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Fresh wave in China, White House struggles to control pandemic and other global Covid news

As the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of letting up, ThePrint highlights the most important stories on the crisis from across the globe.

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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate countries across the world — the latest count is 41,81,221 cases and 2,83,877 deaths.

A new wave of Covid-19 cases in South Korea, Germany, and China is threatening their attempts to reopen the economy. White House struggles to control coronavirus among its own staff. Meanwhile, as cargo ships and flights halt operations, Belt and Road trains are being used to ship goods.

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

New outbreaks in China, Korea & Germany restrict efforts to reopen economy

As the global economy continues to struggle with unprecedented economic slowdown, the effort to reopen the economy has been halted with fresh cases of Covid-19 in South Korea, Germany and China.

South Korea, which had not reported any new local cases in the past week, has reported 34 new cases and is now under increasing pressure to continue with social restrictions to control the pandemic.

In China, the government has decided to reimpose social restrictions in some areas after fresh cases were reported along the border with North Korea and in Wuhan, the original epicentre of the pandemic.

“Meanwhile, Germany has experienced a rise in the reproduction rate — the average number of people that each confirmed coronavirus patient infects — to above 1, just days after Angela Merkel’s government moved to relax the shutdown on public life in Europe’s biggest economy,” reported the Financial Times.

But the inability of governments to reopen the economy is now beginning to have major social impacts. This is especially evident in Germany. “Several MPs in Germany have warned of a radicalization of the nationwide protests against coronavirus restrictions. This weekend saw thousands of people taking to the streets in several cities across Germany to demonstrate against restrictions,” the Deutsche Welle is reporting.


Also read: How to reopen a country in lockdown? US looks to South Korea, Vienna for ideas


White House tries to control coronavirus in its own ranks

The White House is in a frenzied attempt to stop the virus from spreading among its own staff, the New York Times is reporting.

“Three top officials leading the government’s coronavirus response have begun two weeks of self-quarantine after two members of the White House staff — one of President Trump’s personal valets and Katie Miller, the spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence — tested positive. But others who came into contact with Ms Miller and the valet are continuing to report to work at the White House,” said the report.

“The discovery of the two infected employees has prompted the White House to ramp up its procedures to combat the virus, asking more staff members to work from home, increasing usage of masks and more rigorously screening people who enter the complex,” it further noted.


Also read: Covid threat reaches White House even as Trump tries to convince Americans to go back to work


As countries look to ease restrictions, Brazil can’t find a way to shut down

While many countries around the world are gradually beginning to lift lockdowns, Brazil — which has emerged as a major pandemic hotspot — still can’t find a way to impose a lockdown, says a report in the Washington Post. The country currently has over 16 lakh confirmed cases and over 11,000 dead.

“In hard-hit urban centers such as Rio de Janeiro, people still pack the streets. The boardwalks are still populated by beachgoers, including the elderly. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is still downplaying the threat, declaring last week he would celebrate the weekend with a massive barbecue. Following pushback, he rode a water scooter instead,” noted the Washington Post report.

“Rather than unifying the country against a common threat, the pandemic response is further dividing this deeply polarized society. Bolsonaro, whose instinct has been to do nothing, has deferred to state governors, who in turn have punted the responsibility of implementing the strictest measures to municipalities. The result has been a confederacy of conflicting and contradictory measures that change not only by state and city, but also by city section,” the report added.


Also read: With more daily deaths than UK, Brazil is new coronavirus hotspot


Shippers turn to Belt and Road trains during coronavirus lockdowns

With most cargo flights and ships having halted their operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, may shippers are now turning to trains developed by China’s Belt and Road Initiative to transport goods between Asia and Europe, reports the Nikkei Asian Review.

“These days, many European customers are exploring rail freight on the New Silk Road as an alternative and attractive transport mode. We are seeing a strong increase in volumes in both directions,” said Tim Scharwath, the chief executive of global freight forwarding at logistics operator DHL.

