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Covid-19 Cases Cross 60 Lakh-Mark In India

NEW DELHI, Sept 27: More than 85,000 new Covid cases were reported across India in the past 24 hours, government data showed on Sunday, taking the total number of coronavirus cases in the country past the 60 lakh-mark.

Over 1,000 deaths were also recorded in the past 24 hours, pushing the total number of deaths recorded since the pandemic began past 94,000.

The number of recoveries reported in the past 24 hours is around 92,000, taking the total number of people who have fought off the virus past 49 lakh.

Around 13.4 lakh Covid tests were also conducted in the past 24 hours. India is the second worst-affected country by the Covid pandemic, second only to the United States in the total number of active cases.

Two million virus deaths ‘likely’ without collective action: WHO

GENEVA, Sept 26: Two million Covid-19 fatalities are “very likely” without relentless global action to combat the disease, the World Health Organization said Friday.

As the one million death toll looms in a pandemic that has surged around the planet, the WHO said the prospect of another million deaths was not unimaginable, if countries and individuals do not come together to tackle the crisis.

“One million is a terrible number and we need to reflect on that before we start considering a second million,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual news conference, when asked if it was unthinkable that two million people could die in the pandemic.

But he added: “Are we prepared collectively to do what it takes to avoid that number?

“If we don’t take those actions... yes, we will be looking at that number and sadly much higher.

“Unless we do it all, the numbers you speak about are not only imaginable but unfortunately, and sadly, very likely.”

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 984,068 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Friday.

Nearly 32.3 million cases of the virus have been registered.

Ryan reflected on the challenges ahead in funding, producing and distributing any eventual vaccines against Covid-19.

“If we look at losing a million people in nine months and then we just look at the realities of getting a vaccine out there in the next nine months, it’s a big task for for everyone involved,” he said.

Coronavirus created in a govt lab in Wuhan, says whistleblower Chinese virologist

NEW YORK, Sept 14: Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic, but the world is yet to trace the origin of the virus which has hijacked everything imaginable. Experts have mainly speculated that it may have have originated from a wet-food market in Wuhan, China.

A new twist in the origins of virus story has left people shocked. A Chinese virologist, Dr Li-Meng Yan, has claimed that the novel coronavirus was made in a government controlled laboratory in Wuhan.

The virologist, who became the whistleblower against the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, claims that she has proof that the virus came from a virology lab in the city and not from the wet-food market.

On Friday, she participated in an interview on British talk show “Loose Women" from a secret location in the USA and talked about her research on the coronavirus disease.

She claims that she was tasked with looking into a cluster of Sars-like cases coming out of mainland China in December 2019. The top scientist working in Hong Kong claimed that she discovered a cover-up operation during her investigation and said that the Chinese government knew about the spread of the virus before publicly acknowledging it.

"I will show evidence to tell people why this has come from the lab in China, why they are the ones who made it," she adds. "Anyone, even if you have no biology knowledge, will be able to read it, and check and identify and verify it yourself."

She adds that the Chinese authorities began to discredit her even before she fled the country for the USA. "They deleted all my information and also they told people to spread rumours about me," she said.

India may see 7 million Covid-19 cases by October, says study

HYDERABAD, Sept 13: India may witness over seven million Covid-19 cases by the first week of October, surpassing the US and emerging as the country with highest number of infections, a team of researchers from BITS Pilani, Hyderabad said on Friday.

The Union health ministry data on Friday said the number of coronavirus cases in India breached the 45 lakh mark while a data released by a national public health institute in the US said the number of infections in the North American country crossed six million as of September 8.

The team has been engaged in forecasting Covid-19 pandemic in India using advanced statistical learning techniques, lead researcher Dr TSL Radhika of the Department of Applied Mathematics, BITS Pilani, Hyderabad Campus said.

The team has recently communicated its findings to the ‘International Journal of Infectious Diseases’ published by the well known publisher Elsevier.

“Our results, obtained using a model based on statistical learning techniques applied to the existing data, indicate that India is likely to become the top COVID-19 country in the world, surpassing the United States by about the first week of October, that is in about a month’s time.

The total number of cases is also likely to cross the 70 -lakh mark by this time.

The figure however is contingent on the number of tests being carried out,” said Dr Radhika.

The researchers are now working on refining their model based on advanced machine learning techniques to make predictions for the longer term, the researcher added.

