9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 4, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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Climate Change is Shifting Earth’s Axis of Rotation

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 3 – Climate Change.

Synopsis-According to a new study, loss of water on land is shifting the earth’s axis of rotation. The reasons behind loss of water are ice melting and human-induced factors [such as excessive groundwater pumping].

Introduction-

  • According to a study published in the Journal Geophysical Research letters, Earth’s axis of rotation has been rotating faster than normal since the 1990s due to the significant melting of glaciers caused by global warming.
  • According to NASA, the spin axis drifted around 10 cm every year in the 20th century. It means, in a year, polar motion exceeds 10 metres.

Concept of earth’s axis of rotation and polar motion

Source: NASA website
  • Earth’s axis of rotation – It is the line along which Earth spins around itself as it revolves around the Sun.
    • The points on which the axis intersects the planet’s surface are the geographical north and south poles
  • Polar motion- Changes in the distribution of Earth’s mass around the globe also change the earth’s axis of rotation and as the axis moves, the poles move as well, which is known as polar motion.
  • Earth’s rotation will decrease if its mass is moved away from the rotation axis (From poles towards equators) and vice versa.

Key finding of the study-

  • In the mid-1990s, melting glaciers redistributed a large amount of water. It changed the direction of the routine polar wander to turn eastward and also accelerate it.
  • The average drift speed rose by around 17 times between 1995 and 2020.
  • The primary cause of polar drift is water loss from the Polar Regions, with contributions from water loss in nonpolar regions, which describes the eastward shift of polar drift.

What are the major factors causing the shift in Earth’s axis of rotation?

The rotation of the earth is affected by mass redistribution on and within the planet, such as shifts in soil, ice sheets, seas, and mantle movement. The following are the main forces that contribute to the mass redistribution-

  • Melting of glaciers -Climate change has caused billions of tonnes of glacial ice to melt into oceans. This has caused the Earth’s poles to move in new directions.
  • Groundwater pumping – The excessive use of groundwater has caused changes in groundwater storage in non-glacial areas. Further, it led to polar wander as most of it eventually joins the sea, thus redistributing the planet’s mass.
    • For example- The changes in groundwater mass in areas like California, northern Texas, Beijing and northern India, areas that have been pumping large amounts of groundwater for agricultural use.

Way forward-

The shifting of the Earth’s axis as a result of climate change demonstrates how much active human action can affect changes in the mass of water on land.


Managing Vaccine Shortage by Proper Gap Between Vaccinations

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Health, etc

Synopsis: To achieve universal vaccination, India needs to work on a few out-of-the-box solutions for vaccine shortage. For example, increasing the gap between vaccination effectively.

Introduction: 

The New Vaccine Policy aims to vaccinate people above 18 years. The Policy came into force on May 1. But a few states have postponed the vaccination program citing a shortage of the vaccine.

Vaccine shortage:

  • According to the Co-WIN portal, India is producing roughly 2 million vaccines a day. And the number of vaccines administered daily is roughly 2.3 million to 2.5 million. So, technically the production capacity falls below even the daily requirement.
  • As of April 29, India’s 9.1 % of the population received one dose of vaccine. Similarly, only 1.9 % of the population received both doses.
  • Since India announced the new vaccination policy, the demand for vaccines has increased three times, but the supply of vaccines remains the same.

How India expected to tackle the vaccine shortage?

  • At present, India is expecting a few million doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik.
  • Similarly, Covishield vaccine maker Serum Institute of India also going to improve their scale-up production to 100 million doses per month soon.
  • Also, the Covaxin manufacturer Bharat Biotech is expecting to scale up the production to 50-60 million doses a month.

Despite these developments, the next few month’s production is unlikely to go beyond 150 million doses a month.

Interval between two doses:

  • Covishield: Phase 3 trials of the Covishield vaccine found out that the second dose offered after 12 weeks of the first dose will provide the best result and protection. So the best option to take the second dose of vaccine is 12 weeks for Covishield.
    • However, due to urgency, second doses administered after six to eight weeks also improved efficacy over time.
  • Covaxin: The second dose of Covaxin can be taken four to six weeks after the first.

Present condition of vaccination in India:

At present India’s routine immunisation programmes for children are administered at a four-week gap in India. But globally they follow an eight-week gap. The reason for the lower gap between vaccination in India is due to,

  • Operational reasons: India’s distribution of vaccines in two phases with a long gap might create a delay in vaccination.
  • Low coverage: If the gap between vaccination is increased then people might not vaccinate at the correct time.

