World Health Organization

Global scientists double down on SARS-CoV-2 variants research at WHO-hosted forum

Tuesday, 12 January 2021: Global scientists are intensifying research into COVID-19, as the World Health Organization (WHO) moves to expand its scientific collaboration and monitoring of emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. A day-long virtual meeting of scientists from around the globe, convened by WHO, brought together more than 1,750 experts from 124 countries to discuss critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for emerging variants of the virus. Welcoming them, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Science and research have played a vital role in responding to the pandemic since day one and will continue to be the heartbeat of everything WHO does.” The consultation was structured around six thematic areas covering epidemiology and mathematical modelling, evolutionary biology, animal models, assays and diagnostics, clinical management and therapeutics and vaccines. Importance of research Scientists noted the importance of research to detect and understand early on the potential impact of emerging variants on diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. There was a consensus on the importance of integrating the new SARS-CoV-2 variants research into the global research and innovation agenda while enhancing coordination across disciplines. “Our collective goal is to get ahead of the game and have a global mechanism to quickly identify and study variants of concern and understand their implications for disease control efforts,” said Dr Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, Head of WHO’s R&D Blueprint. It is normal for viruses to mutate, but the more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge. Of the significant variants reported so far, some are associated with increases in transmissibility but not disease severity. Research is ongoing to address whether the changes impact public health tools and measures. Genomic sequencing has been critical in identifying and responding to new variants. “So far an astounding 350,000 sequences have been publicly shared, but most come from just a handful of countries. Improving the geographic coverage of sequencing is critical for the world to have eyes and ears on changes to the virus,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove,…

Rakesh Tikait

Is Rakesh Tikait like Father Gapon : Justice Katju

Farmers leaders or Father Gapons ? By justice Markandey Katju More and more on hearing Rakesh Tikait on YouTube, I am getting the feeling he is like Father Gapon ( who was later revealed to be a police agent ) who led the mob to a massacre in St Petersburg, Russia in January 1905 on Bloody Sunday. Tikait repeatedly spoke of farmers breaking barriers and joining the army parade on 26th January in Rajpath with his tractors. But will the farmers even be allowed to enter Delhi? Even a little common sense can tell us they will be stopped, initially by water cannons and tear gas, and if that does not work, by lathis and bullets. So who is Tikait trying to fool? His talk of farmers sitting on Delhi border till May 2024 is a lot of baloney. I am a strong supporter of the farmers agitation as it has broken the barriers of caste and religion, and thus overcome our disunity, which was the greatest obstacle to our progress. But now I have become sceptical about the Kisan leaders. I wonder how many of them are covertly Father Gapons? (Justie Markandey Katju’s FB Post)  

COVID-19 News

Impact of the pandemic on Child Labour 

Covid’s Impact on Child Labour in India: Facts about Child Labour Over the past nine months, the entire news and social media have been flooded with reports of rising cases of Covid-19 and the impact it has had on India’s economy. Millions of people lost their jobs or were forced to take pay cuts. Migrants were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres back home and economic activity in rural areas came to a halt. While these visible issues were extensively covered by various news agencies, some other invisible issues remained untouched. One such issue is the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on child labour. The Pandemic, economic instability and child labour The last few decades have seen significant progress in the fight against child labour. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has posed a risk of backtracking. Positive trends may fade away, and the problem may even worsen in most places. Therefore, there is an urgent need to acknowledge this aspect of the pandemic’s impact and take urgent action to protect children and their families. The pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the economy. It has led to profound disruptions of supply chains, halts in manufacturing and hence increased economic insecurity. The very high proportion of workers in the informal economy makes India especially vulnerable to the economic and labour market shocks arising as a result of the pandemic.  The experience of previous epidemics and financial crises also suggest that the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a rise in child labour. During the Ebola pandemic from 2014-2016, the large number of children were left vulnerable and child labour in affected areas increased. The global HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s led to reduced economic growth, in turn impacting children and youth. Many children experienced the loss of one or both parents and in the absence of social protection, found themselves head of household and providers for siblings or a sick parent. Youth were widely reported to drop out of school and start work at a young age, with no skills or experience. The global financial crisis of 2007-08 also led…

