Daily Current Affairs : 7th and 8th June

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

  1. Gustave Trouvé Award.
  3. Alternative to RT-PCR Test
  4. Serotonin and Locust Swarm
  5. Assam Gas Leak
  6. Gross Value Added and Economic Growth
  7. Diabetes in India
  9. Covid Terminologies for Prelims
  10. Facts for Prelims

1. Gustave Electric Boat Award

Context: India’s first solar-powered ferry, Aditya, which became an icon on the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu route in Kerala, is among 12 such ferries that have been shortlisted for the Gustave Trouvé Award. It is the sole entrant from Asia.

About Gustave Electric Boat Award

  • Gussies Electric Boat Awards were instituted in memory of Gustave Trouvé, a French electrical engineer and pioneer in electric cars and boats. Trouvé was a prolific inventor with over 75 patents. Back in 1881, he developed a 5-m-long prototype electric boat.
  • There are three award categories: one for electric boats up to 8m in length, electric boats more than 8 m long and electric ferry boats (passenger boats), the category in which Aditya is in the fray.

About the ferry – Aditya

  • It is operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD), the vessel was built by Navalt Solar and Electric Boats, Kochi.
  • It needs just ₹180 per day in energy cost, compared to about ₹8,000 for a diesel-run ferry of similar size. It is unusual for a high technology product to have such a low break-even period.
  • The financial viability of the zero pollution vessel is such that the KSWTD, in January 2020, said that it saved ₹75 lakh since its 2017 launch.


Context: A recent report titled “Indian wildlife amidst the COVID-19 crisis: An analysis of status of poaching and illegal wildlife trade” by TRAFFIC, a leading wildlife trade monitoring network, has recorded a significant increase in poaching in India during the over two month lockdown period.

About Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC)

  • It is an NGO working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
  • It was founded in 1976 as a strategic alliance of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Its headquarters is located in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • TRAFFIC’s mission is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
  • It investigates and analyses wildlife trade trends, patterns, impacts and drivers to provide the leading knowledge base on trade in wild animals and plants.
  • TRAFFIC helped establish wildlife sniffer dog units in countries around the world, including the first in South Korea in 2001,it established the unit in India in 2008
  • TRAFFIC was also instrumental in the use of forensics to tackle wildlife crime, signing an MoU with TRACE (Technologies and Resources for Applied Conservation and Enforcement) in 2007.

Detail of the Report

  • According to the report poaching incidences rose from 35 to 88.
  • A species group comparison during pre-lockdown and post-lockdown reveals that the biggest increase in reported poaching was related to ungulates, where the percentage jumped from 22% of total reported cases during pre-lockdown, to 44% during the lockdown period. These species are targeted mainly for meat (for self-consumption or for local trade), the increase is presumably due to those poaching for self-consumption or those who are trying to compensate their loss of income by making quick money through poaching.
  • The second group of animals where there was a marked increase in poaching was ‘small mammals’, including hares, porcupines, pangolins, giant squirrels, civets, monkeys and smaller wild cats. Cases against this group 17% to 25% between the pre-and lockdown periodst.
  • There was a slight decrease in the incidence of bird-related seizures, which dropped from 14% to 7% between the pre-lockdown and post-lockdown periods.
  • There was less reporting of poaching and illegal trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles, with almost no seizures of these species during the lockdown period.
  • The report states that pangolins were targeted by poachers in various parts of the country.
  • The report also pointed out that the number of persons arrested for poaching related cases during lockdown was higher than in pre-lockdown weeks. A total of 222 people were arrested for poaching related cases in the lockdown period, which is significantly higher than the 85 suspects who were arrested during the pre-lockdown phase.
  • The outcome of this study indicates that “despite efforts by law enforcement agencies, wild animal populations in India are being subjected to additional threats during the lockdown period”.

3. Alternative to RT-PCR Test

Context : Currently, the preferred protocol for testing uses the RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. This protocol does, however, take time and is expensive. CCMB finds cheaper, more effective RT-PCR method to test COVID-19 samples

What is PCR test?

  • Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is conducted on swab collected from the back of the throat, a liquid sample from the lower respiratory tract, or a simple saliva sample. Such tests are commonly used in Influenza A, Influenza B and H1N1 virus detection.
  • It uses a technique that creates copies of a segment of DNA. ‘Polymerase’ refers to the enzymes that make the copies of DNA.
  • The ‘chain reaction’ is how the DNA fragments are copied, exponentially — one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
  • Kary Mullis, the American biochemist who invented the PCR technique, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.

Reverse Transcription

  • SARS-COV-2 is a virus made of RNA, which needs to be converted into DNA. For this, the technique includes a process called reverse transcription.
  • A ‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme converts the RNA into DNA. Copies of the DNA are then made and amplified. A fluorescent DNA binding dye called the “probe” shows the presence of the virus. The test also distinguishes SARS-COV-2 from other viruses.


  • In the usual method of testing, nasal swabs collected from a person are placed in a viral transport medium (VTM). From this, a part of the liquid is taken, the viral RNA is extracted and RT-PCR test is carried out. The remainder is stored. It is the step of isolating the RNA that takes time and is expensive.
  • The standard method is known to have a problem of false negatives.

Need of a new method

  • The standard method is known to have a problem of false negatives.
  • The steep rising number of infected persons, there is a need for a reliable test that would give results quickly and also be less expensive.

About the New method : Dry Swabs

  • Researchers from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, have studied a new method, also using RT-PCR but with dry swabs, bypassing the RNA isolation stage, which will consume less time and is less expensive.
  • A variant method apparently shows a higher efficiency that the conventional one.
  • According to the method instead of placing the nasal swabs in the VTM, they are put in a Tris-EDTA (TE) buffer solution, protected by ice.
  • Virus in dry swabs can stay for several days at 4 degree [ice temperature]. For longer storage, it can be kept in minus 80 degree. It is much more suitable than VTM, and testing can be delayed, if necessary. Handling and transporting dry swabs is safer and more convenient.
  • A small part of the dry swab-TE extract was taken in a new vial and heated to 98 degree C. This destroyed the protective wall of the virus particles, releasing its RNA and this was sent for the RT-PCR test.
  • The new protocol of using dry swab-TE extract for RT-PCR was at par with the standard method

4. Serotonin and locust swarms


  • Historically, the Desert Locust has always been a major threat to man’s well-being.
  • The Desert Locust is mentioned as curse to mankind in ancient writings viz. Old Testament-Bible and the Holy Koran.
  • The magnitude of the damage and loss caused by the locusts is very gigantic beyond imagination as they have caused the starvation due to its being polyphagous feeder, and on an average small locust swarm eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2500 people.
  • Locust do cause damage by devouring the leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and growing points and also by breaking down trees because of their weight when they settle down in masses.

About Locusts

  • Locusts are part of a large group of insects commonly called grasshoppers which have big hind legs for jumping. Locusts belong to the family called Acrididae.
  • Locusts differ from grasshoppers in that they have the ability to change their behaviour and habits and can migrate over large distances.
  • Locusts have a swarming phase.Swarming refers to a collective behaviour in which locusts aggregate together just like flocks of birds.
  • Only four types of locust viz., Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria),Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) Bombay Locust (Nomadacris succincta) and Tree locust (Anacridium sp.)are reported in India. The desert locust is most important pest in India as well as in intercontinental context.

Havoc created by locust

  • Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery—famine and starvation.
  • They occur in many parts of the world, but today locusts are most destructive in sustenance farming regions of Africa.
  • The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is notorious. Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth’s land surface.
  • Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s humans.

About Locust Warning Organisation

  • Locust Warning Organization (LWO) established in 1939, later merged with (Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage) DPPQ&S in 1946.
  • Every year LWO undertake Locust surveillance & monitoring in SDA, Coordinate other stake holders on locust situation, issuing locust situation Bulletins, organising Border meetings and conducting Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) programme in LWO/ LCO’s in Rabi season. Besides undertake control operations during locust upsurge/incursion.

