Daily Current Affairs 26.07.2020 (GI Tag, Covid, South China Sea)

Daily Current Affairs 26.07.2020 (GI Tag, Covid, South China Sea)

1. Kashmir saffron now has GI certificate

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  • The J&K administration on Saturday issued the certificate of geographical indication (GI) registration for saffron grown in the Kashmir Valley, even as the crop sees a decline in its production and shrinking of land under cultivation.
  • Describing it as “a momentous decision of the Centre”, J&K Lieutenant-Governor G.C. Murmu said this was the first major step to put saffron produced in the Kashmir Valley on the world map with authentication.
  • “With the GI tag, Kashmir saffron will acquire more prominence in the export market and would help farmers get the best remunerative price,” he said.
  • Mr. Murmu, while complimenting the Director-Agriculture, Kashmir, said restoring the pristine glory of Kashmir saffron is top priority for both the government of the Union Territory as well as the Centre.
  • The GI tag would also stop adulteration prevalent in its trade, he said.
  • Kashmir saffron, grown at an altitude of 1,600 metres, saw a steep decline in production by around 65%, from 16 tonnes to 5.6 tonnes in 2018. According to an official data, land under saffron cultivation has also come down to 3,715 hectares in 2009-10 from 5,707 hectares in 1996.
Geographical Indication (GI) It is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries with regard to its special quality or reputed attributes. It is a mark of authenticity and ensures that registered authorized users or at least those residing inside the geographic territory are allowed to use the popular product names. GI tag in India is governed by Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999. It is issued by the Geographical Indications Registry (Chennai).   Benefits of GI Tag It provides legal protection to Indian Geographical Indications thus preventing unauthorized use of the registered GIs by others. It promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods produced in a geographical territory. The GI protection in India leads to recognition of the product in other countries thus boosting exports.

2. Australia rejects China’s sea claims

There is no legal basis for Beijing to assert rights over South China Sea islands, says declaration to UN

  • Australia has rejected Beijing’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea in a formal declaration to the UN, aligning itself more closely with Washington in the escalating row.
  • In a statement filed on Thursday, Australia said there was “no legal basis” to several disputed Chinese claims in the sea, including those related to the construction of artificial islands on small shoals and reefs.
  • “Australia rejects China’s claim to ‘historic rights’ or ‘maritime rights and interests’ as established in the ‘long course of historical practice’ in the South China Sea,” the declaration read.
  • “There is no legal basis for China to draw straight baselines connecting the outermost points of maritime features or ‘island groups’ in the South China Sea, including around the ‘Four Sha’ or ‘continental’ or ‘outlying’ archipelagos.”

Pompeo’s declaration

  • The declaration comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Beijing’s pursuit of territory and resources in the South China Sea as illegal, explicitly backing the territorial claims of Southeast Asian countries against China’s.
  • Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea based on a so-called nine-dash line, a vague delineation from maps dating back to the 1940s.
  • The latest escalation comes ahead of annual talks between Australia and the U.S., with Ministers travelling to Washington for the first time since Australian borders were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The meetings come at a “critical time” and it is essential they are held face-to-face, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement on Saturday.
  • U.S. relations with China have markedly deteriorated in recent months, especially over trade disputes, the COVID-19 pandemic and Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

Criticism on Hong Kong

  • Ms. Payne and Ms. Reynolds also penned an article in The Australian newspaper on Saturday, labelling national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong last month as “sweeping and vague”.
  • “We face a public health crisis, economic upheaval and resurgent authoritarian regimes using coercion in a bid to gain power and influence at the expense of our freedoms and sovereignty,” they wrote.
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South China Sea South China Sea is an arm of western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia. It is south of China, east & south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and north of the island of Borneo. Bordering states & territories (clockwise from north): the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. It is connected by Taiwan Strait with the East China Sea and by Luzon Strait with the Philippine Sea. It contains numerous shoals, reefs, atolls and islands. The Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal are the most important.     What makes it so important? This sea holds tremendous strategic importance for its location as it is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. (Strait of Malacca) According to the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) one-third of the global shipping passes through it, carrying trillions of trade which makes it a significant geopolitical water body.   According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines, this sea has one-third of the entire world’s marine biodiversity and contains lucrative fisheries providing food security to the Southeast Asian nations. South China Sea is believed to have huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.

3. Is SARS-CoV-2 a latent virus which can recur?

Is there a possibility of a ‘second’ COVID-19 infection? Or are there flaws in the testing system?

  • The story so far: Ever since cases of ‘reinfection’ — people who had tested negative for COVID-19 testing positive again after a while — emerged in early January, the question of latency of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is being hotly debated. The first such cases emerged in the east (China, South Korea) where scientists were puzzled over why or how individuals who had tested negative twice for the virus, had, after a few weeks or months, tested positive, the second time around albeit with milder symptoms. A latent infection is when the virus in the body is dormant and does not replicate within the host. It however possesses the capacity to be reactivated at some point, causing a flare-up of the disease much later.

What is a latent viral infection?

