For the first time, India reported over 50,000 covid-19 cases in a day on Thursday. There were 52,123 new cases in the previous 24 hours, according to Union health ministry, taking the total number of infections to almost 1.6 million. Across Asia, there have been spikes in infections. Hong Kong and Australia have reported record daily cases; the numbers have flared again in China and Japan; Vietnam is testing thousands again after being virus-free for months; and North Korea, which has not yet confirmed its first case, is urging greater vigilance. For the rest of the national and world news, here’s Mint Lite.
J&K to wait a bit more for 4G
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has extended the ban on 4G internet services till 19 August, citing security concerns and a rise in “anti-national activities” ahead of Independence Day. The ban was introduced on 5 August 2019, after J&K’s special status was revoked and it was deemed a Union Territory. In a commentary, Observer Research Foundation notes that the curbs on the Internet in Kashmir have not stopped or slowed the pace of online propaganda by extremists. When curfew was first declared in August 2019, the government suspended internet service for 213 days, and then restored it. J&K has had only 2G services for close to a year, despite the covid-19 outbreak and the need for connectivity for help with medical treatment and for online home schooling of children. In the past year, schools and colleges in the region have only functioned for about 100 days.
Even trials aren’t diverse
Almost 10,000 people in the UK have been given an experimental covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford university. A late-stage trial, with 5,000 volunteers, is underway in Brazil. Subjects are being enrolled in South Africa, and a test in the US is about to begin. AstraZeneca has said the vaccine will be sold at cost price during the crisis, and later on at a low price in poor and middle-income nations, while wealthier nations will have to pay more. There are concerns, however, that the vaccine trials are not diverse enough. Over 70% of participants in a late-stage Gilead Sciences trial of remdesivir, used to treat covid-19, for instance, were white. Early-stage vaccine trials of Moderna’s candidate were 89% white, and Pfizer tested on a group that’s 82% white, Bloomberg reports. Drug responses can be influenced by factors tied to gender, race and ethnicity, such as genetics, making diversity in research critical.
Real Madrid still wins
For the first time in six years, the total brand value of the top 50 football clubs has declined by 3.7% or €751 million due to covid-19. Real Madrid remain the most valuable football club brand in the world for 2020, shows the latest edition of the Brand Finance Football Annual, but its brand value has declined by 14% to €1,419 million (see chart). Covid-19 has affected all clubs’ value as it has had an effect on the three main revenue streams—matchday earnings, broadcasting rights and commercial sales. After the enforced break of three months, most leagues resumed with a behind-closed-doors format that excluded spectators. Matchday income for the 501 games in the big 5 leagues dropped to zero. Broadcasting contracts also took a hit and Premier League clubs were required to repay over £330m to domestic broadcasters (22% of the annual total). The full damage of covid-19 on league football is yet to unfold, and it is likely that there will be casualties in the form of club bankruptcies and changes in ownership.
First flight on Mars?
Thursday launch of NASA’s Perseverance rover sparks off the US space agency’s first attempt to fly an aircraft on another planet. Clinging to the rover’s belly is a small 1.8kg helicopter, called Ingenuity, which will attempt a solo flight in Mars’ thin atmosphere a few months after touchdown. The Perseverance rover, which lifted off without delay, will take about seven months to reach the Red Planet. It is expected to land on 18 February 2021, in the Jezero Crater, a former lake, to search for signs of past life and explore the planet’s geology. NASA has eight successful Mars’ landings under its belt, but Ingenuity will be the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet. Ingenuity’s cameras will give scientists the kind of view of Mars and its environment that rovers on wheels have not been able to so far—it’s essentially a flying robot as all its commands have been pre-programmed.
Covid in bats: An old tale
The origin of the virus that causes covid-19 has been the centre of heated debate for months, and now scientists say the new coronavirus was circulating unnoticed in bats for decades. Horseshoe bats are the most plausible origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, researchers at Pensylvania State University’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics said in a study published in Nature Microbiology. Earlier this month, World Health Organization sent experts to China to study the possible origin of the virus after US insisted that the pathogen was created in a lab. Tracing the virus’s lineage is crucial because it can help authorities and policymakers avert future health crises. The researchers warned that other virus lineages in bats could have the potential to spread to humans too. They concluded that pangolins probably didn’t act as a host for the virus although they may have played a role in starting the pandemic by transmitting it.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at email@example.com or tweet to @shalinimb