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DGCA asked to keep breath alcohol test in abeyance due to Covid fear

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Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)

Keeping in mind the elevated risk of Covid -19 virus transmission due to the order, pilots have asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to keep in abeyance the order on mandatory breath alcohol testing for 100 per cent of crewmembers operating international flights.

In a letter to the DGCA, the pilots said the operative part of the subject order on 100 per cent testing of crew operating international flights be placed in abeyance till a failsafe disinfection protocol is in place.

In a letter to DGCA, Capt. Rahul J. Cowasji, President, Executive Pilots’ Association said the practice of 100 per cent BA testing was discontinued a few months ago, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the countrywide case count was less than 1000.

“Today, the nationwide count of Covid-19 cases is more than 4.8 million and exponentially increasing. Therefore, the risk of crewmembers contracting the virus is commensurately much higher than before, especially from asymptomatic, undetected carriers”, he said.

Typically, a set of crewmembers on a long-haul flight to a North American destination consists of up to 19 (nineteen) persons. What compounds the risk even further is that the same BA testing apparatus can be used multiple times on up to 60 (sixty)different crew members in quick succession – with no scientifically prescribed time gap or failsafe disinfection protocol of either the apparatus or testing environment(viz. touch points in the BA testing room or the ancillary stationary ,such as the pen and register.

“Large numbers of crew members have already tested Covid-19 positive in Air India, adding to a significant human resource downtime and consequently, to the high medical costs incurred on our company”, the letter said.

Air India crewmembers are the mainstay of the Vande Bharat mission, and the elevated potential risk of contracting infections may adversely impact the same. “Hence the prevention and control of the spread of Covid-19 amongst Air India’s crew members is not just essential to halt any detrimental impact on the financial condition of the airline but also required to protect the national interest”, the pilots said.

In addition, it is noticed that disposable blow tubes are used and thrown in open bins posing a potential, virus laden, biohazard risk.

Crew members operating international flights undergo Covid-19 RT/PCR testing prior to every flight but the medical personnel handling the BA Instruments do not undergo any testing and could be asymptomatic carriers themselves.

“Furthermore, the rare possibility of an asymptomatic crewmember (who may have earlier been tested as a ‘false negative’ during pre-flight Covid screening) using a common BA machine cannot be completely ruled out”, the pilots said.

As per a research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine , titled ” Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared to SARS-CoV” it was conclusively established that, “SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to these surfaces”.

Thus, the above finding concludes that the virus could remain viable on BA testing instruments for many days and not just hours, the letter points out.

In addition, disinfection of touch points in the testing room and environment as well as safely disposing the blow tubes as per biohazard handling norms, would be the prudent way forward.

The manufacturer’s document also specifically emphasizes that merely isolating the instrument for a period of time, ( e.g. 12 hours in the case of ATCOs as ordered by DGCA based on recommendations of DGMS Air) does not suffice and that actively cleaning and/or disinfecting the instrument will have to be the backbone of the programme to eliminate the risk of virus transmission.

“While endorsing the spirit of enforcing Aircraft Rule 24 , it is suggested that the operative part of the subject order on 100 per cent testing of crew operating international flights is placed in abeyance till a failsafe disinfection protocol is in place”, the pilots have told DGCA.

It is also suggested that a comprehensive Safety Risk Analysis is also carried out. This would go a long way in increasing the confidence of all stakeholders, including crewmembers, in the process.

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Covid-19

Andhra registers 3,892 more Covid cases, tally 7.67 lakh

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future covid related stories
future covid related stories

Amaravati, Oct 14 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday registered 3,892 new Covid positive cases, increasing the state’s tally to 7.67 lakh cases, even as 5,050 recoveries outnumbered fresh infections.

East Godavari accounted for the highest number of cases at 607, followed by West Godavari (518), Krishna (458), Chittoor (405), Guntur (345), Kadapa (332), Anantapur (290), Nellore (219), Visakhapatnam (163), Srikakulam (154), Vizianagaram (151), Prakasam (146) and Kurnool (104).

East Godavari continues to battle the highest number of infections at 1.07 lakh. At the lower end, Krishna district has witnessed 32,910 cases so far.

Not just having the highest Covid tally among the 13 districts, East Godavari is also shouldering the highest active cases at 7,135.

Meanwhile, 28 patients succumbed to the virus in the past 24 hours, one of the lowest daily Covid death counts in the recent past.

With the new additions, the statewide Covid death toll has reached 6,319.

As always, the positive trend of higher recoveries continues to occur in the southern state. On Wednesday, 5,050 more patients recovered from the virus, raising the total number of recoveries to 7.19 lakh.

Of the total 7.67 lakh cases, the number of active cases currently stands at 41,669.

The state’s positivity rate stands at 11.3 per cent at present.

Andhra Pradesh tested 69,463 samples on Wednesday. In total, the state has tested 67.7 lakh samples for Covid until now.

