Factly articles for 20th May 2020

1.India, U.S. to collaborate on COVID-19 vaccine trials, say U.S. health officials

News: India and the U.S have decided to work together on vaccine research and testing for COVID-19 under the Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program(VAP).


  • The Indo-US Vaccine Action Programme(VAP) is a bilateral programme established in 1987.
  • Aim: To develop and evolve joint R&D projects towards development of safe and efficacious vaccines against some of the major communicable diseases that presently take a large toll in India & USA.
  • Nodal Agencies: U.S. National Institutes of Health, Indian Department of Biotechnology(DBT) and Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) along with other partners.

Additional Facts:

Global Vaccine Action Plan(GVAP):

  • It is a framework adopted at the 65th World Health Assembly in 2012 to achieve the vision of the Decade of Vaccines 2011-2020(DoV).
  • Aim: To prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities.

2.Govt accepts Shekatkar recommendations to boost border roads projects

News: The Government of India has accepted and implemented three important recommendations relating to border infrastructure made by the Shekatkar Committee.


  • The Shekatkar Committee was set up by the Government of India to recommend measures on enhancing Combat Capability and Rebalancing Defence Expenditure.

Key Recommendations accepted and under implementation:

  • Speeding up road construction and outsourcing road construction work beyond optimal capacity of the Border Roads Organisation(BRO).
  • Mandatory to adopt Engineering Procurement Contract(EPC) mode for execution of all works costing more than Rs 100 crore.
  • Delegating enhanced procurement powers from Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 100 crore to BRO for domestic and foreign procurements.
  • Introducing advanced new technologies to speed up construction such as precision blasting, use of geo-textiles for soil stabilisation using cementitious base for pavements and plastic coated aggregates for surfacing.

Other Key Recommendations:

  • India’s defence budget should be in the range of 2.5 to 3% of the GDP.
  • A Joint Services War College for training middle-level officers should be established.
  • The Military Intelligence School at Pune should be converted to a tri-service intelligence training establishment.

3.India provides 2 million USD aid to United Nations Relief and Works Agency(UNRWA)

News: India has given USD 2 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) working for the welfare of Palestinian refugees.


  • The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was established by the United Nations in 1949.
  • Purpose: To provide assistance and protection for registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.
  • Refugees: The term refugee covers Palestinian who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine War.
  • Areas of Operation: 
    • The aid is provided in five areas of operation namely Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
    • The aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.
  • Funding:
    • It is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States.
    • It also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations which is used mostly for international staffing costs.
  • Significance: It is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict.

4.6.5-km two-lane tunnel road to Wayanad gets the nod

News: The Union government has given the nod for a two-lane tunnel road in the Anakkampoyil-Kalladi-Meppadi corridor.


  • The Anakkampoyil-Kalladi-Meppadi corridor will run parallel to the Thamarassery pass that links Kozhikode to Wayanad.
  • On completion, the 6.5-km tunnel will be the third longest in the country after Chenani-Nashri tunnel (9.2 km) and Banihal-Qazigund tunnel (8.5km) from Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Kerala’s longest is the 962-metre tunnel at Kuthiran between Thrissur and Palakkad.

5.Scientists Have Discovered New Species of Fungus

News: Scientists have discovered a new species of fungus which has been named as Troglomyces Twitteri.


  • Troglomyces Twitteri: It is a type of parasitic fungus.It belongs to an order called Laboulbeniales — tiny fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes.
  • These fungi live on the outside of host organisms and in this case on the reproductive organs of millipedes.

Additional Facts:

  • Millipedes: They are a group of arthropods that are characterised by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments.They are known scientifically as the class Diplopoda.

6.Super Cyclone Amphan Is Set to Hit India and Bangladesh

News: Cyclone Amphan has intensified into a super cyclonic storm and is expected to make landfall between West Bengal and Bangladesh close to Sundarbans.


Cyclone Amphan:

  • Cyclone Amphan is a tropical cyclone formed over Bay of Bengal that has turned into a super cyclonic storm.
  • The Cyclone Amphan is also the strongest storm to have formed in the Bay of Bengal since the super cyclone of 1999 that ravaged Paradip in Odisha.

Why does the Bay of Bengal receive higher Cyclones compared to Arabian Sea?

  • Higher Rainfall: Bay of Bengal receives higher rainfall which provides required humidity for cyclone formation.
  • Location: The typhoons originating in the Pacific Ocean too influence the cyclones in BOB not the case in Arabian Sea.
  • Constant Inflow of Fresh Water: The inflow from the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers makes it impossible for the warm water to mix with the cooler water making it ideal for a cyclonic depression.
  • Sluggish Winds: It keeps temperatures relatively high of about 28 degrees around the year.

Reasons responsible for intensification of Cyclones in Bay of Bengal:

  • In 2020, the Bay of Bengal has observed record summer temperatures due to global warming from fossil fuel emissions that have been heating up oceans.
  • However, such unusual warming around India is no longer restricted to just the BoB but also the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.It makes storm prediction less reliable as well as disrupting monsoon patterns.
  • Further, reduced particulate matter emissions during the lockdown resulted in fewer aerosols such as black carbon that are known to reflect sunlight and heat away from the surface.

Classification of Cyclones: The criteria followed by Indian meteorological Department(IMD) to classify Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and in the Arabian Sea are as under:

            Types of DisturbancesAssociated Wind Speed in the Circulation
              Low Pressure Area            <31 km/hr
              Depression          31-49 km/hr
              Deep Depression          50-61 km/hr
              Cyclonic Storm          62-88 km/hr (Here,IMD assigns the                                      name to Cyclone)
              Severe Cyclonic Storm          89-118 km/hr
              Very Severe Cyclonic Storm          119-221 km/hr
              Super Cyclonic Storm          >222 km/hr

7.Sun reportedly entering ‘Solar Minimum’: What does it mean?

News: The sun is said to have reached into a state of ‘solar minimum’ as it has been more than 100 days since the sunspots are virtually not visible at all.


  • Solar Minimum: It is the period of least solar activity in the 11-year solar cycle of the Sun.During this time, sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes and often does not occur for days at a time.
  • Concerns: It may cause health risks to astronauts travelling through space as the sun’s magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from these cosmic rays.

Additional Facts:

  • Solar Cycle: It is the cycle that the Sun’s magnetic field goes through approximately every 11 years.
  • Sunspots:
    • These are areas that appear dark on the surface of the Sun.They appear dark because they are cooler than other parts of the Sun’s surface.
    • The temperature of a sunspot is still very hot though at around 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Why are sunspots relatively cool: It’s because they form at areas where magnetic fields are particularly strong.These magnetic fields are so strong that they keep some of the heat within the Sun from reaching the surface.
  • Solar Flares: It is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots.