Geopolitics

International ramifications of US Big Tech’s power
Geopolitics

International ramifications of US Big Tech’s power

Hunter Dorwart, an independent researcher living in Washington, published on “Asia Times” an op-ed on the communication power and digital geopolitics. On May 28, Twitter flagged US President Donald Trump’s tweet on the George Floyd protests for sensitivity, claiming his message incited violence. Responding almost immediately, Trump threatened to revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 and signed an executive order urging federal agencies to re-evaluate their interpretation of that law. Dorwart said, highlighting that since this week, the US government has revved up its scrutiny of Big Tech in preparation for the battle of elites and monied interests in the November elections.

trump violence tweet - International ramifications of US Big Tech's power
Trump Violence Tweet

This scrutiny has been largely bipartisan, albeit for different reasons. Both Republicans and Democrats have attacked social-media platforms for how they manage their content. The former tend to target these companies for blocking certain conservative views, while the latter complain that the platforms do too little to prevent the spread of disinformation. Section 230 has since its enactment acted as a sword of Damocles that the US Congress holds over the major Internet platforms, the researcher based in Washington noted. At its core, Section 230 allows Internet platforms that host third-party content to avoid liability for what those third parties post online. While there are a few exceptions to this, the law in essence allows the online big-data ecosystem to thrive because it eliminates substantial transaction costs for businesses that distribute content.

This content attracts views that generate behavioural data tracked through online tools such as cookies. Complex analytics solutions then use this data for a range of services and value-creating activities that form the commercial architecture of the Internet. Hunter Dorwart noted how platforms like Facebook and Twitter become inseparable from public discourse, the electoral process, and how officials engage with the masses. “Because of this, Facebook and Twitter have gathered significant power over politicians – including President Trump – who use their services to disseminate political messages directly to the public”. He added, stressing that these companies could simply decide to block or otherwise flag a politician’s message and diminish its effectiveness before it reaches the target audience. “No law currently prevents these companies from doing so – in fact, Section 230 gives these platforms the power to restrict access to any content they deem objectionable, granting them broad discretion to define what qualifies as acceptable content”. Dorwart argued.

While this remains a domestic US issue, the current relationship between Washington and Silicon Valley raises questions about digital geopolitics and US tech firms’ dominance abroad. Coinciding with the debate about Section 230, international scrutiny over Silicon Valley has intensified in recent weeks and could produce significant consequences for international relations at large. These issues must be seen in relation to the larger geopolitical trends that continue to unfold – including the larger project of Eurasian integration, the rising tension between the US and China, the economic crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the inevitable integration of automation, the Internet of Things, and 5G (fifth-generation wireless telecommunication) into the social fabric of daily life.

It also explains why the United States continues to insist upon favourable environments for big tech in its trade deals, including the ongoing US-Brazil, US-UK, and US-Kenya negotiations, those recently concluded such as US-Japan and USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), and those that have fallen apart such as the one with India. Reforming Section 230 could trigger a rebalancing of the power in Washington as well as cripple the ability of Big Tech to generate data through its business models. This is why the major social-media companies all made voluntary commitments to sift disinformation, foreign interference, and irregular content out of their platforms well before 2020. The fear of the sword of Damocles, it seems, did much to regulate Big Tech in the absence of the law. Dorwart affirms that the future of Big Tech and communication power is still open as geopolitics increasingly remixes to the digital and becomes even more central to those who wield power and try to hang on to it above all else.

Coronavirus geopolitics,  Asia emerges as winner
Geopolitics

Coronavirus geopolitics, Asia emerges as winner

Beijing is in lockdown. The schools were closed, and the flights canceled, with decisions that brought the Chinese capital back in time, in early February, when the Asian country lived, before all the others, its moment of maximum emergency. The few hundred cases recorded in a city with more than 20 million inhabitants were enough to make the fear, or awareness, resurface with an arrogance that a return even to a semblance of normality is not yet possible. All this made the positive market estimates for the growth of collapse again worldwide, as the financial growth appears further away today.

