THURSDAY RAJASTHAN GOVT DECLARES BLACK FUNGUS AN EPIDEMIC 20 Wednesday’s declaration came after case count touched 100. A separate ward has been created at a Jaipur hospital MAY, 2021 STEROID USE LINKED TO FUNGUS’ SPREAD epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard It can affect any organ, including eye. A surgery or removal of the affected organ may be required to contain the spread. There is no evidence that oxygen pipes or humidifier are sources of its origin. It is not contagious, but has high morbidity. Diabetes care and avoiding steroids can help arrest it NARADA CASE NO RESPITE FOR TMC LEADERS HC hears contentions of top advocates, questions Didi’s dharna outside CBI office PAGE 8 A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS NEW DELHI J8.00 PAGES 12 Hinterlands becoming super-spreaders; lax testing, poor awareness & fewer good hospitals complicate situation Rural caseload spurt is a big healthcare challenge E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E I F metros and big cities bore the brunt of the first wave of Covid-19 last year, the second wave seems to be choking rural India in a way not seen before. According to a recent SBI report, the share of rural districts in new cases has been steadily increasing – from 36.8% in March to 45.5% in April and 48.5% in May Alarm. ingly, the fatality rate in interior regions is also high owing to lack of easy access to medical care, shortage of life-saving drugs, and lack of awareness, among other reasons. In Punjab, for example, 46% of the active coronavirus cases are from rural areas. Data show that interior regions account for 55% of the overall Covid deaths in the state. During May 1-15, as many as 55,411 cases were reported from Punjab’s 16 rural districts while the total infections in the state were 1,20,723. Out of 2,618 deaths in Punjab during the period, 1,434 were from rural areas. Likewise, 43% of Haryana’s Covid cases were from rural areas in the first two weeks of May. Also, 62% of the Covid deaths were from the 15 predominantly rural districts of IN THE NEWS T O D AY INDIA Home swab test The ICMR issued an advisory for the use of a home testing rapid antigen testing kit Coviself, developed by Mylab Discovery Solutions, for those with the symptoms of Covid. Using the kit, people can collect nasal swab and check the results within minutes. The ICMR, however, said this kit should only be used by symptomatic people and close contacts of lab confirmed cases. For using the kit, users will need a mobile app that works as a guide for the testing procedure and will provide result to the patient ED records statement The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday recorded a statement of advocate Jayshree Patil in connection with the money laundering case against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh. Patil came to the ED office at around 11 am. Her statement was recorded for nearly four hours, sources said. Patil, who had earlier moved Bombay High Court seeking CBI probe against Deshmukh, also submitted some documentary evidence. Desmukh faces grave charges brought against him by a former top cop. INTERNATIONAL Biden message US President Joe Biden told Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu that he expects a “significant” reduction in the military confrontation with Palestinians, the White House said. “The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a statement released after what the White House said was the two leaders’ fourth call since the crisis began. It marked a sharpening of public tone from the White House toward the close US ally. Awareness in rural areas this time was less compared to the first phase. One can’t rule out negligence in rural areas. Persistent efforts and containment measures across Chhattisgarh helped us record a recovery rate of 86% Dr Subhash Mishra, Director of Epidemic Control, Chhattisgarh the state. During May 1-15, as many as 84,242 cases were reported from these districts, while the total cases across the state stood at 1,97,334. In terms of deaths, the figure is 1,456 from rural areas out of the state’s total of 2,330. Bihar has a peculiar problem. Nearly 89% of the state’s 13.12 crore population live in its 45,103 villages. In the second Covid wave, 76% of the total cases in the state are from rural areas. According to sources, at least 50% of the population in remote districts like Jamui, Aurangabad, Muzaffarpur, etc could be infected. “The actual degree of rural spread could be much higher, as access and willingness for testing is limited,” said Dr Vikash R Keshri, a health policy expert. Covid-19 is surging ahead in rural Bengal, too, with health department officials conceding that the situation in at least 18 districts is grim. For example, West Midnapore recorded 268 cases on May 1. The count went up to 653 on May 7 and 829 on May 15. Similarly 74 new cases , were recorded on May 1 in Jhargram. It jumped to 124 on May 8 and to 178 on May 15. In Andhra, while rural areas have been reporting more Covid-19 cases than urban regions, interior areas seem to have a slightly lesser fatality rate. According to data for April, the case load was higher in rural areas compared to urban. Of the 1.46 lakh cases reported, 56% of them, accounting for 81,365 cases, were in rural areas while the urban areas accounted for 44%. Explaining the reason, Principal Secretary (Health) Anil Kumar Singhal said