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Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Protests Set Off Fears of New Outbreaks – The New York Times

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageDemonstrators gathered in Atlanta during a protest on Saturday. Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said she was concerned that the protests could increase infections in communities of color.
Credit…Dustin Chambers/Reuters

Mass protests over police violence against black Americans in at least 75 U.S. cities have spurred concern that the gatherings will seed new outbreaks.

Speaking on CNN, Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said she was concerned that the protests could increase infections in communities of color, which are already being disproportionately hit by the disease. Death rates among black Americans are double those of whites, and the economic toll of lockdowns has also inflicted disproportionate economic pain.

“I’m extremely concerned we are seeing mass gatherings,” Ms. Bottoms said. “We’re going to see the other side of this in a couple of weeks.”

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, echoed those concerns. Mr. Hogan told CNN the gatherings of “thousands of people jammed in together in close proximity” could lead to a spike in cases.

Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, urged protesters to take safety precautions, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

On the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, noted that Minnesota had seen an uptick in cases before the protests. He also predicted that the protests would ignite chains of transmission.

“This country isn’t through this epidemic,” he said. “This is continuing to expand, but at a much slower rate, but it’s still expanding.”

Dr. Theodore Long, who is leading New York City’s contact tracing efforts with its public hospitals agency, urged anyone who had been involved in the demonstrations to get tested for the virus.

The protests, spurred by the killing of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police, are pulsing through a country ragged with anger and anxiety. More than 100,000 Americans who were infected have died, and some 40 million are out of work.

The outbreak has inflicted disproportionate health and economic tolls on black and Latino communities.

“To have corona, and then this — it’s like a gut shot,” said Jimmy Mills, a barber in a working-class area of Minneapolis.

The protests could affect planned reopenings. Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County said on Sunday that the unrest had prompted him to keep local beaches closed, rather than reopening on Monday as scheduled.

Credit…Byron Smith/Getty Images

This week, as global coronavirus cases pass six million, many nations are entering a pivotal period, giving students, shoppers and travelers more freedom to return to some sense of normalcy after months under lockdown.

Greece, seeking to bolster its crucial tourism sector, announced one of the more aggressive reopening plans. After initially announcing on Friday that it would allow entries from 29 countries whose outbreaks were mostly contained, it shifted to allow flights from all countries.

From June 15 to June 30, the Greek foreign ministry said on Saturday, the flights will go to Greece’s two largest airports, in Athens and Thessaloniki. Passengers from the 29-nation list, including Germany, Australia and South Korea, will be subject to random tests. Those flying in from countries deemed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to have a high risk of virus transmission will be tested.

As of July 1, all Greek airports will reopen to international flights, with random screening for all passengers. Arrivals by sea will be allowed as of July 1, also subject to random testing.

In Britain, more stores will be allowed to open starting Monday, and small groups from different households can meet outdoors. Primary schools will open in England with new social-distancing rules and spaced seating. The government also gave the green light for professional sports to resume under strict protocols, according to government guidelines published on Saturday.

Other countries are creating “travel bubbles,” allowing visitors from nations with low infection rates.

Norway and Denmark will allow leisure travel between the two countries, excluding Sweden, where coronavirus infections are higher. Norway will also allow entry to business travelers from the other Nordic countries from Monday, the government said.

But in Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Sunday that he would ask Parliament for a sixth and final extension to the state of emergency, allowing his central government to keep control over the lockdown in Madrid, Barcelona and other parts of the country until June 21.

Mr. Sánchez told a news conference that Spain needed to “immediately” recover its tourism sector, but that quarantine rules for outside visitors would be kept in place until July 1. “We cannot throw away all the work that we have done,” he said.

Credit…Inti Ocon for The New York Times

Nicaragua is one of the last countries to resist adopting strict measures to curb the spread of the virus. It never closed its schools. It did not shutter businesses. Throughout the pandemic, the government not only allowed mass events — it organized them.

Now there are signs everywhere that the virus is raging across the country, though the government insists it has the situation under control.

