14 August Current Affairs – Daily News

14 August Current Affairs – Daily News

CIVIL SNIPPETS

 

Centre sets the ball rolling for Jammu and Kashmir polls- Nistula Hebbar #GS2 #Governance

 

The earliest possible date for Assembly polls in the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is around March next year, officials in the Home Ministry indicated, as the Election Commission (EC) held its first meeting for the delimitation exercise, necessitated under the new Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act.

 

The EC held “internal discussions” on the matter and “formal communication was awaited from the Ministry of Home Senior sources in the government told The Hindu that the delimitation exercise undertaken by the EC, with help from the Home Ministry, is the first step towards holding Assembly polls in the Union Territory. Details set out in the Reorganisation Act on the strength of the new House etc. will have far reaching consequences for politics in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

First of all, the new Assembly, under the Reorganisation Act is to have 114 seats, of which 24 have been kept aside for areas under Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which means elections will be conducted for 90 seats.

 

The old Assembly had a strength of 111 seats (again 24 kept aside for PoK) with four seats for Ladakh region. That means seven extra seats will be added to the effective strength of the House. Which part of J&K will these seats be from remains to be decided,”Affairs”.

 

The delimitation exercise will also take into account reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as provided for under the Constitution, and that could tip the scales in favour of one region.

 

There is also a significant population of those who were displaced during Partition in 1947-48 and settled in Jammu, who have had no no voting rights so far in the Assembly polls; a ball park figure puts the number of these persons at around eight lakh.

 

 

 

 

 

Automobile sales drop 18.71% in July #GS3 #Economy

 

Hit by poor consumer sentiment, the automobile industry saw its monthly sales decline 18.71% last month, the worst ever in nearly 19 years, forcing the industry to cut jobs. The sector reiterated its demand for a stimulus to arrest the downturn.

 

 

As per the data released by the industry body SIAM, vehicle sales across categories fell to 18.25 lakh units in July, down from over 22.45 lakh units a year earlier. Previously, the biggest slump of 21.81% was seen in December 2000.

 

The decline in July was led by the passenger vehicles segment, which saw sales plunge almost 31% to a little over 2,00,000 units.

 

The government is likely to debate lowering the rates on certain categories of automobiles in the next GST Council meeting. It is also likely to look at increasing the rate on premium real estate, but also restore the provision of input tax credit.

 

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week completed a number of consultation meetings with representatives of various sectors including banking, non-banking finance companies, auto, financial services, foreign portfolio investors, steel and real estate.

 

The industries have all made their recommendations. Some of these have to do with GST, and so the government cannot take a call on this. That is to do with the GST Council. The Finance Minister is looking into whether she will raise these issues with the council in the next meeting.

 

One of the things the industry requested and could be discussed in the council meeting is whether the tax rate on certain automobiles can be reduced from the current 28%, to encourage people to buy. The other is to look into the demands of the real estate sector and see if ITC [input tax credits] can be restored for the premium housing sector.

 

Real estate representatives who met Ms. Sitharaman on Sunday not only asked for an increase in the tax rate applicable to premium housing, but also restoration of the provision of input tax credits, which would effectively reduce their tax incidence compared to the current system.

 

The GST Council had, in its 33rd meeting in February, reduced the rates on the under-construction premium housing segment to 5% from the previous 12% but also removed the input tax credit provision.

 

This, according to the industry, has meant that the effective tax rate on the sector had risen to about 14% as key inputs such as cement are taxed at 28% and the sector cannot avail of input tax credits for them. The date for the next Council meeting has not been announced yet.

 

 

 

Highlands in Kerala on shaky grounds- T.Nandakumar #GS3 #Environment

 

Destabilising geological processes, coupled with extreme rainfall events and unscientific farming and construction activities, pose a serious threat to human habitation in the highlands of Kerala, according to scientists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A team of scientists from the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) here who carried out an investigation in the wake of the heavy rain and devastating floods in August 2018 had found that land subsidence, lateral spread, and soil piping were an immediate threat to life and property in the uplands.