Oxford, AstraZeneca resume coronavirus vaccine trial

LONDON, Sept 12: Oxford University — one of the leading Covid-19 vaccine developers in the global race — resumed its trial for testing the drug it is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on Saturday. The resumption in proving the drug’s efficacy comes two days after it had to stop the trial after a UK volunteer reportedly fell ill.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the restart, saying in a tweet that it was “good news for everyone” that the trial is “back up and running.”

The pausing of trial triggered concerns across the globe as several countries have pinned their hopes to defeat the pandemic by developing vaccines which can prove to be a cure for the outbreak which has infected 28,551,911 people and claimed 916,715 lives so far, according to John Hopkins university.

Why it matters?

The vaccine being developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca is widely perceived to be one of the strongest contenders among the dozens of coronavirus vaccines in various stages of testing around the world. It is also one of the nine candidates around the world currently in late-stage Phase 3 human trials.

Additionally experts believe Oxford prioritised safety protocol by pausing the trial in case of reported side-effects, showcasing responsible decision-making in such critical times.

Dr. Charlotte Summers, a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge, said the pause was a sign that the Oxford team was putting safety issues first, but that it led to “much unhelpful speculation.”

“To tackle the global Covid-19 pandemic, we need to develop vaccines and therapies that people feel comfortable using, therefore it is vital to maintain public trust that we stick to the evidence and do not draw conclusions before information is available,” Summers was quoted as saying by news agency Associated Press.

Is a pause in developing vaccines normal?

Pauses in drug trials are commonplace and indicate careful progression by assessing possible side-effects of a drug-in-making. Global organization WHO and scientists have asked to keep expectations to a minimum, stating that vaccine trials are rarely straightforward and can take a tediously long time to be developed.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca study had been previously stopped in July for several days after a participant developed neurological symptoms that turned out to be an undiagnosed case of multiple sclerosis that researchers said was unrelated to the vaccine.

In case of this trial, the university maintains that in large trials such as this “it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.”

How many people are included in testing this Covid-19 vaccine?

Globally some 18,000 people have received its vaccine so far in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. Around 30,000 volunteers are being recruited in the US.

By when is Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine expected?

After the pause, AstraZeneca had said it remained hopeful that the vaccine could still be available “by the end of this year, early next year”.

With highest single-day spike of 95,735 cases, India's Covid-19 tally crosses 44-lakh mark

NEW DELHI, Sept 10: With the highest single day spike of 95,735 new cases and 1,172 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, India's Covid-19 tally crossed the 44-lakh mark on Thursday, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

"The total number of coronavirus cases stand 44,65,864 including 9,19,018 active cases, 34,71,784 cured/recovered/migrated and 75,062 deaths," said the Health Ministry.

Maharashtra continues to be the worst affected state. The state has reported 23,816 new cases on Wednesday, taking the total number of Covid-19 cases to 9,67,349. There are 2,52,734 active cases, 6,86,462 recoveries and 27,787 fatalities, as per the State Health Department.

In Andhra Pradesh, the cumulative count of coronavirus cases stands at 5,27,512 with 97,271 active cases, 4,25,607 recoveries and 4,634 fatalities. While Delhi recorded the highest single-day spike of 4,039 Covid-19 cases, taking the total number of infected individuals in the national capital to 2,01,174 on Wednesday.

AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial paused after unexplained illness

LONDON, Sept 9: AstraZeneca Plc stopped giving shots of its experimental coronavirus vaccine after a person participating in one of the company’s studies got sick, a potential adverse reaction that could delay or derail efforts to speed an immunization against Covid-19 for the world.

The pause stemmed from a standard review of the company’s vaccine trials after one person developed an unexplained illness, AstraZeneca said in a statement. The move was intended to give researchers time to examine safety data while maintaining the integrity of the trials, the company said.

The vaccine, which AstraZeneca is developing with researchers from the University of Oxford, has been viewed as one of the leading candidates to reach the market. The decision to tap the brakes jolted investors, sending AstraZeneca’s US-traded shares down sharply, while boosting the stocks of some rivals developing different potential Covid-19 shots.

“This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials,” AstraZeneca spokeswoman Michele Meixell said in a statement. She said the company is working to expedite its review of the incident.

The development has the potential to disrupt one of the most closely watched scientific sprints in history. Companies have been working to find a vaccine in hopes of blunting a pandemic that has sickened more than 27 million people and killed over 894,000 worldwide.

