14th Dec, 2020

HGCO19: India’s first indigenous mRNA vaccine candidate receives approval

India’s first indigenous mRNA vaccine candidate, HGCO19, has received approval from Indian Drug regulators to initiate Phase one and two human clinical trials.

HGCO19 has been developed by Gennova, Pune and supported with seed grant under the Ind-CEPI mission of the Department of Biotechnology.

The mRNA vaccines do not use the conventional model to produce immune response.

Instead, they carry the molecular instructions to make the protein in the body through a synthetic RNA of the virus.

mRNA-based vaccines are scientifically the ideal choice to address a pandemic because of their rapid developmental timeline.

The mRNA vaccine is considered safe as is non-infectious, non-integrating in nature, and degraded by standard cellular mechanisms.

Indian Railways launches Hospital Management Information System (HMIS)

Recently, Indian Railways has launched The Hospital Management Information System (HMIS).

It is another major IT initiative by Railways to prioritise the well-being of its work force.

Developed by: Indian Railways in coordination with RailTel Corporation Limited.

Objective: To provide a single window of clearance of hospital administration activity such as clinical, diagnostics, pharmacy, examinations, industrial health etc.

Other objectives:

(1) Effectively manage all the health facilities & its resources;

(2) Monitor performance of hospitals across the administrative channel;

(3) Impart quality health care services to its beneficiaries;

(4) Improve the patient turn-around time;

(5) Generate and maintain EMR (electronic medical records) of all patients

Presently, 3 Modules of HMIS – Registration, OPD Doctor Desk & Pharmacy – shall be implemented.

These shall be implemented on trial basis at Central Hospital, Lallaguda and will progressively be implemented across all Health Units over SCR.

Draft Indian Ports Bill, 2020

Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has circulated draft of Indian Ports Bill 2020 for public consultation which will repeal and replace the Indian Ports Act, 1908.

The Bill seeks to create an enabling environment for the growth and sustained development of the ports sector in India through the following broad methods: 

(1) Constitution of Maritime Port Regulatory Authority; 

(2) Formulation of the National Port policy and National Port plan in consultation with Coastal State Governments, State Maritime Boards and other stakeholders; 

(3) Formulation of specialised Adjudicatory Tribunals namely Maritime Ports Tribunal and

Maritime Ports Appellate Tribunal to curb any anti-competitive practises in the port sector and act as a speedy and affordable grievance redressal mechanism.

Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) now available for round the clock transactions

The RBI has announced that the Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) facility will now be available for round the clock transactions, with effect from December 14th, 2020.

Round the clock availability of RTGS will provide extended flexibility to businesses for effecting payments.

The system can also be leveraged to enhance operations of Indian financial markets and cross-border payments.

RTGS uses ISO 20022 format which is the best-in-class messaging standard for financial transactions.

The term real-time gross settlement (RTGS) refers to a funds transfer system that allows for the instantaneous transfer of money and/or securities.

It is the continuous process of settling payments on an individual order basis without netting debits with credits across the books of a central bank.

Once completed, real-time gross settlement payments are final and irrevocable.

RTGS presently handles 6.35 lakh transactions daily.

Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) begins

The 9th edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) in Dehradun has begun.

Organised by: Indian Mountain Initiative (IMI)

The summit seeks to deliberate on issues such as migration, water security, climate resilience and innovative solutions for the farm sector, and disaster risk reduction in the Indian Himalayas.

Every year 3-5 salient themes engaging the immediate attention of and relevant to the mountains and hills are taken up for threadbare discussion and debate.

Conclusions and recommendations emerging from this exercise are pursued by IMI subsequently for actionable output.

The theme for 2020: Emerging Pathways for Building a Resilient Post COVID-19 Mountain Economy, Adaptation, Innovation and Acceleration.

The first edition was organized in 2011 in Nainital.

Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI)

It is a civil society led network platform.

Mission: To mainstream concerns of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) and its people in the development dialogue of India.

It functions as a platform to integrate the knowledge and experiences of multiple stakeholders working across the IHR, and uses this to inform and influence policy at the national and state level.

Programme of Socio-Economic Profiling of PM SVANidhi launched

A programme of Socio-Economic Profiling of PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their families was recently launched as an additional component of PM SVANidhi Scheme.

Ministry: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Under this, a complete profile of each PM SVANidhi beneficiary and their family members will be prepared.

Based on the profiled data, benefits of the various eligible Central Schemes would be extended to them for their socio-economic upliftment.

Context: PM SVANidhi scheme should not be seen merely from the perspective of extending loans to street vendors but should also be seen as an instrument for outreach to street vendors and their families for their overall development.

In the first phase, 125 cities have been selected for the programme.

The profile will identify potential eligibility of beneficiaries and their family members for select Central Government schemes and facilitate linkages.

Prime Minister Street Vendors AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Scheme

Implemented by: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Objective: To provide affordable working capital loan up to 10 thousand rupees to Street Vendors for facilitating resumption of their livelihoods adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

5th National Family Health Survey (NFHS) released

Ministry of Health released the 5th National Family Health Survey (NFHS).

The survey contains detailed information on population, health and nutrition for India and its states and union territories.

The results of 17 States and 5 UTs have been released Phase-I.

Phase II covering the remaining 12 States and 2 UTs had their fieldwork suspended due to Covid-19, which has been resumed from November and is expected to be completed by May 2021.

Substantial improvement in maternal and child health indicators over NFHS-4 (2015-16) was recorded in the present survey.

The fertility rate has further declined.

Contraceptive use has increased and unmet need has been reduced in most phase I states.

The survey found considerable improvement in vaccination coverage among children age 12-23 months across all states and UTs.

Malnutrition indicators have worsened.

Rise in stunting was reported in 11 out of 18 states. Wasting increase was found in 14 states and of those with anaemia in 17 states.

Climate Ambition Summit 2020 held virtually

The United Nations, United Kingdom and France co-hosted the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 which was held virtually recently.

The Summit marked the five years of the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The summit aims to bring together leaders to make new commitments to tackle climate change and deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The United Kingdom pledged to double its climate finance contribution to USD 15.5 billion over the next five years.

The European Investment Bank announced a goal of 50% of investments going toward the climate and environment sectors by 2025.

It also called for climate finance commitments to support the most vulnerable and ambitious adaptation plans and underlying policies.

According to Indian Prime Minister, India is not only on track to achieve its Paris Agreement targets, but to exceed them beyond expectations.

India has reduced emission intensity by 21% over 2005 levels.

Solar capacity has grown from 2.63 GigaWatts in 2014 to 36 GigaWatts in 2020.

Renewable energy capacity is the fourth largest in the world.

It will reach 175 GigaWatts before 2022.

India has also set new target of 450 GigaWatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030.

On the world stage, India has pioneered two major initiatives:

(1) The International Solar Alliance;

(2) Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Myristica Swamp Treefrog recorded for the first time

Myristica swamp treefrog, has been recorded for the first time in the Vazhachal Reserve Forest in Kerala’s Thrissur district.

It is a rare arboreal species endemic to the Western Ghats.

Scientific name: Mercurana myristicapalustris.

These frogs are rare and elusive for the reason that they are arboreal and active only for a few weeks during their breeding season.

During this season, there is a large aggregation of males that descend from the high canopy of the trees.

The males vocalise in groups from the low perches in the swamps.

They exhibit unique breeding behaviour.

The breeding season, unlike for other frogs, starts in the pre-monsoon season (May) and ends before the monsoon.

Plasmodium Ovale: Uncommon type of Malaria

A not very common type of malaria, Plasmodium ovale, has been identified in a soldier in Kerala.

The soldier is believed to have contracted it during his posting in Sudan, from where he returned nearly a year ago, and where Plasmodium ovale is endemic.

Malaria is caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito, if the mosquito itself is infected with a malarial parasite.

There are five kinds of malarial parasites — Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax (the commonest ones), Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium knowlesi.

Plasmodium ovale

P ovale rarely causes severe illness and there is no need for panic because of the case detected in Kerala.

P ovale is very similar to P vivax, which is not a killer form. It is no more dangerous than getting a viral infection.

Symptoms: Fever for 48 hours, headache and nausea

It is termed ovale as about 20% of the parasitised cells are oval in shape.

P ovale malaria is endemic to tropical Western Africa.

It is relatively unusual outside of Africa.

Eluru illness

Over 550 people in Eluru town of Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district have been suffering from convulsions, seizures, dizziness and nausea.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has found traces of lead and nickel in blood samples of some victims.

The primary suspicion is on water contamination by heavy metals.

Scientists suspect that pesticide or insecticide has seeped into drinking water sources.

Eluru receives water through canals from both Godavari and Krishna rivers.

The canals pass through agricultural fields where runoff laced with pesticides mixes with water in the canals.

Many aspects of the mystery illness have baffled scientists.

People who only use packaged drinking water have also fallen sick.