 

During the investigation, which primarily focussed on landslip-prone areas in Thrissur and Kannur districts, the researchers found huge cracks across farmlands and dwellings. Many houses had developed cracks on the walls and basement, rendering them unsuitable for habitation.

 

Based on the recommendations of the NCESS, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has initiated steps to establish a network of landslip monitoring stations in the highlands. The units based on acoustic emission technology will also have an early warning mechanism to alert the local community. Secretary, MoES, M.Rajeevan said moves were afoot to set up 10 monitoring stations.

 

Heavy intense rainfall triggers slope failure in locations where lateral spread and soil piping have occurred.

 

In the areas we surveyed, most of the slopes were used for raising crops and farmers had blocked the natural drainage systems. Any developmental activity like construction of roads and buildings in such vulnerable areas requires remedial measures for slope stabilisation.

 

Lateral spreading, subsidence, and crack development are quite unusual phenomena and the sites need immediate rehabilitation.”

 

The team alerted the District Collectors in Thrissur, Kannur, and Kasaragod, outlining the remedial steps to be adopted. The scientists also recommended the formation of a trained task force for the highlands

 

 

to monitor ground signatures like hollows, cracks, and water spouts that often precede land subsidence, lateral spread, and landslips.

 

 

 

 

 

57.3% allopathic practitioners are not qualified: Health Ministry- Bindu Shajan Perappadan #GS3 #SnT

 

At present, 57.3% of personnel currently practising allopathic medicine do not have a medical

 

qualification,” states the Union Health Ministry’s data, adding that this puts at risk rural patients who suffer because of an urban to rural doctor density ratio of 3.8:1, and India’s poor doctor-population ratio of 1:1456 as compared with the World Health Organisation standards of 1:1000.

 

There is a huge skew in the distribution of doctors working in the urban and rural areas. Consequently, most of our rural and poor population is denied good quality care, leaving them in the clutches of quacks.

 

Section 15 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 prohibits a person other than a medical practitioner enrolled on a State Medical Register to practice medicine in the State. Any person acting in contravention is punishable with imprisonment and fine, and since health is a State subject, the primary responsibility to deal with such cases lies with the respective State governments.

 

“We have requested all Chief Ministers of all the States to take appropriate action under the law against quacks, and also to evolve suitable policies to ensure availability of a quality health workforce in rural areas.

 

According to government records, a total of 11,46,044 allopathic doctors were registered with the State Medical Councils/ Medical Council of India as on December 31, 2018.

 

Besides, there are also 7.63 lakh Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy (AUH) doctors in the country. Assuming 80% availability, it is estimated that around 6.1 lakh AUH doctors may be actually available for service, and considered together with allopathic doctors, we have a doctor-population ratio of 1:884, which is still low.

 

Professor K. Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India noted that the wide gaps in comprehensive primary healthcare services for many rural areas need to be filled through competent mid-level healthcare providers who are adequately trained, technologically enabled and legally empowered.

 

“Even as we must invest in producing more family physicians for primary care, we should not ignore the potential of well-trained non-physician care providers in community settings.

 

The Health Ministry states that it is now looking into bringing in mid-level healthcare providers to relieve overburdened specialists.

 

 

“Countries such as Thailand, United Kingdom, China and even [a city like] New York have permitted community health workers/ nurse practitioners into mainstream health services, with improved health outcomes. Since we have a shortage of doctors and specialists, this is vital,” said the Health Minister.

 

He added that in India, Chhattisgarh and Assam have experimented with community health workers, and that according to independent evaluations carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health, they have performed very well.

 

 

 

 

 

Jammu and Kashmir delimitation process kicks off- Nistula Hebbar #GS2 #Governance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Election Commission held internal discussions on the delimitation of constituencies ahead of elections to the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, former Chief Election Commissioner and ex-officio member of the Delimitation Commission N. Gopalaswami said the increase in the number of seats was “an issue which is a political decision of Parliament”. After that, he said, the Delimitation Commission would start the process as per the law.

 

He said the total population would be divided over the 114 seats to get an average number of electors per constituency. The boundaries of the constituencies would then be drawn while ensuring that administrative units are not split as far as possible.

