World Coronavirus Dispatch: Global death toll could be grossly understated

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The world will officially record 1 million deaths from Covid-19 in the next few days, but the real tally might be almost twice that.

Actual fatalities from the pandemic may be closer to 1.8 million -- a toll that could grow to as high as 3 million by the end of the year, according to Alan Lopez, a laureate professor and director of the University of Melbourne’s global burden of disease group. The coronavirus’s rapid spread and ability to transmit in people who show no signs of the disease have enabled it to outrun measures to accurately quantify cases through widespread diagnostic testing. Read more here

Let’s look at the global statistics:

Total Confirmed Cases: 32,230,923

Change Over Yesterday: 451,088

Total Deaths: 982,969

Total Recovered: 22,234,764

Nations hit with most cases: US (6,978,417), India (5,815,374), Brazil (4,657,702), Russia (1,123,976) and Colombia (790,823)


Democrats crafting new $2.4 trillion stimulus bill to spur talks: The bill could get passed by the House next week. While smaller than the $3.4 trillion package the House passed in May, it remains much larger than what Senate Republicans have said they could accept. President Donald Trump has indicated he’d be willing to go as high as $1.5 trillion. Read more here

UK budget deficit hits $222 billion under lockdowns: UK government borrowing soared to 173.7 billion pounds ($222 billion) in the first five months of the fiscal year as the costs of the coronavirus pandemic continued to mount. Britain now has borrowed more since a national lockdown was imposed in March than during the whole of the year following the 2008-09 financial crisis. Read more here


China finds first asymptomatic cases in 35 days, at port: The two cases, found in Shandong province’s Qingdao city during routine testing of port workers, were the first symptom-free infections that China has reported since August 20. China hasn’t reported any local symptomatic infections since August 15 either. Read more here

Madrid hospitals see surge in critically ill patients: Hospitals in Madrid are filling up with seriously ill Covid-19 patients again, raising the specter of a health-care collapse similar to the grim scenes southern Europe experienced last spring. The number of intensive-care beds in the Spanish capital region jumped to 39 percent on Thursday from 25 percent at the end of last week. Read more here

Singapore population drops for first time since 2003 on economy: The southeast Asian nation’s total population dropped 0.3 percent to 5.69 million as of June from a year ago largely due to a reduction in foreign employment in the services sector. Total population, which include citizens, permanent residents, foreign workers and students, last fell in 2003 to 4.11 million from 4.18 million the year before. Read more here


AstraZeneca gets partial immunity in low-cost EU vaccine deal: European governments will pay claims above an agreed limit against AstraZeneca over side-effects from its potential Covid-19 vaccine, under different terms to a deal struck with Sanofi, according to Reuters sources. AstraZeneca has secured the EU’s backing in a confidential agreement which reflects the lower price sought by the British drugmaker. Read more here

Specials 

Scientists discover insufficient proteins may lead to severe Covid-19. Hint at possible cure

 
Two brothers arrived in Netherlands came to doctors with severe Covid symptoms. What was uncovered in subsequent diagnosis and research was a path leading from severe cases, genetic variations, and gender differences to a loss of immune function that may ultimately yield a new approach to treating thousands of coronavirus patients. The common thread in the research is the lack of a substance called interferon that helps orchestrate the body’s defense against viral pathogens and can be infused to treat conditions such as infectious hepatitis. Now, increasing evidence suggests that a significant minority of Covid-19 patients get very ill because of an impaired interferon response. Twin landmark studies published Thursday in the journal Science showed that insufficient interferon may lurk at a dangerous turning point in SARS-CoV-2 infections. Read more here

Tea is set to become more expensive 

 
The world’s most popular beverage is becoming more expensive. Remote working arrangements and other home routines established during the coronavirus pandemic have led more people to reach for cups of tea, which is consumed in larger amounts world-wide than any drink other than water. But supplies of tea leaves are tightening, due to bad weather in some producer countries, labor shortages, port closures and other logistical issues. Prices of wholesale tea leaves have jumped 50 percent since March, when they tumbled to their lowest levels in more than a decade due to oversupply. At $3.16 a kilogram ($1.44 a pound) recently, they are at levels last seen in November 2017, according to World Bank data. Read more here

The Future of Airbnb

 
Home-sharing’s challenges aren’t only about social distancing and hygiene. Overtourism, racial bias, fee transparency and controlling the party crowd are also in the mix. The biggest player in the short-term rental market, with more than 7 million listings in over 220 countries, is Airbnb. After laying off a quarter of its work force in the spring, Airbnb jettisoned some new ventures, including forays into transportation and entertainment, and hunkered down to focus on its core strength, lodging, even as its valuation fell from a high of $31 billion to, recently, $18 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. Now, as Airbnb prepares to go public. Read more here


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