6. The wait for surgeries is going to get longer

6. The wait for surgeries is going to get longer
6. The wait for surgeries is going to get longer
  • 5,84,737 planned surgeries in India might get cancelled or delayed over a 12-week period of peak disruption to hospital services due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study conducted by an international consortium. The study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, has projected that around 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide will be cancelled or postponed in 2020.
  • This will lead to patients facing a lengthy wait for their health issues to be resolved, according to the research conducted by the CovidSurg Collaborative, a research network of over 5,000 surgeons from 120 countries focused on the impact of Covid-19 on surgical care. The modelling study indicates that each additional week of disruption to hospital services will be associated with a further 2.4 million cancellations.
  • Most cancelled surgeries will be for non-cancer conditions, the researchers say. Orthopaedic procedures will be cancelled most frequently, with 6.3 million orthopaedic surgeries cancelled worldwide over a 12-week period. About 2.3 million cancer surgeries will be cancelled or postponed, the study said. More details here

Today: Phase 2 of India’s repatriation mission begins; Monsoon likely to hit Andaman & Nicobar Islands; Cyclone Amphan likely to intensify over Bay of Bengal; Germany’s Bundesliga recommences. Tomorrow: Lockdown 3.0 ends

1. A nod to supply chain reforms in agriculture
1. A nod to supply chain reforms in agriculture
The central government continued to emphasise long-term measures rather an immediate fiscal stimulus to rejuvenate the economy, with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announcing a fund aimed at improving the agricultural supply chain.

  • The Rs 1 lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund will help finance projects on post-harvest management, procurement, cold chain and storage centres, Sitharaman said. Aggregators, farmers producers organisations (FPOs), primary agri-cooperative societies, agri-entrepreneurs and startups will benefit and the fund will be set up at the earliest, she added.
  • A Rs 10,000 crore fund to support 2 lakh micro food enterprises (MFEs) for promoting health and wellness, herbal, organic and nutritional products was also announced.
  • A Rs 20,000 crore scheme, called the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana, first announced during the budget, for development of marine and inland fisheries was also highlighted. Rs 11,000 crore will be earmarked for the core activities of marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture while Rs 9,000 crore is for improving the supply chain and infrastructure such as fishing harbours, cold chain and markets.

The total of Rs 1.3 lakh crore is in line with the previously announced measures for migrants, street vendors and rural poor (Rs 2.46 lakh crore) and small businesses, discoms and shadow banks (Rs 5.9 lakh crore), where the minister focussed on improving liquidity (access to loans) rather than compensate for the losses suffered during the lockdown. Add that to the liquidity measures RBI announced in two tranches, worth Rs 8.04 lakh crore, and the March’s 1.7 lakh crore package, the total is just shy of Rs 20 lakh crore — the amount PM Modi said the relief measures will be worth.

Essential change: On the policy front, Sitharaman said the centre will amend the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, to deregulate production and sale of food products. This will remove the stock limit currently applicable on these items, minister said. Agricultural produce marketing will also be reformed to allow for more choices for farmers to sell their produce. Earlier, BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat had moved to allow for private agricultural produce marketing committees (APMC), or mandis.

2. If Covid-19 cover could help Tejas fly…
2. If Covid-19 cover could help Tejas fly...
  • A new deal: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat has said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) will buy another 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) fighter jets as it “would rather take the indigenous fighter” — following Modi’s push for locally manufactured products.
  • The old deals: In 2006, the IAF had placed an order for 20 Tejas aircraft with another 20 being ordered in 2010. Another deal for 83 aircraft — for the upgraded Tejas Mark-1A — was inked in February this year, by which time only 16 of the 40 aircrafts earlier ordered had been delivered by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Tejas LCA programme began in 1983.
  • Not the chosen one: To be sure, the IAF has never been too happy about being forced to induct the Tejas LCA. In 2017, it said the Tejas aircraft could seriously jeopardise India’s air defence. For one, its combat “endurance” — the time an aircraft can last without replenishing its resources — is not even an hour compared to 3 hours for the JAS 39 Gripen manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab and almost 4 hours for the US-made F-16, the two aircraft shortlisted by the IAF to boost its depleted squadron strength. Moreover, given that the Tejas can carry half the weapons payload — of 3 tonnes — vis-a-vis the Gripen (6 tonnes) or the F-16 (7 tonnes), means twice the number of Tejas aircraft will need to be deployed in combat.
  • For self-reliance… The Make in India programme launched in 2014, didn’t really take off for India’s defence manufacturing sector. In the Modi government’s first term, of the Rs 4 lakh crore worth of defence purchases, only Rs 1.19 lakh crore were from Indian vendors and India still imports 90% of its military requirements. A part of the reason is the quality of Indian manufactured products. The Indian Army, for instance, has twice rejected indigenously manufactured assault rifles to replace the INSAS rifle. This forced the government to opt for the US-made SiG Sauer SIG716 7.62×51 mm assault rifles, along with 7 lakh AK-203 assault rifles, which will be manufactured in India. In the case of the Indian Navy, the wait for its first indigenously built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, is likely to extend by 4-5 years — it was originally scheduled to be delivered in 2018 but will probably enter service in 2022.