 

 

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the UT of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114. The Act also specifies that delimitation will be based on the 2011 census till 2026.

 

Sources in the government were very clear that the EC will be asked to commence the delimitation exercise soon. The BJP has been the first off the block, telling its State unit to prepare for polls.

 

The party is also doing a large scale outreach to the scheduled tribe Gujjar-Bakarwal communities, to ensure their support. The changes in the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir are set to signal a seismic shift in local politics in the new Union Territory.

 

 

 

 

Enact security regime for National Register of Citizens data, orders Supreme Court- Krishnadas Rajagopal #GS2 #Governance

 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) authorities to enact a security regime akin to the Aadhaar data protection before making the information on exclusions and inclusions in the NRC list available to the Centre, Government of Assam and the Registrar General of India.

 

The order came after State NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela raised concerns in court about the security of the sensitive data.

 

“We direct that an appropriate regime be enacted on lines similar to the security regime provided for AADHAR data. Only thereafter, the list of inclusions and exclusions shall be made available to the State Government, Central Government and Registrar General of India.

 

The 21-page order pronounced on Tuesday directed that only hard copies of the supplementary list of inclusions be published at the NRC Seva centres, circle offices and offices of the District Magistrates of the State. “We also direct that the list of exclusions to be published on August 31, 2019 shall be published only online and shall be family-wise,” the court ordered.

 

It said orders under Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act should be challenged in the Guwahati High Court.

 

The court agreed with the suggestion made by Mr. Hajela in his July report that people born before December 3, 2004 may be included in the NRC if the parent through whom legacy is drawn is not a declared foreigner (DF) or D Voter (DV) or whose case of nationality is pending before a foreigner tribunal (PFT). Such persons can be included in the NRC even if the other parent is a DF or PFT.

 

However, on the other hand, persons born on or after December 3, 2004 would not be included in NRC even if any of the parent is DV or DF or PFT. That is, those born on or after December 3, 2004 would not find a place in the NRC even if the parent from whom legacy is drawn is clear from all angles. The court

 

 

said this distinction is in tune with the provisions of Section 3(1)(b) & (c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and a Supreme Court order of July 2 last year.

 

During the hearing, the Bench was informed that provisions under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act had been applied for considering the individuals under the NRC. The top court had then said it would pass an order clarifying whether the inclusion of people under NRC would be based on section 3(1)(a), 3(1)(b) and section 3(1)(c) of the Act.

 

Section 3(1)(b) says every person born in India on or after July 1, 1987, but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth shall be a citizen of India by birth.

 

Section 3(1)(c) provides that a person is a citizen by birth if born on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, and both of the parents are citizens of India or one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth.

 

On July 23, the supreme court had extended the deadline for publication of the final NRC in Assam by a month to August 31.

 

 

 

 

 

CJI Ranjan Gogoi advocates more autonomy to CBI #GS2 #Governance

 

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recommended a comprehensive legislation to make the Central Bureau of Investigation functional as an efficient and impartial investigative agency.

 

Delivering the 18th D.P. Kohli Memorial Lecture, Chief Justice Gogoi listed legal ambiguity, weak human resource, lack of adequate investment, accountability, and political and administrative interference as key concerns.

 

The CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller & Auditor General. The legal mandate of the CBI must be strengthened by having a comprehensive legislation addressing deficiencies relating to organisational structure, charter of functions, limits of power, superintendence and oversight.

 

Further, to address an increasing incidence of inter-State crimes, an argument could be made for including ‘public order’ in concurrent list, for the limited purposes of investigating such crimes,” he said, advocating administrative and financial autonomy for the CBI.

 

In the context of political and administrative interference, he said that in the Vineet Narain v. Union of India case, the Suprme Court had expressed concern over the state of affairs and laid down explicit guidelines for protecting the integrity of the force.

 

 

“However, given that the superintendence and control of the agency continues to, in large measure, lie with the executive by virtue of Section 4 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the possibility of it being used as a political instrument remains ever present. I have no doubt that there is more than enough strength within the organisation to deal with any such situation,” he said.

