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Kerala leads with 72 days; five States with lower rates have 60% of all cases

Eighteen States and Union Territories have “shown improvement” in containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Odisha and Kerala leading the pile, the Union Health Ministry said on Monday.

These were States with a 'doubling time' (an indicator of how quickly cases increase) of more than 8.5 days which is higher that the national average of 7.5 days. This was due to effective measures taken to contain the spread of the virus, Joint Secretary in the Ministry Lav Agrawal said at the daily briefing. Kerala leads the list with a doubling rate of 72 days, followed at a considerable distance by Odisha at 39.8 days.

The Ministry confirmed 17,655 cases, with 14,255 active infections and 559 deaths on Monday. Reports from States show a jump of 1,214 new cases and 33 deaths in the past 24 hours. The nationwide death toll was 592, with 14, 913 active cases out of 18,509 confirmed COVID-19 infections.

Maharashtra recorded 466 new positive cases, including 155 in Mumbai, taking the number of the infected people to 4,666, health officials said. With nine more patients succumbing to COVID-19, the death toll in the State rose to 232.

Fewer cases

However, the Ministry's figures on doubling eclipse the fact that these States account for only about 7,000 of India's overall COVID-19 count. On the other hand, just five States with a lower and hence faster doubling rate than the national average account for about 10,000 or about 60% of the case-load.

As of Monday, Maharashtra had the highest number of cases at 4,666 and it reported a doubling of cases in six days. Gujarat’s 1,800 cases had doubled in 4.5 days and Madhya Pradesh with 1,407 cases had doubled in 5.5 days. These numbers are dynamic and liable to change everyday. The epidemic has affected 32 out of 36 States and UTs.

The river, however, has still not met the ‘water quality criteria’, reveals study

The quality of water in the Yamuna has improved along the Delhi stretch during the nationwide lockdown, compared to April last year, according to a report by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).

An increased flow of water in the river has also contributed to less pollution, the report said. But the report noted that the Yamuna has still not met the “water quality criteria”.

Reduced pollution

According to the report, the pollution has reduced by 21% at ITO Bridge, 20% at Nizamuddin Bridge, and 18% at Okhla Barrage.

Also, pollution has reduced in five out of the six major drains, which flow into the Yamuna, that the DPCC measured.

A National Green Tribunal (NGT)-appointed monitoring committee had earlier this month asked the DPCC and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to measure the quality of water in the Yamuna.

Water from Haryana

Last week, a report by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had also shown the quality of water has improved during the lockdown and DJB officials had said that it was also due to increased discharge of water from Haryana.

On April 6, the DPCC had collected water samples from nine locations along the Yamuna and 20 locations of drains and compared the different parameters with values from April 2019.

Of the nine locations of the river, an increase in pollution was observed only in Khajuri Paltoon Pool, according to the report.

“In April 2019, the average flow was 1,000 cusecs compared to the average flow of 3,900 cusecs in April 2020. Therefore, the dilution is also contributing to the improvement of water quality,” the report noted.

Of the nine locations from where the DPCC took samples, five have shown 18%-33% reduction in biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels. The rest of the four locations have shown slight to considerable increase in BOD levels.

BOD is the amount of oxygen needed by microorganisms to decompose organic matter (waste or pollutants) under aerobic reaction (in the presence of oxygen).

A higher BOD level means that more oxygen is needed to decompose a large quantity of organic matter (waste or pollutants) present in the water. So, a higher value of BOD means that the water is more polluted.

Dissolved oxygen

According to the report, four of the nine locations where dissolved oxygen (DO) was nil in 2019 showed DO levels of 2.3-4.8 mg/l.

Dissolved oxygen is the amount of dissolved oxygen present in the water which is needed for aquatic life to survive. The quality of water increases with an increase in DO levels.

A DO level of 5 mg/l or above is the recommended level for bathing in a river and DO levels over 5 mg/l were found only in two locations closer to where the river enters Delhi, as per the report.

‘Additional barriers violate principle of non-discrimination’

India’s recent policy to curb opportunistic takeovers of domestic companies goes against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) principles, the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy here said on Monday.

This is the first response from the Chinese side after the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in an April 17 decision imposed restrictions saying companies from countries that share borders with India can invest “only under the government route”.

“The additional barriers set by Indian side for investors from specific countries violate the WTO’s principle of non-discrimination, and go against the general trend of liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment. More importantly, they do not conform to the consensus of the G20 leaders and Trade Ministers to realise a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” said Counsellor Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy.

The official pointed at the Chinese investments in various sectors of the Indian economy. He said China's overall investment as of December 2019 was above $ 8 billion and it had driven key sectors like telecom, infrastructure, automobile and household goods in India. The revision was meant for sectors and enterprises other than defence, space, atomic energy and sectors and activities “prohibited for foreign investment”.

It was understood that the Indian decision was a response to the news of an incremental purchase of shares in HDFC by the People’s Bank of China.

The Chinese spokesperson invoked the principle of free market economy and said, “Companies make choices based on market principles. We hope India would revise relevant discriminatory practices, treat investments from different countries equally, and foster an open, fair and equitable business environment”.

The statement said the new policy was clearly going to impact future investment from China.

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