What’s the new variant of the coronavirus?
The key difference between the current surge and the one in January is in the absence of cluster formation with any of the emerging subvariants. A few cases of a variant in a country the size of India are cause for concern, especially if no changes in symptoms or hospitalizations have been reported.
A couple of months ago, Delhi reported its first cases of the BA.5 sub-variant of Omicron.
The current surge in Covid-19 cases is attributed to the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron, which drove the third wave in the month of January, along with BA.1 and BA.2.38 subvariant.
This was one of the alternatives that led to a rise in cases in South Africa. In India, the first reported case of BA.5 occurred in late May in Telangana.
These sub-variants are driving surges in many places around the world, and they are now also increasing in India, but they currently account for only a small percentage of all cases. However, experts believe that this change does not have any clinical significance.
GISAID’s global genome database shows that BA.2.38 – which split off from BA.2 – is presiding in the country, accounting for 30% of all sequences over the last 30 days.
The BA.2 subvariant accounted for 28% of samples, according to an analysis of GISAID data by outbreak.info.
In spite of the fact that BA.4 and BA.5 were detected almost simultaneously (at the starting of May), BA.5 has been spreading faster, making up 7% of the order loaded to the global database in the last 30 days.
When we see that approx 120 sequences of the BA.5 subvariant have been reported in India so far, mostly from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka (43 each), as for the other alternative that led to the Covid-19 surge in South Africa – BA., 4 – 33 cases have been identified, which is less than 1% of all orders loaded in the last 30 days in the global database.
BA.2.12.1, another sub-variant of Omicron, has also been identified – and accounted for 5% of sequences in the last 30 days. There are at least 190 sequences of this subvariant in the global database, the majority of them from Telangana (69), Karnataka (46), and Tamil Nadu (45).
The BA.4 and BA.5 strains were detected by South Africa in January and February, respectively. By May this year, the variants became dominant and triggered a spike in infections. They are now spreading into Europe, with BA.5 becoming the most dominant variant in Portugal.
BA.4 and BA.5 have a transmission advantage of approximately 13% to 15% over BA.2 and can also circumvent some of the immunity. Scientists believe these variants may have two mutations that are of concern: F486V, which has been associated with the virus’s ability to evade some immunity, and L452R, which was observed in the Delta variant and associated with the virus’s ability to infect the lungs.
However, experience from other countries shows that the variants do not result in an increase in severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Doctors have not seen many cases of Covid-19 pneumonia this time around, which led to an increase in oxygen consumption and deaths during the Delta-variant-driven second wave of 2021.
The BA.2.12.1 variant, first detected in New York, is believed to be 23% to 27% more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant. Additionally, it appears to evade some of the immunity gained from previous infections and vaccinations.
As for BA.2.38, which has recently been reclassified, it has been established that it leads to milder disease, just like its parent subvariant BA.2.
Researchers from INSACOG say the biggest difference is that none of the emerging subvariants form clusters.
In December-end and January, researchers noticed a clear cluster formation, which helped them quickly conclude that the increase was caused by the new variant.
INSACOG scientists claim that the emerging variant is not responsible for the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country.
“Detecting a few cases of a variant in a country with a billion people has no meaning. We have not observed the clustering of these cases. On condition of anonymity, a senior scientist from INSACOG said that neither the symptoms nor the rate of hospitalization has changed so far.
The scientists will discuss the findings of genome sequencing with the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) to correlate the data with epidemiological data on the ground.
As the researcher put it, “Although BA.2.38 was recently reclassified and is now found in many samples, we have found no epidemiological evidence of a change in disease patterns.”
Another scientist at one of the INSACOG regional labs said, “We are seeing more cases of BA.2.38, but there is no cluster formation.”. As an example, when Omicron first spread in the country, we were able to identify clusters and very quickly track who spread the infection. With the current new variants, this hasn’t happened.”
India gets loan approval from the world bank.
A part of the funds will be used to improve public healthcare infrastructure through the PM Ayushman Bharat Scheme, and another part will be used to support financial reforms at the union level.
For India’s PM Ayushman Bharat scheme and private investment to boost the economy, the World Bank has approved loans totaling USD 1.75 billion (about Rs 13,834.54 crore).
USD 1 billion will be allocated to the health sector, while the remaining USD 750 million will go towards filling financing gaps through private sector investment.
Two complementary loans of USD 500 million each were approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors to support and enhance the health sector in India.
Through this combined USD 1 billion financings, the World Bank will support India’s flagship PM-ABHIM (Pradhan Mantri-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission).
Funds will be used to improve public healthcare infrastructure across the country. A multilateral funding agency said one of the loans would prioritize seven states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.
Separately, its board approved a DPL to support reforms essential to addressing financing gaps through private sector investment in infrastructure, small businesses, and green finance.
Over time, India has improved its performance in the health sector, according to the World Bank. In 2020, it was estimated that India’s life expectancy would be 69.8, up from 58 in 1990 – higher than the average for the country’s income level.
World Bank data shows that India’s under-five mortality rate (36 per 1,000 live births), infant mortality rate (30 per 1,000 live births), and maternal mortality ratio (103 per 1,00,000 live births) are all close to the average for its income level.
