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Took new measures against Delhi air pollution: Minister

Harsh Vardhan said that during the peak of Delhi's air pollution crisis after November 8 this year, the extra effluents from the Gulf and neighbouring states were the major cause.

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Delhi's air quality drastically dipped during Diwali. Wikimedia Commons
Delhi's air quality drastically dipped during Diwali. Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi, Dec 28: Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said dust coming in from the Gulf and stubble burning were the major reasons behind an air pollution crisis here in November, adding that his Ministry took a slew of precautionary measures that have never been taken before.

The Environment Ministry was trying to initiate a movement of awareness against pollution, Harsh Vardhan told the Rajya Sabha amid disruptions by various members, including former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

During the discussion, members raised concerns about the deteriorating air quality of Delhi and asked the government to take effective steps to control the pollution.

The short-duration discussion titled “excessively high levels of air pollution in Delhi”, drew criticism from some members of the Upper House, who pointed out that the measures being flaunted by the Minister were very basic and general in nature.

“What we are doing today has never been done in the past… We are trying to initiate a movement against pollution, If they (other members) will not be receptive about it, who will?,” the Minister asked.

Jairam Ramesh was quick to point out that the Minister was wasting the House’s time by saying things like encouraging people to use public transport.

Harsh Vardhan said that during the peak of Delhi’s air pollution crisis after November 8 this year, the extra effluents from the Gulf and neighbouring states were the major cause.

Stubble burning is one of the main reason behind heavy pollution in the Delhi and NCR region. Wikimedia Commons
Stubble burning is one of the main reason behind heavy pollution in the Delhi and NCR region. Wikimedia Commons

Between November 7 and 16, the national capital and surrounding regions choked on “severe plus or emergency” level of air quality with environment bodies imposing emergency level restrictions on polluting activities like construction, industry and truck movement. The schools across National Capital Regions were also shut for the duration.

“During peak, dust storm from the Gulf contributed to 40 per cent of pollution, stubble burning in neighbouring states were responsible for 25 per cent pollution, while the local effluents had only 35 per cent contribution,” the minister said.

He also pointed out that the pollutant level this Diwali dropped as compared to last year.

“Our Ministry, two-three months prior to Diwali, initiated a movement for Harit or Green Diwali… I personally sent mail to over two lakh schools and institutions,” the Minister said. IANS

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Current COVID Testing Strategy Gives Priority to People With Higher Risk: Harsh Vardhan

Health Minister also said that testing 1.3 billion people is neither possible nor feasible

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Health minister Harsh Vardhan
Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that testing 1.3 billion people is neither possible nor feasible. Wikimedia Commons

According to Covid-19 pandemic in India updates, testing 1.3 billion people for COVID-19 is neither possible nor feasible, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in an exclusive interview with IANS on Thursday.

Responding to a question on India’s strategy and the status about testing, he said, “The current testing strategy is need-based and gives priority to individuals who are primarily at risk or have symptoms. It is revised regularly according to the evolving situation.”

Speaking about the details of testing data and capacity the Health Minister said, “As on May 27, our testing capacity is 1,60,000 per day and we have done 32,44,884 tests till date. On May 26, itself, we have conducted 1,15,229 tests. If for a moment, we talk of repeated testing of 1.3 billion population to curb the disease, you would appreciate that this is not only a resource expensive exercise but also neither possible nor feasible.”

He also asserted that from one laboratory at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune in the first week of February 2020, the number of facilities in the country have increased to a total of 624. This includes 435 government labs and 189 NABL-accredited private laboratories involved in testing at present.

lockdown  Harsh Vardhan
“”The current testing strategy is need-based and gives priority to individuals who are primarily at risk or have symptoms.”, Harsh Vardhan was quoted saying., Pixabay

Vardhan said priority based and targeted testing will be helpful in detecting more cases of COVID-19 and curbing the disease. “With our efforts at sustained and quality assured scaling up of the testing facilities, I am sure, we shall be better placed for maximum case detection.”

Also Read: 80% Cases of COVID-19 in India Exhibit Nil or Mild Symptoms: Health Minister

On March 16, World Health Organisation Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said, “We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.”

