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‘Appoint disease surveillance officers in all districts, collate data from private labs’

The way forward: Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacting with Chief Ministers via video conference on Thursday. PTI-

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at his second videoconference with Chief Ministers, on Thursday told them that it was “important to formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends”.

Mr. Modi emphasised that the collective goal of all should be to “save every Indian”. He asked the States to brainstorm and send suggestions for the exit strategy.

He listed certain “must do steps” that need to be taken as the nation entered the second week of the total lockdown. “Our first priority for the next few weeks should be testing, tracing, isolating and quarantine. For this, all State to district level efforts must be coordinated,” he pointed out.

Mr. Modi urged that district-level disease surveillance officers should be appointed as soon as possible to make sure that penetration of this strategy is optimum. Data collected from private laboratories allowed to test should be collated district-wise to be utilised for further strategising on tackling the pandemic.

In his opening remarks, he emphasised that the supply lines for medical equipment and drugs and raw materials needed for the manufacture of these products need to be kept seamless, even more than supplies of other products.

Separate hospitals

“Every State should ensure that there are separate hospitals for COVID-19 patients, and the doctors attending to them need to be protected. I would also urge you to step up online training of doctors in the treatment of COVID-19,” he said.

This being the harvest season in many parts of the country, farmers and labourers, exempted from the lockdown, were engaged in harvest operations and they should maintain some physical distancing even on fields. “As for procurement, we must find ways to do it beyond the route of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC). A truck pooling scheme should also be worked out with farmers for ferrying produce to the market. Harvesting will possibly need to be done in a staggered manner,” he is reported to have said.

The Centre would release ₹11,000 crore from the State Disaster Relief Fund by this month, and it should be used for efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

It triggers alerts to govt. agency if anyone jumps quarantine

The Centre is using powers under the Indian Telegraph Act to “fetch information” from telecom companies every 15 minutes to track COVID-19 cases across the country.

The government has tested an application that triggers e-mails and SMS alerts to an authorised government agency if a person has jumped quarantine or escaped from isolation, based on the person’s mobile phone’s cell tower location. The “geo-fencing” is accurate by up to 300 m, a government communication said.

Used by Kerala

Kerala was one of the first States to use geo-fencing to track COVID-19 cases.

On March 29, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) shared a standard operating procedure (SOP) with all telecom service providers regarding the application called COVID-19 Quarantine Alert System (CQAS).

The system will collate phone data, including the device’s location, on a common secured platform and alert the local agencies in case of a violation by COVID-19 patients under watch or in isolation.

Secure network

The SOP says that the DoT and C-DOT, in coordination with telecom service providers, have developed and tested the application. It said the location information is received periodically over a secure network for the authorised cases with “due protection of the data received”.

The States have been asked to seek the approval of their Home Secretaries under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, for the specified mobile phone numbers to request the DoT to provide information by email or SMS in case of violation of “geo-fencing”.

Mass manufacture of the glue to help PPE production

The bio suit with seam sealing glue. Special ArrangementSpecial Arrangement

In a major breakthrough, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a special sealant as an alternative to seam sealing tape which is critical in personal protective equipment (PPE).

A bio suit was also developed to keep medical and other personnel engaged in combating COVID-19 safe from the deadly virus, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

“The DRDO has prepared a special sealant as an alternative to seam sealing tape based on the sealant used in submarine applications. Presently, bio suits prepared using this glue for seam sealing by an industry partner has cleared test at the Southern India Textile Research Association (SITRA), Coimbatore,” the Ministry said in a statement.

It said bio suit production in the country by DRDO industry partners and other industries was being hampered due to non-availability of seam sealing tapes. The DRDO can mass produce this glue through the industry to support the seam sealing activity by suit manufacturers.

Technology transfer

At present, Kusumgarh Industries, with technology transfer from the DRDO, is producing the raw material, coating material, and the complete suit is being manufactured with the help of another vendor, the statement said. “The current production capacity is 7,000 suits per day,” the Ministry said.

Another vendor with experience in garment technology is being brought in and efforts are on to ramp up the capacity to 15,000 suits a day, the Ministry stated.

The bio suit has been subjected to rigorous testing for textile parameters as well as protection against infection from synthetic blood. “The protection against synthetic blood exceeds the criteria defined for body suits by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,” the statement said.

