Daily Current Affairs - 28th Mar 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus and is self-isolating. He said he had experienced mild symptoms over the past 24 hours, including a temperature and cough, but would continue to lead the government. England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had also tested positive while England's Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, has shown symptoms.
  • Another 181 people died with the virus in the past day taking the total number of UK deaths to 759, with 14,543 confirmed cases.

Cantonment Boards gear up to the challenge posed by Coronavirus pandemic

  • Sixty two Cantonment Boards spread over 19 States and Union Territories, with a population of nearly 21 lakh including military and civil have geared up to the challenge posed by Coronavirus pandemic. Instructions have been issued to all the Cantonment Boards to identify beds in hospitals and health centres and guest houses for any eventuality.
  • All the Cantonment offices buildings, residential areas, school premises, libraries, parks and markets are being sanitised regularly. Action plans have been prepared in the light of directions of Director General Defence Estates.

Center issues advisory to make adequate arrangements for migrant workers, students to facilitate Social Distancing

  • The Centre has issued advisory to all States and Union Territories to make adequate arrangements for migrant workers and students from outside the States to facilitate Social Distancing in the wake of COVID-19. In a letter to the States, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has asked the States to take immediate steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter to migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganized sector workers during the 21-day Nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
  • The States have also been advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of the measures taken by the Government including provision of free food grains and other essential items through PDS.

Centre caps MRP of three ply meltblown face masks at Rs 16 till June 30

  • The Centre has capped the maximum retail price of three-ply face masks made of meltblown non-woven fabric at 16 rupees per piece till 30th of June. Consumer Affairs Secretary Pawan Agarwal said that the rate of 16 rupees per mask has been fixed after holding consultations with the mask manufactures. He said, the decision will ensure adequate availability of masks.
  • The Consumer Affairs Ministry had notified maximum retail price for two-ply at eight rupees and three-ply surgical masks at 10 rupees per piece.

China temporarily suspends visas for foreigners to prevent incoming cases of COVID-19

  • China has temporarily suspended visas for foreigners and restricted flights to prevent the incoming cases of COVID-19 in the country as it reported one domestically transmitted COVID-19 case in Zhejiang Province along with with 54 new imported infections. As the imported cases increased, China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits, effective from midnight of 28th of March.

Former Union Minister & SP leader Beni Prasad Verma passes away

  • Former Union Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Beni Prasad Verma passed away in Lucknow. He was 79. He was a founding member of the Samajwadi Party. In 1996, Verma became the Independent Minister of State for Communications. He was also given the charge of Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. Verma was a Lok Sabha member from 1996 to 2014.

Health Ministry restricts sale, distribution of "Hydroxychloroquine"

  • The Union Health Ministry has issued a notification restricting the sale and distribution of "Hydroxychloroquine" declaring it as an essential drug to meet the requirements of emergency arising due to the pandemic COVID-19.
  • The Ministry has directed that sale by retail of any preparation containing the drug Hydroxychloroquine shall be in accordance with the conditions for sale of drugs specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

HighLevel Committee chaired by Home Minister approves over Rs. 5,751 crore to eight States for calamity damage relief

  • The High Level Committee, HLC under the Chairmanship of Home Minister Amit Shah has approved additional Central assistance of over 5 thousand 7 hundred 51 crore rupees under National Disaster Response Fund, NDRF to eight States, which were affected by floods, landslides, cyclone, drought last year.
  • Over 953 crore rupees given to Bihar of which 400 crore rupees already released on account basis, over 460 crore to Kerala, over 177 crore rupees to Nagaland, over 179 crore to Odisha, over 1758 crore rupees to Maharashtra, nearly 1120 crore rupees to Rajasthan, over 1090 crore rupees to West Bengal for floods, landslides, cyclone, drought (kharif) during 2019 and over 11 crore rupees to Karnataka towards additional assistance under Animal Husbandry sector for drought (rabi) of 2018-19.
  • During the 2019-20, till date, Centre has already released over 10 thousand 937 crore rupees to 29 States including erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir.

ICC Board discusses contingency plan

  • The International Cricket Council (ICC) Board discussed, via teleconference, various contingency plans for its flagship tournaments, including the World T20 and World Test Championship, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Sourav Ganguly was welcomed as the BCCI representative on the Board.
  • The sporting world has been under complete lockdown and several bilateral Test series under World Test Championship also run the risk of being cancelled.

India to join WHO drug trial

  • India is all set to join World Health Organisation (WHO)’s “Solidarity Trial” aimed at rapid global search for drugs to treat COVID-19 infection. It will test four different drugs or combinations and compare their effectiveness.
  • The World Health Organisation’s Solidarity trial is expected to witness participation from Thailand, Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland. The trial will not only test four different drugs or combinations but will also compare their effectiveness.
  • The Indian government’s decision, a departure from last week’s stance, was taken in view of rising number of infections in the country.

Loans and EMIs to be cheaper as SBI to cut repo rate by 75 basis points

  • State Bank of India, SBI has decided to pass on the entire 75 basis points repo rate cut announced by the Reserve Bank of India. The new rates, to be effective from 1st of April, will be applicable for its borrowers availing loans based on External Benchmark-linked lending rate, EBR and Repo-Linked Lending Rate, RLLR.
  • The bank said in a statement that equated-monthly installments on eligible home loan accounts, linked to EBR or RLLR will get cheaper by around 52 rupees per one lakh rupees on a 30-year loan.

Moody’s cuts India growth forecast to 2.5%

  • Moody’s Investors Service sharply cut India’s growth forecast for calendar 2020 to 2.5% from 5.3% estimated barely 10 days ago after the government ordered a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The ratings company estimates a 5% growth for calendar 2019. Moody’s expects a sharp rebound in India’s growth in calendar 2021 to 5.8%.
  • It also stated that advanced economies are seen contracting 2% in 2020 against 1.7% growth in 2019 while emerging economies will slow to 1.9% from 4.2%. China is forecast to grow 3.3% in 2020 against 6.1% in the previous year.

NTPC acquires Govt’s stake in THDC, NEEPCO for a total of Rs 11,500 Crore

  • Country''s largest power producer NTPC has announced the acquisition of the government''s entire stake in two hydropower producing companies - THDC India and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO) - for a total consideration of Rs 11,500 crore. The company signed share purchase agreement to buy central government''s entire 74.496 per cent stake of THDC for an aggregate consideration of Rs 7,500 crore. Similarly, NTPC has also acquired entire 100 per cent government stake in NEEPCO for Rs 4,000 crore.

RBI cuts rates, allows loan moratorium

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has opened up the liquidity floodgates for banks even as it reduced the key interest rate sharply by 75 bps and allowed equated monthly instalments (EMIs) to be deferred by three months in a move to fight the economic impact of the countrywide lockdown to check the spread of novel coronavirus.
  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided by 4-2 majority to reduce repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.4 per cent. The reverse repo rate was cut by 90 bps to 4 per cent. All commercial, regional, rural, NBFCs and small finance banks are being permitted to allow 3-month moratorium on payment of instalments in respect of all term loan EMIs outstanding on March 31. The 3-month moratorium will apply to corporate loans, home loans and car loans. Personal loans will also qualify for this. The RBI will do the auction of targeted long term repo operations of 3-year tenor for total amount Rs 1,00,000 crore at floating rate.
  • The RBI Governor also announced a cut of 100 basis points in the cash reserve ratio for a period of one year, a step he said will ensure sufficient liquidity in the system. This would release liquidity worth Rs 1,37,000 crore within banks.
  • Accommodation under Marginal Standing Facility to be increased from 2% from SLR to 3% with immediate effect till June 30 which will release Rs 1.37 lakh crore into the system. Combined, these three measures will make available a total Rs 3,74,000 crore to the country's financial system.

RBI offers Rs 11,722 cr to banks through repo auction

  • The Reserve Bank of India has offered Rs 11,772 crore to banks through a 12-day variable rate repo auction. Before the auction, the RBI enhanced the amount of auction to Rs 50,000 crore from Rs 25,000 crore, announced earlier. In the auction, the central bank received Rs 11,772 crore of bids and allocated the entire amount at a cut-off rate of 5.16 per cent.

