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Delhi moving closer to achieving herd immunity against Covid-19




Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, January 26:

The fifth round of serological surveillance conducted in Delhi has suggested that more than 50 per cent of those surveyed have developed antibodies against Covid-19, government officials said.

This is the highest seroprevalence found during surveys conducted by the Delhi government since the Covid-19 outbreak. According to experts, this indicates that India’s national capital with a population of 30 million is moving closer to achieving herd immunity.

“In one district, the prevalence is around 58 per cent, which clearly shows that a large number of people have developed antibodies against the virus,” the Indian Express quoted a senior government official as saying.

Authorities had collected 28,840 samples — the most during such an exercise in Delhi so far — as part of the survey that ended Friday.

Only Pune city in Maharashtra state has recorded prevalence of more than 50 per cent in some areas, but that was several months ago. In most other cities, seroprevalence studies have shown antibodies in about 30 and 40 per cent of respondents.

Given that detection of new cases has been declining over the last four months, some experts and scientists believe that a much higher proportion of the population might have already got infected. The results of the Delhi serosurvey lends evidence to this.

In August last year, the first such survey conducted by the Delhi government showed 29.1 per cent had antibodies. The figure dropped to 25.1 per cent in September and stood at 25.5 per cent in October. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had also conducted a sero survey in July, where antibodies had been detected in 23 per cent of those surveyed.

The latest survey kicked off in Delhi on January 11, and samples were sent to the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) for testing. An initial report was submitted to Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain’s office.

Dr Shobha Broor, former head of microbiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said the survey “shows that there have been many asymptomatic infections in the city and we are approaching herd immunity”.

“The number may go up to 70 per cent in the next round as more people would have got vaccinated by that time. Having presence of antibodies will not affect the ongoing vaccination drive. Those who have developed antibodies can go ahead and take the shot as the vaccine will further boost the response,” she said.

Dr Neeraj Nischal, associate professor at the department of medicine, AIIMS, said the high prevalence of antibodies may help in further controlling the pandemic.

“It shows that a lot of asymptomatic infections did happen in the course of the pandemic, which were not reported at that time. This is our natural way of acquiring herd immunity as approximately 50 per cent have developed antibodies against the virus. This coupled with the ongoing vaccination drive will help in achieving herd immunity, and controlling the pandemic will be faster than expected,” he said.

A serological survey is meant to check prevalence of a disease in a population by detecting the presence of specific antibodies against the virus. The serological test is performed to diagnose infections and autoimmune illnesses. It can also be conducted to check if a person has developed immunity to certain diseases.

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query



SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign



The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.



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