Separately, Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, has designed and developed its own handheld Infra Red (IR) based temperature sensor for screening at its entry gates, which have an average influx of around 20,000 personnel every day. The instrument has been manufactured through in-house resources at a cost of under ₹1000, a fraction of the cost of the temperature guns in the market, the Navy said.

The Army assisted in moving the cargo to airports

Hand of friendship: Essential supplies ordered by Maldives were transported by the Indian Air Force on Thursday. Special Arrangement Special Arrangement

An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130J transport aircraft on Thursday delivered 6.2 tonne of essential medicines and hospital consumables to Maldives under Operation Sanjeevani. These medicines and consumables were procured from eight suppliers in India but couldn’t be transported through any other means due to the 21-day lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, an official statement said.

“At the request of the government of Maldives, the IAF aircraft activated Operation Sanjeevani and lifted these medicines from airports in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Madurai before flying to the Maldives,” the statement said, adding the Army facilitated the transport of these medicines and consumables from warehouses across India to the respective airports.

Among other things, these medicines include influenza vaccines, anti-viral drugs such as lopinavir and ritonavir — which have been used to treat patients with COVID-19 in other countries —medicines for cardiac conditions, kidney ailments, hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, allergies and cancer treatment, anticonvulsants, as well as as catheters, nebulisers, urine bags and infant feeding tubes, the statement added. Last month, India had dispatched a 14-member Army medical team to Maldives to set up a viral testing lab there.

Cargo from China

Air India has received China’s clearance to operate cargo flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong to help Indian pharmaceutical companies import personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

“We have secured requisite approvals from Shanghai for our flights on April 4 and 5 and await clearances for flights on April 6,7 and 8. Permissions have also been obtained for operations to Hong Kong,” said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal. The flights are being operated on a commercial basis following requests from pharma firms.

The accused in the murder of a U.S. journalist had been released by India in 1999 in exchange for 155 hostages

Daniel Pearl

The decision by a Pakistani court in Sindh to acquit Ahmed Omar Sheikh Saeed of murdering journalist Daniel Pearl will be raised by India at the next meeting of the Financial Action Task Force, where Pakistan’s greylist status will come up for discussion, officials said. The British-born Saeed has been in a Pakistani prison since he was arrested for the kidnapping and killing of the Wall Street Journal’s correspondent in Pakistan in 2002, but was in Indian prisons from 1994-1999. In December 1999, Saeed was released along with Masood Azhar and another alleged terrorist Mushtaq Zargar by the Indian government in exchange for 155 hostages aboard the hijacked IC-814.

The next FATF meeting is expected in June, but may be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, it wasn’t just Saeed’s history with terrorism in India that would be raised, but his links with Al-Qaeda and, more specifically, his role in the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. Saeed has not yet been tried in that case and the Pakistani government’s actions in the next few days would be closely watched.

If Pakistan’s federal government doesn’t file a strong appeal against the acquittal and Saeed walks free, as some Pakistani reports suggest, it would also show how transnational norms against “terror financing” were being flouted by Islamabad, the officials indicated.

Saeed is reported to have spent time in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, after he was recruited by the Hizbut Tahrir from the London School of Economics, where he studied. He is then believed to have trained with the Harkat ul Mujahideen, and was allegedly sent to India in 1994 as part of a plan to have Masood Azhar released.

While in Delhi he is alleged to have befriended, and then kidnapped four British tourists and held them at a hideout in Ghaziabad. The police arrested him after he delivered a ransom message calling for Azhar’s release to the BBC office in Delhi, when he returned to the hideout.

Once he was released along with Azhar at Kandahar, Saeed is believed to have become a key aide to Osama Bin Laden and was allegedly a part of Bin Laden’s plans for the Al-Qaeda’s attacks in the U.S.

Another twist in the Saeed tale came in 2008 on the night of the November 26 attacks in Mumbai.

Pakistani investigators claimed Saeed used a cellphone from prison to call then Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and allegedly impersonated then India’s Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, threatening a major Indian attack. The call had led to considerable panic in the Pakistani establishment, and President Zardari had sent a special plane to order back the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who happened to be in Delhi for a bilateral meeting at the time.

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