China minister defends ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats, Italians return to farming & other Covid news

Pedestrians wear protective masks in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong. The study was conducted across six hospitals in the city | Paul Yeung | Bloomberg
Pedestrians wear protective masks in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong. The study was conducted across six hospitals in the city | Paul Yeung | Bloomberg

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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate several countries across the world, with a total of 5,513,671 cases and 346,868 deaths until last count.

Chinese foreign minister has defended his country’s aggressive ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his advisor who flouted lockdown rules, further increasing the controversy. Meanwhile, more and more Italians are returning to agriculture and the pandemic is exposing Wall Street’s obsession with gambling on bad debt.

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

Chinese foreign minister defends his diplomats

Over the past few weeks, media and even several governments have criticised China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats, who have adopted a rather aggressive diplomatic style in combating the coronavirus global backlash against China. Now Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has defended his country’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats and said China would always defend its national interest and combating “smears”, the South China Morning Post is reporting.

“The country’s (China) combative defence of its response to the crisis has also caused friction and it has been accused of overplaying its hand by trying to use supplies of medical equipment for propaganda purposes,” notes the report.

UK PM defends advisor, who faces flak for flouting lockdown 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s closest and the most powerful advisor Dominic Cummings is facing serious flak for flouting lockdown rules and travelling 264 miles to his family home. Now the prime minister is publicly defending his advisor in an apparent show of Cummings’ importance to Johnson, the BBC is reporting.

As several MPs from even Johnson’s Conservative party have ask for Cummings’ resignation, the PM has come out in his defence saying his advisor had “no alternative” but to travel from London to his home in North East England for childcare as “both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus”.

“Much like his predecessors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill were to former prime minister Theresa May, the Number 10 chief of staff is the government’s linchpin. His vision is central to Mr Johnson’s aspirations in office and the prime minister has clearly concluded he cannot cope without it,” notes a report the Financial Times.

Also read: China raises defence spending, 30,000 UK pubs face closure & other global Covid news

Middle East fears a coronavirus surge amid Eid celebrations

From Jordan to Iran, Eid celebrations have meant that more people are coming out on the streets, heightening the fears of surge in coronavirus cases across the Middle East, the Guardian is reporting.

Though most countries continue to remain under lockdown and there are severe restrictions in what people are allowed to do. Moreover, most countries have banned prayers at the mosque this year and people have been asked to stay at home. And yet Eid means that’s some people would come out to buy things and contact with family and friends is a major part of the festival.

While countries such as Jordan — which has broadly ducked the virus — the fear is that the festival might lead to its spread in the country, in others such as Iran, the fear is that it might exacerbate an already bad situation.

Richest countries face $17 trillion of coronavirus debt

As the coronavirus pandemic led to a severe blow to the economy, governments have reacted by a dramatic increase in spending, leading to a surge in their debts, the Financial Times is reporting.

“Rich countries are set to take on at least $17tn of extra public debt as they battle the economic consequences of the pandemic, according to the OECD, as sharp drops in tax revenues are expected to dwarf the stimulus measures put in place to battle the disease,” notes the report.

“Across the OECD club of rich countries, average government financial liabilities are expected to rise from 109 per cent of gross domestic product to more than 137 per cent this year, leaving many with public debt burdens similar to the current level in Italy,” it adds.

Until a decade ago, mainstream economic thinking suggested that any debt level over 90 per cent was unsustainable.

For Some Italians, the future of work looks like the past

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing more and more Italians to return to agriculture, notes a report in the New York Times.

“Italy industrialized after World War II, and never really looked back. But the virus has drastically reordered society and economies, locking seasonal workers in their home countries while marooning Italians who worked in retail, entertainment, fashion and other once-mighty industries,” notes the report.

“Where until recently a return to the land seemed reserved for natural wine hipsters or gentry sowing boutique gardens with ancient seeds, more Italians are now considering the work of their grandparents as laborers on the large farms that are increasingly essential to feed a paralyzed country and continent,” it adds.

Also read: China plans to ban wildlife trade, why AI failed during pandemic & other global Covid news

Quebec, Canada’s hardest-hit, is most aggressive about reopening

Canada’s French-speaking eastern province Quebec has been the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Canada, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of Canada’s coronavirus-related deaths. Yet, the province has adopted the most aggressive re-opening strategy in the country, the Washington Post is reporting.

“Epidemiologists are unsure if cases in the French-speaking province have peaked. But retail businesses outside Montreal opened this month. So did elementary schools — a step that provinces with zero current cases have not attempted. Construction and manufacturing resumed. Some businesses in Montreal reopen May 25. Dentists resume work next month,” notes the report.

Japan to lift restrictions in 3 stages, launch $1 tn package

The Japanese government is all set to lift the state of emergency in Tokyo and four other places, ending seven weeks of social and economic restrictions, the Nikkei Asian Review is reporting. Japan, a country of 126 million, was not as badly hit by the pandemic and features 16,000 infections and 800 deaths.

Japan has a three-stage plan to reopen the country. The first stage would see the opening of schools, gyms, and restaurants for limited hours. In the second stage, retail stores that sell non-essential items would open, and the third stage would involve the reopening to confined locations such as “internet cafes, game arcades and pachinko parlors”.

Meanwhile, to deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic, the government has also decided to release a nearly $1 dollar package “to strengthen the corporate safety net and follow up on last month’s 117 trillion yen stimulus”, Nikkei Asian Review is reporting.

Coronavirus exposing Wall Street’s reckless gamble on bad debt

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed Wall Street’s irresponsible gamble on bad debt, raising fears of another 2008-like financial crisis, notes a new report by New Yorker’s John Cassidy.

“Between 2007 and 2019, the value of outstanding “leveraged loans”, which are syndicated loans extended to companies that credit agencies rate below investment-grade, rose from $554 billion to $1.2 trillion, according to S&P Global. In turn, many of these leveraged loans were used to create collateralized loan obligations, or C.L.O.s,” notes the report. “These complex and opaque products are close cousins of C.D.O.s—collateralized debt obligations—which played a big role in the subprime boom and bust.”

“In creating both C.D.O.s and C.L.O.s, financial alchemists on Wall Street took a pool of sub-investment-grade loans and sliced and diced them into various “tranches,” some of which were then given triple-A ratings and marketed to investors as a source of safe and regular yields. By the end of 2019, there was about seven hundred billion dollars’ worth of C.L.O.s in existence, according to industry estimates,” it adds.

Also read: Latin American populists challenge stereotypes, Germany flies in workers & other Covid news

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