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After Sputnik V, Russia approves another Covid-19 vaccine: Putin

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Moscow, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin (Sputnik via XinhuaIANS)
Moscow, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin (Sputnik via XinhuaIANS)

Moscow, Oct 14 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced that the country has registered the second Covid-19 vaccine, according to media reports.

Russia became the first country to give regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine in August when Sputnik V was officially registered ahead of large-scale clinical trial, drawing criticism from some quarters in the scientific community.

The second Russian vaccine to get regulatory approval has been developed by the Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology.

Vector’s vaccine, dubbed “EpiVacCorona”, relies on chemically synthesized peptide antigens of SARS-CoV-2 proteins, conjugated to a carrier protein and adsorbed on an aluminum-containing adjuvant, according to details posted at ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.

Putin said that a third Russian vaccine against Covid-19, developed by the Chumakov Centre, would also be registered in the near future, Sputnik news agency reported.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that she tested EpiVacCorona vaccine herself and experienced no side effects, said the report.

“The Vector centre is also initiating post-registration clinical trials in the various regions of Russia that would include 40,000 volunteers,” she was quoted as saying.

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European countries impose new Covid-19 curbs as cases spike

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London, Sept. 22, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A woman wearing a face mask walks at Covent Garden in London, Britain, on Sept. 21, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that Britain is facing a "tipping point" regarding the coronavirus pandemic and more restrictions are possible to cope with the spread of virus. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
London, Sept. 22, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A woman wearing a face mask walks at Covent Garden in London, Britain, on Sept. 21, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that Britain is facing a "tipping point" regarding the coronavirus pandemic and more restrictions are possible to cope with the spread of virus. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)

Countries across Europe were imposing a series of new restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic amid a spike in the number of fresh cases and deaths across the continent.

As of Thursday, the continent’s overall caseload stands at 4,301,247, while the death toll has surged to 197,075, according to the latest update by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The agency said that Europe’s infection rate “has been increasing for 77 days” and there were more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases last week, which was a 36 per cent weekly increase.

In France, one of the worst-hit European countries, President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced that a curfew will be introduced in big cities as a reaction to the recent resurgence of new cases.

Starting from Friday midnight, a four-week 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew will be imposed in the greater Paris region and the eight major cities of Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, Rouen, Toulouse, Montpellier and Saint-Etienne, Xinhua news agency reported.

These regions are already on maximum alert, with bars and gyms shut down, theatres and restaurants under strict health protocol.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in public spaces such as beaches and parks.

Anyone violating the curfew would be fined 135 euros, and permissions will be available for those who have health emergencies and work at night.

Presently, France has a total of 779,063 Covid-19 cases, Europe’s second biggest tally after Spain, with 33,037 deaths.

In the UK, a new three-tier Covid-19 alert system came into force across England on Wednesday.

The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rate.

The UK has so far reported a total of 654,644 coronavirus cases, with 43,155 fatalities, the highest death toll in Europe.

On Wednesday, Italy, the once epicentre of the pandemic in Europe, reported its largest single-day spike, with more than 7,300 cases, which took the overall tally to 372,799, while the death toll surged to 36,289.

The grim milestone came a day after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree putting new limits on gatherings, sports and school activities.

But bars and restaurants are still allowed to operate until midnight, but only for table service, NPR news reported.

The Catalonian region of Spain has ordered all bars and restaurants to close their on-premises operations, saying they can only sell to-go items for the next 15 days.

Shopping areas, theatres and gyms will have to operate at reduced capacity.

While the Czech Republic, has closed schools, restaurants and bars, The Netherlands is enacting a partial lockdown due to a recent resurgence.

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UK’s 3-tier coronavirus alert system kicks in

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London, Oct. 13, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A man wearing a face mask walks past a shop in London, Britain, on Oct. 13, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 143 to 43,018, marking the highest daily figure since June, according to official figures released Tuesday. Another 17,234 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 634,920, the latest data showed. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
London, Oct. 13, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A man wearing a face mask walks past a shop in London, Britain, on Oct. 13, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 143 to 43,018, marking the highest daily figure since June, according to official figures released Tuesday. Another 17,234 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 634,920, the latest data showed. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)

A new three-tier Covid-19 alert system set out by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come into force across England as the country struggles to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rates, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Liverpool City Region is placed in the “very high” level which sees venues such as bars and pubs closed unless they can operate as restaurants, while people are also banned from socializing with other households.

Currently, most of England is placed in the first tier of the government’s three-tier system, which means an alert level of “medium”.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has announced that he now supported a complete two or three weeks of lockdown across England as a “circuit breaker” to halt the spread of the virus.

He proposed a temporary set of restrictions, designed to get the infection rate down, with every pub, bar and restaurant in England closed for two-to-three weeks.

Starmer said it could be timed to coincide with school half term holidays to minimize disruption.

