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Indian Express Explained-08/07/2020

  1. Explained: How US visa move affects Indian students

Central Theme- The United States on Monday announced that international students might have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities moved classes entirely online in the upcoming fall semester.

What do the new regulations by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement mean for Indian students?

  • This, in effect, means Indians currently enrolled in schools or programmes that are entirely online for the fall semester will have to come back home. They can stay back only if they take alternative steps such as a move to a school that offers “in-person instruction” (read contact classes) or choose “appropriate medical leave”.
  • Students, who had come back to India after the pandemic forced American campuses to shut down, will not be permitted to enter the US if their classes are entirely online. The same applies to prospective (or new) students who were going to join in the fall semester.

What about Indian students enrolled in universities that have announced a hybrid blend of in-person and online classes for the fall semester?

  • Such students remain in the US, and those who returned to India will be allowed to re-enter the US. They will even be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online.
  • However, the university or college will have to “certify” to the US government that “the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree programme”.

Why has the US government announced these changes after giving international students the flexibility to take more online classes during campus shutdown?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), under the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), did not say much on the reasons behind revisiting the above exemptions. Its press statement only said there is “a concordant need to resume the carefully balanced protections implemented by federal regulations” as many universities and colleges are planning to reopen for the fall semester.

How will this affect international enrollment across US universities?

US universities have already made admission offers to international students. The SEVP announcement could encourage prospective students to defer their joining to the next semester. As for the active or enrolled students, they may even consider dropping a semester. Indians are the second-largest group of international students in the US, after the Chinese.

2) Explained: Doubts over herd immunity

Central Theme- A new study published in The Lancet has concluded that herd immunity against Covid-19 is difficult to achieve at this stage, while a separate commentary describes it as unachievable.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity refers to a situation when a certain percentage of the population have become immune to a certain disease-causing pathogen, thus preventing the infection from spreading to the rest of the population. While the concept is most commonly used in the context of vaccination, herd community can also be reached when enough people have become immune after being infected.

What is the new study?

It is a large-scale seroepidemiological study, and concluded that just five per cent of the Spanish population has developed antibodies in response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. This implies that an estimated 95 per cent continues to be susceptible to the virus.

How significant is the study?

It is the largest serological study conducted so far in Europe and captures the true number of Covid-19 infections, which isn’t captured by laboratory tests. It provides an estimate for the population of the entire country.

Between 3,76,000 and 10,42,000 asymptomatic individuals went undetected in the non-institutionalised Spanish population

What are the implications of the study?

This study strengthens the line of argument that in the absence of treatment or a vaccine against Covid-19, achieving herd immunity at this stage is not possible.

3) Explained : How India’s lockdown hurt the economy without slowing down Covid-19 infections?

Central theme- Despite an early, stringent lockdown, India has seen a constant rise in Covid-19 cases and the economic cost has yielded little benefit

India’s COVID-19 numbers are surging. In terms of the total number of infections, the country has rapidly risen through the ranks to now occupy the third place in the world, behind the US and Brazil, having overtaken Russia over the weekend.

 In terms of COVID deaths per million population, that is, the Crude Mortality Rate, India is doing worse than China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia and many other nations, including most of Africa

How did this happen when India was one of the first emerging economies to announce the lockdown?

  • India’s economy is spiralling down and the pandemic is spiralling up.
  • The lockdown, announced on March 24, far from controlling the spread of the pandemic, seems to have made it worse.
  • Two weeks after the start of the lockdown, the infection rate picked up and it has been an alarming upward climb since then.

Why did this happen?

  • India’s lockdown has been described widely as the most stringent in the world.
  • The total absence of any supporting action, to ramp up testing, expand the medical sector and to help the millions of stranded poor workers, was baffling.
  • The Economist magazine (June 13, p. 30) estimated that India issued “well over 4,000 different rules” during the first two months of the lockdown, many of those rules being corrections of many of those rules.
  • The way in which the lockdown was executed, the lockdown itself became the source of the virus’s spread. By having people huddle together, infecting one another, and then having the same people travel hundreds of miles, the pandemic has been made much worse than it need have been.

4) Explained: How wealth influences Covid-19 impact

Central Theme- A new survey has found that liquid assets increased the likelihood that an individual could practice social distancing.

A new Socioeconomic Impact of Covid-19 survey, carried out across the US, has shown how the impact of the pandemic has not been equal across individuals: wealth matters.

Wealth gives individuals agency to make choices, like social distancing, that keep themselves and their families healthy

Among the findings of the survey:

  • Low- and moderate-income households delayed major housing payments and health care;
  • Hispanic/Latinx homeowners were more likely (14.1%) to be evicted than Non-Hispanic White (6.4%) and five times as likely as Non-Hispanic Black (2.6%) homeowners, despite moratoriums on some evictions;
  • Hispanic/Latinx (27%) and low-income individuals (29%) were most affected by job loss;
  • 34% of people who lost their job reported food insecurity.
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