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Daily Current Affairs – 2020

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Covid-19 Treatment in India

10th June, 2020

Remdesivir:

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug first developed for treating Ebola in 2014, is one of the possible Covid-19 treatments being investigated in the WHO’s Solidarity Trial. It inhibits viral replication in the body.

  • US National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases released preliminary trial results showing recovery time of Covid patients given remdesivir improved from 15 to 11 days.
  • The Drug Controller General of India on June 1 approved a five-day regime of remdesivir.
  • Doctors are currently prescribing it for moderately to severely ill patients.
  • Remdesivir costs Rs 10,000-20,000 per vial.

Favipiravir:

  • Favipiravir is an antiviral given to inhibit viral replication, It is used as an anti-influenza drug.
  • First manufactured by Japan’s Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Ltd, it is manufactured in India by Glenmark Pharmaceutical and Strides Pharma.
  • It is being used for moderately symptomatic to severely ill Covid patients, but access is not easy.

Tocilizumab:

  • This is an immunosuppressant commonly used to treat for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • This is an expensive drug, that costs Rs 40,000-60,000 per dose, it is used as a preventive against ventilator requirement, government hospitals are giving it free.
  • Tocilizumab is manufactured by Roche Pharma, and marketed by Cipla.
  • In India it is sold under the brand name Actemra.

Itolizumab:

  • This drug is commonly used for the skin disorder psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune disorders. In India, Biocon launched it in 2013.
  • It is being trailled in Mumbai and Delhi on moderately to severely ill Covid patients.

Hydroxychloroquine

  • This antimalarial drug is a subject of debate over its efficacy against Covid.
  • India is the largest producer of this drug.
  • Doctors use HCQ use in Covid patients with symptoms as mild as headache, fever, body pain, and even in critically ill patients.
  • ICMR guidelines recommend low doses for nine days.
  • This drug is helping in faster recovery, but that is just preliminary assessment.
  • Side effects of the drug includes chaotic heartbeat.

Doxycycline + ivermectin:

  • Doxycycline is an antibiotic used to fight infection in the urinary tract, eye, or respiratory tract.
  • Ivermectin is an anti-parasite drug for treatment of scabies, head lice, and filariasis.
  • The combination is used to treat Covid patients with acute symptoms.
  •  There is very little information about these two drugs on Covid-19 patients and it is still in experimental stage.

Ritonavir + lopinavir:

  • These antivirals are commonly used to treat HIV patients.
  • They are being investigated in the Solidarity Trial.
  • Some studies suggest they reduce mortality risk in Covid-19 patients, while others have found no major improvement.
  • Over a dozen manufacturers supply ritonavir and lopinavir in India.
  • Doctors sometimes use the combination for severely ill patients

Forex Reserve in India

Why in news?

Amid pandemic, India’s foreign exchange reserves are rising and are slated to hit the $500 billion mark soon.

In the month of May, forex reserves jumped by $12.4 billion to an all-time high of $493.48 billion (around Rs 37.30 lakh crore) for the week ended May 29.

The level of foreign exchange reserves has steadily increased by 8,400 per cent from $5.8 billion as of March 1991 to the current level.

What are forex reserves?

Forex reserves are external assets in the form of gold, SDRs (special drawing rights of the IMF) and foreign currency assets (capital inflows to the capital markets, FDI and external commercial borrowings) accumulated by India and controlled by the Reserve Bank of India. 

Why they are important?

  1. Official foreign exchange reserves are held in support of a range of objectives like supporting and maintaining confidence in the policies for monetary and exchange rate managementincluding the capacity to intervene in support of the national or union currency.
  2. It will also limit external vulnerability by maintaining foreign currency liquidity to absorb shocks during times of crisis or when access to borrowing is curtailed.

Why are forex reserves rising despite the slowdown in the economy?

Rise in investment in foreign portfolio investors in Indian stocks and foreign direct investments (FDIs).

Fall in crude oil prices has brought down the oil import bill, saving the precious foreign exchange.

Overseas remittances and foreign travels have fallen steeply – down 61 per cent in April from $12.87 billion.

What’s the significance of rising forex reserves?

  • The rising forex reserves give a lot of comfort to the government and the Reserve Bank of India in managing India’s external and internal financial issues at a time when the economic growth is set to contract by 1.5 per cent in 2020-21.
  • It’s a big cushion in the event of any crisis on the economic front and enough to cover the import bill of the country for a year.
  • The rising reserves have also helped the rupee to strengthen against the dollar.

Reserves will provide a level of confidence to markets that a country can meet its external obligations, demonstrate the backing of domestic currency by external assets, assist the government in meeting its foreign exchange needs and external debt obligations and maintain a reserve for national disasters or emergencies.

Where are India’s forex reserves kept?

  • The RBI Act, 1934provides the overarching legal framework for deployment of reserves in different foreign currency assets and gold within the broad parameters of currencies, instruments, issuers and counterparties.
  • As much as 64 per cent of the foreign currency reserves is held in the securities like Treasury bills of foreign countries, mainly the US.
  • 28 per cent is deposited in foreign central banks.
  • 4 per cent is also deposited in commercial banks abroad.

India also held 653.01 tonnes of gold as of March 2020, with 360.71 tonnes being held overseas in safe custody with the Bank of England and the Bank for International Settlements, while the remaining gold is held domestically.

Facts for Prelims

Strategic Petroleum Reserves(SPR):

These are stockpiles of crude oil maintained by countries or private industries which are meant to tackle emergency situations to counter short-term supply disruptions.

Helicopter money:

Telangana Chief Minister has suggested RBI to adopt the concept of Helicopter Money to help state governments tide over the current crisis and kickstart economic activity in India.

Facts:

Origin: The term Helicopter Money was given by American Economist Milton Friedman in his paper “The Optimum Quantity of Money”.

Helicopter money: It refers to an unconventional monetary policy tool which is aimed at bringing the economy back on track by printing large sums of money and distributing it to the public.

 Benefits:

  1. a) Increase in Demand Growth
  2. b) Increase in inflation among others.

Challenges:

  1. a) It may lead to Hyperinflation
  2. b) Devaluation of currency among others

 

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