SC relaxes BS-IV deadline

  • The Supreme Court of India relaxed the 31 March deadline for winding up sales and registrations of BS IV emission norm-compliant vehicles amid the 21-day countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.
  • An apex court bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta allowed sale of 10% of the unsold stock of BS IV vehicles within 10 days of the end of the lockdown, except in Delhi and the National Capital Region. The bench also held that BS IV vehicles bought have to be registered within 10 days of sale but those bought before 31 March can be registered later.
  • The unsold inventory of BS IV emission norm-compliant vehicles is worth over rs.7,000 crore.

Sweden to limit gatherings to 50 people, down from 500

  • Sweden has decided to limit gatherings to 50 people, down from 500. Speaking with reporters, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told that an extraordinary cabinet meeting has taken this decision. Earlier Sweden was open for the business with a softer approach to curbing the COVID-19 spread than most of Europe.
  • In stark contrast to most of Europe, the Scandinavian country has kept primary schools, cafes and restaurants open, and has encouraged children to continue with their sporting activities.

Tokyo Olympics 2021: Qualified athletes will retain spots, rescheduled date to be announced in April

  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced all athletes who had already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before they were postponed will keep their places when the showpiece takes place in 2021. Around 57 percent of the 11,000 scheduled participants for the Tokyo Games had already qualified when the IOC postponed the Olympics until 2021 due to the coronavirus.
  • The IOC confirmed in a conference call with 100 National Olympic Committee representatives from around the world that a decision on when the Games will take place can be expected within the next three weeks, with early reports suggesting they'll take place in April to avoid the hottest weeks of the Tokyo summer. The Games were initially scheduled to take place between July 24-August 9.

ULA’s Atlas 5 launches AEHF-6 communications satellite in its first mission for U.S. Space Force

  • The United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 military communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force. This was the sixth and final satellite of the AEHF constellation that provides secure, jam-proof voice and data communications for U.S. national leadership, military forces and international partners Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Australia. All six were manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The Atlas 5 flew in the 551 configuration with five side-mounted solid rocket boosters.
  • Atlas 5 rockets launched the first five AEHF satellites in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019.

US developing new guidelines for coronavirus risk: Trump

  • US President Donald Trump says that federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread, as he aims to begin to ease nationwide guidelines meant to stem the COVID 19 outbreak. In a letter to the governors, Mr Trump said, the new guidelines are meant to enable state and local leaders to make decisions about maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other measures they have put in place. States and municipalities would still retain authority to set whatever restrictions deem necessary.

US has now most confirmed coronavirus cases in world

  • According to data compiled by Worldometer, the United States has reported over 16,000 confirmed cases in a single day , making the total number of COVID-19 patients to 85,088, the highest for any country. The United States surpassed China (81,285) and Italy (80,589) in terms of number of people infected with the novel coronavirus.

World Entered Recession:IMF

  • International Monetary Fund, IMF, has said that the world is in the face of a devastating impact due to the Corona virus pandemic and has clearly entered a recession. However, it projected a recovery next year.
  • Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that IMF has reassessed the prospects for growth for 2020 and 2021. It said that the current recession is as bad or worse than in 2009. She said that the recovery in 2021 will only be possible if the international community succeeds in containing the virus everywhere and prevent liquidity problems from becoming a solvency issue.

World Theatre Day observed on March 27

  • World Theatre Day is observed on March 27 every year to generate awareness about the importance of theatre in our life. Theatre is an art form which comprises live performers, actors, props and more. Message from renowned Theatre artist is given to reflect the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace every year. The author of the Message of the World Theatre Day 2020 is Shahid Nadeem, Pakistan. He is a Pakistan's leading playwright and head of the renowned Ajoka Theatre.
  • In 1961, the International Theatre Institute (ITI) proposed that there should be a day every year to celebrate the importance of theatre.