 

The Chief Justice said that time and again, the Supreme Court had utilised its constitutional authority to ensure that the CBI functioned without any fear or favour, and in the best public interest. As a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary investigative agency, it had for the most part of its existence enjoyed tremendous public trust, he said.

 

“Unfortunately, attention is more often than not drawn to failure than success of any public institution. True, in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive cases the agency has not been able to meet the standards of judicial scrutiny.

 

Equally true is that such lapses may not have happened infrequently. Such instances reflect systemic issues and indicate a deep mismatch between institutional aspirations, organisational design, working culture, and governing politics,” he said.

 

Under the DSPE Act, the CBI required consent of the State concerned for investigation, he pointed out. “Given vested interests or bureaucratic lethargy, such consent is often either denied or delayed, severely compromising the investigation. Additionally, a patch work of legislations governing the functioning of the CBI adversely affects inter-institutional coordination, both horizontally and vertically.

 

 

 

GST Council may discuss rate cut for auto- T.C.A. Sharad Raghavan #GS3 #Economy

 

The government is likely todebate lowering the rates on certain categories of automobiles in the next GST Council meeting. It is also likely to look at increasing the rate on premium real estate, but also restore the provision of input tax credit.

 

One of the things the industry requested and could be discussed in the council meeting is whether the tax rate on certain automobiles can be reduced from the current 28%, to encourage people to buy. The other is to look into the demands of the real estate sector and see if ITC [input tax credits] can be restored for the premium housing sector.”

 

Real estate representatives who met Ms. Sitharaman on Sunday not only asked for an increase in the tax rate applicable to premium housing, but also restoration of the provision of input tax credits, which would effectively reduce their tax incidence compared to the current system.

 

 

The GST Council had, in its 33rd meeting in February, reduced the rates on the under-construction premium housing segment to 5% from the previous 12% but also removed the input tax credit provision.

 

This, according to the industry, has meant that the effective tax rate on the sector had risen to about 14% as key inputs such as cement are taxed at 28% and the sector cannot avail of input tax credits for them.

 

 

 

CSR expenditure may be made tax deductible, says committee #GS3 #Economy

 

The High Level Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has recommended making CSR expenditure tax deductible and that compliance violations be treated as a civil offence that attracts penalties.

 

The main recommendations include making CSR expenditure tax deductible, allowing the carry-forward of unspent balance for a period of 3-5 years, and aligning Schedule 7 of the Companies Act (which outlines the kinds of activities that qualify as CSR) with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the government said in a release.

 

The Committee has also recommended that companies having CSR-prescribed amount below ₹50 lakh may be exempted from constituting a CSR Committee,” the release added. “The Committee has also recommended that violation of CSR compliance may be made a civil offence and shifted to the penalty regime.

 

The report also recommends balancing local area preferences with national priorities when it comes to CSR, and also introducing impact assessment studies for CSR obligations of ₹5 crore or more. It also recommends the registration of implementation agencies on the Ministry of Corporate Affairs portal.

 

 

 

 

 

Retail inflation remains flat in July at 3.15% #GS3 #Economy

 

Retail inflation in July snapped a five-month accelerating trend to ease marginally to 3.15%. Growth in the Consumer Price Index slowed slightly in July from 3.18% in June. Within the index, food prices bucked an eight-month accelerating trend to ease to 2.33% in July, compared with 2.37% in the previous month. Notably, fuel price inflation eased the most drastically among the major groups in the CPI.

 

The sector saw a contraction of prices by 0.36% in July, compared with a growth of 2.24% in June. Inflation in the pan, tobacco and other intoxicants sector quickened to 4.89% in July compared with 4.17% in the previous month.

 

 

The clothing and footwear segment also saw inflation quickening marginally to 1.65% in July from 1.52% in June. The housing sector registered inflation of 4.87% compared with 4.84% over the same period.

 

 

 

RBI issues final norms for regulatory sandbox #GS3 #Economy

 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday issued the final framework for regulatory sandbox in order to enable innovations in the financial technology space.

 

A regulatory sandbox usually refers to live testing of new products or services in a controlled/test regulatory environment for which regulators may permit certain regulatory relaxations for the limited purpose of the testing.

