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Government Initiatives and Preparedness for Corona Virus - All India Radio (AIR) IAS UPSC
Published on Feb. 14, 2020, 6:27 p.m.

Government Initiatives and Preparedness for Corona Virus

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TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Government’s response to global emergency
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Corona Virus 

Global death toll rises to 427 as confirmed cases reach more than 20,000 in mainland China

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV) are a "large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

  • There is no specific medicine for treating and preventing coronavirus till now. The WHO is currently studying cures and is working with partners for better research and development.
  • To protect yourself from coronavirus, it is important to wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after contacting pets. Doing this can offer protection from bacteria like E.coli and salmonella.

The strains of Coronavirus

Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s, belonging to the family of viruses called coronaviridae. They consist of a single-strand of the largest ribonucleic acid (RNA) — a macromolecule that converts the genetic information encoded by DNA into proteins — among viruses. Each virus has spike-like structures called peplomers. Under a microscope, this makes the virus resemble sketches of the sun.

  • The name coronavirus is derived from this reference to the gas-like plasma visible around the sun during solar eclipses.
  • The newly discovered strain is designated as 2019-nCoV and commonly referred to with the placeholder term ‘novel strain’. Before the new strain was identified, there were six other coronavirus strains — including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
  • Among humans, three other strains of coronavirus continuously circulate and cause pneumonia, bronchitis, respiratory tract infections, and even common cold.
  • Coronaviruses are zoonotic — they get transmitted from humans to animals and vice versa. SARS and MERS, for example, were transmitted from horseshoe bats to humans through an intermediary animal — civet cats and dromedary camels, respectively.
  • These viruses are transmitted when they enter a cell and deposit the RNA genome into the cell’s fluid, called cytoplasm, which holds all the cell material. In here, a protein called ‘replicase’ enables the RNA to replicate itself, all within the respiratory tract, and spread through the body.

What sets the new strain apart is its ability to spread even during the incubation period before the appearance of any symptoms. This immediately increases its risk of spreading, making it much harder to contain. When symptoms do appear, they include dry cough, fever, and breathing difficulties, but this could quickly escalate to a fatal condition.

Kerala declares emergency: An emergency has been declared in the southern state of Kerala after it was confirmed that a third person had contracted China's deadly coronavirus.

Steps taken so far

  • The Indian government has suspended online visa facility for China. This was after the second case was confirmed in (Kerala) India.
  • A second special Air India flight brought 323 Indians from Wuhan. The evacuated people have been quarantined at a special army facility in Manesar near Delhi.
  • So far, 20,000 people from 115 flights at 7 international airports have been screened.
  • According to the health ministry, the National Institute of Virology is fully equipped to test the virus.
  • The government has set up a 24x7 helpline (+91-11-23978046) to attend to public queries on the virus strain which has killed 41 people and infected more than 1,300 people in China so far and is reported to be spreading to several other countries.
  • 11 people, who returned to India from China in recent days, have been put under observation in Kerala, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad for possible exposure to the virus.
  • Held a meeting with medical device manufacturers to check the availability of personal protective equipment including masks and gloves in India
  • Exports of all varieties of personal protection equipment, including clothing and masks used to protect the wearer from air-borne particles, and/or any other respiratory masks or any other personal protective clothing has been prohibited. India does not manufacture examination gloves because of low value and is dependent on imports for the same.

China’s coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for India to ensure epidemic preparedness:

  • To prevent nCoV from reaching its shores or, at least, contain it there if it does, India needs to make sure its entry points—airports and ports—are fortified with screening, and quarantining facilities. 
  • Heat scanners that can detect fever, a symptom of infection, at airports are a great start, but the first-line of medical intervention needs to be beefed up.
  • Apart from making sure diagnostics and treatment facilities are bolstered, fighting or preventing an epidemic will require significant public awareness, on methods of transmission, handling of patients and everything in between.
  • The frontline of the fight against communicable diseases is vaccination, and India must engage with vaccine research in a concentrated manner, more so since every warning of the climate change ramifications for India talk of a spurt in tropical, communicable diseases.

Do You Know?

  • SARS (Severe Acute respiratory Syndrome), another coronavirus that originated in China, came from bats and the civet cat, which in turn passed it on to humans.
  • The early cases of this new infection were traced to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market. It thus emerged in China in 2002 and spread to 30 countries with 8400+ cases and nearly 800 deaths
  • Study on bats and bat hunters in Nagaland: The government has ordered an inquiry into a study conducted in Nagaland by researchers from the U.S., China and India on bats and humans carrying antibodies to deadly viruses like Ebola. Filoviruses are a family of non-segmented negative-stranded RNA viruses, with Marburg virus and Ebola virus constituting two different species.
  • e-Visa: The India e-Visa is an electronic authorization to travel to India for business, tourism, or medical visits. When applying for an e-Visa, it is not necessary to submit your passport or other personal documents to the consulate. The e-Visa approval will be issued in advance electronically before your departure to India. At the immigration checkpoint the actual visa will be placed inside your passport.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Elaborate: “When there is an unknown, people try to fill in the void.”