the enforcement of partial curfew or restrictions would be more effective in urban areas and cities but not so in hinterCONTINUED ON: P8 lands. Doctors operating on a patient with black fungus infection at Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur Medical College Hospital on Wednesday | PTI PM’S ECONOMIC ADVISORY PANEL Fresh push for 1-time hike in corporate tax A N U R A D H A S H U K L A @ New Delhi ASHA OF PROTECTION ASHA workers and nurses engaged in door-to-door Covid survey, also checking oxygen saturation of children, in Mysuru on Wednesday | UDAYSHANKAR S May 18 12,79,896 doses May 19 11,45,569 doses TOTAL DOSES: 18,69,89,265 JAB-O-METER TAKE YOUR SHOT NATIONWIDE MAY 18 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths MAY 19 2,63,533 2,67,334 4,22,436 3,89,851 4,329 4,529 RURAL LOAD FACTOR ANDHRA PRADESH Rural areas have more cases (56%) but fatality rate is lower than urban centres BIHAR 90% of the 13-crore population lives in villages. Over 75% of active cases reported from rural areas HARYANA 43% of the fresh cases and over 60% of deaths from hinterlands MADHYA PRADESH Huge uptick in cases in districts adjoining Uttar Pradesh UTTARAKHAND 100% JUMP IN ACTIVE CASES FROM RURAL AREAS WEST BENGAL Situation in 18 districts grim PUNJAB Over 45% of the fresh cases and 55% of deaths are from rural districts A controversial proposal to tax the rich is back on the table, with a section of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) strongly pushing to impose additional tax for a short period to make up for the revenue loss during the pandemic. “In the internal economic review meeting, many members of the PMEAC had suggested that many countries are using wealth tax to compensate for revenue. The proposal was that India can reconsider it for companies that are resilient or had posted a healthy double-digit growth as one-time measure,” a senior finance ministry official, who was aware of the meeting earlier this month, said. The meeting was attended by officials of the finance ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), PMEAC and Niti Aayog. Some officials of the finance ministry are also in favour of the proposal, the officer said. This is not the first time the rich tax has been mooted. When the proposal to slash corporate tax was first drafted, it had a wealth tax component on high profit earning Delhi govt ignores Centre, to continue plasma therapy S O M R I TA G H O S H @New Delhi DELHI COVID WATCH TWO days after the Centre-appointed task force removed plasma therapy from the treatment protocol for adult Covid patients, Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday said it can still be initiated on the suggestion of doctors on a case-to-case basis. “Plasma therapy was dropped from the specific methodology of Covid treatment. However, on the suggestion of doctors, it can still be initiated. It depends on a case-to-case basis, and will be done only after recommendation from doctors. Nevertheless, we must know that there is no sure-shot specific medicine meant only for treatment against COVID-19,” he said. Incidentally, Jain was given plasma therapy when he was infected with Covid last year. The Covid treatment protocol is prepared in consultation with the ICMR, AIIMS-Delhi, among others. But in the Delhi government-run hospitals, doctors say , the plasma therapy can be administered depending upon cases as there’s no clarity from the state over its use. “It is not a ban, a recommendation which says plasma therapy is not beneficial. Also, there has not been any official communication from the Delhi government. However, we will surely Positive cases Recovery Active cases Deaths Containment zones Tests Positivity rate MAY 18 3,846 9,427 45,047 235 56,732 66,573 5.78% Therapy dropped after thorough consultations Last Friday, all members of the ICMR-National Task Force for Covid-19, were in favour of removing the use of convalescent plasma from the Clinical Guidance for Management of Adult Covid19 Patients. There were reports that the members cited its ineffectiveness and inappropriate use in several cases. keep a cap on its usage. It doesn’t help in extreme critical cases. This year, we tried it on some patients but only on those whom we knew will benefit,” said an official from a state-run hospital. The AAP government has been vocal about plasma donation and administering it in critical cases. In Delhi, the plasma therapy was first tried in April 2020. In July last year, Delhi became the first state to start a plasma bank at the ILBS followed by banks at Lok Nayak and GTB hospitals. CONTINUED ON P5 The demand to tax the rich has increased globally, especially at a time when the income divide has widened during the pandemic with a large number of middle class people pushed into poverty while the ultra rich are getting richer firms. But in the final draft by then revenue secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, the wealth tax clause was dropped. Ahead of this year’s budget, the proposal was back on the table but was decisively rejected by the PMO, which wanted to present a business friendly image. According to Karthik Natarajan, partner, Bhuta Shah & Co. LLP , “The temptation, however easy, to load the thrust of taxes on a section of economic citizenry may best be avoided as the corporates are an inseparable part of the society and have larger contributions to make in terms of productive