Daily Editorial Analysis for 18th March 2020

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Epicentre shifts: On coronavirus spread

A prediction model for COVID-19

GS Paper III

Topic: Science and Technology

Mains: Lessons that India can learn from other countries to contain covid-19 virus

What’s the News?

Iran recorded 16,169 cases and 988 deaths due to COVID-19 virus so far, it is in Europe that the virus seems to be galloping. There has been a shifting of the pandemic’s epicentre from China to Europe.

Lessons that India can learn:

  • Taiwan essentially cut the transmission chain even before the virus could gain a foothold in the country by airport screening, closing borders, raising awareness about the virus and the disease, and ways to minimise risk through handwashing and the use of face masks.
  • Singapore went after all suspect cases by testing all influenza-like and pneumonia cases and aggressively tracing contacts.
  • Making testing and treatment free for all its residents.
  • Shutting down schools and asking people to work from home.
  • South Korea’s massive community-level screening, contact tracing and quarantining after the outbreaks in two churches helped in containment.

A lesson from the pandemic is how containing an outbreak is dependent on quick public-health responses.

Models to predict the estimated number:

In a recent article on Cell Discovery in Nature, a group of Chinese scientists attempted to estimate the eventual number of infections and deaths due to the disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan.

SEIR Model:

  • An infectious disease dynamics model called SEIR (Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Resistant) was used to model and predict the number of COVID-19 cases.
  • The SEIR model proved to be predictive for a variety of acute infectious diseases like Ebola and SARS.
  • The model classifies the population into four mutually exclusive groups: susceptible (at risk of contracting the disease), exposed (infected but not yet infectious), infectious (capable of transmitting the disease), and removed (those who recover or die from the disease).
  • A susceptible individual can become exposed only through contact with some infectious person.

The infection rate represents the probability of transmission from an infectious person to a susceptible one.

The incubation rate (the reciprocal of the average duration of incubation) is the rate at which latent individuals become infectious; and the removal rate is the reciprocal of the average duration of infection.

The basic reproduction number (BRN) is the expected number of cases directly generated by one case. A BRN greater than one indicates that the outbreak is self-sustaining, while a BRN less than one indicates that the number of new cases decreases over time and eventually the outbreak will stop. Ideally, the BRN should be reduced in order to slow down an epidemic.


  • The BRN value for India is unknown due to inadequate data so far. However, it can be kept small by isolating patients and controlling infection by extensive checking at airports and other important places.
  • With 110 ‘active’ cases as on March 16, a BRN value of 0.5 might not be alarming. Let’s hope that it will remain so.

Technology Driven Policing

Paper: II

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • Ever since the police became a formal organisation nearly 150 years ago, there is global consensus that the police charter ought not to be restricted to a mere maintenance of peace in public places. It should focus equally on crime prevention and detection.
  • Traditional argument of criminologists is that while preventing a crime is arduous and usually beyond human capacity (because of the dimensions and complexities of modern society), solving a crime is relatively easy.
  • Looking at the new technology use India is banking on modernisation of policing with cutting age technology use.

Some of Modern Technology used by police in Developed Countries:

  • Body-Worn Cameras:
  • A lot of controversy lately has stemmed from body-worn cameras (BWCs). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 32% of local police departments equipped at least some of their officers with body cameras in 2013. Body cameras are applauded for their transparency into police work; they not only capture footage that can be used as evidence, but they also ensure police are not abusing their power by harassing innocent citizens or using unnecessary force.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles:
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) face concerns of privacy as well, but must also overcome their early stages to determine how their use will be regulated; laws concerning when and where they are used are still being written. UAVs are most effectively used to observe a scene that may be unsafe to enter or even impossible to get to.
  • Facial Recognition:
  • Facial recognition technology uses auto-focusing cameras to detect and identify faces using biometric identification to match faces in a system. Private companies like Google that use facial recognition have a higher accuracy rate of 99.63% .
  • However concerns are being raised, it can lead to bias by disproportionately and poorly identifying certain demographics like. Lawmakers are still determining new policies on facial recognition, both within law enforcement and private companies concerning privacy and consent.

Benefits of Technology for Law Enforcement Agencies:

  • Access to historical information can be easily queried:
  • Information in a database can be easily searched, and readily available to investigators, allowing agencies to carry out investigations with more precision and accuracy while limiting threats to officers.
  • Technology has contributed to having a more informed, efficient, and knowledgeable officer, who has the ability to spend more time on patrol and interfacing with the community.
  • Advance reporting capabilities enable officers to spend less time at their desk writing reports and recording information. It is much easier and timelier to create and edit reports with the electronic storing of information.
  • Communication among officers is more efficient:
  • Administrators are able to manage agency resources more efficiently, monitor crime trends and utilize assets with greater effectiveness.
  • Information sharing among agency members is needed to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from many incidents that are becoming an increasing threat to the safety of communities. Information sharing provides effective incident response and management, supporting the daily operations of agencies at all levels.
  • It is in the area of crime detection that the police in most nations have lost public confidence. Even police forces which have huge manpower and can afford to buy the latest technology have not exactly distinguished themselves in their efforts to boost success rates in solving crime.

Grounds on which Technological Policing Criticised:

  • A broad coalition of civil rights and civil liberty organizations is opposing predictive policing technologies calling the strategy profoundly flawed.
  1. The data driving predictive enforcement activities such as the location and timing of previously reported crimes, or patterns of community and officer-initiated calls may be profoundly limited and biased.
  2. Looking through the USA perspective, the major concern raised by the civic society is the low reliability of crime data. It is well known that crime data is notoriously suspect, incomplete, easily manipulated and plagued by racial bias there. For racial minorities and women, facial recognition systems have proven disproportionately less accurate.

Way Forward:

  • Technology has been adopted in many policing agencies worldwide as it is becoming more apparent that the benefits of such products outweigh the costs substantially.components, such as advanced searching, system-generated file reporting, metrics reporting, the powerful search facility, case tasking, and time, expense and asset management (to name a few) are key to assisting officers in conducting successful investigations and generating valuable intelligence.
  • With advances in technology, it’s not hard to see why police departments are taking advantage of modern offerings as a way of making their jobs safer and more effective. The latest innovations can make police work not only safer for officers, but the public as well, and provide ways of catching criminals like never before. Non-lethal weapons such as tasers, stun-guns and pepper spray can be used instead of guns to hinder criminals and makes arrests, and three-dimensional imaging scans crime scenes more effectively than sketches and photos.
  • Passing robust level legislation regulating the tech, working to eradicate the biases around it, and giving the public more insight into how it functions, would be a good first step toward a future in which this tech inspires less fear and controversy.

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