Suggestions to avoid vaccine shortage:

  • India should increase the gap for Covishield to 12 weeks. This is because India needs to control the progress of the pandemic. The Covishield trials have shown that the higher the gap, the greater the proven efficacy. Furthermore, it has other advantages as well. Such as,
    • Increasing the gap between vaccination will give some time to manufacturers to produce the vaccine.
    • It allows more people to take at least one shot of the vaccine. Immunologically, it is understood that even one dose can activate the immune system. Here, the vaccine will make the natural infection a sort of booster infection and protect people for a longer time than the non-vaccinated individual.
  • Like the US, India also needs to ensure evolving guidelines on vaccination. This will ensure more vaccination of single dose.
    • The United States’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) initially came up with a vaccination gap of three-month. Later the CDC reduced this gap to one month.

Opportunities in India-UK relations

Source:  Indian Express

Gs2: Bilateral, Regional, and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Synopsis:  Through this article, we will discuss the contentious issue hampering India-U. K relation as well as possible opportunities of convergence for mutual development.

Background

  • India- Britain summit is set to take place digitally. The two leaders are expected to announce a 10-year roadmap to transform the bilateral relationship that will cover a range of areas.

What are the contentious issues hampering India-U. K relation?

While India’s relations with western countries such as the US and France have dramatically improved in recent years. However, ties with Britain have lagged because of the following reasons,

  • First, mistrust between the two countries owing to the colonial legacy. The bitter experience of the Partition and Britain’s perceived tilt to Pakistan have hampered India-U. K relation.
  • Second, the British Labour Party’s growing political negativity towards India. For instance,
    • Supporting for self-determination for Kashmiris.
    • Criticism of government over recent farmers’ agitation.

What are the possible areas of convergence for mutual development?

India and Britain need each other to achieve their larger goals.

  • First, Cooperation in the health sector. Bilateral strategic cooperation in the health sector can help India to benefit from the enormous potential of U.K in public health sector.
    • Further, both nations should work towards building a resilient medical supply chain to control the global Pandemic.
    • Britain along with the G-7 countries can help transform India’s internal capabilities in the Health sector.
  • Second, building new global economic partnerships. Since both the countries have moved away from their regional blocs (India-RCEP, Britain-EU) a new economic partnership will benefit both the nations immensely.
  • Third, cooperation in geopolitical issues. For instance, Britain is tilting to the Indo-Pacific, where India is a natural ally. Whereas, India needs a wider coalition as possible to balance aggressive China.
  • Fourth, Cooperation in mitigation of Climate change. The U.K Can support India for the adoption of a Clean mechanism and e-mobility in the transport sector.
  • Fifth, cooperation in labour movement. Agreement on “migration and mobility” to facilitate the legal movement of Indians into Britain can benefit India’s skilled workforce.

One Health Approach – Significance and Steps Taken by India

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis:

Covid-19 has once again shown the degree of chaos that can be spread by zoonotic diseases. This gives India an opportunity to work on the One Health approach.

Background

  • In 1856, the father of modern pathology (Rudolf Virchow) observed that there are no dividing lines between animal and human medicine.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic once again highlighted the interconnectedness of the systems. 
  • The havoc caused by the pandemic induced the experts to sensitize countries towards the ‘One Health’ approach on the occasion of World Veterinary Day (April 24th).  

What is the One Health Approach?

  • It is a collaborative, multisectoral, coordinated, and transdisciplinary approach. It recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, and the environment
  • It calls for working at the local, regional, national, and global levels with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes. 

Need for focusing on ‘One Health’:

  • High Prevalence of Zoonotic Diseases: More than two-thirds of existing and emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Experts believe that there are more than 1.7 million viruses circulating in wildlife, and many of them are likely to be zoonotic.
    • It is an infectious disease that jumps from animal to humans.
    • Anthropozoonotic infections get transferred from humans to animals.
  • Transboundary impact: The transboundary impact of viral outbreaks such as the Nipah virus, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), etc. were alarming for the world. It has made it imperative for the world to focus on one health.
  • Huge Economic Cost: Zoonotic diseases place a heavy burden on the economy of countries.  
    • For instance, the WHO estimates that rabies (also a zoonotic disease) costs the global economy approximately $6 billion annually. 

