Gangasagar Mela during 3rd Wave

Last year, the Kumbha Mela at Haridwar formed a massive super spreader from where the second wave of Covid-19 started all over India. Kumbha Mela, the largest religious gathering in the world, was banned by the Uttarakhand Government, though there was no rule stopping pilgrims from visiting as tourists and bathing in the Ganga river. Due to economic as well as cultural reasons, an unofficial gathering of lakhs of people occurred at Haridwar in April 2021. The result was a massive second wave that killed thousands of people all across India.

Gangasagar is the second largest religious gathering, attracting pilgrims from all over the country. Last year, amidst Covid-19, Gangasagar Mela was banned completely and was done online. This resulted in a fairly low Covid-19 count during January and February. Gangasagar Mela is an annual fair occurring every year, unlike the Kumbha Mela, which occurs every year. Hence, doing without the Gangasagar Mela this year would not have caused many problems to the pilgrims and Government alike. However, the Government has walked the other way and has decided to go on with the Gangasagar Mela this year with strict Covid-19 rules.

It is next to impossible to maintain social distancing at a single small beach where lakhs of visitors will bathe on 14th January 2022. It is also impossible to get all pilgrims masked and sanitized at the same time all over the huge island, whether at temple premises or at the ferry. It is also impossible for the Government to mandate RT-PCR tests for pilgrims when there are numerous entry points and means of transportation to Gangasagar island. Most importantly, the state itself is going through its worst phase of Covid-19, when a huge gathering at Park Street, Kolkata during Christmas has become a super spreader for the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Gangasagar Mela can be put on hold for the next year, but the rising Covid-19 cases will lead to massive hospitalization and even death of some of our fellow citizens. Hence it is necessary to avoid the crowd as much as possible during the Gangasagar Mela. It is time to stay at home and make Pitha, a winter delicacy in Bengal. It is time to avoid any large gathering for whatever reason despite double vaccination or negative RT-PCR test, because you may contract the virus anytime from someone else. With record Covid-19 cases in West Bengal, it is up to the visitors and the citizens to control the Covid-19 spread and stop the pandemic once and for all.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Omicron Variant and Our Concern

Covid-19 pandemic across the globe has taken a new turn on the discovery of a new variant, named Omicron. While there are many other variants of Covid-19, both active and inactive, the Omicron variant has taken the world media by storm. Let us find out in this article what exactly are the concerns in most people’s minds regarding this Omicron strain.

It is known that viruses not only transmit but also change their mutations in each transmission. Usually, these changes are too minute to be detected. However, large variations do occur, and in some cases may lead to a stronger virus with higher transmissibility, greater resistance to vaccines, or even more deadly. Covid-19 coronavirus also underwent several changes since its first detection in Wuhan. At first, the variants were popularly nicknamed from the country of origin. As they caused some kind of racism against a particular country or a particular race, the nomenclature shifted to Greek letters, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.

WHO classified these variants into two categories – Variants of Interest and Variants of Concern. Variants of Interest are those variants that may in the future cause community transmissions or has the potential to become out of control. Variants of concern are those which have greater transmissibility, can cause severe symptoms, are more fatal, or develop resistance to vaccination. To date, only five of these variants – alpha, beta, gamma, delta and the newly added Omicron have been recognised as Variants of Concern. Variants of Interest at present are only two variations, lambda and mu.

Transmissibility of Omicron is considered much greater than delta, one of the most fatal and widely circulated variants of Covid-19 discovered to date. However, it is yet to be proved as data remains insufficient on the spread of this virus. Neither it has been proved that it is more harmful as it is still under research level. However, preliminary research suggests that it may be much less dangerous than the delta variant despite having greater transmissibility. Omicron has also not gone out of control in most countries, including Botswana and South Africa, the countries of origin of this variant.

South Africa did well to report globally that a new variant of Covid-19 has been detected within its borders. South Africa also did well to make sure awareness and research studies can spread to other nations to initiate effective measures to contain this strain. However, most countries around the world, except for African and some South American ones, are looking at South Africa with suspicion. Most countries have responded with travel bans to South Africa and other African countries, shutting down flights, ships, and different modes of transportation and communication.

This may set an example to other countries to remain silent on new variations, only to save their economy. Also, many countries around the world have significant Covid-19 caseload and high fatality rates from delta variants, who do not have even mandatory Covid-19 protocols such as mandatorily wearing a mask in public. Hence, it is not the right time to panic and stand against South Africa, but work all together to end the pandemic once and for all.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Study from Home vs Work from Home

Study from home and work from home have become a new normal in Covid-19 pandemic. There are mixed reviews on both of them, with some pressing on the opening of educational institutions and offices, while others prefer the continuation of the new normal even after the pandemic. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of these two new normal lives.

Study from home is an unavoidable situation in Covid-19 times when all the educational institutions are closed following Government rules. Most students fail to follow up on what is taught in schools. They have to rely on private tuitions and Google or Youtube to learn the concepts well. Assignments and homework have increased drastically which have started interfering with the time a student used previously for revision or making notes. Many students have also become slow at writing, which will greatly impact their performance in exams in offline mode. Online exams are not the best way to test a student’s knowledge or development unless it is a competitive exam.

One major advantage of studying from home is that the journey time to school or college is now saved. Also, studying for competitive exams is best done from home so that we can focus more on academics or work. There is a third advantage for the teachers that now there is less interference by talkative students.