According to experts, in a few months, we have gone from talking about positive global growth of almost three percentage points to having to deal with forecasts for a global recession in 2020. That could lead to a reduction in GDP up to 7%, worse than what happened during the Great Depression or in the period following the two world wars of the last century. Indeed, if at the beginning of the year there were 160 states for which an improvement in pro capita income was expected, today just 5 months later, this statistic has totally overturned.  According to agencies rate expectations, in 2020 there will be 170 countries that will experience a drop in per capita income.

Geopolitics - Coronavirus geopolitics,  Asia emerges as winner
Geopolitics

In this context of a global slowdown, the Asian continent seems to emerge victorious. Although the health emergency started from there, and despite the risks of a second wave of infections, at the moment, in Asia, there are not only fewer Coronavirus deaths, but also less economic damage than the rest of the world. That should further widen the growth gap between developed and eastern countries, a trend that has been going on for several years and which has led many observers to define the 21st century as the Asian century, which comes after the European one (XIX) and the American one (XX).A continent in which China’s sphere of political and economic influence grows, even if it is mounting an anti-Chinese attitude in the world in general and also in some Asian countries. Just think of the continuous protests in Hong Kong or the recent clash on the border between India and China.

The other pole of the world, the one destined to leave the sceptre if the handover will take place, the United States, is today grappling with a mix of issues that could be fatal for President Trump’s re-election ambitions. If on the one hand, the Trump administration of the health emergency has been judged in many ways inadequate, on the other, the country in recent weeks has also been crossed by a wave of violent protests. The result is a gradual but constant loss of consent by Donald Trump, in January given for sure winner in the polls and now projected to 40%. In what promises to be a highly contested election, therefore, the chances of victory for the democratic candidate Joe Biden increase.

From a geopolitical point of view, however, the change at the top should not lead to a total back-front in the nationalist narrative. Although with more moderate and less unilateralist tones, probably the campaign will continue to focus on bringing the economy and work back to the USA. In a spirit of autarky, and desire to shorten the production chains, as we are observing in large parts of the world, and which could lead to a revision of the economic model currently in force. Without being able to speak of de-globalization, in a world that will remain highly globalized, however, significant pushes will emerge, with greater determination, towards integration on a regional basis: North America, Europe, and Asia.

The evolution of Russia, from the USSR to geopolitical protagonist
Geopolitics

The evolution of Russia, from the USSR to geopolitical protagonist

Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s possible to affirm that this event already contained the subsequent collapse of the USSR. However, it is also necessary to underline how the crisis of the Soviet system started before the collapse of the Wall. Starting from the Helsinki agreements of 1975, the USSR derogated from its sovereignty, accepting the so-called basket of human rights. The consequence was inevitably that of sanctions applied starting from the Carter administration, especially in essential supplies, such as those of wheat and industrial products. If we add to this some choices that contradict the traditional Soviet foreign policy based on the extension of control in neighboring territories, such as the defeats in Afghanistan, then we understand the prolonged crisis.

The crisis materialized with the stagnation of the Brezhnev period and Gorbachev’s attempt to renew Soviet politics and society with a series of reforms, which affected the institutional structure of the USSR. The collapse of the Berlin Wall was only the first consequence of the Soviet disengagement for which Michail Gorbachev opted, who, breaking with the past, openly communicated his unwillingness to defend the communist regimes of the satellite states. As it is known, this event was followed by a domino effect that hit the rest of Eastern Europe, together with Moscow’s acceptance of German reunification.

It is better to say that it is the crisis of legitimacy of the USSR and the attempt to save it promoted by the reformist elite that came to power in the mid-1980s to enclose the conditions for the collapse of the Wall. As for today’s Russia, however, it is necessary to remember that the legacy of the USSR is very influential, starting from the fact that the ruling class over forty years, Putin in the lead, was formed in Soviet times, and therefore reports the forma mentis.