Health officials in the U.S. and President Donald Trump have repeatedly said that it’s possible to have an immunization before the end of the year, and potentially as early as next month.

The top U.S. official in charge of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s program to support the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics, said experts monitoring the trials in the U.K. paused the late-stage trial in coordination with their U.S. counterparts.

Moncef Slaoui, the head of the Warp Speed initiative, said in a statement that Data Safety Monitoring Boards in the U.S. and U.K. are “conducting an in-depth review of the company’s vaccine candidate which is standard procedure when an adverse event occurs.”

A Data Safety Monitoring Board is a panel of outside experts that watches for potential harm from experimental drugs and vaccines during clinical trials. The bar to pause a vaccine trial is generally low since participants are healthy and may never need the immunization they have volunteered to receive.

The members of the monitoring board have unparalleled insight into clinical studies. Unlike doctors and researchers, they are told whether those participating received the vaccine or a placebo, and they are given regular updates on how each group is faring.

Oxford University’s Jenner Institute didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The setback comes as a group of international scientists raised questions over a fast-moving vaccine from Russia, saying some results of a study appeared improbable.

Some scientists downplayed the significance of the halt. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and clinical-trials expert at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, said such pauses in large studies are “not uncommon at all.” There is a high likelihood the adverse event will turn out not to be related to the vaccine, he said in an email.

“It’s a safety precaution,” he said.

Paul Offit, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the AstraZeneca shot involves giving large doses of a monkey adenovirus engineered so it can’t replicate. It is therefore important for researchers to investigate whether the adverse event wasn’t somehow being triggered by a reaction to that large viral dose, he said.

“When you have that kind of viral load, you can have side effects,” said Offit. The question is whether the adverse event could somehow be related to the large number of viral particles being given, or whether it is just a coincidence. If after investigating, the monitoring board is comfortable there are reasons unrelated to the vaccine to explain the adverse event, the trial will be able to continue, he said.

The U.S. and other governments have invested billions of dollars to develop a shot at an accelerated pace, and more than two dozen vaccines are now being tested in volunteers less than a year after the virus was first discovered. Eleven candidates are in late-stage trials.

The setback comes as a group of international scientists raised questions over a fast-moving vaccine from Russia, saying some results of a study appeared improbable. The two incidents highlight the difficulty in getting an effective vaccine to the public quickly as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads unabated.

Politics have also complicated the pursuit of a vaccine. Amid concerns about the Trump administration politicizing the rollout of a vaccine before the elections, frontrunners in the race for a Covid-19 vaccine pledged to avoid shortcuts on science as they face pressure to rush a shot to market.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that it’s “unlikely” a Covid-19 vaccine will be available to the public by Nov. 3.

In late trading in New York, AstraZeneca shares fell as much as 8.3%, while Moderna Inc. and BioNTech SE saw their shares rise. All three companies are participating in Operation Warp Speed. News of AstraZeneca’s trial setback was first reported by STAT.

Russia releases first batch of Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V into public

MOSCOW, Sept 8: The first batch of the Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has been released into civil circulation, regional deliveries are planned in the nearest future, the Russian health ministry informs.

“The first batch of the ‘Gam-COVID-Vac’ [Sputnik V] vaccine for the prevention of the new coronavirus infection, developed by the Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Ministry of Health of Russia, has passed the necessary quality tests in the laboratories of Roszdravnadzor [medical device regulator] and has been released into civil circulation,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Russian health ministry registered the first vaccine against Covid-19, named Sputnik V, on August 11.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin expressed hope on Sunday that the majority of the Russian capital’s residents would be vaccinated against the coronavirus within several months.

According to the health ministry, the delivery of the first batches of the Russian vaccine to the country’s regions is planned in the nearest future.

World must be better prepared for next pandemic, says WHO chief

GENEVA, Sept 7: World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday the world must be better prepared for the next pandemic, as he called on countries to invest in public health.

More than 27.19 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 888,326​ have died, according to a Reuters tally, since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

“This will not be the last pandemic,” Tedros told a news briefing in Geneva. “History teaches us that outbreaks and pandemics are a fact of life. But when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready – more ready than it was this time.”

India becomes No. 2 in Covid cases

NEW DELHI, Sept 7: India on Monday touched the grim distinction of recording the second most higest number of covid-19 cases globally.

India surpassed Brazil with 42,04,614 cases and is now behind the USA which has recorded 6.29 million covid-19 cases. Brazil has registered 4.14 million case.