According to a paper by two of the government’s leading scientific advisers, a “short, sharp” two-week lockdown over the October half term break could prevent more than 7,000 deaths.

On Wednesday, Johnson told MPs at Parliament that he rules out nothing in the fight against coronavirus, but that he wants to “avoid the misery of another national lockdown”.

“I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus but we’re going to do it with the local, regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, Northern Ireland announced that the region is set to begin a four-week “circuit breaker” lockdown from Friday.

Among other restrictions, the hospitality sector in the region will be required to close apart from deliveries and takeaways for food, with the existing closing time of 11 p.m. remaining.

Meanwhile, no overnight stays in a private residence will be allowed unless in a bubble; close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians are not permitted to open, apart from those relating to the continuation of essential health interventions and therapeutics.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on Wednesday announced that the country will ban travellers from rest of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots from Friday, adding that the evidence suggests Covid-19 is “moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales”.

The measure will apply to tier-two and tier-three areas of England, according to Drakeford.

On Wednesday, the UK reported 19,724 new Covid-19 cases, which took the overall infection tally in the country to 654,644, according to official figures released Wednesday.

The death toll increased to 43,155 after 137 new fatalities.

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Hand hygiene for all in corona times (Oct 15 is Global Handwashing Day)

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Hand hygiene for all in corona times
Hand hygiene for all in corona times

October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day, dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap. To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future.

This year’s theme, Hand Hygiene for All, calls for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene.

The link between handwashing and health was first established less than two centuries ago.

Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital, is known as the father of hand hygiene. In 1846, he noticed that the women giving birth in the medical student/doctor-run maternity ward, in his hospital, were much more likely to develop a fever and die, compared to the women giving birth. He noticed that doctors and medical students often visited the maternity ward directly after performing an autopsy.

Taking cognizance of the seriousness, Semmelweis imposed a new rule mandating handwashing with chlorine for doctors. The rates of death in his maternity ward fell dramatically. This was the first proof that cleansing hands could prevent infection.

A few years later in Scutari-Italy, the Crimean War brought about a new handwashing champion, Florence Nightingale. At a time when most people believed that infections were caused by foul odors called miasmas, Florence Nightingale implemented handwashing and other hygiene practices in the war hospital in which she worked.

Sadly, handwashing promotion stood still for over a century. It was not until the 1980s, when a string of food-borne outbreaks and healthcare-associated infections led to public concern.

SITUATION IN INDIA

Communicating the importance of washing hands with soap to avoid Covid-19 spread is a daunting task in India as only 35.8 per cent households in the country practice hand-washing with soap or detergent before a meal, while 60 per cent households wash hands only with water.

The National Sample Survey (NSS) 76th round report-2019, reveals that 25.3 per cent households in rural India and 56 per cent in urban wash hands with soap or detergent before a meal. Also, 2.7 per cent households wash hands with ash, mud, and sand before meals.

In rural areas, 70 per cent people wash hands with water without soap or detergent, before a meal, and in urban areas, 42 per cent of people follow this practice.

What is more alarming is that about 26 per cent people in India don’t wash their hands with soap or detergent after defecation. 13.4 per cent households (15.2 per cent rural and 9.8 per cent urban) wash hands only with water after defecation. Two-third toilets in India have water and soap/detergent available in or around the toilets.

Diarrhoea and pneumonia are leading causes of death for children under the age of five. Handwashing can save lives and can decrease diarrhoea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.

Handwashing with soap impacts not just health and nutrition, but also education, economics, and equity.

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Malaysia reports 660 new Covid-19 cases

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 9, 2020 (Xinhua) -- People wearing masks walk on a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 9, 2020. Malaysia on Monday announced 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 117. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung/IANS)
KUALA LUMPUR, March 9, 2020 (Xinhua) -- People wearing masks walk on a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 9, 2020. Malaysia on Monday announced 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 117. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung/IANS)

Malaysia reported 660 new Covid-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 17,540.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press briefing that six of the new cases are imported and 654 are local transmissions, Xinhua reported.

Four more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 167.

The majority of new cases are from eastern state of Sabah, with 429 of the new cases reported in the state.

Another 233 patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total cured and discharged to 11,605, or 66.2 per cent of all cases.

Of the remaining 5,768 active cases, 108 are being held in intensive care and 35 of those are in need of assisted breathing.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told a separate press conference that 282 roadblocks have been set up nationwide in a bid to enforce movement restrictions introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The restrictions are in force in Kuala Lumpur, the administration center of Putrajaya as well as the adjacent Selangor state from October 14 to 27, and also in the country’s eastern Sabah state from October 13 to 26.

Separately, the country’s armed forces said in a statement that personnel have been mobilized to assist in roadblocks and to airlift medical supplies and other items to Sabah, which has seen the highest number of new Covid-19 cases in the country.

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