 

RBI said the objective of the sandbox was to foster responsible innovation in financial services, promote efficiency and bring benefit to consumers.

 

The proposed FinTech solution should highlight an existing gap in the financial ecosystem and the proposal should demonstrate how it would address the problem, and bring benefits to consumers or the industry and/or perform the same work more efficiently.

 

RBI will launch the sandbox for entities that meet the criteria of minimum net worth of ₹25 lakh as per their latest audited balance sheet. The entity should either be a company incorporated and registered in the country or banks licensed to operate in India.

 

While money transfer services, digital know-your customer, financial inclusion and cybersecurity products are included, crypto currency, credit registry and credit information have been left out.

 

 

 

 

 

Govt. issues norms for ₹1-lakh crore partial guarantee scheme for NBFCs #GS3 #Economy

 

The Centre has issued guidelines on operationalising the ₹1-lakh crore partial guarantee scheme under which the public-sector banks can purchase high-rated pooled assets of financially-sound non-banking finance companies (NBFCs).

 

NBFCs, including housing finance companies (HFCs), came under stress following a series of defaults by the group companies of IL&FS since September last year.

 

To help the sector come out of the stress, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Budget announced support for fundamentally-sound NBFCs in getting continued funding from banks.

 

 

“For purchase of high-rated pooled assets of financially-sound NBFCs, amounting to a total of ₹1 lakh crore during the current financial year, the government will provide a one-time, six months’ partial credit guarantee to public sector banks for first loss of up to 10%,” she had said.

 

In pursuance of that, the Finance Ministry last week released detailed guidelines for this with the objective to address temporary asset-liability mismatches of otherwise solvent NBFCs/HFCs without having to resort to distress sale of their assets for meeting their commitments.

 

“At no time during the period for exercise of the option to buy back the assets, should the CRAR (capital to risk weighted assets ratio) go below the regulatory minimum. The promoter shall ensure this by infusing equity, where required,” an official statement said.

 

As per the guidelines issued, the window for onetime partial credit guarantee will be for a period of six months, or till such date by which ₹1 lakh crore assets get purchased by banks. It further said that the pool of assets should have minimum rating of ‘AA’ or equivalent at fair value prior to the partial credit guarantee by the Government of India.

 

Reservoir levels — West well stocked with water, South is short #GS3 #Environment

 

Among the four states that have experienced extremely heavy rainfall this month, the status of water stored in their reservoirs is vastly different. Nationwide, the 103 reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission (CWC) had stored 76.845 billion cubic metres (BCM) by August 8, or 47 per cent of their live storage capacity. This was below last year’s storage at this stage (97 per cent) as well as the 10-year average (97 per cent).

 

In Gujarat and Maharashtra, storage in the 35 reservoirs has surpassed the 10-year average (considered normal), following incessant rainfall over the Western region since the start of August, according to the latest live storage report issued by the CWC, with figures updated until August 8.

 

On the other hand, although coastal Karnataka and north Kerala too have had heavy rainfall over the last fortnight, the water stock in reservoirs in both two Southern states is still below normal for this time of the year.

 

Southern Gujarat, and western and southern Maharashtra have had heavy rainfall, which has led to floods in Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara districts of southern Maharashtra. The Western region has 35 reservoirs, in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

 

The current live storage in the 35 reservoirs is 17.40 billion cubic metres (BCM), which is 54 per cent of their live storage capacity of 32.31 BCM. Last year, the live storage during this period was 35 per cent, the CWC report said. The 54 per cent also surpasses the 10-year average storage of 46 per cent.

 

In the Southern region are 32 reservoirs under CWC monitoring, with a total live storage capacity of

 

52.10 BCM. As of August 8, the total live storage available in these reservoirs is 21.83 BCM, which is 42%

 

 

of total live storage capacity. This is below the storage during the corresponding period of last year (62 per cent) as well as the 10-year average for the corresponding period (50 per cent).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of the two Southern states that have witnessed very heavy rainfall, the storage in the 14 reservoirs of Karnataka is 6 per cent below normal. In the six reservoirs of Kerala, storage is as much as 49 per cent below normal for this time of the year.

