File image of Chinese President Xi Jinping | Photo: Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg
File image of Chinese President Xi Jinping | Photo: Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate countries across the world — the latest count is over 1.92 crore cases and more than 7.17 lakh deaths.

China’s foreign lending continues during the pandemic while cases in Africa have crossed the one million mark. Meanwhile, Uber Eats fails to offset losses by its ride-sharing parent company.

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

US-China warn each other about South China Sea, Taiwan

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe warned each other about escalating risks over the South China Sea and Taiwan, reports the South China Morning Post. 

The US-China diplomatic relations have substantially deteriorated since the pandemic spread across the world, and President Donald Trump has adopted an anti-China stance as one of his key re-election campaign messages.

The Esper-Wei talks are the highest level diplomatic talks between the two countries, since the “state leader Yang Jiechi met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hawaii in mid-June”.

“Esper expressed concerns about [the Chinese military’s] destabilising activity in the vicinity of Taiwan and the South China Sea, and called on [China] to honour international obligations” as well as share more of its data on Covid-19,” notes the report.

Also read: China tells banks, wealth fund to cut pay as economy slumps

China’s foreign lending continues during pandemic

China’s loans to 68 heavily indebted developing countries across the world doubled in the past four years, almost matching World Bank’s lending to these states, reports the Nikkei Asian Review. However, the pandemic brings with it new concerns.

“The coronavirus pandemic has brought the debt problem into the spotlight, as concerns mount about debt-laden countries cutting back spending on public health, leaving them more susceptible to surges in cases,” notes the report

The loans have not only helped China expand its global influence, but have also exposed the dependent countries to what’s come to be known as China’s debt trap diplomacy “that would bind them to China’s foreign policy goals, diplomatic initiatives and infrastructure drives”, it adds.

Politics of fiscal stimulus costs American citizens 

The ongoing politics at the Capitol Hill between US Democrats and Republicans regarding the size and the scope of the second relief package will potentially hurt the average American, argues an editorial in Financial Times.

“Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on the size or duration of another bill. Among the unseen victims in this tiff are the recipients of the extra $600 in weekly unemployment aid that passed in March. It ran out on July 31. Democrats want to extend it until the end of the year, while Republicans cite the moral hazard of disincentivising work. Democrats propose $3.4tn in total stimulus. Republicans balk at that cost,” notes the editorial.

“It is not frivolous to worry about intervention on this scale. It can have distorting effects and lead to waste … However, politicians must for now err on the side of action. ,” it adds.

Also read: Smell-loss survey suggests Covid is widespread in UK’s health workers

Brazil fighting dual setbacks

Many in Brazil have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and are now sliding back into poverty, something they had just escaped in the past couple of decades, reports the BBC.

The economic situation in Brazil had been deteriorating since 2014, and the arrival of the pandemic only exacerbated the situation.

“A mix of generous social programmes and a flourishing economy – fuelled by a decade-long commodities boom – helped lift some 36 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty between 2003 and 2014,” says the report.

“In recent years, some of these gains have unravelled as commodity prices slumped and a crippling recession hit, says Marcelo Côrtes Neri, a researcher and director of the think tank FGV Social. Some 3.4 million Brazilians slid back into extreme poverty between 2014 and 2018, FGV Social’s figures suggest,” it adds.

“Now, dealt a further blow by coronavirus, Brazil’s most vulnerable may be in for even tougher times ahead,” the report further notes.

Covid cases in Africa touch 1 mn 

More than 1 million Africans have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and yet the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the true number of infections in the continent is much higher, reports The Guardian.

“Some experts describe the official totals compiled by the World Health Organization from statistics supplied by governments as ‘the the tip of the iceberg’ and say the true total is 10 or even 100 times higher,” states the report.

“Low rates of testing, a lack of political will, prejudice against victims, poor infrastructure and communications are among the many factors that obscure the true picture of the pandemic’s impact on African countries,” it adds.

Also read: Mauritius has stamped out coronavirus. Now, it needs tourists

Social distancing in the skies comes at a cost 

While most governments are enforcing social distancing rules, these don’t really seem to apply on flights. And if passengers demand social distancing in the air, some airlines are asking them to pay for it, reports The Guardian.

“Without firm instructions from the government, policies differ significantly from one carrier to the next, and blocking seats to encourage social distancing is not yet a blanket policy,” notes the report.

For instance, American Airlines will be blocking 50 per cent of its economy seats, and the airline Emirates is introducing a “pre-allocated seat system so that vacant seats are placed between individual passengers”. However, this is far from the norm across airlines.

Uber Eats fails to offset ride-sharing losses of parent company 

As most people around the world are forced to stay at home, revenues of food delivery service provider Uber Eats have gone up.

However, the company still met with a 29 per cent overall decline in revenue, following a 75 per cent decrease in global cab services, reports the Financial Times.

“For the April-June quarter, Uber’s gross bookings — the total value of trips, deliveries and other Uber services — fell 35 per cent from the same period last year, to $10.2bn. The number of active users of Uber’s services fell by 44 per cent to 55m,” notes the report.

Also read: LA threatens to punish party-throwers by cutting off power

The unraveling of the fashion industry

A feature by The New York Times Magazine looks at how the pandemic brought about a logical conclusion to the fashion industry, which had stopped making sense much before the coronavirus was in the picture.

“If there was a turning point, it might have been fall 2008. The luxury market was already oversaturated, and now there was no one to buy the stuff … Relying on markdowns to generate revenue and training consumers to shop on sale. So now you had summer dresses arriving in January and being discounted before the weather would even allow you to wear them. The fashion cycle stopped making sense,” says the report.

And now the pandemic completely decimated the industry.

What else we are reading?

The COVID drug wars that pitted doctor against doctorThe New York Times 

A pregnant woman with Covid-19 was dying. With one decision, her doctors saved three lives: Washington Post 

World’s remotest Irish bar: ‘We will survive Covid’: BBC 

France records two-month high in cases: BBC

East Asians have Toronto’s lowest coronavirus infection rate: South China Morning Post 

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