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Risks of antibody tests, Mali coup first in pandemic era & other global 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 countries across the world — the latest count is over 2.25 crore cases and more than 7.91 lakh deaths.

As second waves of infections seem imminent, governments around the world are struggling to cut down employment benefit schemes. Doctors and scientists are warning against the dangers of antibody tests. Pakistan’s younger demographic reduced the havoc caused by the pandemic in their country. Meanwhile, China is strengthening control over the country’s law and order apparatus amid global backlash.

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

Govts struggle to cut down on employment protection schemes

By now governments on both sides of the Atlantic had hoped to wind down employment benefit schemes, but a fresh surge of cases had brought their plans into question, reports the Financial Times.

The effect on the labour markets in both Europe and the US have been quite similar — a rise in both temporary and permanent employment.

“In the spring when Covid-19 first began to surge in North America and Europe, it was widely expected that economies could be heading back to normal by late summer. Now few are so sure, and politicians and economists are grappling with the question of how to protect jobs,” notes the report.

“The question is how far countries can dial back job support programmes when they cannot yet declare victory over the pandemic. And in recent weeks the rise in new coronavirus cases has placed governments under intense pressure to extend labour protection,” it explains.

Antibody tests are putting ‘public at risk’

According to doctors and scientists, poorly regulated antibody tests, which aim to show what percentage of a regions/city’s population has been exposed to Covid-19, could put the public at risk, reports the BBC.

The report quotes the UK’s Royal College of Pathologists chief Jo Martin, who says, “Currently, if you buy a test on the internet or you buy it in certain boutiques or shops, we can’t guarantee that the quality of that is of an appropriate standard. We can’t guarantee that the result will be easy to interpret or that it will be not misleading.”

Also read: World Bank looking at ways to cut poor nations’ debt instead of delaying payments

British grading debacle shows pitfalls of automating governance

Faced with the unique challenge of having to grade students without an actual exam, the British government decided to use an algorithm. But it backfired, highlighting the perils of automating governance and raising questions about how things might be done in the near future, reports The New York Times.

The “British government used a computer-generated score to replace exams that were cancelled because of the coronavirus” but it led to 40 per cent of the students seeing their grades fall, notes the report.

“Experts said the grading scandal was a sign of debates to come as Britain and other countries increasingly use technology to automate public services,” it adds.

While the supporters of technology argue that this will make processes more transparent and efficient, critics contend that “the opaque systems often amplify biases that already exist in society and are typically adopted without sufficient debate, faults that were put on clear display in the grading disaster.”

First coup of the coronavirus era in Mali

Even while a pandemic is underway, it didn’t take much for Mali’s military to overthrow the government, marking the first coup d’état in the coronavirus era, reports The Washington Post.

“A little after midnight on Wednesday, just hours after being taken into custody by mutinous soldiers, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta donned a face mask and announced he would resign,” says the report.

“This may be the first coup d’etat of the novel coronavirus era. But it is not the first time public anger has taken down a government during the pandemic, and it may not be the last. In Lebanon, the prime minister resigned this month after a huge blast that destroyed much of Beirut,” it adds.

Young Pakistanis seem resistant to the worst of Covid

A couple of months ago, Pakistan seemed like one of the worst-hit countries in the pandemic, but since then it has managed to climb out of the crisis, and a large part of the reason is its rather young population, reports the BBC.

Many credit targeted lockdowns for the country’s success. The report notes, “For leading Pakistani epidemiologist Dr Rana Jawad Asghar, the principal reason for this is Pakistan’s young population. The average age in Pakistan is 22 years, compared to about 41 in the UK. The vast majority of deaths globally from the coronavirus have been of elderly patients. Dr Asghar told the BBC that less than 4% of Pakistan’s population is aged 65 and above, whereas in more developed countries the proportion is around 20-25%. ‘That is why we haven’t seen that many deaths in Pakistan,’ he said.”

Also read: Pandemic drives Scotland’s independence demand, Wuhan hosts pool parties & other Covid news

China tightens grip over state apparatus amid global backlash

After its initial mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak, the Beijing government has managed to control the pandemic like no other country. Yet the mounting global backlash against China has prompted Communist Party leaders to tighten their grip over the state’s apparatus including judges, police officers and security agents, reports The New York Times.

“Officials in China’s law-and-order apparatus have been ordered to “drive the blade in” and “scrape poison off the bone,” setting aside personal loyalties to expose wayward colleagues. The model for this “education and rectification” program, leaders have told them, should be Mao Zedong’s drive of the 1940s, which cemented his dominance over the party from a base in the city of Yan’an,” notes the report.

“Such mobilization sessions have proliferated across China — in courts, police headquarters, prison administrations and the secretive Ministry of State Security, which controls the country’s main civilian surveillance and spy forces,” it adds.

South Korea’s outbreak might spread across the nation

As South Korea reported 324 new cases Thursday, the country’s health authorities fear that the recent outbreak might now be spreading across the entire country, reports the Nikkei Asian Review. The country has now over 16,700 cases and 309 deaths.

“It was the highest daily count since March 8. Health authorities warn that a cluster of infections in Seoul is threatening to spread after thousands of people attended a rally by conservative political groups last week,” says the report.

With most infections tied to the “Sarang Jeil church having been reported in more than 80 locations across South Korea, the church, founded in 1983, is under fire for defying social distancing guidelines and putting South Korea’s battle against COVID-19 at risk,” adds the report.

Airbnb bans groups of over 16

The world’s largest accommodation booking platform has banned bookings of groups over 16 people owing to the fears pandemic, reports the Financial Times.

“The San Francisco-based company is keen to show that it is a responsible actor among technology platforms that have come under intense scrutiny since the crisis hit. It is also preparing for an initial public offering before the end of the year, for which it said it had filed documents on Wednesday,” says the report.

What else we are reading:

What are the risks of catching it from food packaging?: BBC

Between a pandemic and military training, so much for college love being casual: The New York Times

Fear of backlash pushes China to crack down on frothy markets: Nikkei Asian Review

Surge in passport sales delivers Vanuatu a record budget surplus: The Guardian

Also read: Mexico moves to ban junk food for children, China holds secret high-level meet & other Covid news


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