 

Of the 32 reservoirs in the entire Southern region, as many as 19 have reserves that are below 40 per cent of full level. The lowest deficit is in Telangana, where the two reservoirs (not counting combined projects with Andhra Pradesh) are 62 per cent below normal. Tamil Nadu’s six reservoirs are 55 per cent below normal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As in the Western region, Northern India’s six reservoirs, at 69 per cent of their total live storage capacity (12.4 BCM of 18.01 BCM), too, have exceeded the corresponding storage at this time last year (39 per cent) as well as the 10-year average for this stage of the monsoon (56 per cent).

 

In Central India, the 14 reservoirs are at 19.13 BCM, or 44 per cent of total live capacity (43.11 BCM), which is better than last year’s corresponding status (42 per cent) but lower than the 10-year average for this period (49 per cent). With less than two months of the monsoon season remaining, Uttar Pradesh’s reservoirs are at 54 per cent below normal.

 

In the Eastern region, the 16 reservoirs are at 6.09 BCM, or 32 per cent of total live capacity (18.83 BCM), which is lower than last year’s corresponding status (47 per cent) as well as the 10-year average for this period (39 per cent).

 

 

 

 

 

Ebola “no longer incurable” as Congo trial finds drugs boost survival #GS3 #SnT

 

Scientists are a step closer to being able to cure the deadly Ebola haemorrhagic fever after two experimental drugs showed survival rates of as much as 90% in a clinical trial in Congo.

 

Two experimental drugs – an antibody cocktail called REGN-EB3 developed by Regeneron and a monoclonal antibody called mAb114 – will now be offered to all patients infected with the viral disease in an ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

 

The drugs showed “clearly better” results, according to U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in a trial of four potential treatments being conducted during the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, now entering its second year in DRC.

 

The drugs improved survival rates from the disease more than two other treatments being tested – ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, and Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences – and those products will be now dropped, said Anthony Fauci, one of the researchers co-leading the trial.

 

 

The agency said 49% of the patients on ZMapp and 53% on Remdesivir died in the study. In comparison, 29% of the patients on REGN-EB3 and 34% on mAb114 died.

 

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of Congo’s Institut National de Recherche Biomşdicale in DRC, who co-led the trial, said the results meant that “from now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable.”

 

The agency said that of the patients who were brought into treatment centres with low levels of virus detected in their blood, 94% who got REGN-EB3 and 89% on mAb114 survived. In comparison, two-thirds of the patients who got Remdesivir and nearly three-quarters on ZMapp survived.

 

Ebola has been spreading in eastern Congo since August 2018 in an outbreak that has now killed at least 1,800 people. Efforts to control it have been hampered by militia violence and some local resistance to outside help.

 

A vast Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2013 to 2016 became the world’s largest ever when it spread through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and killed more than 11,300 people.

 

The Congo treatment trial, which began in November last year, is being carried out by an international research group coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, said the trial’s positive findings were encouraging but would not be enough on their own to bring the epidemic to an end.

 

The news today is fantastic. It gives us a new tool in our toolbox against Ebola, but it will not in itself stop Ebola,” he told reporters.

 

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, also hailed the success of the trial’s findings, saying they would “undoubtedly save lives”.

 

The more we learn about these two treatments… the closer we can get to turning Ebola from a terrifying disease to one that is preventable and treatable. We won’t ever get rid of Ebola but we should be able to stop these outbreaks from turning into major national and regional epidemics.”

 

Some 681 patients at four separate treatment centres in Congo have already been enrolled in the Congo treatment clinical trial, Fauci said. The study aims to enrol a total of 725.

 

The decision to drop two of the trial drugs was based on data from almost 500 patients, he said, which showed that those who got REGN-EB3 or mAb114 “had a greater chance of survival compared to those participants in the other two arms”.

 

The two promising drugs are made from Ebola antibodies – a protein produced by the immune system to defend against infection. Regeneron’s product is a cocktail of three Ebola antibodies, while mAb114 is a single antibody developed by scientists at NIAID.

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