India is constantly ramping up its testing infrastructure, along with indigenous development, validation and production of testing kits for RT-PCR in order to have early and aggressive tracing of the infection and by validating TrueNat-based test for COVID-19 and including alternative testing platforms like CBNAAT/GeneXpert and Abott HIV viral load testing machines. The testing criteria has also been widened and evolved from time to time, for instance testing migrant labourers. (IANS)

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80% Cases of COVID-19 in India Exhibit Nil or Mild Symptoms: Health Minister

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says that nearly 80% of COVID cases in India are asymptomatic

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Harsh-Vardhan Symptoms
Health MinisterHarsh Vardhan said that almost 80% COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic. Wikimedia Commons

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said almost 80 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in India are asymptomatic or at best with very mild symptoms, according to Covid-19 pandemic in India updates.

In an exclusive interview to IANS, the Health Minister said, “Even today, in almost 80 per cent of the cases of COVID-19, which are being reported in India, the patients tend to exhibit either nil or mild symptoms. These patients are mostly contacts of confirmed cases. Interestingly, had it not been for our contact tracing efforts, and if left to their own in isolation, these patients may not have even remembered or reported their infection.”

Harsh Vardhan, who has recently been elected the chief of WHO’s Executive Board, was answering a query on whether asymptomatic patients who are potential virus carriers and who can take the virus deeper into rural India are causing worry to the government.

He said, “I am aware about WHO’s mention of some laboratory-confirmed cases that are truly asymptomatic. It is equally true, that as on date, there has been no documented asymptomatic transmission.”

However, he added that recently, more symptoms like headache, muscle pain, pink eye, loss of smell, or loss of taste, intense chills, rigors and sore throat have been included in the list of COVID-19 symptoms by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States. “It will require more studies before these symptoms are finally included in our list in India,” he quipped.

symptoms
Recently, more symptoms like headache have been included in the list of COVID-19 symptoms. Pixabay

Also Read: Delhi Govt Issues Advisory for Spraying Pesticides to Deal With Locust Attack

He added that the new symptoms were very subjective and vague which might go unnoticed, might not be remembered by the patient and, thus, might even go unreported. “Moreover, if for a moment we talk of testing such asymptotic patients, identification of all these asymptomatic cases will require repeated testing of 1.3 billion population which is a resource expensive exercise for any country and is neither possible nor recommended,” the Health Minister said.

He emphasized on priority-based and targeted testing and said that it will be helpful in detecting more cases of COVID-19 and curbing the disease. “With our efforts at sustained and quality assured scaling up of the testing facilities, I am sure, we shall be better placed for maximum case detection,” he concluded. (IANS)

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Delhi Govt Issues Advisory for Spraying Pesticides to Deal With Locust Attack

Delhi government will also run awareness programmes regarding the same threat

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The threat of locusts is increasing in North India. Pixabay

To deal with the attack of locusts in the national capital, the Delhi government has issued an advisory for spraying pesticides, Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai said on Thursday.

Rai said in view of the increasing threat of locusts in north India, the Agriculture Department of the Delhi government will run awareness programmes to make the people and farmers of Delhi aware of this new threat.

“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Rai tweeted.

The circular was issued in order to prevent a probable attack in Delhi by a swarm of locusts, which are reportedly present in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“All concerned authorities are hereby advised to take preventive measures to control and eradicate the locusts to avoid devastating effect on standing agricultural and horticultural crops, vegetation, plants, gardens, orchard etc. in Delhi,” the circular said.

Pesticides
“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai tweeted. Wikimedia Commons

It directed that awareness programmes be organised for the public and farmers to prevent and control any such invasion by locusts in Delhi.

Also Read: NASA, SpaceX Postpone Historic Astronauts Launch Due to Bad Weather

“As the swarm usually fly in day time, and rest during night time therefore the locusts should not be allowed to rest especially during night,” it said.

The circular added that the authorities may carry out spraying of insecticides or pesticides during the night.

The chemicals suggested for spraying were Malathion 50% EC; Malathion 25% WP; Chlorpyrifos 20 % EC; and Chlorpyrifos 50 % EC. (IANS)