Role of FAO

  • One of the mandates of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is to provide information on the general locust situation to all interested countries and to give timely warnings and forecasts to those countries in danger of invasion.
  • Therefore, FAO operates a centralized Desert Locust information service within the Locust Group at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy.
  • All locust affected countries transmit locust data to FAO who in turn analyze this information in conjunction with weather and habitat data and satellite imagery in order to assess the current locust situation, provide forecasts up to six weeks in advance and issue warnings on an ad-hoc basis.
  • FAO prepares monthly bulletins and periodic updates summarizing the locust situation and forecasting migration and breeding on a country by country basis. These are distributed by email, fax, and post.

Control Measures

  • The scheme Locust Control and Research is being implemented through an Organisation known as Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) established during 1939 and later merged with directorate of PPQ&S in 1946.
  • The Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) monitors locust development and its activities over an area of 2.05 lakh sq km of the Scheduled Desert Area (SDA) mainly in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat and partly in Haryana.
  • The Scheme is being executed through ten Locust Circle Offices (LCOs) located at Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jalore, Phalodi, Nagaur, Suratgarh, Churu in Rajasthan and Palanpur & Bhuj in Gujarat, Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) Field Headquarters at Jodhpur and Locust Division at Central Headquarter Faridabad (Haryana). Besides, there is one Field Station for Investigation on Locust (FSIL) situated at Bikaner.
  • To strengthen the locust monitoring and forecasting and as per the recommendations made during 28th Session of the FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in South-West Asia (SWAC), an advanced device named eLocust3 and software RAMSES V4 has been made functional in LWO from January, 2016 with the cooperation of FAO. LWO has wireless network for exchanging the information on locust survey and control between various field offices and Hqrs. Faridabad. Satisfactory, locust control potential is being maintained in the form of pesticides, plant protection equipments, wireless sets, GPS, eLocust3 and trained manpower.
Use of Serotonin inhibitors in Locust Control
  • Locust is by nature a recluse and a singleton, not mixing with others in the same group, Yet, when the harvest season arrives, these singletons team up with others as an army of swarms to attack plants for food.
  • According to one of the researches when solitary locusts happen to come near each other (looking for food) and happen to touch each other, this tactile stimulation, even just in a little area of the back limbs, causes their behaviour to change. This mechanical stimulation affects a couple of nerves in the animal’s body, their behaviour changes, leading to their coming together. And if more locusts come nearby, the crowding starts, and what was once a simple looking insect becomes larger in size and shape, and its colour and morphology changes.
  • Serotonin is indeed responsible for swarm formation. The reasearchers did a lab experiment wherein they placed locusts in a container one by one, and as the numbers increased, the coming together triggered mechanical (touch) and neurochemical (serotonin) stimulations to make crowding (‘gregarisation’) occur within a few hours! Interestingly, when they started adding substances that inhibit the production of serotonin (for instance, molecules such as 5HT or AMTP), the crowding was significantly less.
  • Insecticides (mainly malathion) sprayed on the swarms need to be looked at for side-effects. Though many studies have cleared it as not very harmful, we need to work on biopesticides which would be environmentally and animal/human health-friendly, using natural and animal products of India. One of the solution is to spray serotonin inhibitor molecules as the swarm begins to form

5 . Assam Gas Leak

Context : Since the morning of May 27, natural gas has been continuously flowing out of a gas well in Assam following a blowout — or a sudden, uncontrolled release of gas/oil. With authorities unable to control it, experts from a Singapore firm reached Assam. Meanwhile, people from surrounding villages have been evacuated, while a variety of fish and an endangered Gangetic dolphin have died.

Where is the oil rig?

  • The Baghjan 5 well is a purely gas-producing well in Tinsukia district, and is at an aerial distance of 900 metres from the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

Why do blowouts happen?

  • Sometimes, the pressure balance in a well may be disturbed leading to ‘kicks’ or changes in pressure. If these are not controlled in time, the ‘kicks’ can turn into a sudden blowout.
  • There are many reasons behind blowouts like simple lack of attention, poor workmanship, bad maintenance, old age, sabotage to morpho-tectonic factors”.

Why is it so difficult to control?

