The Americas take lead in global pandemic | Daily News


The Americas take lead in global pandemic

Thousands of troops, hundreds of tanks and aircraft participated to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War across Moscow’s Red Square.
Thousands of troops, hundreds of tanks and aircraft participated to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War across Moscow’s Red Square.

The global spread of Covid-19 pandemic remains in focus as the Americas - North and South - having the highest infection and death rates, with the US being world leader followed by Brazil, moving to a major spread in South America and a speedy rise in infections in India. President Donald Trump’s campaign for re-election, seeks to play down the spread of the virus in the US, as it escalates in more than 20 US States.

The world had more than nine million virus infections - 9,408,757 at mid-week, with 482,184 deaths, with the global infection expected to go beyond ten million very soon. The US ranked first with 2,381,538 infected persons and 121,979 deceased, and Brazil came second with 1,180,631 infected and 53,830 dead, as the virus spread rapidly in other Latin American states too such as Mexico, Peru, Columbia and Argentina. The number of Covid-19 infections in Latin America reached 2.2m after doubling in two months.

Russia was third with 606,043 infections and 8,503 deceased, which low figure is largely in question. The UK remained fifth with 308, 337 infected and 43,165 officially declared deceased.

America's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has told lawmakers that the US is seeing a "disturbing surge" in Coronavirus infections in some states. The warning from US disease experts came after President Trump told a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he had asked his team to do less testing to help keep official case counts down. Trump told a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, later in the day that the Coronavirus "plague" was "going away". However, Dr. Fauci warned of "a disturbing surge of infection" and "increased community spread" in many southern and western states.

India has recorded its highest daily rise in new infections and soldiers were called in to manage healthcare centres in Delhi after nearly 4,000 people in the Indian capital tested positive in 24 hours. The country reported a record 15,968 new daily infections on Wednesday, taking its official total to more than 456,000, the fourth highest in the world.

Most European countries are now returning to normalcy after the prolonged lockdowns, with moves to reactivate the national economies. Germany, which was among the best in Covid-19 control now has infections in some parts, affecting industries.

The UK government is relaxing the current two-metre distancing rule to “one-metre plus” in England, despite the warnings of some scientists that Coronavirus cases remain too high to loosen restrictions. The new guidance comes into effect as of July 4, when some other restrictions will also be eased.

“Where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons, “But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of one-metre-plus.” This means keeping a metre apart, while taking other precautions, such as avoiding face-to-face seating, wearing face coverings and using hand sanitizer, Johnson went on to explain.

At the same time, numerous venues will be allowed to reopen in England, including pubs, museums, cinemas, hotels, campsites and hairdressers. The announcement came a day after warnings were published by Independent SAGE – a group of scientists operating independently of the government. Reducing distancing to one metre, indoors, will “effectively end” social distancing, say the researchers, who also point out that 97 percent of super-spreading events occur in indoor spaces.

India - China

India and China have agreed to disengage their troops from the friction areas in eastern Ladakh, making a fresh step towards a peaceful resolution of the tense face-off prevailing along the disputed boundary between the two neighbours since the last one and half months. Earlier, Army Chief Gen M. M. Naravane met all his top commanders in Delhi where senior military leaders were apprised of the changes in the rules of engagement with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops.

India and China have emphasized that both sides should respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and agreed to maintain communication at diplomatic and military levels including under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) to resolve the existing situation peacefully, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday.

The latest meeting came in the backdrop of the violent face-off between India and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead. China, too, had suffered casualties. The delegations for this meeting were led by diplomats from the foreign ministries of both countries for maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas.

India - China trade

The Indian government is reportedly working on a sectoral strategy to reduce imports from China, by building local capacity, creating value chains and quickly attaining self-reliance in at least half-a-dozen areas ranging from footwear and furniture to technical textiles and medical equipment to electronics and defence production. The sectors will receive fiscal incentives, credit support and tariff protection from an influx of cheaper imports, particularly from China.

More tariff barriers, subsidised financing for encouraging domestic equipment usage, rigorous testing of foreign equipment and prior permission requirements for imports from adversary countries, are some of the focus areas of India’ proposed power sector overhaul currently in the works.

This comes in the backdrop of India contemplating an economic response against China and is part of a wider decoupling exercise embarked on by the Indian government since the June 15 border clashes with China.

Addressing the industry captains, power and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh on Tuesday said that some countries who are adversaries or potential adversaries will be identified as “prior reference countries", and a prior government permission will be required before importing any equipment from there.

This dispensation will be applicable across the power sector value chain including generation, distribution and transmission, both in the conventional and the green energy space and also be applicable to smart metres currently being deployed across the country.