deployment of the factors of production.” UP cops book villager for complaining to media on Covid E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ Lucknow MAY 19 4,482 9,403 50,863 265 57,805 65,004 6.89% Demand to tax the rich growing globally A Navy ship provides assistance to a partially flooded tug off Daman | PTI CYCLONE TOLL 45 IN GUJ; 26 FROM BARGE FOUND DEAD EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Mumbai/New Delhi MONSTER cyclone Tauktae that made landfall in Gujarat on Monday night left a trail of destruction, killing at least 45 people across 12 districts, apart from drowning at least 26 occupants of ONGC’s Barge-P305 35 nautical miles off Mumbai. While the 26 bodies were brought ashore by a Navy team on Wednesday 47 others , who were on the barge on the ill-fated night are still unaccounted for. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday undertook an aerial survey of affected areas in Gujarat and the adjoining Union Territory of Diu to assess the devas- tation. Indian Navy and the Coast Guard continued their search and rescue operations for the third day. Modi approved a grant of `1,000 crore for immediate relief activities in Gujarat besides `2 lakh compensation to the next of kin of all victims of the cyclone. Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said, 186 crew members of accommodation barge P-305 and two from Tug ‘Varapradha’ have been rescued by Navy ships and aircraft so far. Efforts to locate the 47 missing personnel is in progress. INS Talwar assisted Support Station 3 and drill ship Sagar Bhushan, which are now being safely towed back to Mumbai by ONGC support vessels. Food and water to the 300-odd crew members of these vessels was also provided by naval helicopters from Mumbai earlier in the day . In Gujarat, 15 deaths were reported from Amreli district in Saurashtra, the worst affected region. Eight persons each were killed in Bhavnagar and Gir Somnath districts, an official of the State Emergency Operation Centre said. Ahemdabad reported five deaths, two in Kheda, and one each in Anand, Vadodara, Surat, Valsad, Rajkot, Navsari and Panchmahal districts. As many as 30,000 structures, including 28,430 kachcha houses, 74,493 electricity poles and 674 roads were damaged across the P8 state of Gujarat. THE UP Police have booked a villager for allegedly spreading “false information” in the media about the neglect of Covid positive patients in a village in Greater Noida of UP’s Gautam Buddha Nagar district. The accused is yet to be arrested. Yogesh Talan, husband of a former village pradhan of Mewla Gopalgarh village, was booked on Monday under various sections of the IPC as well as the Epidemic Act. “The complaint was lodged by the Jewar PHC in charge. Efforts are on to arrest him,” said Jewar police station in-charge Umesh Singh. The PHC in-charge has alleged that an elderly man was reporting fever for a few days and was getting treatment from a local quack. When his condition started worsening, he was taken to Jewar CHC, where he tested Covid positive. Doctors referred him for admission to a designated Covid hospital. “Instead, the patient told doctors that he would get admitted to a private hospital. However, he continued to be treated by the quack,” said the police. Some days later, the patient complained of difficulty in breathing for which the PHC gave him oxygen support. “Meanwhile, the accused called journalists and narrated them a false story of neglect by government doctors in Greater Noida,” the Jewar SHO said. CONTINGENCY To counter bad press abroad, govt plans DD International E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ New Delhi PERHAPS pummelled by the loads of bad press India’s Covid response has been drawing, national broadcaster Doordarshan had decided to launch an international channel to try to change the narrative. India’s Covid situation continues to dominate headlines across a wide swathe of inter- national publications and websites like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC, The Australian, The Economist, and news agency Reuters. The public broadcaster last week floated an expression of interest (EOI) for DD International, inviting comments from private players to draft a de- tailed project report for the new channel. Bids were invited from reputed global consultants with experience in advising international broadcasters/ media houses. Prasar Bharati CEO S S Vempati said such a project was on the cards for some time now. “It has been a long overdue strategic objec- tive to establish international presence for Doordarshan. The Prasar Bharati Board in its last meeting (March) gave the go ahead to develop a project roadmap for the same by engaging an appropriate strategy consultant. This EOI is a step towards that,” said Vempati. The EOI said bureaus would be set up globally and there would be round-the-clock world service streams. It said the objectives were to establish the channel as the “authoritative global media source on India through credible, exhaustive and accurate global news service”. The NYT, WP and BBC has reported on the under-reporting of deaths in the country, the missing deaths revealed through obituaries, and the bodies buried in the water bodies. REBEL TROUBLE IN CONG? A second MLA from the Sachin Pilot camp comes out against Gehlot, claims govt is ignoring its legislators PAGE 8
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