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Delhi moving closer to achieving herd immunity against Covid-19

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

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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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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