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Donald Trump & top US defense officer disagree on Covid origins, Uber fires 14% workforce

A look at the biggest news stories from around the world on the coronavirus pandemic.

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New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic continues to devastate several countries across the world — the latest count is 38,20,736 cases and more than 2,65,094 deaths. The highest surge continues to be in the US.

The North American giant is planning economic attacks on China, but US President Donald Trump’s top defence official disagrees with him over the origins of the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, Uber is cutting 14 per cent of its workforce, and two-thirds of Africans might run out of food within 14 days of lockdown.

ThePrint brings you the most important global stories on the Covid-19 pandemic and why they matter.

US to step up economic action against China

As the pandemic continues to ravage the US, the White House and the Congress are now considering the idea of matching their anti-China rhetoric with serious economic costs on Beijing for covering up the outbreak, the Financial Times is reporting.

“The White House and Capitol Hill are looking to match the anti-Beijing rhetoric with steps to curb supply chains and investment flows, according to public remarks by administration officials, congressional aides, and industry lobbyists in Washington,” the report says.

This comes just months after the US-China managed to reach a partial trade deal – marking the end of nearly two years of trade-centric hostility, that had disrupted a large part of the global trading system, FT writes.

Now US President Donald Trump has said he will assess whether China has been compliant towards the trade deal over the next two weeks. If the findings by the Trump administration suggest that China has not been complying with aspects of the trade deal, it could use that as a basis for economically punishing China.

But the Trump administration has already initiated some action against China.

“The White House has taken some economic steps that will unnerve Beijing. It has tightened export controls curbing semiconductor sales to China, opened the door for the government pension fund to stop investing in some Chinese companies and moved to limit imports of electrical equipment used in the US power grid,” notes FT.

Also read: India looks to lure US businesses from China as Trump keeps up tirade on coronavirus

Uber is cutting 14 per of its global workforce

Bogged down by pandemic-induced lockdowns across the world, the world’s leading cab-service provider Uber announced Wednesday that it would cut 3,700 jobs or 14 per cent of its global workforce, Business Insider reports.

“Due to lower trip volumes in its Rides segment and the Company’s current hiring freeze, the Company is reducing its customer support and recruiting teams,” notes a statement by Uber.

As of 31 December 2019, Uber had 26,900 employees across the world.

Pentagon’s top-official weighs in on Trump-Pompeo claims about ‘man-made virus’

The US Pentagon’s top official, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army General Mark Milley said all evidence suggests that the virus that has caused a pandemic was natural and not man-made or genetically modified, The Hill is reporting.

US President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have stepped up attacks on China and accused it of building this virus at a lab in Wuhan.

Now that Pentagon – the country’s department of defence – has publicly contradicted Trump, it has further split the US administration on the matter.

“The weight of evidence — nothing’s conclusive — the weight of evidence is that it was natural and not man-made. The second issue is, was it accidentally released, did it release naturally into the environment or was it intentional? We don’t have conclusive evidence in any of that, but the weight of evidence is that it was probably not intentional,” Milley said, according to the report.

Covid-19 causes calls of impeachment of Jair Bolsonaro

An uncontrolled Covid-19 outbreak in Brazil is causing major political problems for President Jair Bolsonaro, the Al Jazeera is reporting. After being accused of mishandling the pandemic, facing accusations of intervening in investigations against his sons, he is now met with calls of impeachment.  

Bolsonaro’s justice minister, Sergio Moro, resigned in late April, accusing the president of interfering in an investigation and firing the federal police chief for personal and political reasons,” the report says.

A new 45-minute televised speech by Moro against Bolosonaro has led to calls of impeachment against the Brazilian President. And according to a survey by Datafolha, nearly 50 per cent Brazilians support the impeachment move.

Analysts say that while the former army captain still maintains enough support to heed off the impeachment threat, he is treading lightly and continues to risk further isolation,” notes Al Jazeera.

Also read: Winter is coming for Australia, along with fears of spike in Covid infections

Baltic states to create ‘travel bubble’ as pandemic curbs eased

Three Baltic countries Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are planning to open their borders to each other starting 15 May, creating a little “travel bubble” within the European Union, the Reuters is reporting. All the three countries are planning to lift their respective lockdowns from 15 May onwards.

“The Baltic travel area would be first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travellers as the coronavirus spread across the continent,” the report states.

“Citizens of the three countries will be free to travel within the region, but anyone entering from outside will need to self-isolate for 14 days, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said,” it further notes.

Bolivia’s interim president using Covid-19 to delay elections and stay in power

The Covid-19 pandemic is making it nearly impossible to hold elections and this seems to be suiting Bolivia’s interim president Jeanine Áñez, the GZero Media is reporting.

“Áñez, an outspoken conservative, took power last fall after the Andean country’s long-serving leftist president Evo Morales was ousted amid protests over election fraud,” the report notes. Back then, Áñez was expected to stay in power for a few weeks to put the house in order and then make way for fresh elections. Áñez has now launched her own candidacy and is refusing to hold elections given the pandemic.

“The election was supposed to have been held last weekend, but was cancelled over public health concerns. Now parliament, still controlled by Morales’ party, has voted to hold the ballot within 90 days. But Áñez, who is polling behind Morales’ preferred candidate despite her well-regarded response to the coronavirus pandemic, says that’s too soon to do it safely,” the report says.

“That sets up a bitter fight in an already deeply polarized country, and it doesn’t help that low oil prices are throttling Bolivia’s gas-exporting economy,” it notes.

Study says Covid-19 could have jumped into humans as early as October

Researchers from University College London and University of Reunion Island have found that the Covid-19 pandemic might have started as early as October 2019, the South China Morning Post is reporting.

“The pathogen, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is thought to have made the jump from initial host to humans some time between October 6 and December 11 last year, according to an article released on Tuesday and set to be published in an upcoming edition of the scientific journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution,” notes the report. 

“As debate on the origin of the virus continues, there is growing evidence to suggest the pandemic might have started earlier than first thought. A recent French study found that a European patient became infected with the coronavirus at the end of December, almost a month before it was previously thought to have arrived on the continent,” it adds.

Also read: Silicon Valley, that championed open community work spaces, won’t be the same post lockdown

Most Africans will run out of food during lockdown: Report

In worrying findings, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDCP) has come out with research pointing out that more than two-thirds of people in Africa would run out of food within 14 days of lockdown, the BBC is reporting.

The survey was carried out by the ACDCP across 20 African countries. Other findings suggest that if governments fail to react, it could lead to major social unrest across many of the surveyed nations

What we are reading:

Why Isn’t Trump Riding High?: The New York Times

Hoping Llamas Will Become Coronavirus Heroes: The New York Times

Is debt forgiveness a good idea?: GZero Media

Pandemic Lessons From an 18th-Century Reenactor: Wired

America’s coronavirus divide is reflected in two New Mexico mayors. One asked for a lockdown. The other defied orders: Washington Post

Also read: Netherlands moves to reopen businesses a week ahead as economies come alive across Europe


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