Singh said that it is very important to use equipment manufactured in India, as power is a strategic sector and added that whatever equipment is being imported will be tested and certified to prevent any ‘Trojan Horse’ or malware slipping through. There are growing concerns that the country’s power infrastructure could be the next target of enemy forces looking to cripple India’s economy. A grid collapse is the worst-case scenario for any transmission utility. The rationale behind the comprehensive exercise unveiled by Singh on Tuesday is to deny revenue and job creation activities in those countries who are India’s adversaries. As the first step, starting August 1 all imported solar cells, modules and inverters will attract a basic customs duty (BCD), which will make imports from China expensive and will follow after the safeguard duty on solar cells and modules imported from China and Malaysia, currently in place, expires on July 29. The current political thinking is to ensure that whatever is made in India will not be imported and said that an Indian is willing to pay more for power provided it is made in India.

Israel - West Bank

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has called on Israel to abandon plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, saying such a move would be a “most serious violation of international law”.

He said this in a report to the UN Security Council a day before the Council held its twice-yearly meeting on the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the annexation process could begin from July 1.

Guterres has said an Israeli annexation would be “Devastating” for hopes of fresh negotiations and an eventual two-state solution. “This would be calamitous for Palestinians, Israelis, and the region” and threatened “efforts to advance regional peace,” he said. These comments came a day after thousands of Palestinians protested in Jericho against Israeli plans, in a rally also attended by many foreign diplomats.

The Palestinian leadership has proposed a plan that seeks to create a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized”, with East Jerusalem as its capital. It also leaves the door open to border modifications between the proposed state and Israel, as well as exchanges of land equal “in size and volume in value - one to one”.

The Palestinian proposal came as a response to US President Donald Trump’s controversial plan that gave a green light for Israel to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank, including settlements considered illegal under international law, and the Jordan Valley. This plan, unveiled in late January, proposed the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on the remaining patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories, without occupied East Jerusalem, which is wholly rejected by Palestine. Diplomats are of the view that Israel would not face sanctions over the planned annexation, as were imposed by some countries after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Russia celebrations

Russians celebrated Victory Day on Wednesday, marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of the Nazis in World War II. The holiday was actually May 9, but the military parade had to be postponed because of the Coronavirus.

The Victory Parade saw President Vladimir Putin seeking to shed the political setbacks of the Coronavirus pandemic and drum up national pride in preparation for a nationwide vote on constitutional changes that could let him stay in power until 2036.

For Russians, Victory Day is perhaps the nation’s most emotional holiday and evokes triumphant memories of wartime heroism darkened by the cruel sacrifice of 27 million Soviet citizens who died in what is known here as the Great Patriotic War.

After arriving at the parade, Putin shook hands with elderly veterans of the war, people in their 80s and 90s — one of the groups most vulnerable to the Coronavirus. Neither Putin nor the veterans he greeted wore masks.

Putin said Europe owed its freedom to the Soviet soldiers who laid down their lives in the war. “They defended their land, freed the states of Europe from invaders, saved the people of Germany from Nazism and its ideology. It is impossible to imagine what would have happened to the world if the Red Army had not stood in the way of fascism,” he said in a speech opening the parade.

The parade was a showcase of Russian military force, with tanks and missiles rumbling through Red Square, troops marching in crisp formation and an air force flyover of the nation’s most advanced military planes, including MiG-31 interceptors carrying ­hypersonic Kinzhal missiles. In addition to Russia’s latest military technology, the parade also featured a squadron of World War II-era T-34 tanks, once the mainstay of the Soviet armoured columns that swept across Germany.

Indian and Chinese troops, along with contingents from other countries, participated in the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attended the event, along with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe.

The Victory Parade preceded a week-long national vote beginning Thursday on constitutional amendments, including one that entitles Putin to run for reelection two more times after his term expires in 2024.

In a national address Tuesday, Putin sought to turn public opinion around, telling Russians that authorities have done everything possible to save human lives since the pandemic reached the country. Putin has participated in several events this week, visiting a vast military cathedral Monday and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall. Extensive measures have been taken to protect Putin from the Coronavirus, including installing a special disinfectant tunnel at his residence that sprays a fine mist on visitors. Veterans meeting Putin were required to self-isolate for two weeks beforehand.

The Koreas

North Korea has suspended plans for "military action" against South Korea, according to state media. Last week the North blew up the joint liaison office and also threatened to send troops to the border area.

Recent weeks saw a rising tide of angry rhetoric from the North over activist plans to send leaflets with anti-North Korean messages over the border.

But at a meeting chaired by leader Kim Jong-un, state media said the decision was taken to suspend military action. The Central Military Commission made its decision after taking what it called the "prevailing situation" into consideration.

The North also began to dismantle loudspeakers it had erected only last week, traditionally used to blast anti-South Korean messages over the border, Yonhap reported.

It represents a notable de-escalation in rhetoric after Kim's sister, Kim Yo-jong's orders to the army to "decisively carry out the next action". - in part because of what Pyongyang said was Seoul's failure to stop activists floating balloons with anti-regime leaflets over the border.

Some analysts have raised the possibility that Kim might be playing good cop to his sister's bad cop ahead of future talks. Plans for military action have been suspended - not cancelled - so they remain a possibility. This announcement has brought relief to the President Moon’s administration in South Korea, which was facing many threats from the North, going through the Covid-19 crisis and a huge drop in its economy, leading to the distraction of military warnings.


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