India's covid-19 death toll breached the 71,000 mark as 1016 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, said the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday.

The number of deaths due to the infection has reached 71,642.

The country registered a hike of more than 90,000 cases for the second time in a single day as 90,802 new cases covid-19 cases were reported in the last 24 hours, taking India's total coronavirus cases to 42,04,614.

The total covid-19 case tally stands at 42,04,614 at including 8,82,542 active cases, 32,50,429 cured/discharged/migrate and 71,642 deaths according to the data provided by the Ministry of Health.

India has already been recording more number of fresh cases than Brazil for the last few days.

Brazil recorded 14,521 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as well as 447 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

In terms of deaths caused by covid-19, too, India is currently at the third spot after the US and Brazil with a total of 71,642 people succumbing to the highly infectious disease.

Brazil has registered 4.14 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 126,650, according to ministry data.

The United States has recorded the highest number of deaths followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and Britain.

India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23 and it went past 40 lakh on September 5.

According to the ICMR, a cumulative total of 4,95,51,507 samples have been tested up to September 6 with 7,20,362 samples being tested on Sunday.

The only comforting factor for India is that the covid-19 Case Fatality Rate (CFR) has dropped below 2% and is on a continuous decline, according to data released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The data published by the Union Ministry shows that the CFR was 2.15 per cent on August 1 and stands at 1.72 per cent on September 6.

The data further shows that the average weekly CFR was 1.97 per cent for the week of August 10 to August 16. The average weekly CFR has dropped to 1.75 per cent for the week of August 31 to September 6.

In cumulative terms, five states account for more than 60% of the total active cases in the country. Maharashtra contributes most to the active caseload, ,followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which stands at 6.10%.

Bharat Biotech gets nod to move to phase 2 trials of prospective Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin

NEW DELHI, Sept 6: The Centre has given approval to Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s coronavirus vaccine Covaxin to conduct phase 2 of clinical trials from September 7.

The trials will be conducted on 380 volunteers, according to a letter issued to Bharat Biotech International by Dr S Eswara Reddy, the Joint Drugs Controller of India. In the first phase of the Covaxin trial, around 375 participants were studied across 12 sites.

“This is to inform you that the subject proposal was examined in consultation with SEC (Covid-19) experts held through virtual meeting on September 3, wherein the committee recommended for the conduct of Phase II part of clinical trials with 380 participants subject to the condition that time for screening the participants should be revised in 4 days,” the Directorate General of Health Service said in a statement.

In the first phase trial of the vaccine, the blood samples collected from the volunteers who received the vaccine were monitored for side effects. According to Dr E Venkata Rao, Principal Investigator of the trial at Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) and SUM Hospital, faculty of medical sciences, there were no side effects.

IMS and SUM Hospital is one of the 12 medical centres in the country chosen by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting the human trial of the vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech.

Covaxin is one of the frontrunners in the race for a Covid-19 vaccine in India. It is an “inactivated” vaccine — it works by injecting doses of the virus that have been killed aiming to prompt the body to build antibodies against it without the virus posing a threat.

Each stage of a vaccine’s clinical trial tests its safety and ability to develop an effective immune response. Phase 1 focuses on determining safety and dosage in a small group of healthy participants, while the second phase looks at the vaccine’s effectiveness. The third phase looks into these aspects in a much larger population that would represent a wider demographic.

‘Vaccine nationalism’ would prolong coronavirus pandemic: WHO chief Tedros

GENEVA, Sept 4: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for countries around the world to join forces to tackle the coronavirus on Friday, saying that “vaccine nationalism” would only slow the response to the pandemic.

Tedros said 78 high-income countries had now joined the “COVAX” global vaccine allocation plan, bringing the total to 170 countries, adding that joining the plan guaranteed those countries access to the world’s largest portfolio of vaccines.

The WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance are leading the COVAX facility, aimed at helping buy and distribute vaccination shots fairly around the world.

But some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join COVAX.

“Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic,” Tedros told reporters at a WHO briefing in Geneva, without mentioning any specific countries.

Tedros thanked Germany, Japan, Norway and the European Commission for joining COVAX during the last week.

A WHO spokeswoman said earlier on Friday that the organisation does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 to be available until mid-2021, citing the need for rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety.

The WHO’s chief scientist told the briefing that no vaccine should be approved for a worldwide rollout until it had undergone sufficient scrutiny.