Meanwhile, the first four of the 36 Rafale aircraft ordered from France are expected to be delivered by July-end this year, a delay of two months.

3. SC rejects another petition on migrants
3. SC rejects another petition on migrants
The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a petition seeking urgent directions to district magistrates to identify migrants who are walking to their native states and provide them with free travel and food.

How can we stop them from walking? It is impossible for this Court to monitor who is walking and who is not walking?”, observed Justice L Nageswara Rao, who led the bench. Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Bhushan Gavai were the other judges on the bench.

  • On free travel in trains: Earlier on May 5, Supreme Court had refused to intervene in a plea alleging that migrant workers journeying home are charged 15% of their rail ticket fare. “Necessary modalities for such transportation has to be implemented by the States/Union Territories in collaboration with the Railways” “It is not for this court to issue any order under Article 32 regarding the same,” the three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Bhushan Gavai added.
  • On wages: On April 7, hearing a petition seeking fulfilment of wages for migrant workers, Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Deepak Gupta had said the court cannot interfere in policy decisions of the government. During the hearing, CJI had also asked: “If they are being provided meals, then why do they need money for meals?”
  • On hotels as shelter: On April 3, the court had dismissed a plea seeking direction for using resorts and hotels for migrant workers walking back to their native places. A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta observed that the court cannot force the government to listen to all the ideas as people may come up with millions of ideas.
  • On migrants on road: On March 31, a bench headed by CJI Bobde (Justice L Nageswara Rao was the other member) had asked the central government to ensure food, water and medicines to migrant workers lodged at shelter homes but agreed with solicitor general Tushar Mehta’s plea that mass exodus of migrant workers should not be allowed. Mehta had then told the court that there was no migrant on the road as all had been taken to shelter homes.
4. India overtakes China to become 11th-worst Covid-hit nation
4. India overtakes China to become 11th-worst Covid-hit nation
  • India rose to the 11th spot among countries with the highest number of reported Covid-19 cases on Friday, overtaking China’s official count. This even as new infections from across the country remained higher than 3,500 for the sixth consecutive day. States reported a total of 3,787 new cases, taking India’s caseload to 85,786. China has officially reported 84,031 cases.
  • Also, India’s death toll on Thursday was 105 — back to triple digits after dropping to 99 on Thursday. However, the country hasn’t seen a new peak in daily cases for five days since hitting a high of 4,308 on May 10. That’s almost twice as long as the average over the past month, when daily cases have been touching a new high every three days.
  • Maharashtra, with 1,576 fresh infections, continued to lead the numbers, followed by Tamil Nadu (434), Delhi (425), Gujarat (340) and Rajasthan (213). The total number of cases in Maharashtra breached the 29,000 mark (at 29,100 cases). The state also registered 49 deaths on Friday and 34 of them were recorded in Mumbai (which also has 17,671 cases). Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu’s coronavirus count topped the 10,000 mark on Friday, with 309 of them in Chennai. The state’s death toll rose to 71, with five more fatalities.
  • Delhi continued to show a surge in infections, taking the total tally to 8,895. The Capital also recorded 8 deaths as the toll mounted to 123. New cases in Rajasthan hit another high on Friday, while Gujarat’s count of fresh cases has remained largely steady around 350 over the past few days. The latter’s total is just short of five-digits, at 9,932.
  • Now, 30 municipal areas account for 79% of India’s coronavirus infection caseload, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Covid-19 was informed on Friday. Analysts said the positivity rate as well as fatality remained high in Maharashtra, Gujarat & Delhi and needed more aggressive contact tracing and testing. “It was also highlighted that the impact of lockdown was seen on the doubling rate which improved from 3.4 days in the pre-lockdown week to 12.9 days in the last week,” the health ministry said.


5. Ljubljana is the capital of which country?
  • Clue 1: It boasts the highest share of doctorates among its population — 4% — among all countries.
  • Clue 2: US first lady Melania Trump and UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin were both born in this country.
  • Clue 3: In June 1991, it was the first republic to split from Yugoslavia and become an independent sovereign state.