The USSR was one of the world superpowers and represented a point of reference not only for Western communists, but also for anti-colonial liberation movements. It is evident that such an inheritance does not disappear within a generation, especially in the dimension of the political imagination, which contributes to the formulation of the international strategy of a country that does not have a consistent economic weight, but a growing geopolitical influence.Moreover, the status of “world big” does not necessarily have to correspond to particularly high performances in all dimensions of authority. China, for example, is an economic superpower, but as for now, it has not shown that it can defend its interests with the military instrument outside its geopolitical quadrant. Therefore, each country does foreign policy according to its own political culture, its vision of the world, and international relations. Of course, the Russian dimension is diverse from the Chinese one. There is a different role of the military force, as the intervention of Moscow in Syria and Libya demonstrate. His relationship with the Christians of Orient, on the other hand, reflects the tsarist heredity. This renewed geopolitical protagonism is ascribed by many to the activities and policies of Vladimir Putin and the small economic influence of the country. If it’s true that Putin has built up a global image of the “nationalist of the 21st century”, the antagonist of a liberal order increasingly in crisis, Russia‘s international revival cannot be reduced to Putin’s figure. The country already has the key characteristics for being a super-power, in terms of population, territory, military means, and natural resources.

Internet cables:  present and future of geopolitics
Geopolitics

Internet cables: present and future of geopolitics

There is an internet cable with which Google intends to expand the global optical fibre that sees Italy and Israel play a leading role. It’s called Blue-Raman and will leave Genoa to arrive in Mumbai, India. The path hides geopolitical issues and pitfalls. The “Raman” portion, whose name derives from Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, Indian Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930, will travel from Mumbai under the Indian Ocean to resurface in a country so far unidentified – at least officially. But everyone knows that it can only be Saudi Arabia. Then, finally, it will arrive at the Jordanian port of Aqaba. In the other section, the “Blue” will depart from Genoa, in Italy, and descend to the eastern portion of the Mediterranean to exit above ground through Israel and complete the work by reuniting with Aqaba.

The separation into two sections of this cable, which will bring faster internet to Eurasia, has no technical reasons but is a mere geopolitical issue, notes the Israeli Haaretz. According to the newspaper, Israel did not like being traced back to a physical structure that shared its territory with the Saudi one.The route has another reason for being: avoiding Egypt, through which several cables pass – in total, for now, 15: which feed the internet for about a third of the world’s population. Routes that travel from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, some also through Suez, whose shallow waters can make underwater structures vulnerable. But there is more: in Egypt, there is a security problem, the Sinai area is practically controlled by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Isis) for example, and the concentration of internet cables is far from recommended due to the importance of the data that these contain and for the possible damage if damaged.

Like Israel, Italy has a central role in the project. And not only for Genoa, the point of arrival or departure. While the eastern part of the connection is produced by Muscat’s Omantel, the Mediterranean section is in the hands of Sparkle, a subsidiary of Telecom Italia. Google’s 400 million euro project has a high-level geopolitical value, as mentioned: the Eurasian connection through digital connection cables – beyond deviations and problems – is an element of fundamental importance that strengthens the Italian company already owner of Med Nautilus, the cable that transmits most of the Israeli traffic that does not pass through the Bezeq.

With technological evolution, internet addiction has grown considerably. A trend destined to increase with the implementation of 5G systems. For this reason, cables have an enormous centrality, from the technical data used to move machinery and software, to the socio-cultural and political value of online communications. The new cables are the geopolitical ties of the present and the future. The world powers send monitoring and espionage missions. In recent days, for example, a Russian Kilo-class submarine entered the eastern Mediterranean, for an attack mission against the Syrian rebels in Libya, or perhaps interested in submarine cables in the quadrant that will also house the Blue-Raman.

