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Coronavirus Briefing Newsletter – Times of India


THE COUNT
  • India’s health ministry has confirmed 697,413 Covid-19 cases (253,287 active cases) and 19,693 fatalities. 24,248 fresh cases were recorded on Sunday. The Times of India, based on state figures, reported 24,912 fresh cases while total cases were 697,887.
  • Fatalities across the world are 534,320 (over 11.45 million infections).

The numbers are as of Monday, 12:30 pm IST. Check out the latest data here

TODAY’S TAKE
The plastic pandemic’s also getting worse
The plastic pandemic’s also getting worse
  • The proliferation of plastic waste already was a major global concern even before the pandemic. Now, the pressure on hygiene and paranoia over the spread of the novel coronavirus threatens to stall and even reverse progress. In China, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment estimates that hospitals in Wuhan produced more than 240 tonnes of waste daily at the height of the outbreak, compared with 40 tonnes during normal times. Based on these data, the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan predicts that the US could generate an entire year’s worth of medical waste in just two months because of Covid.
  • It’s no different in India. The dependence on disposables such as plastic cutlery, cups, containers, low-micron count carry bags, garbage bags and higher consumption of packaged drinking water as a safety measure as well as packaging material in online purchases, continues.
  • City corporations are also grappling with the problem of face masks, shields, protective gear and other hazardous waste finding their way into regular piles of garbage that ups the risk of spreading the virus. Piling up of plastic disposables has further choked the country’s already inadequate garbage disposal and recycling infrastructure.
  • “Use of plastic is something which we have allowed in Bengaluru in view of the prevailing situation,” BH Anil Kumar, the commissioner of the city’s civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, told Mint. Ditto for Delhi, where the Aam Aadmi Party had plans to ban single-use plastic. “The virus has led to a large increase in the use of single-use plastic but we are up against a challenge and do not have the resources to take up the issue right now,” a spokesperson of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation said.
  • Struggling to cope with the rising number of cases, state governments in Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala among others are relaxing their own restrictions to ban plastic with fewer than 50-microns. The Kerala government that had banned single-use plastic in January has since procured such material in large volumes to aid in relief work and distribution of free food via thousands of community kitchens. (Single use plastic has been used as part of relief efforts in all major cities, towns and villages to distribute essentials during the pandemic and is contributing to a bigger problem of piling up disposables.)
STAY SAFE
Coronavirus is airborne, say scientists
Coronavirus is airborne, say scientists
  • In an open letter, 239 scientists from 32 countries have urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to revise its recommendations on airborne transmission, saying there is ample evidence that the coronavirus is spreading through the air in crowded spaces with poor ventilation. The WHO has maintained that airborne transmission of coronavirus is possible only after medical procedures that produce aerosols, or droplets smaller than 5 microns. But the scientists say such a narrow criteria is out of step with the evidence from around the world.
  • To be clear, this does not mean the coronavirus is hanging in the air, capable of infecting someone hours later. Experts say coronavirus does not behave that way. Nonetheless, they say WHO’s rigid criteria of defining airborne transmission is preventing hospitals and public health officials from enforcing strict use of masks in public and, in some cases, hospitals. Whether carried aloft by large droplets that zoom through the air after a sneeze, or by much smaller exhaled droplets that may glide the length of a room, these experts said, the coronavirus is borne through the air and can infect people when inhaled. More on this on The New York Times
TELL ME ONE THING
Is South India Covid-19’s new tinderbox?
Is South India Covid-19’s new tinderbox?
  • With a combined share of more than 25% of the total cases, the Covid-19 headcount in the five southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana is now growing faster than the national average. Their share of Covid-19 cases in the beginning of June stood at 17.5%.
  • While three of them — Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh — have seen a sudden surge in their caseload in the last seven days, adding 45%, 40%, and 31% respectively of their total cases so far, just three of them — Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Karnataka — constituted almost a third of all cases added in India in the last 24 hours. Tamil Nadu, which has been adding over 4,000 cases a day for the last seven days, is now the second state after Maharashtra to have over 1 lakh cases and along with Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh is among the 10 worst affected states in India.
  • Part of the reason is increased testing, such as in Telangana where samples tested are now 4,000 a day, up from a few hundred till about the second week of June. While that may not be very worrying, the situation in Kerala appears to be deteriorating, as cases rise again due to the influx of returning migrants from other parts of India and expats from overseas. Between May 3, when the lockdown restrictions were first eased in Kerala, and July 3, the number of new cases added on a daily basis have risen almost nine times, from 499 to 4,465. Even though the state’s death toll is relatively less, at 25, the spurt in new cases prompted its Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran to say that the state was “sitting on a volcano”.
THE GOOD NEWS
More antigen tests
More antigen tests
  • Ten states — Telangana, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Assam, West Bengal, Karnataka — and the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir will deploy rapid antigen tests in the coming days, the Economic Times reports. An antigen test gives a result in 30 minutes, without the need for a laboratory process, and was earlier deployed in Delhi and Maharashtra, helping these states improve their containment strategy.
  • Antigen tests will be conducted in the containment zones of the 10 states and J&K. Thus far, Assam has procured 200,000 of these kits; Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Haryana 100,000 each; and Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir 50,000 each. Punjab, West Bengal and Karnataka have also acquired the testing kits and will start conducting tests this week, ET adds.
TIME TO CALL
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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma



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