India Coronavirus Dispatch: Measures to protect the PM from Covid-19

Voters undergoing thermal screening as they queue up outside a polling station during Bihar Assembly elections | File Photo: PTI
PMO's measures to protect Modi from Covid-19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s physical encounters with visitors have been reduced to a bare minimum since the start of the outbreak. Those who visit the PM need to have undergone an RT-PCR test within 24 hours of the appointment. For in-person meetings with ministers or officials, a protocol of temperature checking with a thermal scanner, social distancing, and sanitisation is followed. A mask is mandatory too. A bulk of the meetings are taking place online, barring a few key discussions with cabinet ministers or National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Even officials from the Prime Minister's Office meet the PM only if it's absolutely essential.  
For the most part, Modi has been working out of his official residence. He took part in the election campaign in Bihar, and the monsoon session of the Parliament that wrapped up in September. Since the time set aside to travel has come down drastically, Modi's public engagements have soared. Read more here 

No complete picture on the types of tests being administered in India: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) does not maintain a database of the number of rapid antigen tests (RAT) and RT-PCR tests being administered for Covid-19 at the national level or across states, the medical research body has revealed. ICMR is the country's top body for overseeing biomedical research.
In response to an RTI query about the break-up of the types of tests being administered in 10 states, ICMR said information is available only in cumulative form.States can opt to administer either RAT or RT-PCR tests in containment zones, screening points, non-containment areas, and hospital settings, according to ICMR's covid testing protocol.
This policy has come under more and more scrutiny as several states are increasingly choosing RAT over RT-PCR. A RAT test produces a positive or negative result within half an hour, but it only produces a correct result half the time. On the other hand, RT-PCR is the gold-standard of testing and has an accuracy of 80 per cent. Read more here 

Delhi's caseload growing three times faster than the national rate: In the past week, Delhi has contributed more cases to India's caseload than any state, more than even Maharashtra. Over 46,000 cases were detected in Delhi compared to 36,000 cases in Maharashtra. Delhi has a growth rate of 1.6 per cent, which is more than three times the national rate. Delhi is also one of the few states that are witnessing a rise in active cases, with 42,000 active cases right now. The death count has also been going up sharply. Delhi has seen more deaths in the past few days than any state except Maharashtra. Read more here 

Fact-checking the government's claims on Ashwagandha: On October 6, 2020, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan released an “AYUSH standard treatment protocol” for the clinical management of Covid-19. This included the herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for the prevention of Covid-19 among healthcare workers, those living in containment zones, and other high-risk groups. The herb was also recommended for the prevention of Covid-19 complications such as fatigue lung fibrosis (scarring of lung tissue). However, the use of the herb has been severely questioned. Read a detailed fact-check here on the efficacy of the herb and the truthfulness of the health ministry's claims. 

Zinc deficiency: Deficiency in zinc has been associated with severe cases of Covid-19. This has led to renewed interest in the nutrient and has become an key component in the treatment plans for the Coronavirus disease. Read more here 

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