Fragility conflict affected Nations will make for 18 Million poor people by 2030: World Bank Report
Geopolitics

Fragility conflict affected Nations will make for 18 Million poor people by 2030: World Bank Report

In a recent discussion, World Bank has shown how even the richest nations have found it difficult to manage the outbreak of the COVID-19, even with the best of medical infrastructure.

More in focus was the pandemic’s affect in fragile and conflict affected settings. Speaking on a webinar was Franck Bousquet, Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at World Bank, in conversation.

(Excerpts from the webinar)

How are nations classified as Fragility, Conflict and Violence affected nations?

These are primarily those nations, “that have deep governance issues, typically with high level of grievances amongst people. This also stems from high levels of exclusion amongst them as well. The category also includes the fact that the state does not have the manpower to manage risks and such shocks as the Covid-19.”

The World Bank has estimated that by 2030, most of these nations will make up of 2/3rds of the world population that is living in poverty. These nations include Libya, South Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen to name just a few.  

As Covid-19 spreads, the nations that are most affected by Fragility, Conflict and Violence are the worst hit. This is because most of them are unable to adhere to the basic guidelines prescribed by WHO to control the spread of the virus. Social distancing, tracing, testing has become difficult in refugee camps, conflict regions, etc.

There is limited capacity for procurement at large scale. This includes PPE, masks, sanitizers, soaps, gloves, etc. Further, there is less investment and medical resources  at their disposal. It is worth noting that all those countries affected by  Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) have spend merely 1.5 percent of their GDP in their health sectors, compared to 5.9 spent globally.

There are other emergencies these countries are also facing. Measles, malaria for example are ongoing battles in which Covid-19 has added more complications. 

What is the economic impact behind how Covid-19 is affecting the FCV countries?

According to the World Bank estimated, we are going to hae to face the deepest recession in more than five decades with huge impact on the most vulnerable populations in the FCV countries. GDP is going to fall for more than 10percent. Congo, South Sudan and Iraq will also have to suffer under the oil price drops as well. We are estimating that worldwide, as many as 18 million people will be affected by extreme poverty.

Those relying on remittances will be severely affected. In 2019 itself, there was a record of $57 million gone in remittance. Tehre will be a sharp drop by 20 percent this year because there is a global impact due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  Migrants are not going to be able to send back money home. These countries where remittances are a popular mode of existence are already facing pre-existing fragilities and vulnerabilities.

How is World Bank and its partners help these vulnerable FCV nations combat the pandemic crises?

Undeniably, Covid-19 has further threatened their already fragile systems that is being driven to a collapse. We are more concerned about the growing social tension and unrest. Right now, in many nations rampaged by internal strife, extremist groups are again trying to exploit this situation, seeing a window of opportunity to step up their attacks. There are further reports on interpersonal violence, gender based violence is on the increase as well. We are looking at ways to enter these conflict zones in a sensitive manner. Our aim is to “strengthen conflict resilience through community engagement. There is also an urgent need to support those households that are most marginalized. This includes women, children and the handicapped.” But all in all, there is a focused approach through programs and financial aids to create more resilient recovery formats that can be replicated by the concerned governments too.

Will NATO have a future?
Geopolitics

Will NATO have a future?

Politicians and analysts on both sides of the Atlantic agree in considering Libya the testbed for NATO’s future. If the Turkish and Russian intervention in Libya will affect, probably in a negative way, the fate of the alliance, a military escalation between Athens and Ankara can determine its collapse. NATO already faces four challenges that seriously threaten its existence: strategic drift, inadequate capabilities, financial problems, and poor coordination with other international organizations.

After the fall of the Berlin wall, NATO found itself dealing with an existential dilemma as its antagonist disappeared. In the late 1990s, NATO updated its Strategic Concept, integrated in 2004 by a Comprehensive Political Guidance (CPG).The CPG reaffirmed the collective defense provided for in Article V of the Treaty. For the globalists, he stressed the need for NATO to be prepared to face a wide range of missions, including those outside the Euro-Atlantic area. In short, the document did little to resolve the debate on NATO’s ultimate goals. For example, is the mission in Afghanistan to be considered a precedent or an exception? Should the alliance focus on protecting the Euro-Atlantic area or promoting its values in the world?

