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Cellular immunity elicited by existing Covid-19 vaccines can fight the Omicron Covid variant, according to a study. The yet to be peer-reviewed study, which focused on Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson's Covid shots, showed that vaccines will protect against severe disease even if the antibody responses against the strain are not as strong or durable, the Financial Times reported.
"These data suggest that current vaccines may provide considerable protection against severe disease with the Sars-Cov-2 Omicron variant despite the substantial reduction of neutralizing antibody responses," the researchers from Harvard medical school wrote in the study. Previous evidence suggests that the existing vaccines lose antibody response when pitted against Omicron. A third shot at least partially restores that antibody protection, and countries have been racing to scale up their booster programmes to avoid new restrictions.
Also Read : Vaccine isn't sufficient
But vaccines are still expected to protect against severe disease, and health authorities have said they would closely examine evidence such as the one contained in the new study to decide whether a switch to Omicron-targeted vaccines is necessary, the report said. Early findings from studies in South Africa, the US, and the UK suggest that Omicron spreads faster but appears to be milder than previous variants. However, it is not clear yet if this is because of the variant itself, or because most of the world has either been infected or vaccinated, or a combination of the two factors.
However, scientists have said that its high transmissibility, coupled with uneven vaccine coverage, could still mean health systems worldwide come under pressure as many more people get infected. The World Health Organisation has repeatedly called for a more equitable distribution of vaccines. The global health body has set a target of 70 per cent coverage in all nations by mid-2022. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : cellular, immunity, vaccine, COVID, Omicron, severe, disease, protection, antibody, health, authority, examine, evidence, World Health Organization, transmissibility, researchers.)
By Rohit Vaid
Till now, activities associated with laying of power and telecom transmission and distribution lines, roads, highways, railways and construction of facilities such as hospitals, affordable housing, power generation units, water treatment plants, SEZs and certain type of hotels amongst others were given such status.
Besides, these sectors are a part of harmonised master list for infrastructure sub-sectors. However, in April 2021, exhibition-cum-convention centre was included in the list. "Given the focus around electric vehicle, and need for significant investment in charging stations, if the government adds the sector in infrastructure list, the benefits arising out of it will be significant," said Vishal Kotecha, Director, India Ratings and Research. "Infra tag on sectors increases ability to raise funds, access to dedicated funds and lenders, foreign capital, lower interest rates among others."
Given the focus on electric vehicles, the advantages of including the industry in the infrastructure list will be enormous. Free SVG
In recent years, lenders have taken a severe hit on their books consequent to cater to the unique financing requirements of the infra sector. This necessitated regulatory changes and government support from time to time. "The pandemic has hit the retail, hospitality and automobile sectors hard and the need for credit and liquidity support is real and urgent," said Vipula Sharma, Senior Director - Ratings and Head - Infrastructure Ratings, Brickwork Ratings.
"Any likely move to reclassify lending to these sectors as infrastructure lending will enable the banks to lend at concessional rates and extended timeline which in turn would give the sectors time to recover from the three years of repeated extended closures and rebuild their businesses. It would also enable access to funds from a larger set of institutions and funds."
Furthermore, as the economy continues to recover from the prolonged pandemic, the sustainability of the recovery is clearly the key fiscal and monetary policy objective. Consequently, Centre would need to focus on not only enhancing public capital expenditure further in infrastructure but also encouraging the private sector including foreign players to invest in the sector.
The economy is still recovering from the pandemic, and the recovery must be sustained. Unsplash
Lately, the Centre has already taken an initiative to kickstart private sector capital expenditure through the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) programme that has already covered 13 sectors with an aggregate outlay of Rs 1.97 trillion spread over the next few years. "We believe there is a case for considering 'infrastructure sector' status to the healthcare and the EV charging eco-system. The criticality of adequate healthcare infrastructure across the country has increased significantly after the pandemic and the 'infrastructure' tag can be extended to not only hospitals but also diagnostic centres," said Suman Chowdhury, Chief Analytical Officer, Acuité Ratings & Research. "As regards EV, the government has started to provide cash subsidies for EV purchases but the need of the hour is to build the charging infrastructure in an expeditious manner. The 'infrastructure' tag can clearly help attract funds to the EV ecosystem." (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: lending, power, hospitals, rate, capital, government, pandemic, funds, budget, ratings, sector, infrastructure)
A team led by chief scientist Ravi Shankar, is working on two combinations to provide the safest medication to coronavirus patients. "Experts say that a combination of antivirals with different mechanisms can be more effective to counter the viral pandemic. We are working on two combinations - Umifenovir with Molnupiravir (an antiviral) and Umifenovir with Niclosamide (anti-parasitic)," he said.