In spite of these advances in the health sector, COVID-19 stressed the need to revitalize, reform, and strengthen core public health functions, as well as improve the quality and comprehensiveness of health care.
World Bank Acting Country Director for India, Hideki Mori, said the COVID-19 outbreak had underscored the need to improve India’s health sector performance.
In the health sector, Mori said India’s decision to invest early and significantly to strengthen its health system is a pioneering decision, and “we are pleased to support this important agenda.” Two loans – Public Health Systems for Pandemic Preparedness Programme (PHSPP) and Enhanced Health Service Delivery Programme (EHSDP) – are intended to complement one another and have a transformative effect.
Among its objectives is to accelerate universal coverage, improve quality, and increase resilience and preparedness of the Indian health system, according to the World Bank.
With PHSPP’s support, India’s surveillance system will be prepared to detect and report epidemics of potential international concern, enhance its capacity to detect pathogens, including zoonotic diseases, and build institutional capacity.
The EHSDP will support the government’s efforts to improve health service delivery through a redesigned primary health care model, improve quality of care by supporting National Quality Assurance Standards certification across Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs), and enhance implementation capacity in the health sector.
During the past decade, the Indian government has taken several measures to improve financial inclusion and the stability of the financial sector and domestic capital markets, according to the World Bank.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis and other external shocks, the sector has become more efficient and resilient.
Despite these signs of progress, key sectors of the economy still face high financing and resource demands. It is estimated that the annual finance gap for infrastructure and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is 4 percent of GDP and Rs 18–25 lakh crore, respectively.
Additionally, the World Bank estimates that the energy transition required to meet the government’s COP26 commitments will require an annual investment of 1.5 percent of GDP.
“An efficient financial system capable of meeting India’s investment needs is paramount to support its recovery from the pandemic and to achieve its ambitious sustainable growth targets,” Mori said.
Using private resources to support the country’s development goals is part of the plan to reduce the pressure on public finances, the official said.
The USD 750 million commitment will be financed by USD 667 million in loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and USD 83 million by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional lending arm.
What India successfully tested?
On Friday, the demonstrator vehicle was tested at the Aeronautical Test Range located in Chitradurga, Karnataka.
· The Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator, described as a precursor to future combat drones, was tested for the first time by India on Friday. In this article, we explain what the test means for the development of stealth unmanned combat air vehicles for the armed forces.
The objector vehicle was tested at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka, on Friday. Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) officials say it performed flawlessly in a completely autonomous mode.
We achieved the takeoff of the vehicle, the automatic navigation tracing the designated points – navigation by waypoints – and a touchdown with the desired precision.
‘This flight represents a major milestone in the development of future unmanned aircraft and a significant step towards self-reliance in such strategic defense technologies,’ the Ministry of Defence said.
ADE developed the demonstrator, a Bengaluru-based facility of the DRDO that specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles, flight simulators, pilotless target aircraft, flight control systems, and air weapons. Minister Rajnath Singh Rajnath Singh congratulated DRDO on a major achievement in autonomous aircraft and said it would pave the way for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in critical military systems.
DRDO officials discussed the flying wing structure of the technology demonstrator, which refers to a tailless fixed-wing aircraft that houses its payload and fuel in its main wings without having a fuselage-like structure like conventional aircraft. According to DRDO scientists, if executed with precision, the design could deliver maximum fuel efficiency and stealth, as demonstrated by advanced bombers in the USA’s arsenal, such as the B-2 bomber.
The flying wing type of aircraft has a key operational advantage since it has low reflective cross sections, which results in a low radar signature, making it a stealth aircraft. In addition to having a very low drag, the aircraft has a very low air resistance because of its shape. Although this unique design is unique, it also has issues related to stability, so additional systems are required.
All aspects of the demonstrator, including the airframe, the undercarriage, the landing gear, and the entire flight control system along with the avionics, have been developed indigenously. Powered by a small turbofan engine, the vehicle breathes air.
The DRDO said that this technology demonstrator would be subjected to further testing in order to examine other technologies in the development of future combat drones. In addition, the vehicle’s capacity and scale would be tested. According to sources, the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator is a precursor to an autonomous stealth Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) being developed by the DRDO. In addition, a deck-launch version is being developed for the Indian Navy. In addition to launching missiles, the UCAV will be able to deliver precision-guided ammunition.
There have been several drones developed by the DRDO in the past, including Nishant, Rustom, Tapas, and Lakshya, which have different operational roles and capabilities. The DRDO also unveiled its anti-drone technology last July, aimed at neutralizing enemy attacks. This system is capable of counterattacks, including detection, soft kill – jamming the drone’s communications, and hard kill – laser-based hard kill to destroy the drone to neutralize your adversary.
There have been several recent scenarios in India and abroad that have highlighted the strategic importance of stealth combat drones. A fully homegrown stealth combat machine is needed by the Indian armed forces, experts said, in place of currently using indigenous and imported drones.
Some reports suggest that the UCAV will be named Ghatak (deadly) or Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft, but the agency has not officially announced the name.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma