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NEW DELHI: Number of active symptomatic Covid-19 cases in India has already peaked at around 10 lakhs on September 17 and the cases, which are now declining, may reach the cumulative figure of 1.06 crore with negligible growth by the end of February next year, a government’s expert committee said on Sunday. It means the pandemic can be controlled by early next year with “minimal active symptomatic infections” in February, 2021.

Releasing its projection based on a mathematical model, the Committee, however, said this number would start rising again if proper practices of masking, disinfecting, tracing, and quarantine were not followed.

“This is not a reason for us to relax because this nice downward trend will continue only if we continue with the protective measures,” said chairman of the panel, M Vidyasagar of the IIT Hyderabad, while making a virtual presentation of the findings of the Committee.

According to this panel, comprising scientists from IITs, IISc Bangalore, ISI Kolkata and CMC Vellore, India has, in fact, reached its peak four days earlier than the peak projection (September 21) made by this “COVID-19 India National Supermodel”.

The Committee, appointed by the ministry of science & technology to collate the collective expertise of the Indian scientific community, and to arrive at the model, has found that 30% of the country’s population, at present, is projected to have antibodies as against 14% in August end – it’s double the ICMR survey that had, projected that 7% of the population had antibodies in August end.

“This number being at 30% of the population with antibodies at the moment is good news as that is what the explanation for the downturn in this pandemic. The other point is that the cumulative mortality projected to be less than 0.04% of total infected,” said Vidyasagar.

In addition to these projections, the Committee, based on temporal profiles of analyses done for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, concluded that the impact of labour migration on the total number of infections in these states was minimal, indicating success of quarantine strategies adopted for the returning migrants.

The Committee also simulated what would have happened in hypothetical alternative scenarios with regard to the timing of lockdown regime and said with no lockdown, the pandemic would have hit India very hard, with a peak load of over 1.4 crore cases arriving in June.

“Had India waited until May to impose the lockdown, the peak load of active cases would have been around 50 lakhs by June,” it said, noting that the imposition of an early and comprehensive lockdown pushed the peak of cases far into the future and also reduced the peak load on the system.

It said the lockdown “flattened the curve”. Analysing the actual deaths from the pandemic with various alternative scenarios, the panel noted that without a lockdown the number of deaths in India would have overwhelmed the system within a very short timeframe, and would eventually have crossed 26 lakhs fatalities.

“Therefore, the imposition of an early and comprehensive lockdown pushed the peak of cases far into the future and also reduced the peak load on the system,” said Vidyasagar.

With making the projections, the Committee suggested that the fresh lockdowns should not be imposed on district and statewide levels, unless there is imminent danger of the healthcare facilities being overwhelmed.

It, however, emphasised that the existing personal safety protocols need to continue in full measure, noting that it does not yet know the weather-specific perturbations of this pandemic (in general, viruses tend to be more active in colder environment) and the effects of possible future mutations in the virus.

“Avoiding congestion especially in closed spaces and special care of those above 65 years and children is even more significant. Personnel with co-morbidities need to be extra cautious,” said the panel in its suggestions.

Doing a comparative analysis, the Committee noted that the imposition of various safety protocols such as wearing masks, social distancing etc., together with a comprehensive lockdown has allowed India to fare better than many other countries.

“India has one-sixth of the world’s population (one-fifth excluding China), and one-sixth of the reported cases. However, India accounts for only 10% of the world’s deaths, and its case fatality rate of less than 2% is among the lowest in the world. India’s fatality rate per million is about a tenth that of the European countries and the USA,” said the Committee.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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‘It’s unfortunate’: Rahul Gandhi on Kamal Nath’s ‘item’ remark




NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that he does not approve of the ‘item’ remark made by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath against state minister Imarti Devi. In the backdrop of the intense criticism faced by Congress for the senior leader’s allegedly sexist remarks, Rahul said it was “unfortunate”.

“Kamal Nath ji is from my party but personally, I don’t like the type of language that he used…I don’t appreciate it, regardless of who he is. It is unfortunate,” said Gandhi while addressing a press briefing in Wayanad.

Former chief minister Kamal Nath referred to Imarti Devi as an “item” at an election meeting in the Dabra (scheduled caste) assembly constituency in Gwalior district, sparking a controversy on Sunday.