Also read: Antiviral Remdesivir Receives FDA
Molnupiravur drug has received only Emergency Use Authorisation in India and abroad. Though its usage showed reduced hospitalisation during clinical trials, its biggest drawback are the side-effects, he added.
"Now, we are trying to keep a low dosage of Molnupiravir in its combination with Umifenovir which may weed out the side-effects such as the risk of cartilage and muscle damage. If successful, it will make Umifenovir more effective in Covid-19 treatment," said the chief scientist. The other combination is Umifenovir with Niclosamide.
Niclosamide is known for its efficacy for Covid treatment but the biggest challenge is that its high dosage is required for treatment and that leads to side-effects. A safe and efficacious combination of Umifenovir with Niclosamide is being researched on for the exact dosage in the combination that can give positive results, he added.
CDRI director Prof Tapas Kundu said: "CDRI is working round-the-clock to develop drugs that can help in treating all variants of Covid-19, besides being economical and safe for people. We have achieved a major breakthrough with Umifenovir and are hopeful of developing a new drug to win the pandemic battle."
Molnupiravur drug has received only Emergency Use Authorisation in India.Wikipedia
(Keywords: CDRI director Prof Tapas Kundu, Niclosamide, Covid treatment, Umifenovir, Molnupiravir, safest medication, coronavirus)
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday instructed Indian envoys to Canada and the US, Ajay Bisaria and Taranjit Singh Sandhu, "to urgently respond to the situation" where four Indian nationals including an infant have lost their lives on the US-Canada border. The minister said this in a public tweet. Neither of the two missions have responded on the microblogging site till the time of filing of this report.
In a statement Thursday without identifying the victims, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stated that "on the morning of January 19, 2022, RCMP officers with the Integrated Border Enforcement Team received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States".
RCMP officers received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States.Wikipedia
"Specifically, the information outlined that officers with the US Customs and Border Protection had apprehended a group of individuals who had crossed into the US from Canada, near the town of Emerson, Manitoba. Further, it indicated that one of the adults had items meant for an infant but that no infant was with the group."
"Upon receiving this information at 9.23 a.m., a search was immediately launched on both sides of the border.
RCMP officers were already patrolling the area and the search began at 9.24 a.m. Extensive patrols were conducted and, at approximately 1.30 p.m., the bodies of three individuals were located on the Canadian side of the border, approximately 10km east of Emerson.
RCMP identified the group as: an adult male, an adult female, and an infant.
At this very early stage of the investigation, it appears that they all died due to exposure to the cold weather. Work is underway to identify the victims and an autopsy has been scheduled.
The search for any possible survivors or additional victims continued throughout the evening of Wednesday, January 19, and RCMP officers continue to patrol the area today. To date, no other victims have been located."
Also read: Sikh man attacked in Canada
US authorities said border patrol officials stopped a 15-passenger rental van Wednesday driven by Steve Shand with two undocumented Indian nationals inside, less than a mile south of the border in a rural area between Lancaster, Minnesota, and Pembina, North Dakota. Shand and the Indian nationals were arrested.
Officials also intercepted another group of five Indian nationals nearby who were walking in the direction of where the van was located, according to the court documents.
The RCMP said it will be conducting an investigation and is working in close collaboration with US Customs and Border Protection and the US Department of Homeland Security.
"All of our agencies are committed to a thorough and comprehensive investigation," the statement said. (IANS/PR)
(keywords: Canada, 4 Indians, smuggled, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Indian envoys, Canada and the US, Ajay Bisaria and Taranjit Singh Sandhu)