The PM-CARES Fund, which was set up towards the end of March for covid-19 relief, received ₹3,076 crore in donations in five days since it was set up, according to an audit statement posted on the website. The statement, for the year ended March 2020, records donations between 27 March and 31 March. More than ₹3,076 crore came from domestic voluntary contributions, and ₹39 lakh from abroad. The fund’s first trustees are Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, all in ex-officio capacity. For more national and international news, here’s Mint Lite.
Navalny was ‘poisoned’
The German government has said Russian opposition politician and Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent, Novichok. Navalny was airlifted to Berlin for treatment after collapsing on a flight in Siberia last month. He has been in a coma since. His supporters claim he was poisoned on President’s orders, an allegation the Kremlin has dismissed. Germany said tests at a military laboratory produced “unequivocal evidence” that Navalny was poisoned and condemned the attack and called for Russia to provide an explanation. A similar nerve agent was used in Salisbury two years ago to poison a Russian defector living in the UK. The defector and his daughter survived but one member of the public who came in contact with the nerve agent died. Novichok was developed in the erstwhile USSR in the 1970s as part of its chemical weapons programme.
Poverty falls in Brazil
Covid-19 has killed over 122,000 Brazilians but it’s also driven down poverty and inequality. Brazil, the worst affected after the US, has distributed so much cash to citizens that poverty is approaching historic lows. About 66 million people, 30% of the population, have been getting $110 a month in the country’s biggest social programme. Data from Getulio Vargas Foundation, one of Brazil’s top universities, shows those living on less than $1.9 a day fell to 3.3% in June from 8% last year, and those below the poverty line were at 21.7% compared with 25.6%. Both represent 16-year lows, Bloomberg reports. The scheme’s effect, which has made President Jair Bolsonaro very popular, is expected to play out in November’s local elections, a precursor to the 2022 presidential race. Economists say the programme is unsustainable—it cost Brazil over $9 billion in August alone—and the economy is likely to shrink 5% this year.
Rich will get richer
The world economy may be in tailspin due to the pandemic but many billionaires have been getting richer. Fortunes of Mukesh Ambani, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Zoom’s Eric Yuan, among others, have grown. The pandemic has changed the demand for certain goods and services, impacting shares of companies providing them. Knight Frank put out a report in March, saying the global population of UHNWI (ultra-high net worth individuals with assets of $30 million or more) grew 6.4% last year and stands at 513,244. It’s likely to grow 27% by 2024, led by a surge in the super-wealthy in India (see chart) despite the slowdown. Its covid update says little is likely to change as the global financial crisis showed wealth creation recovers faster than expected.
On the menu: flight food
No one really looks forward to in-flight meals but as the covid-19 outbreak suspended global travel, airlines have started selling their meals to customers missing the taste of travel. Thai Airways began selling its meal boxes in April. In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific is selling meals to airport staff, while Indonesia’s Garuda is offering its food as takeaway dinners on a tray, The Guardian reports. Even in countries like India, where flights have resumed, in-flight meals are not being served. GNS Nuts, which supplies American Airlines and United, was left with over 22,000kg of nuts, when the airlines removed food, and is now selling its luxury mixed nuts online. Australia’s Qantas sold business-class pyjamas, tea bags and hand cream, in “care packs” priced at AU$25. In Abuja, Nigeria, an airline-themed restaurant is offering customers the illusion of flight, with windows with painted clouds and reclining seats.
Of forest loss and covid
Researchers have long been studying relationships between biodiversity, land use and emerging infectious diseases, but now their work to map outbreaks is in the spotlight due to covid-19. For a century, two new viruses have jumped from their natural hosts to humans every year. Scientists say the way we’re cutting down forests and building more is increasing the probability of pathogens moving from animals to humans. The study, published in Nature, analysed 3.2 million records from several ecological studies at sites around the world. It concluded the populations of species known to host diseases that jump to humans, like rodents and bats, increased as the landscape changed from natural to urban, and as biodiversity decreased. A paper in Science says governments could cut the risk of future pandemics by spending $22-33 billion annually in efforts to curb deforestation and the wildlife trade.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @shalinimb