  • A latent viral infection is an infection that is inactive or dormant, authors Sergey Sheleg and Alexey Vasilevsky write in an article in the Global Journal of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Research. “As opposed to active infections, where a virus is actively replicating and potentially causing symptoms, latent (or persistent; but not chronic) infections are essentially static which last the life of the host and occur when the primary infection is not cleared by the adaptive immune response,” they explain. Examples are Herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2, varicella-zoster virus, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus (human herpesvirus 4), and cytomegalovirus. They are known to cause typical latent infections in humans, Sheleg and Vasilevsky add.
  • They go on to explain that “latent viral infections can be reactivated into a lytic form (the replication of a viral genome). The ability to move back and forth from latent to lytic infections helps the virus spread from infected individuals to uninfected individuals”.
  • Ryan McNamara, a research associate at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina, in a long tweet thread sought to explain the difference between the types of viral infections. Tweeting from @Ryan_Mac_Phd, he says: Viruses fall into two broad categories: chronic and acute; while a chronic virus will infect its host for extended periods of time, often through the lifetime of the host. An acute infecting virus, such as influenza and rotavirus, is cleared from the body after a few days or weeks.
  • “A chronic virus can go into latency. This is when a virus is present within a cell, but not actively producing more infectious virus particles. For example, when a herpes virus infects a cell, its genome can remain in that cell as long as that cell is alive,” Dr. McNamara says.
  • The reactivation to the lytic state, when the production of new virus particles occurs, he calls an ‘intentional strategy by the virus to promote its survival’. A perfect example of this would be chickenpox, caused by the human herpesvirus 3 — after infection, “the body responds and the virus goes into latency. Decades later, it can re-activate, resulting in shingles”. What causes reactivation is not very clear in this case. According to him, HIV can also go into latency after infection. It integrates itself into the host chromatin (a substance within the chromosome), and can reactivate upon stimulation such as inflammation induced by co-infecting pathogens. This can lead to uncontrolled HIV replication and clinical AIDS.

Does SARS-CoV-2 go into latency? What causes second infections?

  • Sheleg and Vasilevsky have recorded South Korean officials reporting that nearly 100 people thought to be cured of the novel coronavirus have tested positive for COVID-19 again. According to Jeong Eun-Kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 virus may have “reactivated” in the patients rather than them becoming re-infected.
  • In Chennai too, last week, the civic body recorded a couple of cases of patients who had recovered from COVID-19 testing positive again after a span of time.
  • Prof. T. Jacob John, an eminent Vellore-based virologist, says: “None of the observations conclusively proves a second infection. In each one of these cases, there is sufficient reason to suspect that it is one infection, with negative results in between. While the RT- PCR [reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction] tests are considered to be the gold standard for testing, all tests are not 100% accurate. False positives and false negative results are expected to occur. Patients are known to test negative, then positive, and negative again, in subsequent tests performed even within days.”
  • Dr. McNamara explains the concept of “limit of detection” of a virus, here. This is the threshold where a virus can be detected. A negative SARS-CoV-2 test does not mean zero infection; it means no detectable infection.”
  • Prof. John clarifies that another issue is that many viruses can survive at the mucosal level in spite of immunity. “A classical example is the polio virus, which, like SARS-CoV-2, is also a positive sense, single strand RNA (ribonucleic acid). While immunity kicks in two weeks after infection, viral shedding can continue for up to 10 weeks, in spite of very high antibody levels. Why this happens has not been explained by anybody, so far. And, in polio, if a stool test came back negative in between and then tested positive, we don’t take it as a second infection, it is a continuous infection.” He further found with lab tests that the host harbours an “antibody-bound virus that is non-infective”.
  • He goes on to add: “If second infections were sufficiently common we would have picked it up by now. But it is possible that some people have specific problems with immunity against this virus. In that case, it must be investigated further.”
  • Dr. McNamara explains: “It’s entirely possible to have detectable, then non-detectable, and then detectable SARS-CoV-2 virus because of the limit of detection of our current testing. Also, a SARS-CoV-2 test doesn’t necessarily mean there is infectious virus. Testing for SARS-CoV-2 RNA on surfaces can yield a positive result, but that simply means that there is some SARS-CoV-2 RNA present, it doesn’t necessarily mean the RNA is intact, or that the RNA is inside an infectious particle. So, fragmented RNA can actually yield a positive result.”
  • Korea Biomedical Review ( reported in April that the country’s Central Clinical Committee for Emerging Disease Control had said the reason 263 Koreans tested positive after recovery from the new coronavirus seemed to have been not because they contracted the virus again; rather, remaining virus fragments were detected in them.

Does testing criteria make a difference?

  • Globally, it is now accepted that clinical signs are sufficient to commence treatment for COVID-19, even before an RT-PCR test is done. Also, cessation of symptoms is said to signal that a person has recovered. Unless someone has been critically ill, it is no longer necessary for the patient to test negative twice for COVID-19 to be declared cured, or sent home.
  • “We do know that finding cases is now largely determined by testing in India. But the experience of other nations has shown that we could do the same with clinical diagnosis too, they did not suffer the consequences of that,” Prof. John adds.
  • While 100% protection is not possible, he insists that ultimately, the use of masks and physical distance is going to be the only deterrence for transmission.
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