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Masks as protest symbol in US, return of café culture in France and other 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 several countries across the world — the latest count is 6,452,703 cases and more than 382,484 deaths.

Infections have surged the most in countries ruled by “illiberal populist leaders”. The US conducts four primaries during a pandemic, raging protests and massive police deployments. Meanwhile, the medical mask has become a symbol of protest.

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

Virus is growing the most in countries ruled by ‘illiberal populist’ leaders

The four countries where the coronavirus infections have been rising at the highest rates, have another thing in common. UK, US, Brazil and Russia are currently being ruled by “illiberal populist” leaders, according to report by The New York Times.

“The four leaders — Jair Bolsonaro, Donald J. Trump, Vladimir V. Putin and Boris Johnson — also have a lot of differences, of course, as do their countries. Yet all four subscribe to versions of what Daniel Ziblatt, a government professor at Harvard and co-author of the book “How Democracies Die,” calls ‘radical right illiberal populism’,” notes the report.

According to political scientists, these leaders’ practice of rejecting scientific advise and peddling conspiracy theories might be responsible for the surge of cases in their countries.

“Very often they rail against intellectuals and experts of nearly all types. They claim to have a kind of common-sense wisdom that the experts lack. This doesn’t work very well versus Covid-19,” said Steven Levitsky, the co-author of How Democracies Die.

An election during pandemic and protests

Amidst a lethal pandemic and raging protests, four US states held their primaries on Tuesday, reports The New York Times.

“Americans cast ballots in extraordinary circumstances on Tuesday, heading to the polls during a national health and economic crisis and amid the widespread protests and police deployments that have disrupted communities across the nation,” notes the report.

“The most high-profile race of the day produced a surprising result when Representative Steve King, the Iowa Republican who was ostracized by his party after questioning why white nationalism was offensive, lost his primary to Randy Feenstra, a state senator who had the tacit support of much of the state’s G.O.P. establishment,” it adds.

What is the Japan model and why it worked?

After Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that his country was lifting the national state of emergency on 25 May, he also mildly bragged about the “Japanese Model” and how it had managed to come out of the crisis with just 16, 724 infections and 894 deaths, reports the Financial Times.

What makes the Japanese model unique is that it managed to fend off the virus without imposing a lockdown at all.

“Much public debate in Japan had turned on cultural factors — such as high standards of hygiene, obedience to government requests and even claims that the lack of aspirated consonants in the Japanese language reduces the spread of virus droplets. But local experts do not believe their country has any magic power to defeat the virus,” states the report.

“Instead they point to three more prosaic factors: a special contact-tracing strategy, early awareness that brought a positive reaction from the Japanese public and the timely declaration of a state of emergency,” it adds.

After reporting 60 deaths in a day, Italy plans to reopen border

After Italy reported 60 more deaths Monday, the country is all set to reopen its borders Wednesday, reports the Anadolu Agency News.

Even though Italy was one of the worst-affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has witnessed a fall in the number on deaths and an increase in the number of recoveries over the past month.

However, the country’s northern region, Lombardy continues to be the epicentre.

“The government has confirmed that the last restrictions on citizens’ mobility between regions will be lifted on June 3, as the rate of contagions in all regions are reassuring,” notes the report.

“But regional governors in southern Italy are worried that higher levels of contagion in the worst-hit northern regions — especially Lombardy and Piedmont — could risk spreading the infection,” it adds. 

Germany eases travel ban, and Paris’ café culture returns

Two European neighbors – Germany and France – who were struck hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic are now gradually returning to normalcy when it comes to lifting of restrictions, reports The Guardian.

“Germany lifted its blanket European travel ban as coronavirus lockdowns across the EU continued to ease, with officials saying new cases in western Europe were now in steady decline,” notes the report. “Parisians reclaimed their cafe terraces and Berliners took back their bars as normal life inched closer to returning in many parts of the continent.”

“There were, however, strict rules: Parisian bars and restaurants have been given permission to sprawl across pavements but tables must be a metre apart. In the rest of France, customers can now be served inside while maintaining the same distance,” it adds.

Medical mask becomes protest symbol

As protests following the death of African-American George Floyd spread across the world during the pandemic, medical masks have emerged as a symbol of protest, reports the New York Times.

“It is the pandemic’s defining symbol, a visual stand-in for the coronavirus itself. In America, the medical mask used to be confined to hospital dramas and operating rooms, but now the bare face is what registers as a choice,” notes the report.

“The mask is a public health device, but it has also revealed itself as a mask in the more traditional sense: a tool in a social ritual, a fetish object that signifies a person’s politics, gender expression and relationship to truth itself,” it adds.

After intense global backlash, China plans to make Hainan a free-trade hub

Angry with China’s initial coronavirus response, western countries have threaten to respond by decoupling with Beijing. Given such looming fears, Chinese authorities are planning to make Hainan a free-trade hub on the lines of Singapore and Hong Kong, reports the South China Morning Post.

Moreover, US’ plan to strip Hong Kong of its special privileges has added to Beijing’s urgency.

“Beijing on Monday outlined its plan to make the 35,000 sq km island a “free trade port” by lowering the income tax rate for selected individuals and companies to 15 per cent, and relaxing visa requirements for tourists and business travellers,” according to the report.

“The island province of 9.5 million people will also enjoy freedoms in terms of trade, investment, capital flows and the movement of people and data by 2035, as it moves toward becoming a hub of ‘strong international influence’ by the middle of the century,” it notes.

After averting a political crisis, Spain’s prime minister manages to extend state of alert

After gradually recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was met with a bitter political crisis — the opposition parties threatened to block his extension of state of alert at the parliament.

Now Sanchez has managed to strike a deal with the centrists, and succeeded in extending the state of alert, reports the Financial Times.

What else we are reading:

Keir Starmer warns PM: get a grip or risk second wave of coronavirus: The Guardian

New Zealand could return to normal life as early as next week: Reuters

Formula 1 season to start with eight races in Europe: BBC

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