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Virus affects global cocaine trade, Yemen could see worst outbreak & 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 70,92,919 cases and more than 406,207 deaths.

US President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are nosediving. China pushes back against a Harvard study that claims virus could have begun spreading in August 2019. The recurring pattern in WHO’s failures and how the virus is transforming cities across the world.

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

Pandemic and protests erode Trump’s approval rating

A series of new polls tracking the US Presidential elections in 2020 show a dramatic fall in President Donald Trump’s approval ratings, while his key contender Democrat Joe Biden has taken a 10-point lead, reports The New York Times.

“His approval rating has fallen to 13.2 percentage points under water among registered or likely voters, down from negative 6.7 points on April 15, according to FiveThirtyEight estimates. And now a wave of new polls shows Joe Biden with a significant national lead, placing him in a stronger position to oust an incumbent president than any challenger since Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992,” notes the report. 

Also read: HBO axes Gone With the Wind, Netflix drops British comedy as anti-racism protests rage

US virus expert says that Covid-19 will not disappear till vaccine is developed

As several US cities were hit by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, news about the pandemic took a backseat for a couple of weeks, and Dr Anthony Fauci, who heads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was also missing from the spotlight.

When he finally appeared Tuesday, he came with grim news, that Covid-19 was not going to burn itself out without a vaccine akin to the SARS outbreak, reports the Financial Times.

“The infectious disease expert said Covid-19 had fulfilled his worst pandemic fears: a virus that jumped from an animal to humans, was easily transmissible through breathing and had a high death rate,” notes the report.

“Now we have something that turns out indeed to be my worst nightmare. In a period of four months, it has devastated the world; 110,000 deaths in the US. There’s millions and millions of infections worldwide. And it isn’t over yet,” said Fauci.

China pushes back against Harvard coronavirus study

A new study by Harvard Medical school that looked at hospital traffic and search engine data to conclude that Covid-19 might have begun spreading in China as early as August, has been refuted by Beijing, who called the whole exercise “ridiculous”, notes the Al Jazeera.

“I think it is ridiculous, incredibly ridiculous, to come up with this conclusion based on superficial observations such as traffic volume,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

“The research, which has not been peer-reviewed by other scientists, used satellite imagery of hospital parking lots in Wuhan – where the disease was first identified in late 2019 – and data for symptom-related queries on search engines for things such as ‘cough’ and ‘diarrhoea’,” states the report.

“The study’s authors said increased hospital traffic and symptom search data in Wuhan preceded the documented start of the coronavirus pandemic in December 2019,” it adds.

Also read: Nearly 49 million more people vulnerable to extreme poverty because of Covid-19: UN Chief

New capital cities for Indonesia and Egypt take back seat

Due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, the grand plans to build new capital cities in Egypt and Indonesia have been stalled for the time being, reports the Nikkei Asian Review.

Now that these governments have had to direct more resources towards the fight against the novel coronavirus, they have less fiscal space to build new capital cities.

“With their timelines now facing uncertainty, the leaders who had promoted the projects as part of a vision for their countries’ future — President Joko Widodo in Indonesia and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt — risk bleeding support,” states the report.

“In addition to the capital moves, Saudi Arabia is reevaluating its plans for Neom, a new futuristic city under construction by the Red Sea. The 26,000 sq. km, $500 billion project, costing over 70% of GDP, is the cornerstone of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push to diversify the Saudi economy,” it adds. 

Covid death toll in Yemen could exceed the war toll in the past 5 years: Experts 

After the United Nations began cutting aid to the war-affected Yemen, experts fear one of the worst pandemic breakouts in the country, which could potentially affect hundreds of thousands Yemenis, according to CNN.

These cuts by UN came after its efforts to raise $2.42 billion as aid for Yemen, fell short by 50 per cent.

“In the countdown to closure there will have to be much wider cuts to Yemen at a time when the country is now facing the growing impact of the virus pandemic on people who are already badly malnourished and ill equipped to cope with it,” Lise Grande, UN’s head of humanitarian operations in Yemen told CNN.

“The worst-case scenario — which is the one we’re facing now — means that the death toll from the virus could exceed the combined toll of war, disease and hunger over the last five years (in Yemen),” she added.

Also read: With US formally in recession, Trump’s 2020 re-election path has become trickier

In the WHO’s coronavirus stumbles, some scientists see a pattern

On Tuesday, several scientists warned that the World Health Organization (WHO) is failing to take into account several Covid-related research findings and struggling to communicate them to the world at-large, reports The New York Times.

“In a news briefing on Monday, a W.H.O. official asserted that transmission of the coronavirus by people without symptoms is ‘very rare.’ Following concerted pushback from researchers, officials on Tuesday walked back the claim, saying it was a ‘misunderstanding.’ But it is not the first time the W.H.O.’s assessment has seemed to lag behind scientific opinion,” notes the report.

The agency also delayed endorsing masks for the general public until Friday, claiming there was too little evidence that they prevented transmission of the virus. “The WHO has said repeatedly that small airborne droplets, or aerosols, are not a significant factor in the pandemic’s spread, although a growing body of evidence suggests that they may be,” it adds.

The pandemic has gutted the price of coca, which could change cocaine trade forever

For decades several governments and international agencies have been trying to reign in the price of coca — “ a natural stimulant that is the building block of cocaine” – but the coronavirus pandemic has managed to achieve it, reports the Washington Post.

“The great coca crash of 2020 — prices for the leaf in some regions of South America have fallen as much as 73 percent — illustrates the extent to which the pandemic is disrupting every aspect of global trade, including the traffic in illegal drugs,” states the report.

“The breakdown in the supply chain is upending business models and causing market scarcity that has doubled retail prices in some U.S. cities, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. But for South American coca farmers, the pandemic has, at least temporarily, caused a dive in prices that analysts say could alter the landscape of the illicit drug trade for years to come,” explains the report. 

Also read: ‘This is a safe country’ – Australia hits back at China after it warned students on racism

Vilnius shows how the pandemic is remaking cities

The Lithuanian capital Vilnius is a changed city following the deadly pandemic, reports The Atlantic. The city now features open-art cafes, hundreds of bars and restaurants setting shop in open plazas, and drive-in theatres.

“It also briefly operated a drive-in movie theater at the city’s idle airport, where people could gather in their cars to watch films projected against a giant screen. And next month, it will ban most cars from its Old Town to allocate more space to pedestrians,” notes the report.

“Vilnius is just one example among many. From the pedestrianization of streets to the repurposing of public spaces, cities around the world have had to reshape themselves to meet the needs of their citizens amid the pandemic. But as lockdowns ease, the legacy of the coronavirus—and the changes it has inspired in urban spaces—remains unclear. Will this pandemic, like those before it, inspire a new blueprint for urban planning? Or will it drive people away from cities for good?” asks the report.

What else we are reading:

Japanese banks gobble up half of Fed dollar funding: Nikkei Asian Review

Brazil restores coronavirus data after controversy, court ruling: Al Jazeera

Its Defenses Undone by a Virus, France Seeks Lessons From a Lost War: The New York Times

The Sexual-Health Supply Chain Is Broken: The Atlantic

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