World coronavirus dispatch: Some countries resume international travel

A medical worker at NYU Langone Medical Center is asked to take a group photo of her medical staff colleagues
The world is restarting travel, cautiously, with countries and businesses reopening in parts. Emirates Airlines has said it will restart limited passenger flights to nine destinations, including London and Frankfurt, from May 21. Three border checkpoints between Austria and Germany opened Wednesday morning, a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria agreed on measures to restore free movement. 

Some others, like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have begun experimenting with “travel bubbles”, allowing movement within a group of specific nations. The leaders of New Zealand and Australia, which have seen relatively few cases, have also agreed to allow travel between their two countries. The European Commission has said countries in the EU with comparable outbreaks should ease travel between them, eventually leading to a complete restoration of free movement among its 27 member states. Read more here.

Let’s look at the global statistics:

Total confirmed cases: 4,347,921

Change over previous day: 85,966

Total deaths: 297,197

Total recovered: 1,548,574

Nations hit with most cases: The US (1,390,406), Russia (242,271), the UK (230,985), Spain (228,691), and Italy (222,104).

Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center

Despite surge in online food orders, US delivery firms struggle: Increased costs to fund promotions and safety equipment on the one hand, and the pressure to reduce commissions for strapped restaurants on the other, have created an even worse financial proposition for food-delivery companies in the US. Firms like Grabhub and Uber Eats are losing money. Read more here.

Chinese, Iranian hackers seek to steal coronavirus research, claims US: Chinese hackers are targeting American universities, pharmaceutical and other healthcare firms, in a bid to steal intellectual property related to coronavirus treatments and vaccines, US officials said in an alert Wednesday, adding that these intrusions might be jeopardising progress on medical research. Read more here.

Hong Kong sees new infections, after 24-day clean sheet: Hong Kong has recorded two new locally transmitted coronavirus infections, after 23 consecutive days with only imported cases. One of the patients is a 66-year-old woman with no travel history in the past three months and no contact with other coronavirus patients. Read more here.

Japan may lift lockdown ahead of schedule: Japan is holding a coronavirus task force meeting on Thursday to get experts’ approval on a plan to lift a state of emergency in most areas. The country declared this emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures and later expanded it to the whole country through May 31. Japan may lift emergency in 39 of 47 prefectures while maintaining it in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido. Read more here.

New Zealand lifts lockdown: New Zealand dropped most of its lockdown on Thursday. Malls, retail stores and restaurants are all reopening in this South Pacific nation of 5 million, and many people are returning to their workplaces. But most gatherings are to be limited to 10 people, and social distancing guidelines will remain in place. Read more here.

Russia and Brazil becoming new epicentres of coronavirus: New infections in developing countries have overtaken those in the rich world. The number of new infections in developed nations has fallen by more than 40 per cent in developed countries since the first half of April, but the virus continues to spread in emerging economies. Read more here.

General Motors may resume operations at Mexico plant next week: GM is preparing to resume building vehicles in Mexico as early as next week following the government’s approval for factories to restart. US carmakers rely on Mexico for critical parts, and GM and Fiat Chrysler manufacture trucks there that generate a big chunk of their profits. Read more here.


Why open a store? Chinese merchants go livestreaming instead: Many of China’s retailers have ended up embracing livestreaming, which has kicked off a new boom in Chinese “shoppertainment”. Some of China’s largest e-commerce companies are betting big on livestreaming. Alibaba’s Taobao Live platform saw a more than seven-fold increase in first-time business customers in February, while Pinduoduo’s livestreaming sessions grew five folds between February and March. Overall, livestreaming e-commerce revenue will likely double this year to $136 billion. Read more here.

Pandemic fails to dampen armed conflicts: The coronavirus pandemic has mostly failed to damp armed conflicts across the world, despite the UN’s plea to use the crisis to promote a global ceasefire, according to a new survey. The global ceasefire plea made by the UN secretary-general on March 23 has mostly “fallen on deaf ears” in 43 countries that have suffered at least 50 reported events of organised violence this year. In 31 of the states, conflict participants not only ignored the appeal but in many cases — including Iraq, Mexico, Mozambique, and Brazil — stepped up hostilities. Read more here.

Study in Italy finds evidence of a link between coronavirus and new condition in children: As concerns mount over children with a serious and potentially deadly inflammatory condition, a new study sheds light on the illness’ distinctive characteristics and provides the strongest evidence yet that the syndrome is linked to coronavirus. The condition, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has been reported in about 100 children in New York. There have also been at least 50 cases reported in European countries, where at least one death has been attributed to the syndrome. Read more here.

Long Reads

Banking — the great return to the office: Striking the right tone with staff is just one of the many challenges facing bank bosses from Wall Street to the City of London and Hong Kong’s Central district as they pave the way for a return to offices after an unprecedented months-long period of widespread working from home to curtail the spread of coronavirus. Banks are also weighing the merits of testing staff for Covid-19 infections and potential antibodies; deciding which teams come back to the office and when; and working out how to deal with restricted public transport and schools that remain closed. Read more here.


Students can’t afford to take the whole summer off: Assuming physical schools remain shut for the summer, the drop-off in students’ progress will be steep. During a normal summer, students would be expected to lose at least one month’s worth of learning, with maths retention taking the biggest hit. The springtime stall caused by the pandemic will exacerbate those losses. Researchers at NWEA, a non-profit educational consultancy, estimate that students could be as much as a year behind on average by the time they return in the fall. Read more here.

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