COVID-19 | Govt warns against use of N-95 masks with valved respirators

Agencies
July 21, 2020

New Delhi, Jul 21: The Centre has written to all states and union territories warning against the use of N-95 masks with valved respirators by people, saying these do not prevent the virus from spreading out and are "detrimental" to the measures adopted for its containment.

The Director General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health, in a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, said it has been observed that there is "inappropriate use" of N-95 masks, particularly those with valved respirators, by the public other than designated health workers.

The DGHS referred to the advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth available on the website of the Ministry of Health.

"It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks," DGHS Rajiv Garg said in the letter.

The government had in April issued an advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth, asking people to wear it, particularly when they step out of their residences.

The advisory stressed such face covers must be washed and cleaned each day, as instructed, and stated that any used cotton cloth can be used to make this face cover.

The colour of the fabric does not matter but one must ensure that the fabric is washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover. Adding salt to this water is recommended, it said.

It also listed the procedures of making such homemade masks, asking to ensure it fits the face well and there are no gaps on the sides.

It urges people to wash hands thoroughly before wearing the face cover, switching to another fresh one as the face cover becomes damp or humid, and never reusing it after single use without cleaning it.

"Never share the face cover with anyone. Every member in a family should have separate face cover," the advisory stated.

India's COVID-19 case tally crossed the 11-lakh mark on Monday, while the total number of recovered patients increased to over seven lakh, according to Union health ministry data.

The death toll due to the disease rose to 27,497 with 681 fatalities reported in one day.

The ministry data updated at 8 am on Monday showed that a record single-day jump of 40,425 COVID-19 cases had taken the total number of cases to 11,18,043.

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Agencies
September 17,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 17: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that the coronavirus vaccine will be made available in the country by the start of next year. The remarks come at a time when India is recording more than 50 lakh cases and people are awaiting the vaccine with bated breath.

"Just like other countries, India is also making efforts. Three vaccines candidates are in different phases. Under Prime Minister's guidance, an expert group is looking at it and there is advanced planning in place. We are hopeful that by the start of next year a vaccine will be available in India," Harsh Vardhan said in Rajya Sabha.

Two indigenous vaccines by Zydus Cadila and Bharat Biotech have completed phase 1. Serum Institute of India (SII) has again commenced the trials after getting clearance from the Drug Controller General of India.

India is the manufacturing partner of the vaccine candidate named Covishield, developed jointly by the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute's and AstraZeneca. The Pune-based firm, SII, is looking after the trials at 17 trial sites across India.

Besides this, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Limited, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered out of India, have agreed to cooperate on clinical trials and distribution of Sputnik V vaccine in India.

Sputnik V, an adenovirus vector-based vaccine, was developed by the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, along with the Russian Direct Investment Fund and registered on August 11.

"On regulatory approval in India, RDIF shall supply to Dr. Reddy's 100 million doses of the vaccine. The Sputnik V vaccine, which is based on well-studied human adenoviral vector platform with proven safety, is undergoing clinical trials for the coronavirus pandemic," said a statement from the fund.

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Agencies
September 25,2020

New Delhi, Sept 25: The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Friday launched the Centre's much-publicised reform measure of faceless income tax appeals. Under faceless appeals, all income tax appeals will be finalised online under the faceless ecosystem with the exception of appeals relating to serious frauds, major tax evasion, sensitive and search matters along with international tax and the Black Money Act.

On August 13, while launching the Faceless Assessment and Taxpayers' Charter as part of "Transparent Taxation - Honoring the Honest" platform, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launching of 'Faceless Appeals' on September 25.

"From now on in income tax appeals, everything from e-allocation of appeal, e-communication of notice/questionnaire, e-verification/e-enquiry to e-hearing and finally, e-communication of the appellate order, the entire process of appeals will be online, dispensing with the need for any physical interface between the appellant and the department," said the statement.

There will be no physical interface between the taxpayers or their counsel/s and the Income Tax Department, it said, adding that the taxpayers can make submissions from the comfort of their home and save their time and resources.

According to the CBDT, the faceless appeal system will include allocation of cases through data analytics and artificial intelligence under the dynamic jurisdiction with central issuance of notices which would be having Document Identification Number (DIN).

As part of dynamic jurisdiction, the draft appellate order will be prepared in one city and will be reviewed in some other city resulting in an objective, fair and just order.

As per the CBDT, the faceless appeal will provide not only great convenience to the taxpayers but also it will ensure that it will ensure just and fair appeal orders and minimise any further litigations. The new system will also be instrumental in imparting greater efficiency, transparency and accountability in the functioning of the Income Tax Department, it said.

As on date, there is a pendency of almost 4.6 lakh appeals at the level of the Commissioner (Appeals) in the Department.

Out of this, about 4.05 lakh appeals, or about 88 per cent of the total appeals, will be handled under the faceless appeal mechanism and almost 85 per cent of the present strength of Commissioners (Appeals) shall be utilised for disposing off the cases under the faceless appeal mechanism.

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News Network
September 17,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 17: Four Indian cities -- New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru -- witnessed a significant drop in their rankings in the global listing of smart cities that was topped by Singapore.

The Institute for Management Development (IMD), in collaboration with Singapore University for Technology and Design (SUTD), has released the 2020 Smart City Index, with key findings on how technology is playing a role in the Covid-19 era.

In the 2020 Smart City Index, Hyderabad was placed at the 85th position (down from 67 in 2019), New Delhi at 86th rank (down from 68 in 2019), Mumbai was at 93rd place (in 2019 it was at 78) and Bengaluru at 95th (79 in 2019).

"Cities in India (New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru) suffer significant drops this year. This can be attributed to the detrimental effect that the pandemic has had where the technological advancement was not up to date," the report said.

It further added that "Indian cities have suffered more from the pandemic because they were not prepared".

From 15 indicators that the respondents perceive as the priority areas for their city, all four cities highlighted air pollution as one of the key areas that they felt their city needed to prioritise on.

For cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, this was closely followed by road congestion while for Delhi and Hyderabad it was basic amenities, the report said.

The 2020 Smart City Index (SCI) was topped by Singapore, followed by Helsinki and Zurich in the second and the third place respectively. Others in the top 10 list include Auckland (4th), Oslo (5th), Copenhagen (6th), Geneva (7th), Taipei City (8th), Amsterdam (9th) and New York at the 10th place.

In SCI's context, 'smart city' describes an urban setting that apply technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of urbanization.

The second edition of the SCI ranked 109 cities worldwide by capturing perceptions of randomly chosen 120 residents in each city.

Hundreds of citizens from 109 cities were surveyed in April and May 2020 and asked questions on the technological provisions of their city across five key areas: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities and governance.

Reflected in this year's rankings is that cities have ever differing approaches to technology as managing the pandemic has become increasingly important in local politics, the report said.

"We cannot ignore the impact of Covid-19," said IMD's Professor Arturo Bris, who led the work of the ranking as the Director of the World Competitiveness Center at the Swiss management institute which is behind it. Those with better technology manage the pandemic better. Smart cities are not the solution, but technology helps,” he explained.

"Smart cities closer to the top of the rankings seem to deal with unexpected challenges of the devastating pandemic with a better outcome," remarked Professor Heng Chee Chan, Chairperson of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at SUTD.

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