health for all

Lessons from COVID-19: Need for universal healthcare and socio-economic equality

By Neha Mazumdar COVID-19 was first detected in India on 30 January 2020, the same day when the World Health Organization had formally declared a public health emergency of international concern. Since then, the number of cases in our country has risen exponentially, inching towards 10 million. To gain a better understanding of this pandemic and why it has affected our country so heavily, we reached out to Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant of CNS. Bobby feels that although COVID-19 has had significant negative impacts, it has brought the need for better healthcare policies to the forefront. Learning from history and past experiences India’s failure to learn from its mistakes is one of its biggest challenges. Let’s consider 2 examples to further elucidate this point – the first being tuberculosis (TB). India has been battling with TB for many centuries. Despite having scientifically assured processes for diagnosis, prevention and treatment, India still has a large number of recurring cases each year (2.69 Million in 2019 (TB Statistics India, 2019)) as well as untimely deaths due to TB. When TB is preventable and curable, then how can we explain it to be the world’s top infectious disease killer? The lessons we learnt from TB should have highlighted the need for better distribution networks for healthcare, other obstacles that prevent people from accessing care, especially keeping the national goal of ending TB by 2025 in mind. These lessons will be extremely crucial when it is time to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as, for ending TB. Today is #Human Rights Day The second example is that of HIV and the forgetfulness of the rights-based approach which was used by those living with HIV to push for health as a human right. This approach helped the HIV community-led movements as well as other groups struggling to get a voice e.g. sex workers, LGBTIQ+ movements (Krishnan, 2018) etc. The similar rights-based approach could be and should be adopted when demanding equitable healthcare during COVID-19. Bobby’s example of Thailand from his days of working with the HDN help to appreciate the opposite case….

arnab goswami

JFA strongly denounces Arnab Goswami’s arrest

Guwahati: Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) expressed utter dismay over the arrest of senior journalist Arnab Goswami on Wednesday morning (4 November 2020) by the Mumbai police and urged the Maharashtra government to release him urgently. The forum also appealed to the media fraternity of India to raise strong voices against the physical assault to the chief editor of Republic TV. The Indian audiences woke up to a sensational news breaking today as the Mumbai police’s crime investigation department arrived at Goswami’s residence in the commercial capital of India and picked him up following a 2018 case of abetment to suicide by an architect. The nationalist editor was heard in Republic’s live footages as saying that he with some of his family members were physically mishandled by the police personnel. “The rule of law defines the power to the police department for various occasions but arresting a senior scribe like a criminal is totally unacceptable,” stated JFA president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria adding, “We hope, good sense will prevail over Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to show the basic minimum respect to Arnab Goswami as the scribe represents the voice of millions of Indians.”


Health News : Opioid addiction treating drug may be repurposed for type 2 diabetes

India is the diabetes capital of the world New Delhi, Nov 03: India is the diabetic capital of the world as every sixth person with diabetes in the world is an Indian. Insulin resistance has been a big challenge to the researchers who seek to understand and treat it. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi (IIT Mandi) have unravelled the mechanism by which insulin overload in the body causes insulin resistance that is associated with diabetes. They have found the drug that is used in treating opioid addiction can potentially reverse this phenomenon. “We’ve known that one of the causes of insulin resistance is inflammation”, says Dr Prosenjit Mondal, Associate Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi, “We wanted to find out if and how hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin traversing the bloodstream) invokes inflammation in the body, which would provide the link between the two conditions” he told. What is the relationship between insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia? The relationship between insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia is cyclic – each increases the occurrence of the other. While it is obvious how insulin resistance leads to hyperinsulinemia – when cells cannot use the insulin, it just remains in the blood – the converse of how hyperinsulinemia increases insulin resistance has hitherto remained unclear. The researchers identified a critical protein molecule – SIRT1 which is repressed in hyperinsulinemia. They discovered that a decrease in SIRT1 activates another protein called NFkB, which instigates inflammation, thus providing the link between hyperinsulinemia and systemic inflammation.  The team has also discovered a solution to this problem. The researchers found that low-dose naltrexone (LDN), a drug commonly administered for opiate addiction, can activate SIRT1, thereby reducing inflammation and increasing insulin sensitivity of cells. The significance of this discovery is enormous. “Naltrexone at low doses could potentially restore some of the diabetes-associated events in cellular and animal models”, observed Dr Mondal, who is confident that this is a viable path to follow for Type-2 diabetes management. Naltrexone: an FDA-approved drug used for the treatment of opioid addiction Naltrexone is already an FDA-approved drug that is used for the treatment…

Education, Engineering, Science, Research,

Scientists devise breakthrough bioremediation technique to fight oil spillage in ocean waters

