Extreme poverty could rise to over one billion people globally due to COVID-19 crisis: report

Agencies
June 12, 2020

Global poverty could rise to over one billion people due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more than half of the 395 million additional extreme poor would be located in South Asia, which would be the hardest-hit region in the world, according to a new report.

Researchers from King's College London and Australian National University published the new paper with the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) said that poverty is likely to increase dramatically in middle-income developing countries and there could be a significant change in the distribution of global poverty.

The location of global poverty could shift back towards developing countries in South Asia and East Asia, the report said.

The paper, 'Precarity and the Pandemic: COVID-19 and Poverty Incidence, Intensity and Severity in Developing Countries,' finds that extreme poverty could rise to over one billion people globally as a result of the crisis.

The cost of the crisis in lost income could reach USD 500 million per day for the world's poorest people, and the intensity and severity of poverty are likely to be exacerbated dramatically.

The report said that based on the USD 1.90 a day poverty line and a 20 per cent contraction, more than half of the 395 million additional extreme poor would be located in South Asia, which would become the hardest hit region in the world mainly driven by the weight of populous India followed by sub-Saharan Africa which would comprise 30 per cent, or 119 million, of the additional poor.

The report added that as the value of the poverty line increases, a larger share of the additional poor will be concentrated in regions where the corresponding poverty line is more relevant given the average income level.

For instance, the regional distribution of the world's poor changes drastically when looking at the USD 5.50 a day poverty line the median poverty line among upper-middle-income countries.

At this level, almost 41 per cent of the additional half a billion poor under a 20 per cent contraction scenario would live in East Asia and the Pacific, chiefly China; a fourth would still reside in South Asia; and a combined 18 per cent would live in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), whose individual shares are close to that recorded for sub-Saharan Africa.

India plays a significant role in driving the potential increases in global extreme poverty documented previously, comprising almost half the estimated additional poor regardless of the contraction scenario, the report said.

Nonetheless, there are other populous, low and lower-middle- income countries in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia and the Pacific accounting for a sizeable share of the estimates: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia come next, in that order, concentrating a total of 18 19 per cent of the new poor, whereas the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, and the Philippines could jointly add 11 12 per cent.

Taken together, these figures imply that three quarters of the additional extreme poor globally could be living in just ten populous countries.

The report added that this high concentration of the additional extreme poor is staggering , although not necessarily unexpected given the size of each country's population.

On one hand, data shows that three of these ten countries (Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria) were among the top ten by number of extreme poor people in 1990 and remained within the ranks of that group until 2018.

Despite this crude fact, two of these countries have managed to achieve a sustained reduction in their incidence of poverty since the early 1990s, namely Ethiopia and India, reaching their lowest poverty headcount ratio ever recorded at about 22 and 13 per cent, respectively. Nonetheless, the potential contraction in per capita income/consumption imposed by the pandemic's economic effects could erase some of this progress.

The researchers are now calling for urgent global leadership from the G7, G20, and the multilateral system, and propose a three-point plan to address the impact of the COVID-19 on global poverty quickly.

Professor of International Development at King's College London and a Senior Non-Resident Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER Andy Sumner said the COVID-19 crisis could take extreme poverty back over one billion people because millions of people live just above poverty.

Millions of people live in a precarious position one shock away from poverty. And the current crisis could be that shock that pushes them into poverty.

Professor Kunal Sen, Director of UNU-WIDER said the new estimates about the level of poverty in the world and the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic to the world's poor are sobering.

We cannot stand by and see the hard work and effort of so many be eradicated. We will know what the real impact is in time, but the necessary action to ensure we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 needs to be planned now, Sen said.

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International New York Times
January 1,2021

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Washington, Jan 1: A more contagious form of the coronavirus has begun circulating in the United States.

In Britain, where it was first identified, the new variant became the predominant form of the coronavirus in just three months, accelerating that nation’s surge and filling its hospitals. It may do the same in the United States, exacerbating an unrelenting rise in deaths and overwhelming the already strained health care system, experts warned.

A variant that spreads more easily also means that people will need to religiously adhere to precautions like social distancing, mask-wearing, hand hygiene and improved ventilation — unwelcome news to many Americans already chafing against restrictions.

“The bottom line is that anything we do to reduce transmission will reduce transmission of any variants, including this one,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virus expert affiliated with Georgetown University. But “it may mean that the more targeted measures that are not like a full lockdown won’t be as effective.”

What does it mean for this variant to be more transmissible? What makes this variant more contagious than previous iterations of the virus? And why should we worry about a variant that spreads more easily but does not seem to make anyone sicker?

We asked experts to weigh in on the evolving research into this new version of the coronavirus.

The new variant seems to spread more easily between people

Many variants of the coronavirus have cropped up since the pandemic began. But all evidence so far suggests that the new mutant, called B.1.1.7, is more transmissible than previous forms. It first surfaced in September in Britain but already accounts for more than 60% of new cases in London and neighboring areas.

The new variant seems to infect more people than earlier versions of the coronavirus, even when the environments are the same. It’s not clear what gives the variant this advantage, although there are indications that it may infect cells more efficiently.

It’s also difficult to say exactly how much more transmissible the new variant may be, because scientists have not yet done the kind of lab experiments that are required. Most of the conclusions have been drawn from epidemiological observations, and “there’s so many possible biases in all the available data,” cautioned Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a scientific adviser to the British government.

Scientists initially estimated that the new variant was 70% more transmissible, but a recent modeling study pegged that number at 56%. Once researchers sift through all the data, it’s possible that the variant will turn out to be just 10% to 20% percent more transmissible, said Trevor Bedford, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Even so, Bedford said, it is likely to catch on rapidly and become the predominant form in the United States by March. Scientists like Bedford are tracking all the known variants closely to detect any further changes that might alter their behavior.

Apart from greater transmissibility, the variant behaves like earlier versions

The new mutant virus may spread more easily, but in every other way it seems little different than its predecessors.

The variant does not seem to make people any sicker or lead to more deaths. Still, there is cause for concern: A variant that is more transmissible will increase the death toll simply because it will spread faster and infect more people.

“In that sense, it’s just a numbers game,” Rasmussen said. The effect will be amplified “in places like the US and the UK, where the health care system is really at its breaking point.”

The routes of transmission — by large and small droplets, and tiny aerosolized particles adrift in crowded indoor spaces — have not changed. That means masks, limiting time with others and improving ventilation in indoor spaces will all help contain the variant’s spread, as these measures do with other variants of the virus.

“By minimizing your exposure to any virus, you’re going to reduce your risk of getting infected, and that’s going to reduce transmission overall,” Rasmussen said.

Infection with the new variant may increase the amount of virus in the body

Some preliminary evidence from Britain suggests that people infected with the new variant tend to carry greater amounts of the virus in their noses and throats than those infected with previous versions.

“We’re talking in the range between 10-fold greater and 10,000-fold greater,” said Michael Kidd, a clinical virologist at Public Health England and a clinical adviser to the British government who has studied the phenomenon.

There are other explanations for the finding — Kidd and his colleagues did not have access to information about when in their illness people were tested, for example, which could affect their so-called viral loads.

Still, the finding does offer one possible explanation for why the new variant spreads more easily. The more virus that infected people harbor in their noses and throats, the more they expel into the air and onto surfaces when they breathe, talk, sing, cough or sneeze.

As a result, situations that expose people to the virus carry a greater chance of seeding new infections. Some new data indicate that people infected with the new variant spread the virus to more of their contacts.

With previous versions of the virus, contact tracing suggested that about 10% of people who have close contact with an infected person — within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes — inhaled enough virus to become infected.

“With the variant, we might expect 15% of those,” Bedford said. “Currently risky activities become more risky.”

Scientists are still learning how the mutations have changed the virus

The variant has 23 mutations, compared with the version that erupted in Wuhan, China, a year ago. But 17 of those mutations appeared suddenly, after the virus diverged from its most recent ancestor.

Each infected person is a crucible, offering opportunities for the virus to mutate as it multiplies. With more than 83 million people infected worldwide, the coronavirus is amassing mutations faster than scientists expected at the start of the pandemic.

The vast majority of mutations provide no advantage to the virus and die out. But mutations that improve the virus’s fitness or transmissibility have a greater chance to catch on.