“Suresh Raje ji hamare ummeedvar hai…yeh uske jaise nah hai…kya hai uska naam … main kya uska naam lun? …apko toh mujhe pehle savdhan karna chahiye tha … yeh kya item hai… (Our candidate is not like her… what’s her name? You know her better and should have warned me earlier… What an item!), Kamal Nath said in Hindi while the crowd called out Imarti Devi’s name.

However, Nath on Sunday said that he has already clarified the context in which he made that statement.

“It is Rahul Gandhi’s opinion. I have already clarified the context in which I made that statement…Why should I apologise when I did not intend to insult anyone? If anyone felt insulted, I have already expressed regret,” said the former MP.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Bihar assembly election phase 1: 31% candidates with criminal cases




NEW DELHI: In the phase one of Bihar assembly

2020, as many as 328 (31%) candidates are with criminal cases and 244 (23%) are with serious criminal cases, according to a recent analysis done by the election watchdog Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). The watchdog analysed self-sworn affidavits of 1064 out of 1066 candidates contesting phase one of the election.

Among political parties, RJD has fielded most number of candidates with criminal background, followed by BJP.

Also, out of the 1064 candidates analysed by the watchdog, 375 (35%) are crorepatis. The average assets of candidates contesting phase 1 election is Rs 1.99 crores.

Of this 9% candidates have wealth of Rs 5 crore and above, while 12% have wealth between Rs 2 and Rs 5 crore.

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Pandemic to shave off 40% operating profit of pvt hospitals: Report




MUMBAI: The pandemic will eat up around 40 per cent of the operational profit of private hospitals this fiscal, as billing has plunged drastically due to the virus outbreak and the resultant proclivity of people to avoid hospitals for non-emergency situations, says a report.

The Crisil report released on Tuesday, however, noted that a large number of pandemic cases, which though is low-margin, will get these hospitals an additional revenue to the tune of 15-20 per cent.

Further, with the relaxation in lockdown and travel restrictions, footfalls have started improving from July, helping bed-occupancy levels.

The report also expects bed-occupancy levels to stabilise 65-70 per cent of the pre-lockdown levels in the second half of the fiscal. This, along with additional revenue from the pandemic treatment will help limit overall decline in revenue to 16-18 per cent, as against 17 per cent annual growth logged in the two preceding fiscals, it said.

Since the pandemic-driven lockdowns that began late March, hospitals have been on a crisis path as people began to avoid going to hospitals for regular consultations and began to postpone elective surgeries, which have been the most lucrative procedures for any hospital, especially organ transplants among others.

“A triple whammy of postponement in elective surgeries, revenue loss from the highly profitable medical tourism segment, and increasing costs will lead to 35-40 per cent reduction in operating profit of private hospitals this fiscal,” Crisil said.

The report is based on the analysis of 40 hospitals, including 36 rated by the agency, which account for over Rs 36,000 crore of the sector’s revenue.

Even though the trauma and emergency treatment account for 28-30 per cent of revenue continued, but at a much lower level, given the fewer accidents during the lockdowns.

On top of these, medical tourism, which accounts for 10-12 per cent of revenue but gets the highest margins, especially for large hospitals, came to a complete standstill, due to travel restrictions imposed as part of the lockdowns.

However, the pandemic is set to bring them around 20 per cent of the revenue despite low margin.

“Treating COVID-19 patients is expected to provide an additional revenue stream and may contribute 15-20 per cent to revenue this fiscal. But it is not as profitable as other revenue streams. Additionally, given the high fixed cost structure of hospitals, lower overall occupancy will result in lesser absorption of overheads.

“This, coupled with the increased cost of safety and sanitation will lead to 35-40 per cent decline in operating profit this fiscal,” the report said.

Weakened operating performance accentuated cash-flow challenges in the first half and to manage the situation, hospitals have deferred 35-40 per cent of planned capex for this fiscal, and are now resorting to short-term debt funding.

About a third of the agency-rated hospitals also availed moratorium for loan repayments which supported their liquidity during the first half.

Nonetheless, the credit outlook for the sector remains moderately negative, with credit metrics being impacted primarily by lower profit, the report said adding that the deterioration in performance is expected to be only temporary, and a strong bounce-back is likely in the next fiscal supported by pent up demand.

“Elective surgeries cannot be postponed indefinitely and medical tourism is also expected to recoup as travel restrictions ease. We expect a healthy 25 per cent revenue growth in fiscal 2022, and operating profitability to recover to pre-pandemic levels, including due to lower share of less-profitable treatment for the pandemic patients,” the report said.

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