New Delhi, Oct. 15: There is a grave ecological concern in the recent times due to the surge of human activity in extracting oils through offshore drilling resulting in spillage of oil either accidentally or due to negligence. Also, there is industrial effluent discharge, waste burns out and other manmade disasters polluting the marine environment. Cleaning up of the oil spillage from the oceans without damaging the marine ecosystem is becoming an increasingly challenging task due to expansion of oil exploration works in the oceanic areas. There were eight large scale oil spill disasters in different ocean areas around the globe since 1978 where an estimated 1,162 million gallons of oils were spilt into the ocean waters. Recently, the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) has successfully developed an eco-friendly crude oil bioremediation mechanism technology using consortia of marine microbes wheat bran (WB) immobilized on agro residue bacterial cells.  During this study, nine different hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria extracted from the ocean sediment collected from a depth of 2100m were used. These hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria don’t depend on hydrocarbon for survival but have a metabolic mechanism where they use petroleum products as carbon and energy source and thus help clean up oil spills. It was found that complete breakdown and degradation of crude oil was achievable using wheat bran marine bacterial consortia  (which are low-cost nontoxic agro-residues) immobilized on low cost nontoxic agro-residues bacterial cells in an environmentally sustainable manner. It was also found that they were more effective in their immobilized state than the free bacteria cells in degrading the oil spills, in addition to being more versatile and resistant to adverse conditions. The NIOT study found that immobilized bacterial cells had better oil-degrading capacity than the free bacterial cells. It was found that they could remove 84% of the oils within 10 days. The free bacterial cells degraded a maximum of 60% of the crude oil at optimized conditions. These findings evince their efficacy in treating accidental bulk discharge of oil in the marine environment through nontoxic clean-up technology. In the marine ecosystem, hydrocarbonoclastic deep-sea microbial consortium (two or more group…

Abortion is an essential healthcare

‘May you be the mother of many sons…’

…so goes an old common blessing given to an Indian bride, talks of gender equality notwithstanding. While the small family norm slogan of ‘hum do, hamare do’ (we two, ours two) has rubbed in well the penchant for begetting at least one son has not waned. Many modern Indian women find their womanhood incomplete without begetting a son. I know of several highly educated and professionally qualified young Indian women who heaved a sigh of relief and smug satisfaction on having a boy as their first or second born. A complete Indian family is envisaged as one with two kids- at least one of who ought to be a son. This is what centuries of patriarchy entrenched in our society has done to our psyche, which even a Harvard degree is unable to wipe out. One shudders to think of the plight of the less privileged ones. No wonder India’s sex ratio at birth stands at 919 girls for every 1000 boys. While the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act prohibits sex-selection of the foetus, its enforcement is lax, resulting in high incidences of female foeticide in many states. Ironically, those very families who have no qualms about killing the female foetus, revel in worshipping female deities with great pomp and show. Having access to reproductive justice that entails “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children in safe and sustainable communities” is a far cry for most women, not only in India but in many countries of the Asia Pacific region. The term reproductive justice was coined and formulated as an organizing framework by a group of Black women in Chicago in 1994, just ahead of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. Reproductive justice links reproductive rights (legal rights to access reproductive health care services including abortion and birth control) with the social, political and economic inequalities that affect a woman’s ability to access reproductive health care services. Core components of reproductive justice include equal access to safe abortion, affordable contraceptives and…

Dr. Ram Puniyani

Article by Dr. Ram Puniyani: Conversions and Anti-Christian Violence in India

Mr. Satyapal Singh, the BJP MP, while speaking in Lok Sabha on amendments to FCRA went on to support the forthcoming restrictions to the foreign contributions. While making his arguments, to buttress his point, he put forward the case of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains. In the process, he poured venom on the late Pastor by saying that the Pastor had raped 30 Tribal women and was involved in the work of conversion to Christianity with the help of funds from abroad! This blatant lie should have been countered in the Parliament. The brutal murder of Pastor Stains was described by the then President of India, Dr. K.R. Narayanan by saying “it belonged to the world’s inventory of black deeds”. Who was Pastor Graham Staines The pastor, who came from Australia to work among the Leprosy patients in Orissa, was sleeping in an open jeep in the village on the night of 22-23 January 1999. He was working in Keonjhar, Manoharpur, in Orissa. On that fateful night, he was burnt alive with his two minor sons, Timothy and Philip. The Whole Country was aghast with the brutal nature of the crime. The brutality was committed by Rajendra Singh Pal aka Dara Singh, a worker of Bajrang Dal. Mr. Advani was the home minister at that time. He stated that Bajrang Dal has nothing to do with this act; he knows this organization too well. As the immediate measure, he sent three-member ministerial team, Murli Manohar Joshi, Navin Patnayak and George Fernandez to Orissa. In a single day, the team concluded that this grave crime is an international conspiracy to destabilize the ruling NDA government. Then Wadhava Commission was appointed. The Wadhwa Commission said in its report that the pastors were not doing the work of conversion but instead served the leprosy patients. The Wadhava commission concluded that Dara Singh, who was working with Bajrang Dal with the help of organizations like Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, VHP etc. propagated that Pastor is doing the work of conversion and is a threat to Hinduism. He did mobilize people, poured Kerosene on the vehicle and…