Unfortunately, the alliance never stopped to reflect. On the contrary, it has worked tirelessly to launch a new strategic command, create new capabilities such as the NATO Response Force and undertake new missions.One failure after another, which led the organization to drift.The Organization suffers from physiological deficiencies. Insufficiencies exist in critical areas such as strategic transportation, air-to-air supplies, and the intelligence, command, control, and communication system. Troop deployment problems continue to plague European members of the alliance. As a result, several NATO members struggle to make substantial contributions to their missions.

All this has led the French president to define NATO “clinically dead” in 2019. An evident concept today, when in the Mediterranean Sea, we are witnessing incidents between member countries, with hostile Turkish acts towards its allies, France, Cyprus, and Greece.Finally, to make the future of the Alliance even more uncertain there is the constant American withdrawal from the area. US President Donald Trump has withdrawn his troops stationed in Afghanistan and most of the contingents in Europe.

The Trump administration has moved to substantially cut its contribution to NATO’s collective budget. Previously the US provided some 22% of NATO’s direct funding, which covers the cost of maintaining the NATO headquarters, joint security investments and some combined military operations.It’s a largely symbolic move as NATO’s direct budget is relatively small, at about $2.5 billion, and is separate from national defense budgets that NATO recommends should stand at 2% of GDP. According to US defense officials, the Trump administration sought to reduce its contribution to about 16%, bringing it in line with Germany’s, which provides 14.8% despite the US having a larger economy. Trump has long slammed NATO allies, particularly Germany for not meeting the 2% NATO defense spending target, which only eight of 29 members currently meet. All members pledged to reach the 2% level by 2024 but not all of them currently have plans to do so. Member countries have boosted defense spending considerably in recent years, something Trump has claimed credit for.

Nepalese record shows China has been encroaching into its land
Geopolitics

Nepalese record shows China has been encroaching into its land

Recent media reports say China has been encroaching into Nepalese territory in the guise of road construction.

According to a report accessed by ANI news agency, the Nepalese government report has noted that China has been encroaching Nepalese land while building roads in the Tibetan region.

The report has been prepared by the country’s Survey department, which comes under the Agriculture Ministry. The report also adds that China may also set up border outposts along the Nepal-Tibet border.

The Survey Department reports say there are ten places in which China has encroached. China has encroached over about 33 hectares of land and has diverted river flows. Rivers act as the natural boundary between the two countries.

The Chinese government has been building roads and connectivity in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). The flow of rivers has changed due to these constructions. Some of these rivers are entering into Nepal. Rivers flowing into the Nepalese region is shrinking land. If river flow is controlled, the report adds, Nepal will end up giving up its territory. 

The report accessed by ANI adds that 10 hectares of land have been impacted in the Humla district. Constructions in TAR has diverted Bagdare and Karnali rivers. In Rasuwa district, at least six hectares of land have been lost as construction has diverted Sinjen, Bhurjuk, and Jambu Khola rivers.

In Sindhupalchowk district, 11 hectares of land is claimed by China. China claims these areas fall under TAR. In these areas, the diversion has impacted Kharane Khola and Bhote Kosi rivers.

In Sankhuwasabha district, nine-hectare of Nepal’s land has been encroached due to changes in the flow of Sumjung, Kam Khola, and Arun rivers.

The survey report adds that Nepal might lose more tracts of land if any timely action is not taken.

Nepal had constructed pillars to demarcate border way back in the 1960s. There is about 100 pillar to demarcate the border in the north along with China.

China, in recent times, has adopted a very expansionist policy with its neighbours.

Recently, the Indian army and Chinese soldiers fought in Galwan Valley in Ladakh over territorial control claims.

