India Coronavirus Dispatch: Masks are here to stay in 2021 and beyond

The Covid-19 pandemic has likely upended millions of lives in India and around the world
Masks will stay even after Covid-19 vaccination

The Modi government has identified 300 million people in India who are first in line to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. The process is slated to kick off in January next year. However, this does not signal the end of public health precautions such as wearing a mask and social distancing, says a report in Hindustan Times.

It is not clear how long the protection from a vaccine will last. We also don't know what the herd immunity threshold is, the report said. The entire population can only be vaccinated by 2024, according to Adar Poonawalla, the head of the world's largest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India. 

The effectiveness of a vaccine will also depend on the conditions in which it is stored and transported. Also, the Covid-19 vaccines have only been tested for their ability to prevent disease not to prevent transmission. Therefore, reducing exposure to the virus by wearing a mask and following other precautionary measures will remain in 2021 and possibly beyond, the report said. Read more here

A month-by-month look at how the pandemic played out in 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has likely upended millions of lives in India and around the world. As an unprecedented year comes to a close, here’s a quick look at how the pandemic played out in 2020. From India's first case recorded in January and the lockdown in March that took the country by surprise, to the vaccination dry runs in December. This report in the ThePrint provides a month-by-month glimpse. Read more here

Centre may skip annual increment to employees to save money for vaccination: Report

In view of the “unpredictability of Covid-19 and the vaccination drive,” the central government is considering freezing annual increments to its employees this fiscal, according to a report in ThePrint citing people familiar with the matter.

Increased public spending and poor revenue collection has hit the government's coffers. In April, the government had freezed the dearness allowance (DA) hike for its employees and saved Rs 14,000 crore in the process. This time around the government wants save money again for the vaccination drive and other Covid-related spending in the future, the report said. 48.34 lakh central government employees will be affected if the government chooses to skip the increment. The government also plans to push certain ministries to freeze increments in state-run firms under their control. The government has already cut salaries for MPs by 30% and imposed a cap on spending by ministries and departments, among other austerity measures, the report said. Read more here

New UK strain is more infectious, no evidence for more virulence: Public health expert

Public Health Foundation India president K Srinath Reddy answers key questions around the new fast-spreading UK mutant coronavirus strain in an interview with IndiaSpend. Reddy was also the head of cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and is an adjunct professor of epidemiology at Harvard.

The new variant is supposed to have about 17 alterations from the original novel coronavirus. In particular, the spike protein has been changed to an extent which makes it more infectious. However, there is no evidence to show that the new variant more virulent, Reddy told IndiaSpend.

It may be more infectious towards younger people as its ability to enter cells and take over the genetic machinery and in turn replicate in big numbers is becoming easier. The big worry is the higher infectivity. Even if it does not turn more virulent more infections could in turn lead to more deaths, Reddy told IndiaSpend. Read more here

How to deal with lingering post-Covid symptoms

Lingering symptoms even after you kick the infection called "post-Covid syndrome or long-haul Covid” can leave unfavourable effects on one's quality of life, explains Dr. Trupti Gilada, infectious disease specialist at Masina Hospital, in a report published in The Indian Express. She advises not to ignore the symptoms and also shares some tips on how to cope with it. Read more here

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