Long lines have formed at hospitals, and pharmacies have run out of basic medicines. Families of people who die of respiratory illnesses are being forced to hold “express burials” at all hours of the night, for fear of contagion.

Health organizations are struggling to get accurate case numbers. Testing is limited and controlled by the government. Doctors and activists are bracing for disaster, just two years after antigovernment uprisings against President Daniel Ortega turned violent.

Facing withering criticism, the government released a report last Monday stating that critics were trying to sow chaos, and that the vast majority of people in the country, the second-poorest in the hemisphere, could not afford to lose work under a strict lockdown.

Elena Cano said her 46-year-old son, Camilo Meléndez, the facilities manager at the National Assembly building, died on May 19 from “unusual severe pneumonia,” after trying to get medical care several times.

“The whole world has to understand the truth of the crime that our government is committing,” she said.

Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Once more, the pronouncements arrived in a torrent, though this time they were about rebirth rather than cancellation.

The N.B.A. was planning to start up again in late July. The N.H.L. announced a playoff tournament would take place through the summer. Major League Baseball was continuing negotiations with its players for a shortened season. The N.F.L. was moving toward opening training facilities. Soccer leagues for both men and women in North America were working toward finalizing plans for summer tournaments. Top-tier soccer leagues in England, Italy and Spain announced they would resume play in June.

After months filled with pessimism, hesitation, quiet planning and uncertainty about whether major sports would happen again in 2020, nearly every sport was preparing to come back, provided that work agreements with players could be negotiated and that public health authorities raised no objections.

With reopening plans underway in all 50 states and with elected officials and the public anxious for business activity to resume, league officials had a growing sense that there would be minimal opposition if they moved ahead with plans.

Also, people who work closely with the leagues and team owners said, the financial consequences of not returning, potentially billions of dollars in losses across the leagues, made trying to come back vital.

Credit…Divisione Produzione Fotografica/Vatican News, via Associated Press

Pope Francis appeared in person on Sunday to bless a gathering of the faithful in Saint Peter’s Square for the first time since the coronavirus exploded in Italy and the government imposed a national lockdown in March.

“Today since the square is open we can return,” he said to a scattered audience that applauded as he approached an open window of his private study. “It is a pleasure.”

Francis recited the Regina Coeli prayer and gave his blessing to the crowd.

“You know that from a crisis such as this we will not be the same as before,” he said. “Let’s have the courage to change in order to be better than before.”

The pope began reciting the Angelus prayer from the Library of the Apostolic Palace on March 8 because of the pandemic. “It is a bit strange this Angelus prayer today,” he said then, “with the pope ‘caged’ in the library. But I can see you. I am close to you.”

Earlier Sunday, the pope celebrated a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in front of a limited number of worshipers. In his homily, he urged people to fight three enemies: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism, saying that they “prevent us from giving ourselves” during the pandemic.

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

Since April, U.S. landlords have looked to the first of the month fearing that tenants would stop paying their rent. For the most part, that has not happened. Despite a 14.7 percent unemployment rate and millions of new jobless claims each week, collections are only slightly below where they were last year, when the economy was booming.

How can this be? Part of the answer is a little negotiation and a lot of government money. The $2 trillion CARES Act, which backstopped household finances with stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits, has kept many tenants current on their monthly balances. At the same time, many landlords have reduced rents or are partly or completely forgiving overdue payments.

At the same time, many of the numbers showing only a slight dip skew toward higher-end buildings. Other surveys show that buildings with poorer tenants have lower collection rates.

And deferrals and partial payments appear to be increasing: Apartment List, a rental listing service, said 31 percent of respondents failed to make the full May payment on time, up from a quarter the month before. Hoping for a swift recovery, many landlords are telling tenants they can pay later, knowing this often won’t happen.

The rate of those who have been able to continue paying rent is unlikely to remain stable without a swift and robust recovery, which is becoming increasingly unlikely, or without another big injection of government money, which Senate Republicans say will not happen anytime soon.

American households were struggling with rent long before the economy went into free fall, and there are signs — from an increase in partial payments to surveys that show many tenants are putting rent on their credit cards and struggling to pay for essentials like food — that this pressure is building.

Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Air travel has plummeted in the pandemic, but private jet service has not fallen as hard, in part because of a rise in new paying customers.

For years, jet service providers have ferried executives and wealthy leisure travelers who pay high fees for the privacy and security. Now, with business travel curtailed, those same companies are shifting to meet rising demand from people worried about getting on a commercial flight.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest travel times in the United States in years past, traffic in the private jet industry was 58 percent of the volume from the same time last year, according to Argus, a company that tracks aviation data. But commercial flights fared worse, plunging to 12 percent of the 2019 level.

Five weeks ago, private flights had fallen to 20 to 25 percent of what they were the same time last year, said Doug Gollan, the founder of Privatejetcardcomparisons.com, a research site for consumers. “Now to be back to 60 percent of pre-Covid levels shows the people who have access to private travel are getting back out there,” he said.

NetJets, the largest private jet operator in the world, is seeing a rush in interest from new customers, said Patrick Gallagher, its president.

“May is on track to be the best month of new customer relationships that we’ve seen in the past 10 years,” Mr. Gallagher said.

Companies that carved out a niche with private international flights are also reporting an increase. Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of VistaJet, which has longer-range jets, said the company’s refueling landings in Anchorage, a major stop for transcontinental flights to Asia, were up 250 percent since the pandemic began.

Credit…Alex Edelman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thousands of maskless vacationers flocked to the Maryland town of Ocean City this weekend as the Greater Washington region began to emerge from a coronavirus lockdown.

As Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland has emphasized, the state is at Phase 1 of his “Roadmap to Recovery,” which includes restrictions to keep the virus from spreading. Among them are a requirement that face coverings be worn inside businesses.

But at the Quiet Storm Surf Shop, a clerk folding T-shirts said, “We make them optional.” On the boardwalk outside, a police officer said that the problem was that merchants have to enforce the mask order, but many are reluctant to alienate their first summer customers.

Not all of the tourists were nonchalant about the restrictions. Sitting on a wall dividing the boardwalk from the beach, Kelly and Dan Goddard, who live in a Baltimore suburb, were wearing masks. Their children were sporting tie-dyed cloth ones sewn by relatives.

“There are a lot of unknowns and not a lot of real clear guidance,” Mr. Goddard said. “But I don’t think people realize how serious things are, or they don’t care.”

Patrick Kingsley, an international correspondent, and Laetitia Vancon, a photojournalist, are driving more than 3,700 miles to explore the reopening of the European continent after coronavirus lockdowns. Read all their dispatches.

PRAGUE — To attend her first play in more than two months, Marie Reslova, a prominent Czech theater critic, drove into Prague, headed to a large vegetable market, parked next to a convertible sports car and switched off her engine.

Soon, actors from the Czech National Theater strode onto a platform a few yards from Ms. Reslova’s windshield.

The play had begun. And she hadn’t even left her car.

The Czech Republic enforced tighter restrictions than most European countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic. For several weeks, Czechs were barred even from jogging without a mask. Even after the government eased that restriction, masks were still mandatory in most other public contexts.

But the country also loosened the lockdown earlier than most — and that has made it a laboratory for how arts and culture can adapt to a context in which some restrictions on social life have been lifted, while others remain in place.

The drive-in theater at Prague’s vegetable market was an ambitious example. To circumvent restrictions on public gatherings, audience members watched plays, concerts and comedy from behind their steering wheels — in a monthlong program that ended with a variety act by the National Theater last Sunday evening, attended by Ms. Reslova.

Across Europe, drive-ins have become a familiar means of circumventing pandemic restrictions. By default, cars keep their occupants socially distanced, leading even nightclub owners and priests to set up drive-in discos and churches.

Credit…Pool photo by Henning Schacht

President Trump told reporters on Saturday that he was postponing a Group of 7 meeting scheduled to be held in the United States next month. Earlier Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had said she would not attend in person, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump also said he wanted to invite Russia to rejoin the group.

Making the announcement while returning from the SpaceX launch in Florida, the president said he also planned to invite Australia, India and South Korea to the summit, with an adviser adding that the idea was to bring together traditional allies to discuss China. He said he now wanted to hold the meeting in September.

