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The assembly elections for five states from notifications to the counting day are going to be a tough nut to crack for the Election Commission, which, has laid out an elaborate protocol for voters and voting booths and of course, its officials. The EC announced poll schedule for five states -- UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa on Saturday. Starting with face masks during the election related activities and maintaining social distancing norms, the Commission has asked all its polling personnel/security personnel/counting staff to be doubly vaccinated before being deployed/engaged in election related activities.
The polling agent/counting agent etc would not be allowed to enter the counting hall/polling station without full vaccination and in case of those who are not, RT-PCR test within 48 hours would be required. All the entry points to such hall/room/ premises used for election purposes would have a provision for thermal scanning of all persons and sanitizer at all entry points.
The Kit for the Polling Officer will include PPEs if needed, mask, face shield, etc. | Photo by Xingyue HUANG on Unsplash
One nodal health officer shall be designated for the State Level, the District Level, and the Assembly Constituency Level to oversee COVID related arrangements and preventive measures during the entire electoral process, the EC said. The other protocols include gloves for officials handling EVM/VVPAT and election material Kit to be prepared and distributed from in a spacious and sufficiently large hall following all safety, sanitation, and social distancing measures. The Kit for the Polling Officer will include PPEs if needed, mask, sanitizer, face shield and gloves.
Similarly, the EC has issued orders for polling arrangements following the Covid protocol. The assured minimum facilities at each polling station will have mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, preferably, a day before the poll; thermal scanner at the entry point of every polling station location; thermal checking of voters at entry point of polling station location/Polling station, either by polling staff or Para Medical staff or Asha worker; markers to demonstrate social distancing for queue; earmarking circle for 15-20 persons of 2 yards (6 feet) distance for voters standing in the queue depending on the availability of space with separate queues for males, females, and PwD/ Senior citizen voters.
Only one voter shall be allowed to stand in front of each polling official maintaining social distance. | Photo by Elizabeth McDaniel on Unsplash
While sanitizer should be provided at the entry/exit point of every polling station, EC said, it also suggested keeping face masks in reserves for those electors who are not carrying the masks. "During the process of identification of voter, the voters will be required to lower the facemask for identification," the EC guidelines said, adding, at any given time, only one voter shall be allowed to stand in front of each polling official maintaining social distance. Voters would be provided hand gloves for signing on the voter register and pressing the EVM button for voting.
COVID patients and all others who may be under quarantine will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day. | Public domain vectors
"Most importantly, COVID patients and all others who may be under quarantine will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day at their respective Polling Stations, under the supervision of health authorities," the EC said. "Needless to add that anybody violating instructions on COVID-19 measures will be liable to be proceeded against as per the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC, and other legal provisions as applicable. District Election Officer should bring this to the notice of all concerned," Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: elections, pandemic, ECI, challenge, test time, COVID, social distancing mask, gloves sanitiser, polling, polling stations, PPE kit)
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)