“No vaccine is going to be mass-deployed until regulators are confident, governments are confident, and the WHO is confident it has met the minimum standard of safety,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

“These (vaccine candidates) need to go through the full Phase III trials,” she said, referring to testing that usually involves thousands of participants.

India records over 83,000 Covid-19 cases for second day; tally nears 4 million

NEW DELHI, Sept 4: India recorded more than 83,000 cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) for the second day in a row, taking its infection tally to over 3.93 million, according to the Union health ministry on Friday.

There were 83,341 Covid-19 cases between Thursday and Friday morning, according to the health ministry’s dashboard at 8am. On Thursday, India had reported 83,883 cases of the coronavirus cases.

The country’s death toll reached 68,472 after 1,096 people succumbed to the viral disease, the ministry’s data showed. The number of people who have recovered from the coronavirus disease is now 3,037,151 after 66,659 patients were declared cured across the country. There are 831,124 active cases in the country.

The health ministry said on Friday that less than 1/2% of the active cases are on ventilators, 2% are in ICUs and less than 3.5% are on oxygen support. “This is due to early detection, early hospitalisation and effective clinical management based on Standard Treatment Protocol,” it added.

On Thursday, India had reached another peak of highest single-day recoveries at 68,584. There are 26 states and Union territories which have reported a recovery rate of over 70% and recovered cases are 3.6 times the number of active cases, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Delhi recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases recorded in a day on Thursday since June-end, data from the daily health bulletin released by the government shows. The Capital recorded 2,737 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday with almost 33,000 tests having been conducted in a day.

Delhi also recorded 19 more deaths due to the infection, taking the total toll in the city to 4,500. After recording deaths in single digits in August third week, the number of deaths started increasing and went up to 22 deaths a day recorded on three days during the last two weeks.

The increasing number of cases and deaths in the national capital has led the Union home ministry to start “active engagement” with the Delhi government and lieutenant governor again.

“The number of active cases and deaths in Delhi was on a decline, but in the last few weeks, both the parameters have gone up. Keeping that in mind, the ministry of home affairs has started active engagement with the Delhi government,” Rajesh Bhushan, the Union health secretary, said.

India at forefront of research for Covid-19 vaccine: Modi

NEW DELHI, Sept 3: Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his keynote address at the third leadership summit of the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) on Thursday.

“When 2020 began, did anyone imagine how it would pan out? A global pandemic has impacted everyone. It’s testing our resilience, public health system and economic system. The current situation demands fresh mindset where the approach to development is human-centric,” the PM said.

Talking about the Covid-19 death rate in India, the PM said that it was one of the lowest per million in the world.

“India, a country with 1.3 billion people and limited resources, has one of the lowest death rates per million in the world. The recovery rate is also steadily rising,” he said.

He further said that while coronavirus had impacted several things, it had not impacted people’s aspirations and ambitions. “In the recent months, there have been far-reaching reforms which are making business easier and red-tapism lesser,” the PM added. India is at the forefront of the research for Covid-19 vaccine, he said.

The theme of the 5-day Summit that began on the 31st of August is “US-India Navigating New Challenges”.

“Looking forward to address the @USISPForum #USIndiasummit2020. Will be sharing my views on ‘Navigating New Challenges.’ Do join live this evening, 3rd September, at 9 PM India time,” the PM tweeted earlier.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, US vice president Mike Pence, and former top Indian-American diplomat Nikki Haley are some of the key leaders who have participated in the virtual event so far.

According to a release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday, the event’s theme covers various subjects such as India’s potential in becoming a global manufacturing hub, opportunities in India’s gas market, ease of doing business to attract FDI in India, common and challenges in tech space, Indo-Pacific economic issues, innovation in public health and others.

The USISPF is a non-profit organisation that works for the partnership between India and the US.

Viet Nam leads world’s most successful COVID-19 response

By Kamal Malhotra

HANOI, Sept 1: Whilst no country can claim to have beaten COVID-19, some countries have been noticeably more effective in curbing the spread of the disease. Kamal Malhotra, the UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam, explains why the country’s response to the pandemic has been so successful.

“Despite a new wave which began on 25 July which Viet Nam is now also in the process of bringing under effective control, it is globally recognized that Viet Nam demonstrated one of the world’s most successful responses to the COVID-19 pandemic between January and April 16. After that date, no cases of local transmission were recorded for 99 consecutive days.