India and one health approach:

  • India’s ‘One Health’ vision derives its blueprint from the agreement between the tripartite-plus alliance towards ‘One World, One Health’.
  • The alliance includes:
    • the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 
    • the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 
    • the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Steps taken by India towards ‘One Health’:

  • The country established a National Standing Committee on Zoonoses in the 1980s.
  • The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) has launched several schemes to mitigate the prevalence of animal diseases since 2015.
    • For instance, under the National Animal Disease Control Program, 13,343 crore rupees have been sanctioned for Foot and Mouth disease and Brucellosis control.
    • DAHD has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the National Action Plan for Eliminating Dog-Mediated Rabies.
    • Further DAHD will soon establish a ‘One Health’ unit within the Ministry.
  • A Center for One Health will soon be established at Nagpur.
  • Efforts are being made to revamp programs that focus on capacity building for veterinarians.
  • The government is also upgrading the animal health diagnostic system such as Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD).

Challenges hindering the success of one health approach:

  • Veterinary manpower shortages make the early detection of zoonotic diseases difficult.
  • Lack of information sharing between human and animal health institutions
  • Inadequate coordination on food safety at slaughter, distribution, and retail facilities

Way Forward:

  • The focus should be on increasing investments and augmenting awareness generation towards the’One Health’ approach.
  • There must be the integration of existing animal health and disease surveillance systems. 
    • For instance, the Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health, and the National Animal Disease Reporting System can be integrated.
  • The government needs to formulate best-practice guidelines for informal market and slaughterhouse operations. This would improve inspections, disease prevalence assessments, etc.
  • Further, it must create mechanisms to operationalize ‘One Health’ at every stage from top to grassroots level.

New Malaria Vaccine Can be a Game Changer in Curtailing Malaria

Source: Indian Express 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Science and Tech and its effect on everyday life

Synopsis:

Phase 2b clinical trials of R21/Matrix M (a new malaria vaccine) have shown the efficacy of 77%. It is a new version of RTS, S — another candidate against malaria. Experts believe that this new version could be a game-changer in curtailing the spread of malaria across the globe, especially during pandemic times. 

Background:

  • The results of phase 2b clinical trials of R21/Matrix M were published recently in the Lancet Journal.
  • The new malaria vaccine showed an efficacy of 77%, much higher than its previous version named RTS,S.
About Malaria:

  • It is caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito if the mosquito itself is infected with a malarial parasite.
  • There are five kinds of malarial parasites — Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax (the commonest ones), Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale, and Plasmodium knowlesi.
  • According to the World Malaria Report 2020, cases of Malaria in India dropped from about 20 million in 2000 to about 5.6 million in 2019.
  • Globally 39 countries have declared themselves Malaria free. 
    • As per WHO, a country can be declared malaria-free when it reports zero indigenous cases of malaria for 3 or more years.

About the Previous Version:

  • RTS, S has been in development for more than 30 years. It is a joint work of Walter Reed Institute of Research, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
  • It targets the liver stage protein of the Plasmodium falciparum life cycle.
  • Thus, it stops the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite from entering the liver thereby preventing the subsequent deadly blood stages.
  • To date, it is the only vaccine to reduce malaria in children. However, it doesn’t have high efficacy. 

About the new version:

  • R21/Matrix M is a modified version of RTS, S.
  • Scientists at the University of Oxford have been developing it for the last 6-7years. Serum Institute of India is manufacturing it.
  • The vaccine trial began in 2014-15 on 450 children in Burkina Faso. 
  • The result of the phase 2b trial showed a 77% efficacy, making it the first vaccine to reach WHO’s goal of at least 75% efficacy.

Need of New Malaria Vaccine:

  • High Incidence of Malaria: In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria and 409 000 malaria-related deaths in 87 countries. In the same year, India witnessed 5.6 million cases.
    • Under 5 children in sub-saharan Africa accounted for approximately two-thirds of global deaths. 
  • Greater Hardships posed by Pandemic: As per a WHO survey, approximately one-third of countries around the world reported disruptions in malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services during the first quarter of 2021.
    • Disruptions occurred as people were unable or unwilling to seek care in health facilities.
    • Further lockdowns and restrictions on the movement led to delays in the delivery of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

What’s next?

  • Serum Institute of India and US vaccine maker Novavax have begun the process of phase 3 trials in 4 African countries.
    • This would assess large-scale safety and efficacy in 4,800 children aged five to 36 months.
  • The success of the trial would enable bulk production of the vaccine that would help curtail malaria across the globe.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 4 May, 2021

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