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India coronavirus dispatch: Does smoking really prevent virus infection?

From lockdown in Antarctica, to uncovering the regional parameters of Covid-19, and how vulnerable the homeless are - read these and more in today's India dispatch

Coronavirus | healthcare | Health crisis

Sarah Farooqui  |  New Delhi 

Migrants flout social distancing norms as they gather outside a registration camp to travel back to their native places, during the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Jalandhar. Photo: PTI
Migrants flout social distancing norms as they gather outside a registration camp to travel back to their native places, during the ongoing Covid-19 nationwide lockdown, in Jalandhar. Photo: PTI

Here is a round-up of important articles on Covid-19 from across Indian publications — From in Antarctica, to uncovering the regional parameters of Covid-19, and how vulnerable the homeless are — read these and more in today’s India dispatch.

Expert Speak

Relaxing labour laws can’t help industry in the long run; formalising the economy can: Though firms seemingly have an upper hand if labour laws — which protect workers’ rights — are relaxed, in reality, as a result of weak labour laws, firms will have to work with labour that “owes no allegiance to the organisation”. Read this interview with Errol D’Souza, professor of economics and director of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, on how the dilution in laws will end up making these organisations invest more in monitoring and enforcement to obtain productivity from precarious employment.


Modi’s Rs 20-trillion package will help India’s economy only if it reaches states: The government, and the central bank, must work with states to make available the resources they need to restart safely. The bulk of the $265 billion, or 10 per cent of GDP, needs to be new expenditure and not a reshuffling of the existing budget. Read here on why it is important that at least some of it has to reach the states.

In Phase II of epidemic, states must build empirical and analytic foundations of systems of delivery: The pandemic has once again shown the inherent inequality and instability of big science and the inability of the global economy to ensure welfare. Read here on why our scientific agencies need to uncover the regional parameters of the disease, its prevalence in the community, and typical trajectories. This will help in both clinical and logistical matters.

Long Reads

Debt and welfare in a world of pandemics: The success of public health efforts to deal with Covid-19, as well as the fate of economies across the world after the lockdown, depends on the ability of governments to effectively generate resources. However, a dramatic fall in economic activity has had a severe impact on the ability of economies to raise revenue through taxation. In the midst of the current unprecedented crisis, a large-scale programme of government borrowings has been touted as a possible step. Yet this move is not without its problems. Read more here.

Citizens Under Lockdown

in Antarctica, the only continent untouched by Covid-19: India has maintained a strong presence in Antarctica since 1981. Every year, summer and winter teams are sent to carry out diverse scientific studies. This year, the winter team has 23 members deployed. Read this piece by Dr Pradeep Tomar, medical officer for 39th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica, on how the situation on the continent feels uncommon this year, with the worrisome outbreak of in India.

Covid-19 has pushed India's already suffering tea plantation workers into a deeper crisis: The industry is not only trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economically tumultuous time, but the also started right in the peak plucking season which adversely impacted production and import. The Indian Tea Association has stated its wish for the “resumption of normal operations in tea gardens while adhering to the prescribed safety and social distancing guidelines.” Read more here.

Managing Covid-19

How households are coping with lockdown: While economic losses due to the lockdown are widespread among both rural and urban households, rural households have been hit the hardest, with 88 per cent of them reporting a fall in income under the lockdown, compared with 75 per cent of urban households. Read more here.

1.77 mn Indians are homeless; 40% of them are getting no lockdown relief: An analysis of states’ circulars regarding provision of lockdown relief for the poor shows that 16 states, with 40 per cent of the country’s homeless, make no mention of them at all. Read here how, with no money and no documents to help them access relief measures related to food, health, water, sanitation, shelter and livelihood, the homeless have become the most vulnerable to the immediate impact and aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

At defence lab testing coronavirus safety gear, 5-week wait for some, speedy clearance for others: Delays in testing and certification are slowing down production, say manufacturers, at a time when workers across India continue to face shortages of protective equipment. Read more here.

Understanding Covid-19

Smoking and Covid-19 — recent claims, and new findings: The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement underlining the perils of smoking, and referring to “unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of Covid-19”. This came days after researchers published a hypothesis that nicotine might obstruct the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Read more here.

Chances of infection spread higher on inter-state AC trains, say health experts: Fifteen pairs of special trains, all fully air-conditioned, are being operated across 15 Indian cities since May 12. Though the news brought relief to thousands of people who had been stranded across the country far away from home, health experts sounded the alarm on the safety of people being transported in air-conditioned trains. Read more here.

First Published: Wed, May 13 2020. 14:05 IST