There were less than 400 cases of infection across the country during that period, most of them imported, and zero deaths, a remarkable accomplishment considering the country’s population of 96 million people and the fact that it shares a 1,450 km land border with China.

Viet Nam’s success has drawn international attention because of its early, proactive, response, led by the government, and involving the whole political system, and all aspects of the society. With the support of the
World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, Viet Nam had already put a long-term plan in place, to enable it to cope with public health emergencies, building on its experience dealing with previous disease outbreaks, such as SARS, which it also handled remarkably well.

Viet Nam’s successful management of the COVID-19 outbreak so far can, therefore, be at least partly put down to the its investment during “peacetime”. The country has now demonstrated that preparedness to deal with infectious disease is a key ingredient for protecting people and securing public health in times of pandemics such as COVID-19.

As early as January 2020, Viet Nam conducted its first risk assessment, immediately after the identification of a cluster of cases of “severe pneumonia with unknown etiology” in Wuhan, China. From the time that the first two COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Viet Nam in the second half of January 2020, the government started to put precautionary measures into effect by strengthening entry-screening measures and extending the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday for schools.

By 13 February 2020, the number of cases had climbed to 16 with limited local transmission detected in a village near the capital city, Hanoi. As this had the potential to cause a further spread of the virus in Viet Nam, the country implemented a targeted three-week village-wide quarantine, affecting 11,000 people. There were then no further local cases for three weeks.

But Viet Nam had simultaneously developed its broader quarantine and isolation policy to control COVID-19. As the next wave began in early March, through an imported case from the UK, the government knew that it was crucial to contain virus transmission as fast as possible, in order also to safeguard its economy.

Viet Nam therefore closed its borders and suspended international flights from mainland China in February, extending this to UK, Europe, the US and then the rest of the world progressively in March, whilst requiring all travelers entering the country, including its nationals, to undergo 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival.

This helped the authorities keep track of imported cases of COVID-19 and prevent further local transmission which could have then led to wider community transmission. Both the military and local governments were mobilized to provide testing, meals and amenity services to all quarantine facilities which remained free during this period.

While there was never a nationwide lockdown, some restrictive physical distancing measures were implemented throughout the country. On 1 April 2020, the Prime Minister issued a nationwide two week physical distancing directive, which was extended by a week in major cities and hotspots: people were advised to stay at home, non-essential businesses were requested to close, and public transportation was limited.

Such measures were so successful that, by early May, following two weeks without a locally confirmed case, schools and businesses resumed their operations and people could return to regular routines. Green One UN House, the home of most UN agencies in Viet Nam, remained open throughout this period, with the Resident Coordinator, WHO Representative and approximately 200 UN staff and consultants physically in the office throughout this period, to provide vital support to the Government and people of Viet Nam.

Notably, the Vietnamese public had been exceptionally compliant with government directives and advice, partly as a result of trust built up thanks to real time, transparent communication from the Ministry of Health, supported by the WHO and other UN agencies.

Innovative methods were used to keep the public informed and safe. For instance, regular text updates were sent by the Ministry of Health, on preventive measures and COVID-19’s symptoms. A COVID-19 song was released, with lyrics raising public awareness of the disease, which later went viral on social media with a dance challenge on Tik Tok initiated by Quang Dang, a local celebrity..

Still, challenges remain to ensure that the people across the country, especially the hardest hit people, from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and poor and vulnerable groups, are well served by an adequately resourced and effectively implemented social protection package.

The UN in Viet Nam is keen to help the government support clean technology-based SMEs, with the cooperation of international financial institutions, which will need to do things differently from the past and embrace a new, more inclusive and sustainable, perspective on growth.

As I write, Viet Nam stands at a critical point with respect to COVID-19. On 25 July, 99 days after being COVID-free in terms of local transmission, a new case was confirmed in Da Nang, a well-known tourist destination; hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the city and surrounding region over the summer.

The government is once again demonstrating its serious commitment to containing local virus transmission. While there have been a few hundred new local transmission cases and 24 deaths, all centered in a major hospital in Danang (sadly, all the deaths were of people with multiple pre-conditions) aggressive contact tracing, proactive case management, extensive quarantining measures and comprehensive public communication activities are taking place.

I am confident that the country will be successful in its efforts to once again successfully contain the virus, once more over the next few weeks.”

@ Kamal Malhotra is the UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam. The UN Resident Coordinator, sometimes called the RC, is the highest-ranking representative of the UN development system at the country level.