“I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries,” Mr. Trump said. But his intention to unilaterally invite Russia — which was indefinitely suspended in March 2014 after the annexation of Crimea — is certain to inflame other member nations.

In March, with the coronavirus spreading around the world, Mr. Trump said that the June summit would take place virtually. But he changed plans this month, saying he might invite the participating leaders to Washington as a demonstration of a return to normalcy.

Australia said on Sunday that it would welcome an official invitation, and a government spokesman told reporters that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the United States had made contact to discuss the matter.

As U.S. unemployment claims exceed 40 million and those filing them grow more desperate, an altruistic instinct has emerged among some people who are more financially secure. Yet the sheer breadth of the pain is almost overwhelming, and the appeals are widespread.

So what is the best way to give money to those who require it for food, shelter and other necessities?

Sites and services like GoFundMe can connect donors with real people, but they may lack vetting of recipients, their back stories or their plans. They also may not make it possible to be identified or anonymous based on the preference of a giver or a beneficiary.

Donors with large amounts to give may want to use tax deductions to increase what they can afford to donate but may not be able to get them through one-off cash transfers.

Here are a few ways you can help.

Credit…Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

Throngs of Muslim worshipers returned to formal services in Israel and Saudi Arabia on Sunday as two of Islam’s holiest sites reopened for the first time since being closed more than two months ago because of the coronavirus.

At the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third-holiest site, worshipers entering the compound for dawn prayers were greeted by officials who took their temperatures, distributed masks and implored them to follow social distancing guidelines.

“We are depending on your heedfulness,” Omar Kiswani, the mosque’s director, said through a loudspeaker system.

Ibrahim Zaghed, 25, an unemployed resident of Jerusalem, wept as he laid down his prayer mat. “Today is no different than a holiday,” said Mr. Zaghed, who was not wearing a mask. “I feel like a complete person again.”

The compound, which Jews revere as their holiest site and refer to as the Temple Mount, is often at the center of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

In Saudi Arabia, the government said that 90,000 mosques across the kingdom had reopened on Sunday, including parts of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, considered Islam’s second-holiest site. The most revered site in Islam, the Kaaba in Mecca, remains closed.

Imam Kiswani of the Aqsa Mosque, who estimated that about 3,000 people participated in the prayers on Sunday, said that while most followed social-distancing guidelines, some needed to exercise “greater attentiveness.”

Manal Balala, 50, a housekeeper from Jerusalem who was wearing a mask and gloves, was overjoyed as she socialized with her friends after prayers.

“I feel like my soul has been restored,” she said.

Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When Boris Johnson became the editor of The Spectator in 1999, he said he planned to make the weekly magazine, Britain’s oldest, a “refuge for logic, fun, and good writing.” It would, he promised somewhat paradoxically, “continue to set the political agenda, and to debunk it.”

Now that Mr. Johnson is Britain’s prime minister, the magazine he once ran has never been closer to fulfilling his ambition of being both in bed with the country’s conservative establishment and willing to yank the covers off it.

Yet The Spectator’s incestuous ties with the governing elite have thrust it into the heart of an uproar over a 260-mile drive that Mr. Johnson’s most influential adviser, Dominic Cummings, and his wife made, violating Britain’s lockdown rules.

Mary Wakefield, one of the magazine’s senior editors, is married to Mr. Cummings and wrote a vivid account of how she and her husband both fell ill with the coronavirus. Mr. Cummings, she said, lay “doggo” in bed for 10 days before emerging into “the almost comical uncertainty of London lockdown.”

The trouble is, she did not mention that they had gone to northern England — a journey that has brought charges of hypocrisy and calls for Mr. Johnson to dismiss Mr. Cummings.

Ms. Wakefield’s omissions have also cast an unflattering light on The Spectator. Critics have accused it of misleading readers. Britain’s Independent Press Standards Organization, a watchdog group, has received more than 100 complaints about the column. Pending an investigation, it could force the magazine to publish a correction.