  • The control of a blowout depends on two things: the size of the reservoir and the pressure at which the gas/oil is flowing out. This reservoir was particularly difficult to control since it was a gas well and ran the risk of catching fire at any point”.
  • While many blowouts automatically collapse on their own, it can take up to months. To control a blowout, the first step is to pump in water, so that the gas does not catch fire. “Sheer magnitude of the event invites specialists to douse the fire

How serious is the impact to the neighbourhood?

  • As many as 1,610 families with 2,500-3,000 people have been evacuated to relief camps. There are reports of deaths of a river dolphin, and a variety of fish. Locals have complained of symptoms such as burning of eyes, headache etc.
  • As per Assam Pollution Control Board chairman the gas — which is a mix of propane, methane, propylene and other gases — is flowing with the wind, towards the northeast.
  • Condensate is falling into Dibru-Saikhowa National Park too. Also close is the Maguri-Motapung wetland —an Important Bird Area notified by the Bombay Natural History Society. “The park is famous for its birds, butterflies, wild cats, and feral horses. “The impact is visible in the sense that you can see traces of condensate on the water bodies, the numbers of birds have decreased, not because they have been killed but because they have flown away.”

6 . Gross Value Added and Economic Growth

Context : The National Statistical Office (NSO), on May 29, released its provisional estimates of national income for the financial year 2019-20. As per the NSO, real GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the full fiscal year was estimated to have expanded by 4.2% from a year earlier, the slowest pace of growth in 11 years.

What is Gross Value Added (GVA)?

  • In 2015, in the wake of a comprehensive review of its approach to GDP measurement, India opted to make major changes to its compilation of national accounts and bring the whole process into conformity with the United Nations System of National Accounts (SNA) of 2008.
  • As per the SNA, gross value added, is defined as the value of output minus the value of intermediate consumption and is a measure of the contribution to GDP made by an individual producer, industry or sector.
  • At its simplest it gives the rupee value of goods and services produced in the economy after deducting the cost of inputs and raw materials used.
  • GVA can be described as the main entry on the income side of the nation’s accounting balance sheet, and from an economics perspective represents the supply side.
  • India had been measuring GVA earlier, it had done so using ‘factor cost’ and GDP at ‘factor cost’ was the main parameter for measuring the country’s overall economic output till the new methodology was adopted. In the new series, in which the base year was shifted to 2011-12 from the earlier 2004-05, GVA at basic prices became the primary measure of output across the economy’s various sectors and when added to net taxes on products amounts to the GDP.
  • As part of the data on GVA, the NSO provides both quarterly and annual estimates of output — measured by the gross value added — by economic activity. The sectoral classification provides data on eight broad categories that span the gamut of goods produced and services provided in the economy. These are: 1) Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing; 2) Mining and Quarrying; 3) Manufacturing; 4) Electricity, Gas, Water Supply and other Utility Services; 5) Construction; 6) Trade, Hotels, Transport, Communication and Services related to Broadcasting; 7) Financial, Real Estate and Professional Services; 8) Public Administration, Defence and other Services.

How relevant is the GVA data given that headline growth always refers to GDP?

  • The GVA data is crucial to understand how the various sectors of the real economy are performing. The output or domestic product is essentially a measure of GVA combined with net taxes.
  • While GDP can be and is also computed as the sum total of the various expenditures incurred in the economy including private consumption spending, government consumption spending and gross fixed capital formation or investment spending, these reflect essentially on the demand conditions in the economy.
  • From a policymaker’s perspective it is therefore vital to have the GVA data to be able to make policy interventions, where needed.
  • Also, from a global data standards and uniformity perspective, GVA is an integral and necessary parameter in measuring a nation’s economic performance, and any country which seeks to attract capital and investment from overseas does need to conform to the global best practices in national income accounting.

What are the drawbacks in using GVA to measure economic growth?

  • As with all economic statistics, the accuracy of GVA as a measure of overall national output is heavily dependent on the sourcing of data and the fidelity of the various data sources in capturing the vast labyrinth of activities that constitute a nation’s economic life. To that extent, GVA is as susceptible to vulnerabilities from the use of inappropriate or flawed methodologies as any other measure.
  • Change in methodology and data sources when India switched its base year to 2011-12 had led to a significant overestimation of growth. Value based approach instead of the earlier volume based tack in GVA estimation had affected the measurement of the formal manufacturing sector and thus distorted the outcome.
  • The paper triggered much debate and prompted the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation to assert in a response that the Ministry’s GDP estimates were based on “accepted procedures, methodologies and available data and objectively measure the contribution of various sectors in the economy”.