China also has disputes over islands in South China and East China sea.

Mediterranean: a geopolitically too crowded sea
Geopolitics

Mediterranean: a geopolitically too crowded sea

The Mediterranean Sea has become, over the past few years, an arena for confrontation of various state actors, committed to pursuing their geopolitical strategy and their respective interests in the area. Geopolitical competition in the Mediterranean ignited as a consequence of the progressive withdrawal of the United States from the region, now increasingly focused on other strategic objectives, but still ready to intervene when their central interests are in danger. That opened opportunities for maneuver for several states, triggering growing competition to increase regional geopolitical influence.

To this, we must add the discovery of large gas fields in the area, in particular straddling the exclusive economic zones (Zee) of Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel (for a total value of 700 billion dollars). And the political instability following the so-called Arab Springs, which also led to the onset of civil conflicts in Syria and Libya, which turned into proxy wars between the regional and world powers.The combination of these factors makes the eastern and central Mediterranean one of the hottest areas in the global geopolitical panorama.

Without a doubt, Erdogan’s Turkey has proven to be one of the most active and dynamic actors in recent months, looking for a room for maneuver and a level of influence in the regional dynamics. Ankara is taking on an extremely active and sometimes aggressive posture towards various players in the region.On the one hand, the repeated trespassing of Turkish fighters in the Hellenic skies and the claim advanced against some islands of the Aegean Sea under Greek sovereignty has heightened tensions with the government of Athens.

On the other hand, repeated raids by Turkish military and drilling vessels in Cypriot waters have exacerbated frictions with Nicosia, as in the case of the drilling vessel Yavuz, which operates provocatively and without authorization in block 8 of the Cyprus Zee.Finally, the agreement with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), chaired by Fayez al Serraj, on the division of the Zee, and the logistical and military support provided to Tripoli, as well as the involvement in alternate phases in the war in Syria, confirms the Ankara’s will to play a leading role in the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean Sea - Mediterranean: a geopolitically too crowded sea
Mediterranean Sea

In addition to Greece, another opponent of Ankara in the competitionfor the eastern Mediterranean is Cairo. Over the past few years, relations between Turkey and Egypt have gradually deteriorated, especially since the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, took power in 2013.The match between Ankara and Cairo does not only present ideological characters, important but secondary in the overall calculation. The stake is on the one hand in the leadership of the region and Middle East, and on the other in extending its influence and affirming its interests on the main issues at stake.

The EU cannot counter third countries that make excessive maritime claims nor can it take its own measures to resolve disputes. It can just put political pressure or facilitate dialogue. This occurred at the onset of the Slovenian-Croatian dispute over the Pyran Bay. The EU also does not always take a position on the matter, as the case of the Algerian claim on a Zee that overlaps the Italian and Spanish spaces. Instead, the EU supports the development of the energy autonomy of the Member States, providing them with indirect support for offshore maritime claims. While France take position against Turkey, Italy remains cold and silent in the face of ongoing disputes. Rome by the way signed in early June a Memorandum of Understanding with Athens to protect its interests. Tripoli, on the subject of controversy over its EEZ, also recalled that it had resolved its problems with Tunisia and Malta before the International Court of Justice.

How much will China stretch itself?
Geopolitics

How much will China stretch itself?

In the spate of recent clashes in Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control, with the Indian army, it might appear as if the Chinese government is trying to spread its footprint around neighbours and in other parts of the world.

The recent clashes that took place in the Valley brought back memories of the Indo China war of 1962. The latest fight is one of the most serious confrontations between the forces of the two most populous countries in decades.

The damage done by the latest confrontation will take decades to heal.

China’s growing proximity to India’s neighbor has made India rethink its foreign policy narrative. China’s growing dominance in the Indian Ocean has been flagged, and nations have expressed concern over this.