Reporting was contributed by Alfonso Flores Bermúdez, Frances Robles, Alexander Villegas, Patricia Mazzei, Niki Kitsantonis, Roni Caryn Rabin, Raphael Minder, Karen Zraick, Conor Dougherty, Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Ron Lieber, Paul Sullivan, Emma Bubola, Jack Healy, Dionne Searcey, Patrick Kingsley, Sharon Otterman, Elizabeth Williamson, Elian Peltier, Yonette Joseph, Hannah Beech, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Aimee Ortiz, Suhasini Raj, Adam Rasgon, Kai Schultz and Derrick Bryson Taylor.

Categories
Health News

Mint Lite | Reopening India, WHO’s health, UBI in Spain and other news to know – Livemint

The number of people infected by the novel coronavirus worldwide has passed 6 million. US remains the worst affected, followed by Brazil and Russia. The pandemic has forced US President Donald Trump to postpone the G7 summit in Washington, and he said he plans to hold it in September, and expand the list of countries invited to include Australia, Russia, South Korea and India. For the rest of the news you need to know in five minutes, here’s Mint Lite.

Risk and relief with re-opening

Photo: Reuters

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Photo: Reuters

Restrictions are to be lifted from 8 June, easing the squeeze on the economy, but governments will face new challenges as the over-two-month lockdown only slowed the spread of the virus, without effectively flattening the curve. The caseload in India has crossed 1.8 lakh; other countries opening up have seen a clear drop in cases. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have extended lockdowns till the end of June. Three leading medical professional organizations have submitted a statement to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, criticising the government’s handling of the pandemic and recommending that the nationwide lockdown be replaced with cluster-specific restrictions based on epidemiological assessment. They said the emerging evidence indicates that covid-19 worsened health inequities, and that community transmission could have been avoided if the government had allowed migrants to return home before lockdown.

Why US WHO exit is bad for global health



Photo: Reuters

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Photo: Reuters

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump said US was withdrawing from World Health Organization, after two months of criticizing the UN body for its handling of the pandemic. While there’s still debate about whether the US president can pull out without Congressional approval, he can indefinitely freeze funding to WHO, effectively crippling its functioning during a global health crisis. US is WHO’s biggest funder, contributing about $450 million in membership dues and for specific programmes. If the pull-out goes through, the impact could be far-reaching—the immediate one is to a united response to the pandemic, which is essential not only in the search for a vaccine but also to prevent spread. US also funds WHO programmes for polio eradication, tuberculosis, HIV, malaria and vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, and emergency health operations. If these initiatives shrink, global health will suffer.

Covid puts brakes on EV sales



Graphic: Mint

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Graphic: Mint

The immediate impact of covid-19 on the automobile industry has been a crash in sales. Optimists though are of the opinion that fears about spread of infection could create a new set of customers who want to avoid public transport. There’s one thing they all agree on, however—growth of electric cars will falter, mainly on account of the price. Even for petrol and diesel cars, vehicles under $10,000 account for 68% of car sales in India. EV car pricing cannot match internal combustion engines yet because the battery cost is still high. In India, electric two-wheelers have always done better than cars; sales jumped over 20% in FY2020 compared to the previous year. For more on the effect of covid-19 on EV startups, read Startup Inc.

Spain Move Puts UBI In Focus

Photo: Reuters

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Photo: Reuters

Spain has introduced basic monthly income to counter the impact of coronavirus on individuals and families. It will pay between $512 and $1,126 a month as guaranteed income to people. The move is expected to benefit 2.3 million people—and has restarted debates in Europe and US, where jobless claims are rising, about the need for universal basic income schemes at a time when poverty threatens millions and economies are shrinking. UBI was a debate point during the 2019 election here, with Congress’ Rahul Gandhi promising it. Canada, Namibia and Finland have experimented with it; Alaska, US, provides an annual payout; Madhya Pradesh did a pilot project in 2010. The idea is to raise people to a basic standard of living and the Finnish experiment showed people felt lower levels of insecurity, but the problem for most governments is the cost of such a scheme.