Scroll below for answer

7. Onset of monsoon delayed by 4 days
7. Onset of monsoon delayed by 4 days
  • The southwest monsoon is likely to hit Kerala on June 5 — a four-day delay compared with its normal onset date of June 1 — the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Friday. (The forecast carries a model error of +/-4 days.) However, the monsoon is likely to arrive over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by today — six days in advance — due to a cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal.
  • The onset of monsoon over Kerala marks the commencement of the four-month long rainfall season in the country, from June to September. And according to IMD, this year the monsoon is expected to be normal and in line with the long-term average of 88 cm. This has raised hopes for the farmers and the economy, battered by a nationwide lockdown. Last year, the southwest monsoon made its onset over Kerala on June 8, two days later than IMD’s forecast. The current had a slow start in 2019, leading to below normal rains in June. It had covered the entire country by July 19.
  • The delayed monsoon onset over Kerala is being attributed to several factors that can make the advancement of rains slightly sluggish, including an abnormally high number of western disturbances affecting the western Himalayan region, scientists said. At the same time, the development of a cyclone near Andaman and Nicobar is pulling monsoon winds to that region, impacting their progression.
  • The country receives 75% of its rainfall from the southwest monsoon. Not only is it crucial for farming in the country, but also for replenishing reservoirs, and more importantly to the economy. Nearly 60% of the country’s population depends on agriculture and allied sectors and most of the arable land is still rain-fed.
8. The Afghan peace deal is unravelling
8. The Afghan peace deal is unravelling
Nearly three months since the peace deal between the US and the Taliban, the ground realities in Afghanistan couldn’t be further from the objective.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani this week, in a televised address, ordered troops to switch from “active defensive” mode to “offensive” mode and resume attacks on the Taliban, following the attacks at a maternity hospital in Kabul and a funeral ceremony in Nangarhar.

  • The IS-Khorasan, Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, has claimed responsibility for the attack in Nangarhar but no group has done so on the attack in Kabul, which killed 24, including mothers and newborn babies. Ghani accuses the Taliban for the Kabul attack.
  • The Taliban has said it will fight back. On Thursday night, at least three police personnel and five Taliban were killed in clashes in the northern province of Kunduz, Tolo news reports.

The US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad (in pic, left), is trying to control damage, blaming the Islamic State for the attacks and calling on Afghanistan to not fall in “the trap”. “Afghans must come together to crush this menace and pursue a historic peace opportunity,” he said.

The bottom line: The February 29 peace deal had called on the Taliban and the Afghan government to begin talks “within 10 days” but three months since they are nowhere near that. The US proposal that Afghanistan will release its Taliban prisoners has also not fructified.

9. German football returns, but not as we know it
9. German football returns, but not as we know it
  • German football returns to the pitch today — the first of Europe’s big five leagues to resume action during the ongoing pandemic. But it will have to follow a draconian set of guidelines set out by the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL):
  • Testing & quarantine: Players, coaches and backroom staff will be tested at least twice a week and once on the eve of matches. Any positive case will be separated from the rest of the team. The decision to quarantine teams rests with German state authorities.
  • Stadiums: Around 300 people will be allowed inside matchday venues, divided in three defined zones — inside the stadium, on stands and outside the stadium. The figures include not only players, coaches and referees, but also journalists (think virtual press conferences and plastic screens for interviews), doping-control officers, stewards, emergency services, groundskeepers and ball boys and girls.
  • Arrivals: The teams will arrive in several coaches to ensure each occupant (masks are a must) is sitting 5 ft apart. Social distancing rules apply in changing rooms too. When they come onto the pitch, player handshakes are banned. No team photos or exchanging of team pennants either.
  • On the pitch: Apart from players and match officials, everyone else on pitch side needs to wear masks, including substitutes. Match balls will be disinfected regularly during action. Physical contact between players should only be made as a result of play during the match. “Contact with elbows or feet is preferred,” the DFL document stated, stressing on “exemplary behaviour”.
  • Hotels: Wherever possible, visiting teams must book an entire hotel or, at the very least, an entire floor. The hotel has to be disinfected before the players arrive. Players are banned from the hotel’s weights room and must socially distance from team-mates even at mealtimes.

More guidelines here

10. Dutch the lockdown
10. Dutch the lockdown
The Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has issued an unusual official guidance for single men and women during the lockdown: find a seksbuddy. Yup, the Dutch word means exactly what its sound suggests. Reversing its earlier order to maintain 1.5 metre distance with a visitor, RIVM now concedes that “it makes sense that as a single [person] you also want to have physical contact”. The progressive advisory addresses the issue of loneliness and depression that many experiences during the lockdown, say mental health experts.

Slovenia. The mountainous nation of 2 million people became the first country in Europe to formally call an end to its Covid-19 outbreak, opening its borders on Friday. “Today Slovenia has the best epidemic situation in Europe, which enables us to call off the general epidemic,” Prime Minister Janez Jansa said, two months after the epidemic was declared. The central European country had reported some 1,500 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths as of Thursday, but with the rate of new infections trailing off, the government ordered borders open for all EU citizens, while non-EU citizens will have to stay in quarantine.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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