Pedestrians in Qianmen area of Beijing (Representative image ) | Photo: Qilai Shen | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate several countries across the world — the latest count is 79,96,874 cases and more than 4,35,665 deaths.

The outbreak in Beijing’s food market has worsened and has now more than 79 infections. There is widespread paranoia among residents of Russia’s communal housing, which house more than 20 people in an apartment. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka holds a mock election before its 5 August parliamentary poll and millions of girls may never go back to school after the pandemic.

ThePrint brings you the most important global stories on the coronavirus pandemic and why they matter.  

Beijing market outbreak worsens

After 36 new cases of coronavirus were reported Sunday at a food market in China’s capital Beijing, the government has locked down about 10 residential blocks to prevent any further surge in infections, reports the South China Morning Post.

This has also prompted the Chinese authorities to sack the market boss and some local officials.

Sun Chunlan, the country’s vice-premier has said that the risk of “latest outbreak” spreading was “very high” because of the market’s size, density, and highly mobile population. Chunlan also said that “firm and decisive measures” were required to deal with the crisis.

“The new cases bring the number of people affected in the capital by the latest outbreak to 79 – all of them linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, a food distribution centre in southern Beijing which occupies 107 hectares and supplies food to northern provinces like Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning,” notes the report.

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Paranoia of living in Russia’s cramped communal houses during the pandemic

For thousands of Russians living in cramped communal apartments, with more than 20 residents per house, social distancing and self-isolation is hardly an option, leading to widespread paranoia, reports The New York Times.

These apartments are a relic of the Soviet era, but still provide housing for many, and are based mostly in St Petersburg.

“From a half-dozen to more than 20 people live in separate rooms within a single apartment, typically one to a family, while sharing a kitchen and bathroom in one large, usually unhappy, household. In St. Petersburg, about 500,000 people live in communal apartments, constituting 10 percent of the city’s population,” states the report.

“Life in communal apartments has always bordered on intolerable. The rules for close-quarters living among people who may despise one another are delicate. Feuds are common,” it adds.

The pandemic has made matters worse for those residing in these communal houses.

Currency protests take over Lebanon

Lebanon’s currency has depreciated over 70 per cent since October — mostly due to economic mismanagement and the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic — and as a result, many parts of the country are seeing raging protests, unlike ever before, reports CNN.

The country mostly depends on imports for survival, and the sudden crash in the value of Lebanese currency has made even the most basic food items very expensive suddenly.

As a consequence, several Lebanese protestors have taken to the streets, in some instances even in areas controlled by the Hezbollah’s strongholds, an unusual sight. 

Pandemic and Brexit deadlines

After the UK officially left the European Union (EU) in January, the subsequent plans to negotiate a framework determining UK and EU’s post-Brexit relationship were derailed due to the pandemic. Now, the two sides face a series of stiff deadlines, reports the BBC, which looks at the specific kind of sacrifices both need to make to be able to reach an agreement.

“First off, Brexit has, of course, ‘happened’. The UK left the EU at the end of January. But we’re not yet living the next chapter. The transition period we’re in means that, in practical terms, little has changed. The UK is still a member of the EU’s single market and customs union,” notes the report.

“The EU and UK have until the end of this month – according to the Withdrawal Agreement, aka the Brexit divorce deal – to call for an extension to transition. But the UK government has long rejected the idea. On Friday, the EU publicly accepted that UK “no” as definitive. So, there are six months left to negotiate, sign and seal the parameters of the UK’s future relationship with its biggest and closest trade partner,” it adds.

Sri Lanka holds mock election

In an attempt to figure out what future elections in the pandemic era could look like, Sri Lanka held mock elections to test its anti-coronavirus voting measures, reports the BBC.

“Voters wore face masks, stood 1m (3ft) apart in queues and brought their own pens and pencils to mark ballot papers. Officials were protected by plastic screens or face shields, and sprayed disinfectants on voters,” notes the report.

The country’s parliamentary election was scheduled to take place in April, but has now been postponed to 5 August.

“Sunday’s trial run was held in four of the country’s 22 electoral districts. It was designed to get voters used to the new system and see if extra voting time was needed,” adds the report.

Poverty and populism have made Latin America the pandemic epicentre

A combination of poverty and populism worsened the pandemic across Latin American countries, which have seen the number of infections rise despite lockdowns, shows a new long-read by the Financial Times.

Now, the continent might be forced to grapple with another decade marked with intense debt troubles, something that has troubled Latin American countries in the past, especially the 1980s and 1990s.

“Home to just 8 per cent of the global population, Latin America is now suffering half the world’s new coronavirus deaths,” notes the report.

Peru’s case highlights how the Latin American model seems to have failed. The country’s government got a lot of initial praise for quickly responding to the crisis and imposing a timely lockdown. But three months after, Peru is struggling to control the virus. In a country of 32 million people, there are more than 2,00,000 infections.

“One of the key reasons the government’s measures have failed to work, experts say, is the country’s very large informal economy, covering around 70 per cent of the workforce,” explains the report.

As kids stay out of school, millions of girls might never go back 

Researchers who have looked at previous epidemics such as Ebola, point to how it led to girls not returning to schools, as compared to boys. Now there are fears that the coronavirus pandemic might lead to similar outcomes, forcing millions of girls to abandon studies, reports the Washington Post.

“Global shutdowns have pushed about 1.5 billion students out of school since March, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, including 111 million girls in the world’s least developed countries,” according to the report.

“Parents in more traditionally conservative nations tend to prioritize the education of their sons, experts say. In West and Central Africa, 73 percent of boys older than 15 can read, compared with 60 percent of girls in the same age group. So when families lose income, they’re more likely to stretch the budget on schooling for boys, said Laila Gad, UNICEF’s representative in Liberia, a former Ebola hot spot,” it adds.

How data became the most powerful tool to fight the epidemic

feature by New York Times Magazine looks at how data has been at the heart of fighting pandemics since the 19th century.

“At this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves in a situation not all that different from the Victorians, despite the vast gulf in scientific, technological and medical expertise that separates us from them,” notes the feature.

“We lack vaccines to protect the uninfected; no drug has yet emerged to cure Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Our main protection right now is the one that (William) Farr (19th century doctor and statistician) began building almost two centuries ago: the collection and analysis of data. Data lets us see where the disease is spreading and where health care systems are likely to be overrun. It allows us to calculate infection rates and map hot spots down to the level of ZIP codes,” it adds.

What else we are reading:

Slowing the Coronavirus Is Speeding the Spread of Other Diseases: The New York Times

Record spikes in new coronavirus cases, hospitalisations sweep parts of US: Straits Times

France announces significant lifting of restrictions: BBC

The Pandemic Claims New Victims: Prestigious Medical Journals: The New York Times

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