7 . Prevalence of diabetes among women high in southern India

Context: Researchers have identified a bunch of districts in India that have the maximum prevalence for diabetes among women. At least 50 of the 640 districts studied have high prevalence of diabetes — greater than one in 10 — among women aged 35-49 years. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha have districts with the highest prevalence. The results were published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders.

About Diabetes

  • Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy.

Details of the Research

  • The researchers sourced data from the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) as it provides district-level health indicators for women. This was the first NHS survey to collected blood glucose levels in men and women thus helping determine diabetes.
  • The authors also point to the higher levels of diabetes in the southern and eastern parts of India as being linked to diets of “rice-meat-and-fish” and a higher intake of “sweets and snacks” that were rich in trans-fats.

Factors at play

  • Prevalence of diabetes among women in their late reproductive ages is highest among those with two or fewer children ever born, who are educated, belonging to economically prosperous households, living in urban areas and hence enjoying changing lifestyle as increased access to high energy (refined and processed) food and development.

Rise of diabetes in India

  • The number of people with diabetes in India increased from 26·0 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2016.
  • The prevalence of diabetes in adults aged 20 years or older in India increased from 5·5% in 1990 to 7·7% in 2016.
  • The prevalence in 2016 was highest in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, 2018.


Context: Union Rural Development Ministry had set for the State a target to create 288.14 lakh projected person days in April and May, under the MGNREGA, of which it has generated 503.37 lakh persondays, 175% more than the target. Chhattisgarh achieved 37% of the yearly target within two months under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the highest for any State in the period

How MGNREGA was helpful during the Lockdown

  • MGNREGA helped pump money into the rural economy during the lockdown : Agricultural activity is least affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as there is no issue of plants shutting or unavailability of labour. MGNREGA component puts money straight in the hands of households.
  • Chhattisgarh has also allowed more than one member of a family to work on a job card, even while the pandemic was picking up, the govt allowed the work to continue with the rider of physical distancing and this helped as other job alternatives were not available for the returning
  • Chhattisgarh govt also ensured that the workers are paid on time as delayed payment is one of the major drawbacks of the scheme. As much as 98% funds transfer orders were released with dual signature within eight days of the muster roll closure. In Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur and Narayanpur, remote districts hit by Maoism, payments are being made in cash. 
  • Workers took MGNREGA opportunities along with collecting minor forest produce like tendu leaves and mahua during yearly collection drives.

Work during monsoon

  • To help workers during the monsoon, when MGNREGA works invariably take a hit, the Chhattisgarh government has planned to create employment opportunities through interdepartmental convergence and some skill upgradation opportunities like  horticulture, vegetable growing, sericulture, poultry and dairy sectors.


  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), also known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) is Indian legislation enacted on August 25, 2005. The MGNREGA provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage. The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Govt of India is monitoring the entire implementation of this scheme in association with state governments
  • This act was introduced with an aim of improving the purchasing power of the rural people, primarily semi or un-skilled work to people living below poverty line in rural India. It attempts to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in the country. Roughly one-third of the stipulated work force must be women.
  • Adult members of rural households submit their name, age and address with photo to the Gram Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat registers households after making enquiry and issues a job card. The job card contains the details of adult member enrolled and his /her photo. Registered person can submit an application for work in writing (for at least fourteen days of continuous work) either to Panchayat or to Programme Officer.
  • The Panchayat/Programme officer will accept the valid application and issue dated receipt of application, letter providing work will be sent to the applicant and also displayed at Panchayat office. The employment will be provided within a radius of 5 km: if it is above 5 km extra wage will be paid.

