDO Is Acting As India's Defence Against Covid

DRDO, India’s premier organization for defence research, has a rich history of indigenous innovation in the field. However, amidst Covid pandemic, it has upped its innovations to help citizens against the disease. With its most recent innovation being the anti-Covid drug, let’s look at that and some other contributions.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Drug Approval
DGCI recently gave emergency approval to anti-Covid drug developed by DRDO. The drug was developed in collaboration with:

  • Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences of DRDO.
  • Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Hyderabad.

The drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) is to be taken orally after mixing in water.

[The drug] helps in faster recovery of hospitalised patients and reduces supplemental oxygen dependence. Higher proportion of patients treated with 2-DG showed RT-PCR negative conversion in COVID patients.

PIB release

Other DRDO Innovations To Fight Covid
The other innovations, initiatives and measures undertaken by the organisation to help the citizens fight the virus include:

COVSACK (COVID Sample Collection Kiosk)

  • Patient goes inside kiosk.
  • Sample taken from outside with shielding screen and built-in gloves.
  • Completely automatic disinfection.

DRUVS (Defence Research Ultraviolet Sanitiser)

  • Contactless cabinet as working on sensors.
  • 360 degree exposure to objects inside.
  • Useful for sanitising laptops, phones, papers, etc.

Medical Oxygen Plants (MOP)

  • Based on oxygen generation system used in fighter aircraft Tejas.
  • Capacity: 1,000 litres oxygen/minute.
  • Catering to 190 patients at a time.
  • 2 plants set up in Delhi – 500 more expected around the country.

Covid Hospitals

  • Most notably, DRDO has set up several Covid hospitals across country.
  • These beds have oxygen support, while some are kept with ventilators.

Some of the cities where the hospitals are present (along with number of beds) is as follows:

  • Ahmedabad: 900 beds.
  • Delhi: 500 beds.
  • Patna: 500 beds.
  • Lucknow: 500 beds.

Several more such hospitals around the country expected soon.

  • BrahMos is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world. DRDO along with Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya created the ‘BrahMos’ supersonic missiles.
  • Siachen Glacier is the world’s highest battlefield, controlled by the Indian army. It is at a height of 5400 metres above sea level.
  • The motto of DRDO is “Balasya Mulam Vigyanam”. It means “Strength’s Origin is in Knowledge”.

Vaccine Prince Adar Poonawalla Threatened For Vaccine

A Mumbai-based lawyer, Datta Mane has filed a petition in Bombay High Court seeking Z+ security cover for Adar, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures the Covishield vaccine. Let’s see how Adar is being threatened in terms of vaccine supply.

Crux of the Matter
  • Adar Poonawalla, head of Serum Institute of India which is making Covishield vaccine, has moved to London amidst threats to him in India.
  • In an interview with The Times (UK), Poonawalla claimed he is getting calls from several chief ministers, businessmen and other ‘powerful’ people of India.

  • Poonawalla has claimed that he will return to India in a few days. He is also expected to start vaccine production in UK as well.
  • A few days ago, Poonawalla was also given ‘Y’ status security cover by CRPF. The ‘Y’ category security includes 11 personnel, including 1 or 2 commandoes and police personnel.
  • Notable development came when Rahul Kanwal of India Today discussed threats to Poonawalla.

Have You Ever Been Nudged? Here’s An Explainer on Nudge Theory

Nudge Theory explainer

How many hike users here? You must be aware of how users could nudge each other on Hike. Well, nudging is much more than that. Its a theory popularized by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein through their book ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness”. But why is it gaining popularity during Covid times and why are administrations round the globe keen to adopt it to effectively communicate with people? Find out here now.

Crux of the Matter

What Is A Nudge?
Nudge in generic sense is a gentle touch or push. As described by one of the founding fathers of the nudge theory, Richard Thaler: “Nudge is any small feature in the environment that attracts our attention and eventually influences our behavior”.

Nudge theory is fundamentally rooted in the fact that, people make choices pretty quickly when under pressure. The decision is majorly guided by unconscious biases and hence lacks rationality. The idea is to enable people to make the right decision by limiting the biasness. That is when Thaler and Sunstein endorsed Choice Architecture.

What Is Choice Architecture?
It is different ways in which choices can be availed to the consumers such that they influence their decision.