Competitive sport makes slow return



Photo: AP

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Photo: AP

After a three-month shutdown, competitive sports will restart in UK on Monday without spectators and with a lengthy set of rules to keep elite sportspersons safe. The new guidelines were released over the weekend, and the first event is set to be a horse race in Newmarket. Premier League football is likely to start from 17 June, with the preparations in full swing and new rules being finalised. Cricket remains suspended until August, and rugby clubs hope to resume training from 8 June. In Sri Lanka, a select group of cricketers will return to training on Monday, amid efforts to restart the game after the shutdown since March. Sri Lanka are preparing to host India for a limited-overs series in July, though India is yet to make a decision on international travel. South Africa has also allowed playing of professional non-contact sport this past weekend. Some countries such as South Korea and Germany have already been playing tournaments without audiences.

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Categories
Economy News

Coronavirus is our chance to completely rethink what the economy is for – The Guardian

There’s been a lot of argument about how best to handle the coronavirus pandemic, but if there are two things on which most people currently agree, it’s that governments should have been better prepared, and that everyone should get back to work as soon as it is safe to do so. After all, it seems more or less self-evident that you need to be ready for unexpected contingencies – and that it is better for the economy to function at full capacity. More PPE would have saved doctors’ and nurses’ lives; more work means less unemployment and more growth.

But there is a catch to this, and it has been at the heart of political debate since Machiavelli. It is impossible to achieve both goals at once. Contingency planning requires unused capacity, whereas exploiting every opportunity to the full means losing the flexibility needed to respond to sudden changes of fortune.

It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that economists started to realise that it might be better to leave a bit of slack in the economy to help cope with exogenous shocks. In the years after the Great Depression, governments saw the problem as “idle men, idle land, idle machines and idle money”. But there were also economists, such as the Englishman William Hutt, who went against the Keynesian consensus and pointed out that there were some things – fire extinguishers, for example – that were valuable precisely because they were never used. Having large stocks of PPE, underemployed nurses, or a lot of spare capacity in ICUs, falls into the same category. Idle resources are what you need in a crisis, so some degree of inefficiency isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Trying to manage a pandemic in a world of just-in-time production lines and precarious labour brings these issues into sharper focus. On the one hand, there weren’t enough idle resources for most countries to cope adequately with the spread of the virus. On the other, the enforced idleness of the lockdown leads to calls to get the economy moving again.

For Donald Trump, the prospect of a prolonged shutdown is particularly alarming because it threatens to undermine the competitiveness of the US economy relative to other nations (notably China) that have dealt with the crisis more efficiently. That’s an argument Machiavelli would have understood very well. One of his constant refrains was that idleness could lead to what he called corruption (the diversion of resources from the public good, which Trump equates with the Dow Jones Industrial Average) – and that corruption leads inevitably to defeat at the hands of your rivals.

For Machiavelli, the contagion of corruption was spread above all by Christianity, a “religion of idleness”. And it is true that the Judeo-Christian tradition, with its sabbaths, jubilees, feast days, and religious specialists devoted to a life of prayer and contemplation rather than martial virtue, built a lot of slack into the system. Machiavelli thought it should be squeezed out through laws that would prevent surplus becoming the pretext for idleness, rather in the way that later economists looked to the pressure mechanism of competition to do the same.

But there’s a contradiction in Machiavelli’s thinking here, because he also acknowledged that one of the things every polity needed was periodic renewal and reform, and that corruption was what preceded it. So you’re in a double bind: either you can squeeze out the slack and never experience renewal, or you can court corruption and create an opportunity to start over and make things better.

With hindsight it looks like that’s one of the problems the religions of idleness tried to address, by incorporating idleness into the calendar. In ancient Hebrew tradition, there were weekly sabbaths, and every seventh year was meant to be a year of release in which the land was left to lie fallow, debts were forgiven and slaves emancipated. The idea was picked up by the Chartist William Benbow, who in 1832 used it as the model for what he called a Grand National Holiday, in effect a month-long general strike that would allow a National Congress to reform society “to obtain for all at the least expense to all, the largest sum of happiness for all”.

