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Why Saudi Arabia is on shopping spree, payback time for Thailand’s rich & 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 5,591,970 cases and 347,950 deaths.

Saudi Arabia is using the coronavirus pandemic to investment in companies across the world. China has depreciated its currency as tensions with the US continue. Italian nightlife has alarmed the political class, and what would eating at a restaurant look like in the future?

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

Saudi Arabia is on an investment drive across the world

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks one company after the other, Saudi Arabia is using its sovereign wealth fund to go an aggressive investment drive across the world, the Financial Times is reporting.

“As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks economic carnage across the globe, PIF (Public Investment Fund) has stepped up a gear to become the most publicly active sovereign investment vehicle, unabashedly seeking out bargains amid the panic,” reports FT.

“It has also invested in about 20 US and European blue-chip companies, such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Boeing, Citigroup, Disney and Facebook, acquiring smaller stakes worth at least $7.7bn in the first three months of the year. And those were just the investments made public,” adds the report.

Also read: Indonesia deploys Army, police to flatten virus curve as it prepares to reopen economy

China hints at weaker yuan amid tensions with US 

As US-China tensions continue to escalate over the coronavirus pandemic and previously unresolved trade issues, the Chinese authorities have decided to weaken their currency yuan to become more competitive, reports the Nikkei Asian Review.

“China’s central bank has lowered a key measure used to manage the yuan’s rate against the dollar to its weakest level since February 2008, as bilateral relations with the U.S. deteriorate over a wide range of issues including the newly proposed security arrangements in Hong Kong and the coronavirus,” notes the report.

Putin speaks, officials shrug, and doctors are caught in the middle

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin had promised a bonus of $1,100 to all doctors, nurses and “front” coronavirus workers in April, but there is no sign of this bonus nearly a month later, states a report in The New York Times.

“Instead, some doctors have received visits from police investigators and prosecutors demanding to know why they complained publicly about not getting their bonuses,” reports NYT.

“In a system rife with corruption, many officials live in permanent fear of being criticized, or worse investigated, for spending state money not included in their previously approved budgets. So when it came to doling out the cash, they hesitated, took the liberty of making deductions for time health workers spent on non-coronavirus patients or perhaps skimmed some of the money,” notes the report.

Russia has recorded 3,53,4277 cases of coronavirus and over 3,600 deaths.

Also read: As Hong Kong braces for protests over new security law, its leader defends China’s move

Syria’s Assad faces toughest political challenge 

Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who has been fighting a bloody civil war for the past nine years, is facing his toughest political challenge yet, reports the Washington Post.

“Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is confronting the biggest challenges to his hold on power since Syrians first rose up against him nine years ago, as a rift within his family, a collapsing economy and rising tensions with his key ally Russia lay bare the fragility of his regime,” notes the report.

“Cracks are starting to appear in the once-united front presented by loyalists who stood by Assad throughout his battle to crush the opposition. A rare eruption of criticism in Russian media outlets has drawn attention to his dependence on foreign allies — Iran as well as Russia — for his survival,” it adds.

As lockdown lifts, courts in Spain face a crisis

Spanish judicial system, already bogged down with a massive case load, is now expected to deal with a flurry of new cases, some with little precedent as Spain finally reopens the lockdown, according to the New York Times.

“In a country known for its litigiousness, lawyers and judges are bracing for a period of turmoil and disorder in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. One judge expects as many as 150,000 people to file for bankruptcy, up from a few thousand last year. Lawyers representing Spaniards who lost loved ones to the virus have already filed a lawsuit against the government, arguing that it is guilty of negligent homicide,” reports NYT.

Also read: Cyclone Amphan shows Bangladesh the cost of delaying a $38 billion delta management plan

Major challenge for Thailand’s powerful business clans

As the pandemic causes deep damage to Thailand’s economy, its Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha made an unusual appeal to the country’s powerful business clans, asking them to “do more”, reports the Financial Times.

While Thailand just has over 3,000 cases and 56 deaths, the pandemic has hit the country’s high-revenue earning tourism sector and its industries. “Turning this year into a defining one for Thailand’s billionaire-led conglomerates — companies that grew rich over decades in symbiosis with the ruling establishment and are now being asked to pay back,” notes the report.

The Thais often talk about the “five families” that control much of their economy, who had acquired their wealth with the help of the state. Now the prime minister wants them to pay back in the time of an unnerving crisis.

Italian nightlife comes raging back, and politicians are alarmed

After having dealt with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks, Italy is gradually returning to the “new normal”. However, the sudden surge in Rome’s nightlife has alarmed the country’s political class, the Washington Post is reporting.

“Drawn outdoors by ideal weather, Italians this weekend gathered at beaches, bars and piazzas, drinking and sometimes flouting social distancing rules while soaking in the nation’s celebratory post-lockdown mood,” notes the report.

“But on Monday, as images of nightlife played on Italian TV, a chorus of politicians warned that the country had gotten reckless and risked backsliding in its fight against the coronavirus,” it adds.

Also read: Singapore’s GDP could shrink 7% this year, worst contraction since independence

What would eating at restaurants looks like? Hong Kong gives us some answers

In a world hit by the fear of contracting the novel coronavirus and being forced to maintain social distancing, what would eating at restaurants look like, asks a report in The Atlantic. The island city-state of Hong Kong might have answer.

“The health declaration, handed to diners on a hefty but stylish clipboard, comes along with a second temperature check. (The first is done at the main entrance to the tower that houses the restaurant, a requirement to get in.) Only then does the routine of a night out return, briefly, to the familiar ‘Right this way’ and ‘Enjoy your meal’,” states the report.

“Inside, tucked into tufted leather booths surrounded by polo memorabilia and perched on high seats at the marble bar, guests slide their face masks into small paper bags. Tiny bottles of hand sanitizer marked with the restaurant’s logo, a galloping horse ridden by two men, one grasping a mallet, are delivered table side,” it added.

What else we are reading:

Ecuador protests against cuts amid pandemic: BBC

How summer could determine the pandemic’s future: Politico

How the pandemic reinvigorated religion: Financial Times

A Window Onto an American Nightmare: The New Yorker

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