headlines that matter
The virus is coming back!
India: In our case, the virus never really went away. Our cases continue to climb—hitting 332,424 on Monday. We added 11,502 in one day. The number of deaths: 325. Two bright spots in this gloom: Indore and Dharavi. Also read: BBC News on five key questions about India’s numbers.
So will there be a lockdown? Yes, in Chennai and in three other Tamil Nadu districts. In Delhi, no—or so says CM Arvind Kejriwal. The Prime Minister will meet with various chief ministers today, but nothing is expected to change. Unlock India continues.
The United States: The number of cases has crossed the 2 million mark, and states like Alabama, Florida and South Carolina are reporting record numbers. More worrying: a record number are being admitted to hospitals in many states. And President Trump is doing his bit to help the spread. On Saturday, he will hold his first rally in Oklahoma—in an enclosed stadium that fits 20,000. Zero social distancing or face masks required.
China: Beijing now has 79 confirmed cases, and the government has since banned Norwegian salmon. The reason: the virus was found on chopping boards used for chopping the imported salmon at Beijing’s Xinfadi market—ground zero for the new infection.
Japan: reported 45 new daily cases in Tokyo, many of them linked to its nightclub district. The capital came out of lockdown on May 25, but cases have been increasing ever since.
The WHO: warns that it is important to target and isolate these new clusters—which will inevitably re-emerge. The organisation also made clear that it is too soon to talk about a ‘second wave’:
"The world is still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak… Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an 'immediate second peak' if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak."
Rajput’s death unseals attack on Salman Khan
Abhinav Singh Kashyap is the younger brother of Anurag Kashyap, and best known as the director of Dabangg. Seemingly triggered by Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, he penned a long Facebook post calling out the Khans for “sustained gaslighting and bullying”—including death and rape threats. It’s quite remarkable—and still undeleted! Also calling out the Bollywood elite for its role in sidelining Rajput: Congressman Sanjay Nirupam and director Anubhav Sinha.
The latest Covid gyaan is here
Will thermal scanning save us from infection? Nope. Many countries—including the Indian railways and airports—are investing in fancy temperature scanners. But they are virtually useless in detecting Covid cases. Forehead thermometers are poor at scanning core body temperature. Infrared kinds won’t help since virus-carriers don’t always have a fever. And that’s why attempts to use thermal scanners in the past—during the SARS outbreak, for example—proved to be a failure.
Will antibodies save us from infection? Maybe. Not all antibodies are made equal. Only a certain kind—which blocks that spike protein on the virus—actually stops it from entering the human cell. But we don’t know how much our body needs to produce for it to be effective. And our antibody tests don’t tell us what kind we are carrying.
Will the first covid vaccines save us from infection? Unlikely. Given the rush to develop any kind of vaccine, most of the early versions most probably won't prevent infection—but they will protect us from getting very ill. More importantly: even successful vaccines (as for example, whooping cough) don’t always prevent you from infecting someone else.
Indians are running out of cash
Startups are broke: According to a new survey, 38% have already run out of cash, and another 30% have only enough to survive another three months. Another 4% have already shut shop and 64% have cut costs to sustain themselves.
Zero savings: According to Mint’s calculations, 30% of urban Indians—139 million—will run out of savings by the end of June. More importantly, many already have:
“Taking a moderate scenario of incomes falling by 62% in urban areas and 50% in rural areas, close to 92 million urban Indians (20% of the urban population) and 89 million rural Indians (10% of the rural population) ran out of savings to fund essential consumption after the first 21-day lockdown.”
Barter is back: Following a classic Depression-era pattern, Bengali villagers who have run out of money are resorting to barter in order to survive. What are they trading: the extra rice doled out by the government’s relief package.
Changing salaries: Working in your pajamas will soon have a downside. Companies are planning to “restructure” your pay package to reflect your out-of-office status: “Components such as travel and conveyance allowance, fuel and driver allowances, and vehicle maintenance allowance may see an exit.” Yes, there is talk of paying instead for high-speed internet connections at home... laptops or printers, mental and physical health apps, home office furniture, expenses for domestic help or for childcare” etc. etc. We will believe it when we see it in this era of cost-slashing.
Covid effect: The global edition
- Good news: The world is eating less sugar because we no longer go out to eat. And demand for sugar has dropped for the first time in 40 years.
- Oscars 2021 are being postponed by two months from March to April 25, 2021.
- Tata Motors will slash 1,100 temporary jobs at its Jaguar Land Rover subsidiary.
- Climate change advocates warn that if world leaders adopt “reckless recovery” programs to save their economies, the planet will be in deep trouble. Hasty plans that ditch environmentalism will pump an extra 230 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the air by 2050.
- A related read: Washington Post on why the future of the world depends on India charting a low-carbon future.
Does AirAsia have a safety problem?
In a YouTube video, AirAsia pilot Gaurav Taneja called out the airline for forcing its crew to fly even when they are unwell:
“We (pilots) cannot operate if we are less than 100 percent and this is the regulation, and if you are not 100 percent and still flying, then its comparable to murder as you are putting the lives of 180-odd passengers on the line."