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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate several countries across the world — the latest count is over 1 crore cases and more than 5 lakh deaths.

The US health secretary has warned that the window to halt the spread of the coronavirus is closing in the country. French President Emanuel Macron’s party loses a string of local elections and how the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the climate catastrophe.

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

US health secretary warns ‘window is closing’ to halt virus

The US Health Secretary Alex Azar Sunday warned that the window to halt the spread of coronavirus in the country is closing as a number of Southern states saw a record spike in new infections, reports the Financial Times.

At latest count, the US has recorded more than 26 lakh cases and 1.25 lakh deaths. It accounts for a quarter of the cases and deaths across the world. Several of the country’s southern states lifted lockdown restrictions quite early, ignoring federal recommendations that “recommend phased openings only once a state has recorded a fortnight-long reduction in cases.”

On Saturday, several of these states witnessed a massive surge in cases. Florida recorded 9,585 new cases while Arizona reported 3,591 new cases.

“The window is closing. We have to act, and people as individuals have to act, responsibly. We need to social distance, we need to wear our face coverings, said Azar.

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“He urged individual states to boost community-wide testing and collect blood plasma donated by patients who have recovered from the virus to bolster available treatments,” notes the Financial Times report.

Macron’s candidates lose in local French elections

In a major blow to French President Emanuel Macron, candidates from his four-year-old political party La Republique en Marche (LREM) lost the second round of local polls to other old established parties such as the Greens, Les Republicans, and the Socialists, reports the Financial Times.

“It was a good night for Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV), the French greens, with the party building on its strong performance in last year’s European elections to wrest the cities of Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux from Mr Macron and the centre-right,” notes the report.

Meanwhile in Paris, Anne Hidalgo, the city’s mayor from the Socialist Party, was re-elected, defeating Les Républicains’ Rachida Dati and Macron’s candidate Agnès Buzyn — the former health minister.

“Ms Hidalgo’s victory underlined the weakness of LREM three years after its national election victories of 2017. Its liberal, pro-Europe policies are widely supported by Parisians, but left-leaning and environmentalist members have started to drift away from Mr Macron, and its Paris campaign was marred by personality clashes and a sex scandal,” according to the Financial Times.

Regardless of Macron’s government’s relative success against the pandemic, resentment against his government has continued to grow over the past few months. His critics allege that he should have done “much more”.

Europe’s first socially-distanced election in Poland inconclusive

As Poland’s President Andrzej Duda fell short of securing a majority in the election Sunday, a run off would be held in two weeks between him and his challenger Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski of Warsaw, reports The New York Times.

“Poles turned out in droves, despite several obstacles. These included sweltering heat, lingering concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and long lines as polling stations gave each voter a zone of personal space three feet in all directions,” notes the report.

The runoff between Duda and Trzaskowski will be held on 12 July. Furthermore, the two candidates propose to take Poland in radically different directions. Duda is a Polish nationalist and his leadership has seen the country shed some of its democratic norms. Under his leadership, the country’s relationship with the European Union’s relationship has also deteriorated.

Meanwhile, Trzaskowski promises to bring his country closer to the EU, protect the LGBTQ community — who have been often targeted by the current regime — and “veto laws that he says pose a threat to Poland’s democratic institutions”.

Australia sees biggest daily rise since April

Australia has been hailed as one of the success stories during the pandemic, but with 85 new cases Sunday, the country is experiencing its largest single day hike, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Of these, 75 cases were confirmed in Victoria, seven in New South Wales and three in South Australia. Victoria recorded its fourth-highest single-day caseload since the start of the pandemic today, while in South Australia the three cases recorded are the first new cases in more than one month,” states the report.

A series of restrictions are being imposed in Victoria and the government is also considering a partial lockdown.

Dutch mastered work from home even before the pandemic 

As remote working becomes a part of the new normal across the world, Netherlands had cracked the logic of efficient working from home even before the pandemic set in, reports the BBC.

“While the percentage of employed persons usually working remotely before the coronavirus outbreak lingered at around 4.7% in the UK, and 3.6% in the US14.1% of the Netherland’s workforce reports usually working away from the office. The Netherlands has long led the global shift toward remote work, with only Finland catching up in recent years while other countries lag behind,” notes the report.

“Dutch people had certain advantages when we went into lockdown. ‘We’re fortunate enough to be a country where 98% of homes have high-speed internet access, and the Netherlands has the right combination of technology, culture, and approach to make remote working successful. I’m judged on whether I deliver value, not on the fact that I sit at a desk for nine hours a day,’ explains van Doorn who works at Auth0, a company that gives all its employees the option to work from home.

Boom for Chinese traditional medicine after controversial anti-Covid drug catches on

The coronavirus pandemic is being used by a leading Chinese traditional medicine manufacturer to boost its revenues, as a controversial drug inspired by an 1,800-year-old text is becoming standard therapy for Covid-19 across the country, reports the South China Morning Post.

“The huge popularity of the drug – the Lianhua Qingwen capsule – has produced massive fortunes for the company behind it, as well as its shareholders,” notes the report. “The capsule, developed in 2003 to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) during the outbreak, extracts the essence of 13 herbs based on prescriptions that date back to classic medical texts written during the Han dynasty (206BC – 220AD).”

In February, this drug became a part of the national standard therapy for Covid-19 patients.

The Lancet editor’s wild ride through the pandemic

In an interview with The New Yorker, Editor-in-Chief of prominent science journal The Lancet Richard Horton recounts his wild ride in the past few months as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world.

“The Lancet published five papers on the outbreak in the last week of January. In Britain, at least, Horton sensed that the authorities weren’t grasping the gravity of the crisis. On January 25th, he tweeted, ‘Few countries have the clinical capacity to handle this volume of acutely ill patients. Yet no discussion’,” notes the report.

“Since then, Horton, who is fifty-eight, has become one of the sharpest critics of the public-health response to the pandemic in Britain, the United States, and other nations whose governments have failed their populations,” it adds.

World’s climate catastrophe worsened during the pandemic

The forced lockdowns due to the pandemic led to a historical plunge in greenhouse gas emissions that in turn resulted in immediate but temporary change in environmental patterns such as the lifting of smog in certain cities.

Yet, the idea of pandemic “healing the nature” was always a stretch, and “carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are the highest they’ve been in human history, and possibly higher than in the past 3 million years,” reports the Washington Post.

“The specter of man-made climate change looms all the more ominously over a planet in the grips of a viral pandemic,” the report adds. 

What else we are reading:

Malawi opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera wins historic poll rerun: BBC

Chinese jump at ‘elite’ Thailand visas to escape coronavirus: Nikkei Asian Review

How cruise ship industry plans to get passengers back on board after coronavirus crisis: South China Morning Post

Daily death toll in New York, once the US coronavirus epicentre, drops to five: South China Morning Post

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