Key facts

  • MGNREGA guarantees hundred days of wage employment in a financial year, to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • Individual beneficiary oriented works can be taken up on the cards of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, small or marginal farmers or beneficiaries of land reforms or beneficiaries under the Indira Awaas Yojana of the Government of India.
  • Within 15 days of submitting the application or from the day work is demanded, wage employment will be provided to the applicant.
  • Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought.
  • Receipt of wages within fifteen days of work done.
  • Variety of permissible works which can be taken up by the Gram Panchayaths.
  • MGNREGA focuses on the economic and social empowerment of women.
  • MGNREGA provides “Green” and “Decent” work.
  • Social Audit of MGNREGA works is mandatory, which lends to accountability and transparency.
  • MGNREGA works address the climate change vulnerability and protect the farmers from such risks and conserve natural resources.
  • The Gram Sabha is the principal forum for wage seekers to raise their voices and make demands. It is the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat which approves the shelf of works under MGNREGA and fix their priority.

Activities covered under MGNREGA

  • Union Rural Development Ministry has notified works under MGNREGA, majority of which are related to agricultural and allied activities, besides the works that will facilitate rural sanitation projects in a major way.
  • The works have been divided into 10 broad categories like Watershed, Irrigation and Flood management works, Agricultural and Livestock related works, Fisheries and works in coastal areas and the Rural Drinking water and Sanitation related works.
  • The priority of the works will be decided by the Gram Panchayats in meetings of the Gram Sabhas and the Ward Sabhas.
  • Rural sanitation projects, time toilet building, soak pits and solid and liquid waste management have been included under MGNREGA. Though the overall 60:40 ratio of labour and material component will be maintained at the Gram Panchayat level but there will be some flexibility in the ratio for certain works based on the practical requirements.
  • Construction of AWC building has been included as an approved activity under the MGNREG Act. ‘Guidelines for construction of Anganwadi Centres’ under MGNREGS have been issued jointly by Secretary, WCD and Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, on 13th August, 2015. Under MGNREGS, expenditure up to Rs.5 lakh per AWC building for construction will be allowed. Expenditure beyond Rs. 5 lakh per AWC including finishing, flooring, painting, plumbing, electrification, wood work, etc. will be met from the ICDS fund

9 . COVID Terminologies

  • Epidemic — When the incidence of a disease rises above the expected level in a particular community or geographic area, it is called an epidemic. The outbreak started in Wuhan city in Hubei province in China, with what seemed then as a cluster of pneumonia-like cases.
  • Pandemic — A global epidemic. When the epidemic spreads over several countries or continents, it is termed a pandemic. On January 30, WHO announced that COVID-19 was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On March 11, WHO decided to announce COVID-19 as a pandemic.
  • R0 — R-Naught is the basic reproduction number. This is the number of new infections caused by one infected individual in an entirely susceptible population. It helps determine whether an epidemic can occur, the rate of growth of the epidemic, the size of the epidemic and the level of effort needed to control the infection. If R0 is 2, then one individual will infect two others. As of end May, India’s R0 value was in the range of 1.22.
  • Co-morbidities — Several health conditions including uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, cancer, morbid obesity, lung diseases, compromised immune systems put patients at greater risk for contracting the infection, and also have poor clinical outcomes. Special attention to prevent the disease and prevent mortality in these groups is the concern of health managers.
  • Transmission — The method by which the disease spreads. In COVID-19 it is through respiratory droplets, expelled while talking, laughing, coughing and sneezing. This makes mask wearing and physical distancing the main tools for protection against the virus. Washing hands with soap and water is an effective way to kill the virus.
  • Community transmission — When you can no longer tell how someone contracted the disease, or who the source of infection was. As numbers climb, this tracing becomes next to impossible.
  • Contact tracing — Identifying and monitoring people who may have come into contact with an infectious person. In the case of COVID-19, monitoring usually involves self-quarantine as an effort to control the spread of disease.
  • Super spreader — Some individuals seem to have the capacity to cause more infections in a disproportionately large number of people, than others. The current pandemic has recorded some super spreaders who have had a huge role in the transmission.
  • Positivity rate — The percentage of people who test positive among all those who are tested. If positivity rate is high, it is possible that only high risk groups are being tested. A low positivity rate can also indicate that not enough testing is being done.
  • Infection fatality rate — It is the number of deaths occurring in all infected people in a particular population. This includes those who might have the COVID-19 infection, but have not been tested for it. Given that the number of tests is not high, experts have clarified that this is not a useful metric to have in this pandemic.
  • Case fatality rate — This is the number of deaths occurring among confirmed cases of COVID-19. Since these two figures are available with a certain amount of reliability, it is actually CFR that is being referred to when there is a loose reference to fatality rate.
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) — A respiratory disease also caused by a coronavirus, and spread through the same transmission method, i.e. respiratory droplets. The symptoms (fever, cough, body ache, difficulty in breathing) are also similar. The government has begun surveillance of SARI patients as also patients with Influenza-like Illness (ILI) admitted in hospitals too.
  • Cytokine storm — An immune reaction triggered by the body to fight an infection is known as a cytokine storm when it turns severe. The body releases too many cytokines, proteins that are involved in immunomodulation, into the blood too quickly. While normally they regulate immune responses, in this case they cause harm and can even cause death. Experts have noticed a violent cytokine storm in several individuals who are critical with COVID infection. These cytokines dilate blood vessels, increase the temperature and heartbeat, besides throwing bloodclots in the system, and suppressing oxygen utilisation. If the cytokine flow is high and continues without cessation, the body’s own immune response will lead to hypoxia, insufficient oxygen to the body, multi-organ failure and death. Experts say it is not the virus that kills; rather, the cytokine storm.
  • RT- PCR (Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction) — It is the primary test to detect COVID-19 infection across the globe. It is a sensitive test that uses swab samples drawn from the nasal/oral cavity to test for the presence of viral RNA (ribonucleic acid). It has got better sensitivity (ability to correctly identify those with the disease) and specificity (ability to correctly identify those without the disease) rates in current diagnostic tests for COVID.
  • Antibody tests — These tests check your blood by looking for antibodies, and that just means you have had a past infection of SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections, and are specific to every disease, granting immunity against getting that particular disease again. An antibody test, with poor specificity, is not believed to be effective in detecting new infections. States have been asked to commence testing seroprevalence in the community, using antibody tests, that are blood tests.
  • Convalescent plasma therapy — Researchers are examining the efficacy of using convalescent plasma, that is, using neutralising antibodies from the blood of people who have recovered from the COVID-19 infection to treat patients with COVID-19.
  • Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) — An antimalarial oral drug that is being repurposed for treatment in COVID-19. It has also been used successfully in the treatment of some auto immune conditions. Its value in COVID-19 has not been resolved entirely.
  • Flattening the curve — Reducing the number of new COVID-19 cases, day on day. The idea of flattening the curve is to ensure that the health infrastructure is not overwhelmed by a large number of cases.
  • Herd immunity — This is also known as community immunity, and constitutes the reduction in risk of infection within a population, often because of previous exposure to the virus or vaccination.
  • PPE — Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is specialised clothing and equipment used as a safeguard against health hazards including exposure to the disease.

10 . Facts for Prelims

Ganga Quest

The quiz was held over three rounds. It focused on the historical and cultural significance of Ganga, flora and fauna, current affairs, geography, famous places and personalities and governance, among other things.

India’s Forex Reserve

  • The reserves are managed by the Reserve Bank of India for the Indian government
  • Reserve Bank of India Act and the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 set the legal provisions for governing the foreign exchange reserves. 
  • Reserve Bank of India accumulates foreign currency reserves by purchasing from authorized dealers in open market operations.
  • Foreign exchange reserves of India act as a cushion against rupee volatility

The Foreign exchange reserves of India consists of below four categories

  1. Foreign Currency Assets
  2. Gold
  3. Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)
  4. Reserve Tranche Position

Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve

  • Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts of Assam a
  • It was declared a sanctuary on 13 June 2004. It is located in the Dehing Patkai rainforest which is a dipterocarp-dominated lowland rainforest.
  • The Dehing Patkai forms the largest stretch of lowland rainforests in India. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and a part of Dehing Patkai Rainforest, due to their importance for elephant habitat, were declared as Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve under Project Elephant.

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