Monday, March 23, 2020

PSA of the day

Lots of stars across the world have been doing their bit to spread the word on safety. But hamara Shahrukh has outdone them all. His guide to the coronavirus is quintessential SRK: very quirky, very weird and very funny. The best bit: the TBT Bolly clips! Watch the video here. Bonus: how not to do a PSA, courtesy Ekta Kapoor.


Note: Broadsheet is running a little late these days as we try our best to keep on top of the deluge of news—real, incomplete and fake. Thank you for your patience:)

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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What the coronavirus will bring next

As the number of cases continue to soar, the world is hunkering down for a long fight, and so is India. 


A global snapshot: Tally of cases: 336,838 Number of deaths: 14,616  Now for the rest:


  • There seems no end to Italy’s pain. A whopping 1,400 people died over the weekend, and its latest death toll is now 5,476. More than 5,500 Italians are testing positive every day, and the average age of those dying is 78.5.
  • Spain’s death count (1,720) is now higher than that of Iran—which, however, is most likely hiding the worst of its losses. 
  • Worse, the medical staff is running out of essential supplies: “At some Spanish hospitals, doctors and nurses resort to taping garbage sacks to their arms to shield themselves… The plastic glasses they wear are of such poor quality that medics can barely see through them, so they find the pulses and veins of coronavirus patients by touch…” The story is the same across Europe.
  • While the rest of the world prepares for the worst, China is slowly going back to work. The evidence of the slow return to normalcy: the levels of fossil fuel emissions are rising again. See video.
  • In the United States, the government is quietly pushing for sweeping emergency powers that would suspend basic constitutional rights.
  • Most famous people to test positive: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Director Harvey Weinstein.


An India snapshot: India now has 396 cases. Number of deaths: 7. Experts say the rate of increase mirrors the trajectory of other nations which went on to see an exponential jump. Here’s what else you may have missed this weekend:


  • The ‘janta’ curfew was mostly a success—though it was not exactly ‘self-imposed’ as the PM claimed. The police made sure no one left their house—be it with roses in Delhi or force in Goa. See a photo gallery of deserted India here.
  • Not such a big success: the 5 pm call to clap, ring bells, and clank thaalis in support of essential services workers. The problem: over-enthusiasm that broke every rule of social distancing (which is the sole reason for the curfew). The Wire has most of the clips. The worst of the lot is here. Also, if you need it: Mukesh-bhai bajaoing a ghanti in support (from the roof of Antilla, of course)
  • Practicing extreme social distancing: This Air Asia pilot who jumped out of the cockpit to avoid a suspected Covid-19 case on the plane.
  • Making the wrong kind of news: our pyaare celebs. Kanika Kapoor became the first celeb to test positive—but not the first to recklessly roam the countryside. Mary Kom broke her quarantine to attend a breakfast with the President, no less. Kom is doing fine, but Kapoor is now in an isolation ward: “I am hungry, thirsty and I feel miserable here.”
  • Also behaving very poorly: Neighbours of Air India crew members. “Vigilante residents’ welfare associations” in their buildings are ostracising those who rescued Indians stranded in places like Italy and China—even calling the police on them! 


The lockdown: The entire nation is shutting down—either wholly or in significant measure. As suspected, the ‘janta curfew’ was just a trial run of what will soon become the new normal.


  • Eighty districts that reported positive coronavirus cases will be under a complete lockdown till March 31. Here's the entire list. Need more? Indian Express has a state-by-state list detailing the different levels of lockdown. 
  • Many will only allow essential services to operate. Don’t know what that includes? Quint has that list.
  • The Indian Railways has canceled all passenger train services until March 31. The trigger: 12 people on two different trains recently tested positive. Also closed: local metro and train services in Delhi and Mumbai.
  • Inter-state travel, in general, is a no-no. States in the South—including Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu—have sealed their borders. All inter-state buses have been shut down, as well.
  • The reason for these measures: to stem the deluge of migrant workers scrambling to get home to their villages.
  • Domestic flights will carry on as usual, but airlines like IndiGo have announced plans to “trim” their operations.
  • Hindustan Times offers a general overview. Just remember that restrictions are stricter in some cities than others. For example: cabs can still operate in Bangalore but not Delhi.


Community transmission? India is supposedly still in the second stage of the epidemic—when all cases are tied to people with a travel history or those who had contact with them. But there are worrying signs that we have now entered the stage of ‘community transmission’—when the virus freely circulates amid the local population.


  • The first of two alarming cases is a 20-year-old man in Tamil Nadu who tested positive. The state’s health minister described it as a “domestic case with no travel history.” 
  • The second is a 41-year-old Pune woman on a ventilator. She too has no known contact with an “imported” case, but she attended a wedding in Mumbai—which may be the location of infection. Times Top Ten has a list of other suspected cases of community transmission.
  • To determine whether a case indicates ‘community transmission’ requires rigorous contact tracing. But in India, it can often prove impossible. For example, this case of a Mumbaikar who lives in a slum with 23,000 spread across less than a square kilometre of land.
  • Also watch: this excellent video report on why self-isolation is impossible in India. Look at the data on the number of rooms in an average home.


Are we ready for this? Here’s the latest on testing, treatment and equipment:


  • Testing: The US authorities have approved a new test that offers results within 45 minutes.
  • Indian authorities opened the door to private labs—which will be allowed to conduct tests. The rules: all tests require a doctor’s note, and should not cost more than Rs 4,500. The government has also fixed the maximum price of hand sanitisers and masks. 
  • Treatment: Here’s the bad news: There is only one isolation bed per 84,000 Indians, and one quarantine bed per 36,000. We have only one doctor for every 11,600 citizens. The ratio for hospital beds: 1:1,826.
  • India has an estimated 40,000 working ventilators. The virus—if not properly contained—will infect 40-60% of the population. Of these, 5% will require ventilators. Our population: 1.4 billion. That’s not rocket science, just basic math. 
  • Equipment: Medical staff have the greatest risk of contracting the disease. So how prepared are we to protect them? According to this Scroll investigation, the government has done little to bulk up on essential supplies of gloves, masks, eye protection and hazmat coverall suits. Point to note: 3,300 healthcare workers died in China.
  • Women from ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) have been deployed as India’s first line of defense to track down “imported” cases—without gowns, gloves, googles, masks or hand sanitisers. Buzzfeed has that story.