Benbow’s plan came to nothing, but it provides an alternative model for how the lockdown might be viewed. The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has complained that the lockdown is a state of exception with an increase in executive powers and a partial abrogation of the rule of law; but the flipside is that it is the closest thing to a Grand National Holiday that most of us have ever experienced. Despite all the suffering the pandemic has caused, for many it has also meant no work, debt relief, empty roads and a rare opportunity to live on free money from the government.

Generally speaking, exogenous threats like wars or natural disasters act as pressure mechanisms forcing us to redouble our efforts to combat them together. The benefit of contagion is that the only way to combat it is to do less rather than more. That has some demonstrable advantages. There has been a dramatic global fall in carbon emissions. The only comparable reduction in greenhouse gases during the past 30 years came as the result of the decline of industrial production in eastern Europe after the fall of communism. That was managed exceptionally badly because neoliberal economists thought that what post-communist states needed was the pressure of free market competition. Shock therapy would galvanise the economy.

The pandemic has been a shock alright, but its effect has been the opposite of galvanising. People everywhere had to stop whatever they were doing or planning to do in the future. That provides an altogether different model of political change. The philosopher Walter Benjamin once noted that while Karl Marx claimed that revolutions were the locomotives of world history, things might actually turn out to be rather different: “Perhaps revolutions are the human race … travelling in this train, reaching for the emergency brake.”

Everyone keeps saying that we are living through strange times, but what is strange about it is that because everything has come to a stop, it is as though we are living out of time. The emergency brake has been pulled and time is standing still. It feels uncanny, and there’s more slack in the world economy than there ever has been before. And that means, as both Benjamin and Machiavelli would have recognised, that there is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change and renewal.

For some, this might mean a shorter working week, or less air travel. For others, it might suggest the opportunity for a more fundamental remaking of our political system. A space of possibility has unexpectedly opened up, so although the lockdown may be coming to an end, perhaps the standstill should continue.

Malcolm Bull teaches at Oxford. His latest book is On Mercy

Categories
Sports

Alexis Sanchez: Inter Milan want Manchester United winger to extend loan – Sky Sports

Sanchez’s current deal set to expire on June 30; Inter currently have no option to buy

By Liam Grace

Last Updated: 31/05/20 9:10pm

Alexis Sanchez is set to return to Manchester United on June 30

Alexis Sanchez is set to return to Manchester United on June 30

Alexis Sanchez is set to return to Manchester United on June 30

Inter Milan want Alexis Sanchez from Manchester United on a longer loan deal, following the extension of the 2020/21 season in Italy and England.

Inter are believed to be paying just a quarter of Sanchez’s £450,000 wages with the current 10-month deal, which is set to end on June 30, expected to cost United around £6m, while Inter have no option to buy.

However, sporting director Piero Ausilio has told Sky in Italy that the Italian club are now looking to extend Sanchez’s stay until the end of the Serie A campaign – which will be completed through the summer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – much like the Premier League in England.

Sanchez has failed to impress at United since arriving from Arsenal

Sanchez has failed to impress at United since arriving from Arsenal

Sanchez has failed to impress at United since arriving from Arsenal

Sanchez, 31, who has scored five goals in 45 matches for United, picked up an ankle injury in October while on international duty with Chile, just a few months into his loan at the San Siro.

The former Arsenal and Barcelona forward has subsequently failed to score in 11 appearances for Inter since returning to action in January, but Ausilio feels Sanchez could be an important cog for the remainder of the season.

1:57

Sky Sports News’ James Cooper explains the complexities of United’s bid to extend Odion Ighalo’s loan deal at Old Trafford
Sky Sports News’ James Cooper explains the complexities of United’s bid to extend Odion Ighalo’s loan deal at Old Trafford

“First of all, let’s start from the premise that with all the players our desire is to continue until the end of the Serie A and Europa League season,” Ausilio said.

“Our will is to end the season with all these players. If their contracts are ending, we are going to deal with the situation. The only thing that I can announce because it is official is that we practiced our option for [Ashley] Young.

