Daily Current Affairs - 15th Apr 2020

117 million children face measles risk from COVID-19 response: UN

  • Around 117 million children worldwide risk contracting measles because dozens of countries are curtailing their vaccination programmes as they battle COVID-19, the United Nations warned. Currently 24 countries, including several already dealing with large measles outbreaks, have suspended widespread vaccinations, the World Health Organisation and the UN's children's fund UNICEF said.
  • An additional 13 countries have had their vaccination programmes interrupted due to COVID-19.
  • In 2018, 140,000 measles deaths, mostly among children and babies, were recorded. DR Congo alone has had 6,000 measles deaths in its current epidemic. The country last week also recorded a new case of Ebola -- just days before the UN was due to announce an end to that outbreak.
  • Measles, a highly contagious disease, effects around 20 million people every year, the majority of whom are aged under five.

China's foreign trade fell again in March

  • China's foreign trade fell again in March even as businesses returned to work after the coronavirus outbreak. Exports fell 6.6 percent in March from a year earlier and imports dropped 0.9 percent, according to the new Customs data . China's trade surplus with the United States, a key point of contention in the bruising trade war between the world's top two economies narrowed again in March by 25.3 percent on-year to 15.3 billion USD.

COVID-19: China approves trials for two more coronavirus vaccines

  • China has approved clinical trials for two more experimental vaccines to combat the novel coronavirus, as the world's scientists race to beat the pandemic. The vaccines use inactivated coronavirus pathogens, and the approvals pave the way for early-stage human trials.
  • China's state food and drug administration has approved one vaccine developed by a Beijing-based unit of Nasdaq-listed Sinovac Biotech. Another vaccine, being developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
  • China now has three different clinical trials for three possible coronavirus vaccines in the works.

Hindalco seals $2.8 billion Aleris deal

  • Hindalco Industries, an Aditya Birla Group company, has completed the much-delayed acquisition of Aleris for $2.8 billion through its wholly-owned US subsidiary Novelis Inc. The deal marks Novelis’ potential entry into the high-end aerospace segment.
  • Hindalco first announced to acquire Aleris for $2.58 billion in July 2018.

Hockey India postpones all its rescheduled national championships

  • Hockey India postponed all its rescheduled national championships indefinitely after the national lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic was extended till May 3.These tournaments were rescheduled to start on April 29 and continue till July 3 but have been suspended for now.

I-League: final decision on Thursday

  • The remaining 28 matches of the suspended I-League are set to be cancelled in the wake of the extension of the lockdown till May 3. Mohun Bagan will be officially crowned the I-League champions as they have already clinched the title with four rounds left in the competition.

ICMR suggests testing of pooled samples

  • Stating that the number of COVID-19 cases in India is rising, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is now advising the feasibility of using pooled samples for molecular testing of patient samples. Council’s advisory is aimed at increasing the numbers of tests conducted by the laboratories.
  • Pooled testing method involves putting multiple swab samples in a test tube and testing them using a single RT-PCR test. So, if the test is negative, all the people tested are negative.
  • If the test is positive, all persons are tested individually. This method can greatly enhance the capacity to test in a low-resources setting, as RT-PCR test is reliable but not scalable.

IMF calls on all countries to refrain from putting restrictions on exporting medical supplies

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on all countries to refrain from putting restrictions on exporting medical supplies in view of their massive requirement across the globe to combat the Corona virus pandemic that has killed 1,19,000 people and infected nearly two million.
  • Medical supplies like surgical masks, gowns and ventilators are required in massive number across the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic that surfaced in central China's Wuhan city last year and spread to at least 185 countries and territories.

India to get 15 million PPE kits from China

  • Indian companies and government entities have placed orders for 15 million personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and 1.5 million rapid testing kits from China. As Chinese factories resumed operations after over two-month of grim battle against coronavirus, China is busy tapping into the vast business opportunities of export of key medical goods, specially ventilators and personal protection equipment (PPE), across the world, including India, where both private and government bodies are placing orders for the import of these products.

Instructed administration to stop US funding for WHO: Prez Donald Trump

  • US President Donald Trump has announced that he has instructed his administration to stop US funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), which he accused of grossly mismanaging and covering-up the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • Trump noted that the United States contributes to the WHO 400-500 million dollars annually. The US President said that the WHO's reliance on initially false data from China regarding the novel coronavirus may have caused a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide.

New Zealand PM says country appears to be over worst of its coronavirus outbreak

  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country appears to be over the worst of its coronavirus outbreak but it is no time to let up on strict lockdown measures. The country recorded just 17 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,366.
  • New Zealand lawmakers will decide early next week what will happen after an initial four-week lockdown ends on April 22.

Ordnance Factory Board to make 1.1 lakh coveralls

  • The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has started making coveralls, conforming to the ISO Class 3 exposure standards, to combat COVID-19. An initial order of 1.1 lakh from HLL Lifecare Ltd. (HLL) will be completed in 40 days.
  • The OFB’s protective suits, which are vital for the safety and well being of healthcare professionals at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic.
  • The OFB is the country’s main producer of military arsenal and controls 41 ordnance factories engaged in the production of artillery guns, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, bombs, rockets, anti-aircraft guns, parachutes and small arms.

PM extends lockdown till May 3; tougher restrictions at hotspots

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the extension of the current nationwide lockdown till May 3, with intensive containment measures at hotspots till April 20 in order for areas to qualify for any relief measures and freedom of mobility, especially for hawkers and daily-wage workers.

RIL’s Rs. 9,000-cr. NCD issue on April 16

  • To cash in on cheap funds flooding the debt market via targeted long-term repo operations (TLTRO) route, Reliance Industries (RIL) will raise Rs. 9,000 crore through an NCD sale to refinance the existing high-cost rupee debt.
  • The most cash-rich company, RIL is also one of the most indebted corporate entities in India, with a debt pile of over Rs 1.54 trillion as of March 2020.
  • The NCDs will be issued through a private placement, which will consist of 30,000 unsecured redeemable fixed coupon, non-convertible debentures under the privately placed debentures (PPD) series K1.

Some US states could reopen before 1st May: Prez Trump

  • US President Donald Trump has said that some US states could reopen before May 1 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump said, his administration is close to finalizing plans to reopen the US economy and will discuss details with all state governors later this week.
  • He also said each governor will be authorized to implement a plan to reopen their states when appropriate.

Tour de France called off

  • The Tour de France cycling race was finally added to the list of sporting events called off. The three-week race won’t be starting on June 27 in Nice as scheduled. French President Emmanuel Macron announced that all public events with large crowds have been cancelled until at least mid-July.

UN General Assembly meetings scheduled for next few months postponed

  • The UN General Assembly meetings scheduled for the next few months have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A senior official of the UN said the Member States are holding discussions on how to proceed with the high-level annual UNGA session in September.
  • All in-person meetings of General Assembly mandated processes, scheduled to be held between April 17 and the end of May also stand cancelled.

US allows H1B visa extension, relief for stranded Indians

  • In a big relief for thousands of stranded Indian professionals in America due to the coronavirus pandemic, the US government has decided to accept their H-1B visa applications for an extended stay in the country.
  • The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
  • The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a new notification has said it recognizes that there are immigration-related challenges as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

US approves sale of anti-ship missiles, torpedoes worth USD 155 million to India

  • The Trump administration has notified the Congress of its determination to sell Harpoon air-launched anti-ship missiles and Mark 54 lightweight torpedoes worth 155 US million dollars to India to enhance its deterrent capabilities against "regional threats" and to bolster its homeland defence. The MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo will provide the capability to conduct anti-submarine warfare missions.
  • The US recognised India as a "Major Defence Partner" in 2016. This designation allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from America at par with that of the US' closest allies and partners.

World economy to contract by 3%: IMF

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected the global economy would shrink by 3 percent in 2020 amid the global coronavirus pandemic. In its latest World Economic Outlook – released before the annual conference of the IMF and World Bank, the IMF downgraded its growth forecast by 6.3 percentage points from its previous report as isolation, lockdowns and widespread closures to contain the virus hit the economy.
  • The IMF expects a partial recovery in 2021, provided that the pandemic eases throughout this year.