The latest coronavirus gyaan: includes the following:


  • Your age will not protect you. That’s the message from the WHO Director General: “Today I have a message for young people: You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you." He warned that “people under 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalisation.”
  • Yes, there is new evidence that the virus can indeed survive in air, but only under very specific settings—typically found in hospitals. Here’s the best explainer.
  • Does location matter? A Chennai study found that "regions at higher latitudes in general have a higher rate of growth of the epidemic." But it found no link between weather conditions and the rate of spread. Experts still don’t know why latitude is a factor but it may have something to do with the angle of the sun—the duration of daylight or exposure to sunlight.
  • Forbes reports on how deforestation is creating an accidental laboratory for the emergence of new viruses.
  • Check out: The history of pandemics explained in this fantastic set of infographics.
  • A must watch: a video tutorial on the right way to wear a face mask
  • From the New York Times: how to clean and disinfect your home. 


Tracking the fake news epidemic: Today, one of the biggest side effects of a major disaster is misinformation. The pandemic is no different:


  • A number of celebs—including Rajinikanth and singer Sonu Nigam—claimed that the 14-hour long janata curfew is designed to kill the virus because it 'can survive only for 12 hours.' Next time someone shares that crap, please send them this News Minute factcheck
  • The PM asked everyone to clap in solidarity with those who are at the frontline of the epidemic. Actor Mohanlal declared (to a news channel, no less!): “Clapping together is a process. The sound produced is like a mantram (chant) and there is a possibility that many bacteria and virus will be destroyed. Let it all get destroyed. I urge everybody to cooperate.” 
  • Donald Trump recently claimed that chloroquine is a "very powerful" drug approved to treat the virus. Nope, not true. Worse, the claim created a serious shortage for those who actually need it most. And it can be lethal if used for the wrong purpose. Inverse has all the gyaan on chloroquine just in case it starts doing the rounds on your WhatsApp groups.
  • People are also sharing this bizarre breathing test for Covid-19.
  • Fake news that we hoped would be true: the return of dolphins and other fauna to Venice. National Geographic has more on the tall tales about animals we all love to share. Related sunshine item: this tongue-in-cheek tweet.
  • Going viral in China: this strange clip of a dragon-like creature slithering up into the sky—supposedly the virus leaving Earth. Go Corona, Go Corona...


Doing their bit: We all tend to focus on bad behaviour, but the virus has also inspired many to do more—companies, leaders and individuals


  • Apple has pledged to donate 2 million masks for healthcare workers, while Elon Musk confirmed that his company is working on getting another 250,000.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, CM Yogi Adityanath was the first to announce a monthly direct payment of Rs 1000 to help daily wage workers. Also read: Why workers in the informal economy—who represent a staggering 90% of our workforce—will bear the economic brunt of the pandemic.
  • In the US, medical TV shows are donating their equipment to real-life doctors.
  • The Mahindra Group is working on plans to use its manufacturing plants to make ventilators. Also on offer: Mahindra resorts are temporary care facilities for Covid-19 patients.


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:


  • Sunday was World Water Day. The best reads: Vogue on how to reduce the H2O footprint of your wardrobe. The Guardian on why the global water crisis is a greater hazard to human health than any virus. 
  • The Print has a must-read on our national obsession with gaumutra—and urine of all kinds. 
  • Indian Express explains how an entire train is deep cleaned in India.
  • For a break from the virus-obsessed coverage, check out this excellent long read on the tragic tale of Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha.
  • Another virus break: This first person account of being a contestant on ‘Naked and Afraid’—a reality show where three people are dropped into the wilderness without clothes or much else. It will make home quarantine seem so much better!
  • Mint explains how WhatsApp University broke India’s poultry industry. Also in Mint: Why Covid-19 may break India’s startup industry.
  • A terrifying but essential ProPublica read: A medical worker (respiratory therapist) explains what lung failure in Covid-19 patients looks like.


Your Stuck-At-Home Sanity Pack: includes the following:


  • Inverse has a must-read guide on how to avoid cabin fever 
  • Our ambassador Snehal Sharma says the Insta handle ‘The good news movement’ “has been a lovely respite for some smiles.” 
  • The New York Times via the Indian Express offers excellent one-pot recipes that make it easy to wash up. 
  • Our subscribers Shweta Radhakrishnan and Mansi Kanoria recommend The Curious Reader’s handy social distancing resource. 
  • Our exec editor Sunainaa Chadha says Sara Ali Khan’s inspiring tabata workout is a must try.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • An excellent photo gallery of delightful fashion faux pas 
  • This ‘street shaadi’ in New York in the time of Covid-19 
  • A cheerful update from Tom Hanks who has the best stuck-at-home attitude. 
  • This hilarious coronavirus PSA from Tamil Nadu.
  • This ‘Soapersonic’ performance by Oasis’ Liam Gallagher
  • Ok, so the guy who runs the government’s Press Information Bureau’s Twitter handle has an, er, interesting taste in tweets he ‘likes’. He just forgot he was using the official handle. The results are totally embarrassing.
  • Say hello to the ultra-rare Dwarf Kingfisher—now photographed for the first time!
  • This dog who is an ace at Jenga.
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