“Until recently, trains that arrived in Europe with nearly every freight car in use might head back east with dozens empty. But the relative cheapness and dependability of train services are now too compelling to ignore,” noted the report.


Also read: With masks & fever checks, it’s a ‘whole new world’ as Shanghai Disneyland reopens in China


British Pakistanis angry about coronavirus repatriation effort

UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth office has had to face major criticism by its British Pakistani population for what they claim was their effective abandonment in Pakistan during the coronavirus pandemic, Deutsche Welles is reporting.

“Thousands of British Pakistanis found themselves stuck in the country when on March 21, Pakistan shut its airspace to commercial flights due to the virus. On March 23, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, called for all British citizens to return with immediate effect,” said the report.

“The British government launched repatriation flights to a number of countries including Peru, India and Nepal. Around 75 million pounds (€85.6 million; $92.8 million) were earmarked for this operation, but Pakistan was not included in the charter scheme. This left stranded citizens at the mercy of Pakistan’s state airline, PIA, which repeatedly cancelled flights and refused to refund customers,” the report further said.


Also read: From Modi to Johnson, leaders are using the pandemic to suppress their critics


55 per cent of Japanese disappointed with government’s coronavirus response: Poll

A new poll conducted by Nikkei/TV Tokyo has shown that 55 per cent of Japanese do not have a favourable view of government’s coronavirus response.

“The negative rating among respondents grew by 11 percentage points from the previous poll in March, climbing to the highest since the question’s introduction in February. Those satisfied with the response slipped 9 points to 38%. Even among supporters of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, 35% lacked a positive view of the government response,” noted the report.

“The response of the Japanese authorities to COVID-19 has oscillated between hubris and confusion, highlighting a leadership that appears cosseted from the consequences of the policies they are in charge of formulating,” noted an article in The Hindu.

“A case in point is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. For weeks, Mr. Abe downplayed the seriousness of the unfolding pandemic, limiting testing, holding off from declaring a state of emergency, and bungling the handling of the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship docked at Yokohama port where over 700 passengers and crew eventually tested positive for COVID-19,” the article said.


Also read: Japan is set to approve remdesivir to treat coronavirus


Wall Street Banks’ ‘trading risk’ surges to highest since 2011

In a major development in the global financial markets, the ‘trading risk’ at Wall Street’s top banks have surged to their highest level since 2011, shows analysis by the Financial Times.

“The top five Wall St banks’ aggregate “value at risk”, which measures their potential daily trading losses, soared to its highest level in 34 quarters during the first three months of the year, according to Financial Times analysis of the quarterly VaR high disclosed in banks’ regulatory filings,” the report said.

“The measure is a key input into the total risk attached to banks’ trading businesses, which determines how much capital must be assigned to future trading activities. Spikes in VaR mean trading units need more capital, particularly in the short term, making them more expensive to run,” the report further said.


Also read: What US yield curve is, and why analysts say it signals optimism for global economy in 2020


How wildfires and then a pandemic made life hard in Australia

By the time Australia had just begun to recover from an extended season of deadly wildfires, the country was forced to shut down owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times is reporting.

“The more than 3,500 Australians whose homes were destroyed by last summer’s fires are facing a one-two punch of hardship that has few peacetime precedents and is generating growing concerns about victims’ safety and mental health,” said the report.

“The buffer of community events, rebuilding efforts and in-person therapy that sprang up after the fires has largely vanished as public health authorities have instructed Australians to have little to no contact with anyone outside their immediate households,” the report noted. “The sense of displacement that comes with isolation and the loss of basic possessions and familiar routines could lead to high levels of distress and depression, and potentially a spike in self-harm and suicide, experts said.”


Also read: Australia’s bushfires could become the new normal, warn climate scientists


What else we’re reading:

Coronavirus: The tide is coming for medicinal cannabis: DW News

The Airline Business Is Terrible. It Will Probably Get Even Worse: New York Times

How Pandemics End: New York Times

Zambia sex workers praised for contact tracing: BBC

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