Never say die: Disability is not about inability

Never say die: Disability is not about inability

They may be differently-abled, but they do not lack inability. Yes, I am talking about the more than one billion people in the world who live with some form of disability. They could be persons with impaired functions of the senses, mobility, cognition or with psychosocial difficulties. Out of these, an estimated 690 million live in the Asia Pacific region, which accounts for the largest number of persons with disabilities in the world. In his foreword to the World Report on Disability physicist Dr Stephen Hawking, while conceding that “The majority of people with disabilities in the world have an extremely difficult time with everyday survival, let alone productive employment and personal fulfilment”, insisted that “we have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.” Breaking stereotypes One such person is 34 years old Cai Cong – who is a noted sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and disability rights pioneer from China – a country which is said to have the largest number of persons with disabilities in the world, with over 85 million persons. Visually impaired, Cai has conquered his lack of vision with his sheer ability of breaking stereotypes. Cai Cong was speaking at the second virtual session of the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APCRSHR10) held around World Population Day in partnership with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): “I lost my eyesight 24 years ago when I was 10 years old. My family had no knowledge on how to deal with my disability. I went to a regular school to study without any special support. We had a chapter in our Biology book on the Reproductive System. But our teacher said you can read it by yourself. While my other classmates could do so, I could not. I was too shy to ask others. That was my first brush with sexual and reproductive health as a person with a disability. I did my High School in 2005. I could not join the…

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today visited an Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that was attacked by armed groups last week and again earlier today.

#bREAKING : There are still 77 countries and territories with no reported cases of COVID-19.

All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, preventing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights, says WHO DG New Delhi/ Geneva, 12th March 2020. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that there are still 77 countries and territories with no reported cases of COVID-19 and 55 countries and territories that have reported 10 cases or less. Dr Tedros was addressing Mission briefing on COVID-19 – on 12 March 2020. Full text of WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the Mission briefing on COVID-19 – 12 March 2020 is as follows – Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends, First of all, I would like to say good morning. As you know, yesterday I said that that the global COVID-19 outbreak can now be described as a pandemic. This is not a decision we took lightly. We have made this assessment for two main reasons: first, because of the speed and scale of transmission. Almost 125,000 cases have now been reported to WHO, from 118 countries and territories. In the past two weeks, the number of cases reported outside China has increased almost 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has almost tripled. The second reason is that despite our frequent warnings, we are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it. Let me be clear: describing this as a pandemic does not mean that countries should give up. The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous. On the contrary, we have to double down. This is a controllable pandemic. Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control. All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, preventing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights. We urge all countries to take a comprehensive approach tailored to their circumstances – with containment as the central pillar. We are calling on countries to take a…

Corona virus COVID19

#Breaking : Update and Interim Guidance on Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

29th February. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations. CDC issued the following Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Update on February 28, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to closely monitor and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This CDC Health Alert Network (HAN) Update provides updated guidance on evaluating and testing persons under investigation (PUIs) for COVID-19. It supersedes guidance provided in CDC’s HAN 427 distributed on February 1, 2020. The outbreak that began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, has now spread throughout China and to 46 other countries and territories, including the United States. As of February 27, 2020, there were 78,497 reported cases in China and 3,797 cases in locations outside China. In addition to sustained transmission in China, there is evidence of community spread in several additional countries. CDC has updated travel guidance to reflect this information ( ). To date, there has been limited spread of COVID-19 in the United States. As of February 26, 2020, there were a total of 61 cases within the United States, 46 of these were among repatriated persons from high-risk settings. The other 15 cases were diagnosed in the United States; 12 were persons with a history of recent travel in China and 2 were persons in close household contact with a COVID-19 patient (i.e. person-to-person spread). One patient with COVID-19 who had no travel history or links to other known cases was reported on February 26, 2020, in California. The California Department of Public Health, local health departments, clinicians, and CDC are working together to investigate this case and are identifying contacts with whom this individual interacted. CDC, state and local health departments, other federal agencies, and other partners have been implementing measures to slow and contain transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. These…

Breaking news

#Breaking : FASTag to be available free of charge for 15 days#Breaking : FASTag to be available free of charge for 15 days

New Delhi, 13th February 2020. In order to further increase digital collection of user fee via FASTag at NH fee plazas, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to waive off the FASTag cost of Rs.100/- for NHAI FASTag between 15th and 29th February, 2020. Road users can visit any authorised physical point-of-sale locations with a valid Registration Certificate (RC) of the vehicle and get a NHAI FASTag free of cost. free nhai fastag online purchase/ nhai fastag purchase near me NHAI FASTag may be purchased from all NH fee plazas, RTOs, Common Service Centres, transport hubs, petrol pumps, etc. To search for the nearest NHAI FASTag point-of-sale locations, one may download MyFASTag App, or visit or Call 1033 NH Helpline number. The applicable security deposit and minimum balance amount for FASTag wallet shall, however, remain unchanged. NHAI had earlier announced for Free NHAI FASTag from 22 Nov to 15 December 2019 to encourage people to adopt FASTag.