World Coronavirus Dispatch: The curious case of pandemic contracts in UK
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US within striking distance of reaching a $900 billion stimulus deal, Victoria lockdown violated human rights, and other pandemic-related news from around the globe

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Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | Coronavirus Vaccine

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Sydney on high alert as cluster swells Sydney is enduring a fresh outbreak as the city reported 12 new infections, taking the virus cluster to 17. The residents of the city’s northern beaches have been advised to avoid unnecessary travel and stay at home for three days. The source for the infections is still unknown, but officials say it could be linked to someone who flew in from overseas. The states bordering the New South Wales (NSW) have manadated a quarantine for those who have been to northern beaches recently. Queensland even warned that it is planning to impose border restrictions on NSW. Australia was relatively successful in slowing the spread of the virus so far. Read here

Let’s look at the global statistics

Global infections: 74,921,288

Change Over Yesterday: 710,938

Global deaths: 1,661,789

Nations with most cases: US (17,198,633), India (9,956,557), Brazil (7,110,434), Russia (2,736,727), France (2,483,524).

Source: John Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.

Victoria lockdown violated human rights A sudden, harsh lockdown by Victoria government in nine housing towers to contain rising second wave of infections late in July has affected the well-being of residents and violated human rights, a report released by the state’s ombudsman has noted. The investigation spoke of the plight of residents during this period. “The lockdown was not compatible with human rights and deprived residents of basic essential support and liberty, the Victorian ombudsman said and recommended the authorities to apologise. However, the state government refused to do so and defended the handling of the lockdown. Read here The goal to end Covid was driven by fear: New Zealand PM New Zealand pulled off a monumental feat of eliminating Covid in the country this year, while the rest of the world watched with envy. The goal was largely driven by fear more than anything else as the nation wouldn’t tolerate a widespread outbreak, prime minister Jacinda Ardern says. From sheer impossibility of the task to taunts from Donald Trump, the road was riddled with many bumps. To resume international travel, Ardern pitches for a vaccine certification process.

The prime minister also unveiled vaccine deals where New Zealand will secure nearly 15 millions doses of vaccine from several makers, including some from Pfizer and Astrazeneca. On the back of strong economic recovery, the country is already working on multiple quarantine-free travel bubbles with countries in a bid to kick-start cross-border travel. Read here

US within striking distance of $900 billion stimulus deal The US Congress is closing in on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package, that aims to lift the sagging economy and help businesses. This comes as a reversal of what seemed just a few weeks ago the deal would end in a deadlock with lawmakers refusing to go back on their long-held positions. The stimulus, if finalised, will handout payments to jobless Americans, fund vaccine distribution among others. It has been a long wait for many seeking further round of relief as both the Republicans and Democrats negotiated for months now in trying to reach a common ground. Read here Togo employed high-tech data to target covid support A country of 8 million people, Togo employed a highly tech-centric approach to target economic measures for its poor, rendered even more vulnerable due to the pandemic. The West African country’s economy is largely informal with many living on the margins. The Covid shutdowns meant that their scanty incomes were down. Building on the digital revolution that already existed, the West African nation of made instant cash payments using satellite imaging and phone records. The algorithms were designed to find out wealth and poverty of individuals using call patterns and other financial transactions in phones. In what started as a temporary quick way to meet the ends, officials hope the revolution will be lasting and propel the economy in future. Read here Specials People connected to Conservatives grabbed many pandemic contracts in UK In rushing to prepare for an out of control pandemic, Britain has awarded nearly half of lucrative government contracts (to produce ventilators, PPE kits among others) since January to people connected to the ruling Conservative Party in potential conflicts of interest, a New York Times investigation has found in an analysis of more than 1,200 publicly available contracts worth nearly $22 billion. Some of the contracts were also given to firms with no experience or a history of tax evasion or frauds. Under the guise of acting fast, the government has also sidestepped many established practices. Many small businesses that responded to govt appeals and sought contracts were left hanging out to dry as their proposals went unanswered for months. Read here

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First Published: Fri, December 18 2020. 11:32 IST

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