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Saudi crown prince consolidates power, top 100 companies during pandemic & 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 85,94,854 cases and more than 4,56,649 deaths.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is using travel restrictions to consolidate power. Cold and wet conditions might have led to the Beijing Covid-19 outbreak. The companies that prospered during the pandemic. Meanwhile, debt restructuring talks in Argentina on the verge of failing and how will the pandemic change architecture?

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

Politics behind controlling government pandemic data

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are confirmed cases of coronavirus in 216 countries, but there are serious differences in how much data each of these governments have released.

A report in The Conversation tries to shed light on the politics that could be determining this selective release of information.

For instance, in the US, President Donald Trump’s interest in his upcoming re-election bid has affected how White House deals and talks about the pandemic. Similarly in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has a pending constitutional amendment — which would further extend his grip over the country.

“Putin is trying to make the gambit of accepting high (but not necessarily accurate) figures of COVID-19 infections and simultaneously doing everything possible to under-report the true number of COVID-19-related deaths. If successful, he would be able to claim credit for handling the crisis better than other world leaders,” notes the report.

Syria crumbles under pandemic and rebellion

A series of developments including the economic fallout of the pandemic and serious internal rebellion has weakened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on his country, reports G Zero Media. It notes that these crises are making life even harder for regular Syrians.

“Its economy is in freefall. Syria’s currency is worth so little that some now use bank notes to roll cigarettes. Prices for food and medicine have soared so far beyond the reach of most people that protesters have hit the streets in places where demonstrators are often shot. Assad’s government has blocked reliable information on coronavirus infections and deaths. The ongoing financial crisis next door in Lebanon makes matters worse by denying Syria’s government one of its remaining bridges to outside cash,” adds the report.

Cold and wet conditions might have led to the Beijing outbreak

As Beijing grapples with a fresh coronavirus outbreak that originated from the Xinfadi food market, experts think that “the low temperature and high humidity environment there could be the reason for the latest outbreak, which infected more than 100 people”, reports The Straits Times.

“Why do these places become the centre of transmission? The temperature is low, which is suitable for virus survival, and the humidity is high. But further investigation is needed,” said Dr Wu Zunyou, who is the chief epidemiologist at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in China.

The coronavirus outbreak first began in Wuhan from a wet market.

Prospering during a pandemic: Top 100 companies

While the global economy took an unprecedented hit following the coronavirus pandemic, there are several companies that prospered during this time, reports the Financial Times. It has released a list of the 100 top gainers during the pandemic.

The list is topped by Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, which added a market cap of $401 billion, $269 billion, $219 billion respectively during this period.

The top of the list is crowded by other tech giants — Tencent, Facebook, Nvidia, Alphabet, PayPay, T-Mobile, and Netflix — who have greatly benefited from lockdowns and people staying and working at home. 

Saudi crown prince using travel restrictions to consolidate power 

Across several countries, the coronavirus pandemic has been used by authoritarian leaders to enforce emergency powers to tighten their grip over the country. However, in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is using “travel bans” to shore up his power, writes Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

The idea is to purge domestic opponents by restricting their overseas travel and effectively cutting off their foreign network. This practice has intensified during the pandemic.

“An investigation shows that this practice of restricting foreign travel is much broader than generally recognized and is part of a larger system of organized repression in the kingdom. MBS has used these tools to consolidate power as he moves toward what some U.S. officials believe may be an attempt, perhaps this year, to seize the full powers of government from his ailing father, King Salman,” he argues. 

For a Canadian doctor, the virus came with stigma

A Canadian doctor who crossed a provincial border is now being accused of igniting a virus outbreak in his own province, reports The New York Times.

“He is a doctor in a small city in New Brunswick, Canada, who drove to pick up his 4-year-old daughter — and to have a job interview — and then came home. Two weeks later, he and his daughter tested positive for the coronavirus. The same day, he was denounced by the provincial government and the internet, and suspended from his hospital job without pay. Then the police opened a criminal investigation into him,” says the report.

“His crime? He traveled across the border into the neighboring province of Quebec, and returned without self-isolating, breaking a New Brunswick emergency act, the authorities say. They also say he brought the coronavirus with him, sparking an outbreak. He says that’s not true,” it adds.

Argentina debt restructuring talks on the verge of collapse

Argentina has had a chronic debt problem for decades and the coronavirus pandemic had made this crisis worse. Now, the country’s debt restructuring talks are on the verge of collapse, threatening a possible default and an even deeper economic crisis for the country, reports the Financial Times.

“Argentina’s negotiations with foreign creditors over the restructuring of $65bn of debt are on the edge of collapse, threatening to plunge the economy even deeper into crisis,” it says. 

How coronavirus will reshape architecture?

The nature of coronavirus transmission has meant that a new set of social norms such as distancing and wearing masks have become necessary. However, the pandemic may also force architects to reimagine their craft going ahead, reports The New Yorker.

“In recent months, we have arrived at a new juncture of disease and architecture, where fear of contamination again controls what kinds of spaces we want to be in. As tuberculosis shaped modernism, so covid-19 and our collective experience of staying inside for months on end will influence architecture’s near future,” notes the report.

“Unlike the airy, pristine emptiness of modernism, the space needed for quarantine is primarily defensive, with taped lines and plexiglass walls segmenting the outside world into zones of socially distanced safety. Wide-open spaces are best avoided. Barriers are our friends. Stores and offices will have to be reformatted in order to reopen, our spatial routines fundamentally changed. And, at home, we might find ourselves longing for a few more walls and dark corners,” it adds.

What else we are reading:

How Exactly Do You Catch Covid-19? There Is a Growing Consensus: The Wall Street Journal

‘Our bills won’t wait’: the Florida town where farm laborers risk their lives to work amid Covid-19: The Guardian

Cathay Pacific bailout shows Asian airline recovery has a way to go: Nikkei Asian Review

Coronavirus Fears in China Find a New Target: Salmon: The New York Times  

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