At least one of the 17 new mutations in the variant contributes to its greater contagiousness. The mechanism is not yet known. Some data suggest that the new variant may bind more tightly to a protein on the surface of human cells, allowing it to more readily infect them.

It’s possible that the variant blooms in an infected person’s nose and throat, but not in the lungs, for example — which may explain why patients spread it more easily but do not develop illnesses more severe than those caused by earlier versions of the virus. Some influenza viruses behave similarly, experts noted.

“We need to look at this evidence as preliminary and accumulating,” Cevik said of the growing data on the new variant.

Still, the research suggests an urgent need to cut down on transmission of the variant, she added: “We need to be much more careful overall, and look at the gaps in our mitigation measures.”

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Agencies
January 8,2021

Chennai, Jan 8: A three-day national immunisation drive for polio will begin in the country on January 17, said Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Friday.

"Three-day national immunisation drive for polio will begin on January 17. This is essential to maintain the overall immunity level of our country particularly pertaining to polio," said the minister after his visit to the session site in Government General Hospital in Chennai to review the second dry run for coronavirus vaccination on Friday.

Talking about the COVID-19 vaccination, Vardhan said the vaccination should start in the country in the next few days and requested the NGOs working in the field of health to help in the smooth rollout of the process.

"In the next few days, in the near future, we should be able to give these vaccines to our countrymen. It will be given to our healthcare professional followed by frontline workers. I request the NGOs working in the field of health to help in the smooth conduct of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and mobilisation of beneficiaries in the best possible manner," he stated.

"In the past year, government and social organisations, scientists and medical practitioners showed exemplary performance in managing COVID-19 situation. India has the highest recovery rate and the lowest fatality rate. We started journey with one testing lab and today we have around 2,300 labs in the country," the minister added further.

He said the government has ensured that every details regarding vaccination is conveyed to the people from the national level to the grassroot level.

"On January 2, we did a dry run in almost 125 districts in the country. Today, we are doing it across the country except for the three states, which did it earlier... Lakhs of healthcare workers are being trained through these dry runs and the process to train more is still going on," Vardhan stated.

The minister is on a visit to Tamil Nadu to oversee the dry run drill for coronavirus vaccination.

The second nationwide mock drill on the COVID-19 vaccination is being held at three-session sites of 736 districts across 33 states/UTs today.

The dry run is aimed at testing the laid out mechanisms for COVID-19 vaccination roll-out in the health system. It will also help to assess operational feasibility of using Co-WIN application in a field environment for planning, implementation and reporting at the block, district and state level.

According to the health ministry, the objective of the mock drill on COVID-19 vaccination is to simulate the actual vaccine administration event.

COVID-19 vaccines of Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have been granted permission by Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for restricted use in an emergency situation.

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Agencies
January 2,2021

New Delhi, Jan 2: India successfully cultures the new viral strain on the horizon (UK-variant of SARS-CoV-2), the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said, on Saturday.

"SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, was being tracked through countrywide network of ICMR-laboratories since early days of the epidemic in India," the research centre said.

According to the centre, no country has yet reported successful isolation and culture of the UK-variant of SARS-CoV-2.

India successfully cultures the new viral strain on the horizon (UK-variant of SARS-CoV-2). #ICMRFIGHTSCOVID19 #IndiaFightsCOVID19 #CoronaUpdatesInIndia #COVID19 #Unite2FightCorona @MoHFW_INDIA @PIB_India @DrHVoffice @drharshvardhan @AshwiniKChoubey @icmr_niv pic.twitter.com/vaCMQMSHOJ

— ICMR (@ICMRDELHI) January 2, 2021

A total of 29 people have tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India so far, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. These include the 25 cases which were announced till Thursday.

"UK-variant of the virus, with all signature changes, is now successfully isolated and cultured at the National Institute of Virology (MV) from the clinical specimens collected from UK-returnees," it said in a statement.

Vero cell lines were used by the scientists of ICMR-NIV to culture the novel variant of the virus from UK, it said.

The number of fresh Covid-19 cases was recorded below 20,000 in India on Saturday, taking the country's caseload to 1,03,05,788, while the number of people who have recuperated from the disease crossed 99 lakh, according to the health ministry.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 17,39,41,658 samples were tested for Covid-19 in the country till January 1, including 8,29,964 on Friday.

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