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World coronavirus dispatch: 'Burning the house down to kill a rat?'

From the Covid-19 impact on US jobs, to progress on developing a vaccine, economies slipping into contraction, and coping with distress during isolation - read these and more in today's dispatch

Coronavirus | Russia | Vladimir Putin

Yuvraj Malik  |  New Delhi 

An employee is being instructed on how to use a face mask at the Toyota car factory in Onnaing, northern France, Monday, April 27, 2020. Workers are returning to a Toyota factory as the country tries to carefully restart the economy. AP/PTI
An employee is being instructed on how to use a face mask at the Toyota car factory in Onnaing, northern France, Monday, April 27, 2020. Workers are returning to a Toyota factory as the country tries to carefully restart the economy. AP/PTI

Tech leaders say governments are going overboard with lockdowns: Most countries are in late second months of their nationwide lockdowns to fight the crisis. While these have helped contain the spread, prolonged lockdowns are now drawing criticism, especially given the economic costs nations are having to pay. Some are labelling the exercise “burning the house down to kill a rat” and calling for more innovative solutions that meet midway.

Eminent tech leaders are now coming forward with this view. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said: “To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist”. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said “we have all been in our homes for six weeks, we have got a little stir-crazy”. In India, start-up poster boy Sachin Bansal said: “We can't lock ourselves up for two years in homes waiting for a vaccine. India can't make use of the opportunities if our most productive people are locked in their homes. With Covid's growth slowing down, it's time to open up the economy. We have to learn to live with the virus. Whoever wants to stay at home can stay. And folks who are venturing out should maintain precautions but they should be allowed to work if they wish to.”

Surely, the pressure to open up economic activity is gaining steam.

Let’s look at the global statistics:

Total confirmed cases: 3,222,107

Change over yesterday: 94,588

Total deaths: 228,757

Total recovered: 992,592

Nations hit with most cases: The US (1,042,874), Spain (239,639), Italy (203,591), France (166,628) and the UK (166,441).

Source: Johns Hopkins Research Center

Virus impact may extend to 57 million US jobs: The pandemic will hurt 57 million US workers, more than double the number of jobless claims so far, once furloughs and reduced hours and pay are included, according to McKinsey & Co. The more than 26 million people who have filed unemployment claims in the past five weeks provide only a partial picture of workforce dislocations, according to the consultancy. Read more here.

Europe economy in contraction: The output in the 19-country European region shrank 3.8 per cent, reflecting shutdowns to contain coronavirus that have pushed businesses close to collapse, and sent unemployment surging. Spain and France saw their economies shrink more than 5 per cent, while Germany reported a 373,000 surge in unemployment claims in April. Read more here.

Facebook signals recovery in ad market: In an earnings conference call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the ad market had stabilised after an initial drop-off. This echoes what Google said a day before with respect to its own advertising business. Facebook recorded a handsome quarter with its revenue going up by 18 per cent to $17.74 billion. Read more here.

Plane-maker Boeing to shrink workforce: Boeing on Wednesday said it would cut its 160,000-person workforce by about 10 per cent, further reduce 787 Dreamliner production, and try to boost liquidity as it prepares for a years-long industry recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The company is in talks with banks on a potential bond deal worth at least $10 billion. Read more here.

AstraZeneca teams up with Oxford University to develop Covid-19 vaccine: Britain’s AstraZeneca has joined forces with the Oxford University to help develop, produce and distribute a potential Covid-19 vaccine. A team of British scientists last week dosed the first volunteers, and earlier this month said large-scale production capacity was being put in place to make millions of doses even before trials showed whether it was effective. Read more here.


Children may lose a whole year worth of education: The lost summer could turn into a lost year academically. What used to be a three-month summer learning loss could now turn into five or six months, according to Khan Academy CEO Sal Khan. "Based on historical data, it looks like kids will not only not learn for six months, but they’ll forget for those six months — so they’ll probably lose an entire year," Khan said. Read his analysis here.

Five things to know about remdesivir, the could-be coronavirus cure: Preliminary results have shown that patients who received remdesivir recovered 31 per cent more quickly, in 11 days, compared with 15 days for those who did not take it. The death rate was also lower, at 8 per cent, compared with 11 per cent otherwise. Anthony Fauci, director of the US’ National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that remdesivir was not a “knockout” but that he was “very optimistic”. Read the salient points here.

Long Reads

Putin’s hands-off approach to battling coronavirus: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has taken a conspicuously hands-off approach to the country’s coronavirus response, letting ministers and regional leaders take responsibility — or rather, blame — for it, has criticised the situation. Read more here.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says the crisis requires coordinated digital response: “Neither the public nor the private sector alone can provide the answers. The challenges we face demand an unprecedented alliance between business and government,” Microspft CEO Satya Nadella has said. Read his comments here.


How long will a vaccine really take? Make sense of the vaccine development process through this interactive chart. Under normal circumstances, the vaccine would come out by 2036, but it is being rushed to produce results by next year. “The grim truth behind this rosy forecast is that a vaccine probably won’t arrive anytime soon. Clinical trials almost never succeed. The record for developing an entirely new vaccine is at least four years — more time than what the public or the economy can tolerate social-distancing orders.” Experience it here.


Taking care of mental health during lockdown: Many of us have now spent more than a month at home, grappling with a lot of feelings or worrying about our loved ones. Listen to Aakriti Joanna, therapist and founder of Kaha Mind, who talks about how to recognise and cope with symptoms of mental distress. She leads listeners through feelings of isolation, how to deal with being quarantined with others, productivity (or lack thereof), techniques to combat anxiety and depression, and when to seek help.

First Published: Fri, May 01 2020. 06:31 IST