For the past two years or so, border skirmishes and intrusion by the Chinese army has been on a spike. While China is investing heavily in India, such violent incidents can create newer fault lines between the two sides that can cross over. 

With China tightening control over Hong Kong and flexing its muscles in the South China Sea, observers are now analyzing what could be China’s next step to assert itself.

While tightening control on Hong Kong has drawn sharp reactions from the US, UK, and other major powers, China naming all islands has provoked much-restrained concerns from its neighbouring countries.

China is already engaged in a diplomatic war with the US, Australia, and other countries that have accused China of spreading the coronavirus. Spat with the US at the WHO has only gotten louder and louder.

The Chinese regime has been harsher towards Taiwan in recent years.

In all of these actions, lies the goals set by General Secretary Xi Jinping for the country. When Xi became to power in 2012, he had set two goals for the nation.   

The leader wants to make China “fully developed, rich, and powerful” by 2049. Analysts argue if the current chaos due to the COVID-19 pandemic allows the mainland to flex its muscles and claim its position at the top of the power hierarchy.

COVID-19: Low cost Dexamethasone proves to be first life-saving drug
Geopolitics

COVID-19: Low cost Dexamethasone proves to be first life-saving drug

In a major breakthrough for treatment of Coronavirus infection, UK’s Oxford University scientists have identified Dexamethasone, a steroid drug of significantly reducing mortality in patients with severe respiratory complications.

Dexamethasone is a low cost steroid drug that is used for treatment of asthma, allergies and rheumatoid arthritis.

The UK experts say that this is a major breakthrough in the treatment of coronavirus infection as Dexamethasone is a widely available and cheap drug. The drug is a part of the world’s biggest trial for testing the existing treatments regarding their efficacy.

The study reports that dexamethasone use can reduce the deaths by one-third in patients on ventilators and by one-fifth in those on oxygen therapy.

The researchers in Oxford University suggest that if the drug had been used since beginning of pandemic in the UK, it could have saved lives of up to 5000 patients who couldn’t survive the virus. Furthermore, the fact that this drug is cheap and widely available makes it advantageous for poor countries with high Covid-19 case tally to avail the benefits of this drug.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrated this achievement by the researchers in the direction of Coronavirus treatment. He said, “We have taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak.” UK government has over 200,000 courses of dexamethasone in stockpile. NHS will be making the drug available to patients soon, said UK health secretary Matt Hancock.

The trial

The trial which began in March in NHS hospitals in the UK, began with 2,104 patients being given 6 mg of dexamethasone once a day for 10 days, orally or through intravenous injection. This sample was compared with control sample of 4,321 patients who were not given the drug.

Dexamethasone was found to reduce the mortality in one-third of ventilated patients and one-fifth in patients only on oxygen therapy.

Dexamethasone status in India

In India, dexamethasone is widely available in form of injectables and tablets, and is used in treatment of sepsis and other life threatening infections. The annual sale of the drug is of over INR 100 crore. The largest manufacturer of the drug in India is Ahmedabad based Zydus Cadila. Many small scale manufacturers also produce the drug.

Zydus Cadila chairman Pankaj Patel said, “There are enough supplies in India. It’s been used for over four decades in several indications and is very affordable.”

The price of dexamethasone is capped under Drug Price Control Order, at INR 5-6 per injection.  

Effects of Dexamethasone

Statistics show that of 20 patients of coronavirus, 19 recover without having to be admitted in hospitals. These patients may require ventilators or oxygen therapy and are considered to be high risk patients. Dexamethasone appears to be helpful in these patients.

The drug has anti-inflammatory properties for which it is indicated in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and many skin ailments.

When body’s immune system goes into overdrive to fight off the coronavirus infection, some damage appears to be caused in body. Dexamethasone helps to stop or minimize this damage. This overdrive, also known as “cytokine storm” can be deadly. The researchers however warn against over the counter use of this drug. Dexamethasone does not show any effects on patients with milder symptoms.

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