Current Affairs in Short: 17 April 2020
Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the COVID-19 virus this year even in the best-case scenario, as per the new UN report.
Africa could see 300,000 coronavirus deaths this year
• Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the COVID-19 virus this year even in the best-case scenario, as per the new UN report. The report was released on April 17, 2020. The report is the most detailed public projection made yet for coronavirus infections in Africa, which is home to more than 1.3 billion people.
• The report states that in the worst-case scenario with no interventions, Africa could see 3.3 million deaths and 1.2 billion infections. Under the best-case scenario, even with ‘social distancing’ the continent will see more than 122 million infections.
• Poverty, crowded urban conditions and widespread health problems make Africa ``particularly susceptible'' to the virus, according to the UN report.
• The report comes days before African officials launch a new initiative to accelerate their COVID-19 testing efforts. The continent presently has more than 18,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.
• Though Africa is weeks behind Europe, the rate of increase of coronavirus infections in the nation is alarmingly similar, note experts.
Labour ministry to compile data on pay cuts, layoff
• The Labour Ministry has directed the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to compile the data on layoffs, salary cuts and delayed payment.
• The collated data will be presented to the Prime Minister’s Office in form a report. This current initiative by the labour ministry comes as the stressed economy has raised widespread fears of layoffs and salary cuts in the organised sector.
• Earlier, the labour ministry had issued an advisory to the employers to not cut salaries or fire employees. The Prime Minister had made also made this a part of his 7-point advisory issued on April 14, 2020.
US, China, Pakistan, Russia hold virtual discussion on Afghanistan
• The UN Secretariat convened a virtual discussion on the regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan on April 16, 2020. The discussion saw participation from nine nations including Pakistan, China, Russia and the United States.
• The discussions were focused on a comprehensive peace process in Afghanistan through intra-Afghan negotiations and on the importance of regional cooperation in support to Afghanistan.
• The other nations that took part in the discussion included Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The format brought together six neighbouring nations of Afghanistan and Russia and the US in recognition of the importance of the region to Afghanistan’s stability and sustainable development.
CeNS develops compact sensor to detect heavy metal ions in water
• The Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS) has developed a compact solid-state sensor to detect the heavy metal ions in water.
• The sensor is portable and can help onsite detection in remote areas. The development is significant as heavy metal ions such as mercury, lead and cadmium pose severe threats to living beings.
• The heavy metal ions can easily be accumulated in the body and cannot be detoxified by any chemical or biological processes.
• Hence, the health hazards associated with the presence of heavy metal ions in water demand development of efficient and portable sensors for rapid detection of these ions.
DRDO develops products to enhance operation at public places during pandemic
• The Defence Research and Development Organisation has been developing several solutions to contribute towards the fight against the COVID-19 virus with the latest being two products that can enhance operations at public places.
DRDO has developed an automatic mist based Sanitiser Dispensing Unit and UV Sanitisation Box and Hand-held UV device. The mist-based sanitizer dispensing unit has been developed by the Centre for Fire Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES).
• It is a contactless sanitizer dispenser that sprays alcohol-based sanitizer solution for sanitisation of hands while entering the buildings or office complexes. It is based on water mist aerator technology and it is activated through an ultrasonic sensor.
• The Ultraviolet C Light-based sanitisation box and the UV device have been developed by DRDO laboratories at the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences and the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences in Delhi.
• The sanitisation box consists of a shorter, more energetic wavelength of light and is particularly good at destroying genetic material in COVID-19. The sanitisation of the items by employing UV-C light avoids the harmful effects of the chemicals used for disinfection. This technology is contact-free and is environment friendly.