Work from home is an optional situation that is given to most employees who work on computers in digital platforms. The hospital sector is the most required sector at this time, hence it is operated fully as work from the office. Other offline service sectors like hotels, retail, transportation also have no choice but work from the office or centre. However, employees have been allowed far greater flexibility in schedule due to lack of transportation, leading to employee satisfaction.

India’s largest industry, the IT industry, operates almost entirely in online platforms and requires little presence in offline mode. Hence, almost all IT employees worked from home in the pandemic situation. IT requires skill development with growing skills in the Indian digital market. Hence, the time of journey to the office can be utilized better by working from home. The business team, sponsor or sales team, and management team can also operate from home in most sectors. Audit works, on-site monitoring works, and also works involving a lot of printing, photocopy, or scan have employees following a mixed or hybrid pattern of work.

The current scenario is fruitful for most businesses and many companies are looking forward to applying such a pattern even after the pandemic. Save on electricity bills, resources, journey hours, accommodation costs, and also involving more employees at work are the most common pros for work from home. Lack of interaction between team members and leads, lack of gossip after work, and lack of participation in activities outside of the offices are some cons of working from home. A hybrid model can do away with the cons, and include most of the pros except accommodation costs for people living far away from offices.

Written by – Sushmitra Dahal

RT-PCR Test of Covid-19

Of all the Covid-19 tests that came to light in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic situation globally, the RT-PCR Test stood out as the ultimate Covid-19 test. Its full-form is reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. RT-PCR Test, when invented, used to cost as much as Rs. 5000 and was unaffordable by common people. However, as production grew, following advancement in technology, the price of RT-PCR Test has come down to as low as Rs. 300. In this article, let us see how this test works.

The sample is collected using a nose swab from your throat and nose. A swab is a thin, flexible stick that is inserted in your nostrils and throat to collect the virus. Covid-19 virus, if present, will get accumulated in the stick. The sample then reaches the laboratory, where the virus is extracted. The extraction process isolated genetic material from the sample, including genetic material of any viruses that may be present. The third step is the PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, in which millions of copies of the virus are produced for detection. Without the PCR, the number of viruses in the sample is too small to be detected. If Covid-19 is present, then the chemicals used in the process produce fluorescent light. It is the signal to suggest that the sample contains the Covid-19 virus.

A positive test result means that it is very likely you have Covid-19. If you test positive, don’t panic. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider, and follow the quarantine and self-isolation rules. Most people will recover following mild or no symptoms. A negative test result means you are unlikely to be affected by Covid-19 at the time of the test. However, you still have to follow all precautions given by the Government in your state, as you are still vulnerable to Covid-19 at the time of test or afterwards. Due to high sensitivity, you may test Covid-19 positive if you had been infected by Covid-19 a few weeks back and have recovered from it since then.

RT-PCR Test has numerous advantages:

  1. It delivers a report within 24 hours.
  2. It is the most reliable and accurate Covid-19 test, which can detect even residual virus, such as remnants of a virus from a near-past infection.
  3. Collection of sample is also hassle-free, and it could be processed in railway stations, entry and exit checkpoints, office buildings, that is it does not consume a large space and do not require extremely skilled labour.

Advantages of the RT-PCR Test made us possible to test for Covid-19 at tourist destinations at a minimal cost and also tour hassle-free in most tourist destinations in the country.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Delhi Metro Missing Links to be Inaugurated

Delhi Metro is one of the largest metros in the country. Phase 3 of Delhi Metro has taken its total length to a mammoth 390 km. However, two key sections were missing for a long time since the Phase 3 expansion of Delhi Metro concluded, causing inconvenience among commuters.

One of the sections was in the longest line of the Delhi Metro, the Pink Line, which runs from Majlis Park to Shiv Vihar in a U-shaped pattern along the busy Ring Road of Delhi. The Pink Line of Delhi metro acted as two different corridors from Majlis Park to Mayur Vihar Pocket-I and Shiv Vihar to Trilokpuri. Due to land acquisition problems, a short section of around 1.5 km viaduct was missing between Mayur Vihar Pocket-I and Trilokpuri. Land acquisition was a major hurdle that couldn’t be bypassed. After waiting for several years, the affected residents have been allocated to flats in a different location. The construction of the missing link is now complete, and the gap between the two sections have been bridged.

Delhi Metro Pink Line

The other section was in the shortest line of the Delhi Metro, the Grey Line, which runs from Dwarka to Najafgarh. The Grey Line is now further extended by a 1.2 km underground section to Dhansa Bus Stand, which is the terminal station of this line. The underground stretch required a longer time than overground stretches, and hence it took Delhi Metro several years to complete this short stretch. The grey line had other challenges like the Najafgarh metro station, which is dumbbell-shaped due to unavailability of land, and a joint broad gauge and standard gauge depot at Najafgarh. However, the underground stretch proved time-consuming, for which the Grey Line ran from Dwarka to Najafgarh only in its inauguration. The extension to Dhansa Bus Stand will be beneficial for those who live in western parts of Delhi.

Delhi Metro Grey Line

Both the missing links will be inaugurated on 6th August 2021, that is tomorrow. It will add a small length to the vast network of Delhi Metro, but the extensions will benefit a large number of commuters. The number of commuters will not drastically increase due to Covid-19 restrictions. As of now, people are asked to put on maks while travelling in Delhi Metro, maintain social distancing and follow Covid-19 protocols. However, Delhi Metro is running across the full length of the network, ensuring the convenience of all travellers and commuters. This extension will formally complete the Delhi Metro Phase-3 as the Delhi Metro move on to its futuristic Phase-4.

Written by – Himadri Paul