A choice architect has the responsibility for organizing the context in which people make decision

Richard Thaler

Example: Decoy Effect
In restaurants, we see an item that is the most expensive one in the entire menu. Closer to that, the second most expensive will be placed. Now restaurants, do not expect us to order the most expensive one. However, humans tend to calculate relatively. Thus, they find the second most expensive item to be a good bargain and order it, essentially fulfilling what restaurants had wished for in the first place. This is known as Decoy Effect.

Nudge Features

  • They are subtle interventions that guide people’s choices.
  • The interventions should be simple and cheap to be called a nudge.
  • It is based on positive reinforcement rather than coercion.
  • Putting fruits/veggies on an eye level to induce its buying is a nudge, but restricting junk food is not.

Nudging As A Policy Instrument

  • Displaying cancer pictures on packets of tobacco and cigarettes.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission was able to impact behaviours of millions simply by highlighting the effects of poor sanitation and the subsequent deaths it caused.
  • ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ and the entire selfie with daughter campaign, in response to PM’s appeal to protect girl child.

Nudging During Covid
On March 22, a voluntary Janta Curfew was announced for 14 hours. Janta Curfew was a request without any coercion by authorities, giving citizens a sense of ownership to behave in the desired manner. Through his virtual appearances, PM Modi also nudged people to wear masks and follow social distancing norms just like governments across the globe are resorting to such minor pushes that do no feel like a compulsion or coercion.

  • The ability to mentally cope up with a crisis quickly is called psychological resilience. People with psychological resilience can return back to pre-crisis status fast.
  • Psychological phenomena that is associated with emerging technology is called Cyberpsychology. It is a portmanteau of the words cyberspace and psychology.
  • Formulated by Fathali M. Moghaddam, the staircase model gives a psychological explanation as to why a small minority in the society commits acts of terrorism. 

Covid Wave 2.0: What You Need To Know

Covid Wave 2.0: What You Need To Know

With ~3 lakh new Covid cases coming every day in wave 2 in India, let’s answer some of the questions many of you have regarding the second.

Crux of the Matter

The new strain is escaping the RT-PCR test, which is considered a gold standard test.

Many cases have come to fore, where a patient has symptoms of Covid-19 but get RT-PCR -ve report. So a CT-scan is used to confirm the infection.

Dr Sarman Singh, AIIMS Bhopal director

Covid-19 Wave 2 Symptoms

This time we have witnessed more cases of breathlessness while in the last wave, symptoms like dry cough, joint pain, headaches were more.

Dr Bhargava, ICMR Chief

After Getting The Shot, Can You Be Covid +ve?
Yes. As per CDC, after the first shot, you have  50% immunity. The 2nd shot gives 95% immunity. It then takes 1-2 weeks for maximum protection to kick in.
Even then you can contract Covid with less severity, i.e either you will be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

Number of people contracting Covid after getting vaccine in India are given below:

What Is The Primary Mode Of Transmission?
As per latest CDC findings, the principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. The risk of being infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites) is considered low.

Can The Virus Survive On Surfaces?
Researchers suggest a 99% reduction in infectious SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses can be expected under indoor environmental conditions within 3 days on common non-porous surfaces like stainless steel, plastic, and glass.

Misinformation On Twitter
medRxiv did a detailed analysis of COVID19 vaccine disinformation executed by tracing all postings of #AstraZeneca over “blood clot” time frame. The paper said misinformation was spread by powerful individuals, conspiracy websites, state-owned media outlets, as well through co-tweeting bot network. 

Negative News Coverage By US Media
As per a recent study, 87% of Covid coverage in national US media last year was negative. The share was 51% in international media, 53% in US regional media and 64% in scientific journals.

  • RT-PCR has risen to become the benchmark technology for the detection and/or comparison of RNA levels. Due to its simplicity, specificity and sensitivity, RT-PCR is used in a wide range of applications from experiments as simple as quantification of yeast cells in wine to more complex uses as diagnostic tools for detecting infectious agents. 
  • As of 21 April 2021, more than 143 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 3.04 million deaths attributed to COVID-19, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in history.
  • On 11 February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) named the disease “COVID-19”, which is short for coronavirus disease 2019.