How do Keto, Intermittent Fasting and popular diets affect heart health?

WASHINGTON, Sept 1: In a review of existing scientific studies on trendy ketogenic and intermittent fasting diets, researchers concluded that these diets do seem to help people lose weight in the short-term, and modest evidence suggests they may contribute to cardiovascular health.

However, these diets also allow the consumption of foods that are known to increase cardiovascular risk and are unlikely to be as effective at preventing heart disease as well-established nutritional guidelines currently recommended by health experts.

“With diets like keto and intermittent fasting, social and popular media has been flooded with claims, promises and warnings that are at best unverified and at worst harmful to your health,” said Andrew Freeman, MD, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health and co-author of the study. “Diets recommended by health experts, such as plant-based and Mediterranean diets, have been extensively studied for safety and efficacy, and demonstrated conclusively to improve cardiovascular health.”

Keto is a very low carbohydrate dietary approach that sends the body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which it has reduced access to glucose and is instead mostly fuelled by fat. While the limited study of the keto diet shows those who follow it initially lose weight, it tends not to be sustainable according to 12-month data. It is also unclear whether the weight loss is caused by ketosis or simply by calorie restriction.

Researchers also have concerns about the type and amount of fat consumed by those following a keto diet. While existing studies strictly controlled the type of fat and foods participants consumed, many who try keto consume high amounts of unhealthy saturated fat, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and high lipid levels in the blood. There is also evidence that eating a keto diet for an extended period of time may lead to stiffening of the arteries, and several studies found that those who eat a keto diet have a greater risk of death.

Keto does, however, show promise as a potential treatment for diabetes, with studies showing improved glucose levels, as well as lower fasting glucose and insulin levels in mice, fed a keto diet. Further research is needed to confirm these benefits and assess risk before keto is clinically recommended.

Researchers are also optimistic about the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting but are concerned about possible pitfalls. There is a wide range of practices being called “intermittent fasting”, with some fasting without food an entire day and others restricting meals to certain hours of the day. Experts also worry that the hunger-induced by fasting causes many people to overeat when it is time for meals, or make unhealthy choices that have adverse effects on their cardiovascular health.

A majority of the current evidence regarding the potential benefits of intermittent fasting come from animal studies, which have shown increased longevity, weight loss, decreased blood pressure, improved glucose tolerance and controlled lipid levels.

“The potential risks of intermittent fasting that require further study include effects of starvation and how it may impact organ function,” Dr Freeman said. “It is particularly important for diabetics to speak with their doctor before trying intermittent fasting to discuss how to control their disease and the risk of hypoglycemia that may come with skipping regular meals.”

While there is modest evidence regarding favourable effects of both dietary approaches, neither the keto nor intermittent fasting is recommended for the treatment or prevention of any condition until large, long-term studies can more definitively examine their impact. Instead, experts recommend diets that have been extensively studied and scientifically proven to prevent or even reverse cardiovascular issues, which include the Mediterranean diet, a whole food plant-based diet and the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). All of these share a common foundation that includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains.

India's Covid-19 tally close to 37 lakhs

NEW DELHI, Sept 1: The number of the coronavirus disease cases reached close to 3.7 million in India after 69,921 new cases surfaced on Tuesday.

According to Union health ministry update, there are 7,85,996 active cases of the disease while 28,39,882 patients have been discharged.

The country recorded 819 fatalities according to the health ministry data, which pushed the death toll to 65,288.

The ministry had said on Monday that the country’s recovery rate has increased to 76.62 per cent, while the fatality rate has declined to 1.78 per cent.

The last five lakh recoveries have been recorded in only eight days in comparison to preceding same number of recoveries, which were recorded in 10 and nine days respectively, the ministry said.

The health ministry stressed that more than 70 per cent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities.

Meanwhile, the Centre is focussing on the states which are witnessing a sudden surge in the number of Covid-19 cases. According to the health ministry, central teams will be deployed in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, where spikes have been recorded.

It asserted that the teams will support the states’ efforts towards strengthening containment, surveillance, testing and efficient clinical management of positive cases.

The teams will also guide the states in effectively managing the challenges related to timely diagnosis and follow up, the ministry said in a statement.

Each of the multi-sectoral teams will comprise an epidemiologist and a public health expert.

Of these four states, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of active cases, followed by Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the ministry said.



US coronavirus cases approach 6 million

Australian vaccine provides protection against infection, safe for humans: Report

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