“[But] We rely on Sanchez in these [next few] months, above all to be able to give a definitive evaluation of this player, who was injured and couldn’t play for a long time.

“Before this injury he was doing very well. I remember the matches against Barcelona and Sampdoria. That was the Sanchez of his best seasons, both with Udinese and with Arsenal.

“After the injury, he had just little time and then came into this very unlucky period [the coronavirus crisis]. But now since Serie A is resuming he will have the chance to prove his worth and then together we will take a decision.

“But honestly we both have the interest in ending the season in the best way and find an agreement, then evaluate his future.”

Inter, who are third in Serie A with 13 games remaining, are currently nine points behind leaders Juventus but have a game in hand over the table-toppers, while Lazio sit between them in second.

Super 6: Bayern To Stay Ruthless?

Do not miss your chance to land the £50,000 jackpot on Saturday. Play for free, entries by 2:30pm.

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World News

Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Protests Raise Fears of New Outbreaks – The New York Times

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageDemonstrators gathered in Atlanta during a protest on Saturday. Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said she was concerned that the protests could increase infections in communities of color.
Credit…Dustin Chambers/Reuters

Mass protests over police violence against black Americans in at least 75 U.S. cities have spurred concern that the gatherings will seed new outbreaks.

Speaking on CNN, Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said she was concerned that the protests could increase infections in communities of color, which are already being disproportionately hit by the disease. Death rates among black Americans are double those of whites, and the economic toll of lockdowns has also inflicted disproportionate economic pain.

“I’m extremely concerned we are seeing mass gatherings,” Ms. Bottoms said. “We’re going to see the other side of this in a couple of weeks.”

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, echoed those concerns. Mr. Hogan told CNN the gatherings of “thousands of people jammed in together in close proximity” could lead to a spike in cases.

Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, urged protesters to continue taking safety precautions, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

“The question is how do we do protesting safely,” Dr. Jha said on CNN. “I think masks are a critical part of it.”

The protests, spurred by the killing of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police, came after weeks of virus restrictions and economic hardship across the country. More than 100,000 Americans who were infected have died, and some 40 million are out of work.

The outbreak has inflicted disproportionate economic and health tolls on racial minorities and immigrants. Black and Latino workers have been more likely to lose their jobs. Many others are among the low-paid hourly workers with jobs that cannot be done remotely.

“To have corona, and then this — it’s like a gut shot,” said Jimmy Mills, a barber in a working-class area of Minneapolis who has struggled to keep his shop open.

Credit…Pool photo by Henning Schacht

President Trump told reporters on Saturday that he was postponing a Group of 7 meeting scheduled to be held in the United States next month. Earlier Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had said she would not attend in person, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump also said he wanted to invite Russia to rejoin the group.

Making the announcement while returning from the SpaceX launch in Florida, the president said he also planned to invite Australia, India and South Korea to the summit, with an adviser adding that the idea was to bring together traditional allies to discuss China. He said he now wanted to hold the meeting in September.

“I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries,” Mr. Trump said. But his intention to unilaterally invite Russia — which was indefinitely suspended in March 2014 after the annexation of Crimea — is certain to inflame other member nations.

In March, with the coronavirus spreading around the world, Mr. Trump said that the June summit would take place virtually. But he changed plans this month, saying he might invite the participating leaders to Washington as a demonstration of a return to normalcy.

Australia said on Sunday that it would welcome an official invitation, and a government spokesman told reporters that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the United States had made contact to discuss the matter.

Credit…Byron Smith/Getty Images

This week, as global coronavirus cases pass six million, many nations are entering a pivotal period, giving students, shoppers and travelers more freedom to return to some sense of normalcy after months under lockdown.

Greece, seeking to bolster its crucial tourism sector, announced one of the more aggressive reopening plans. After initially announcing on Friday that it would allow entries from 29 countries whose outbreaks were mostly contained, it shifted to allow flights from all countries.

From June 15 to June 30, the Greek foreign ministry said on Saturday, the flights will go to Greece’s two largest airports, in Athens and Thessaloniki. Passengers from the 29-nation list, including Germany, Australia and South Korea, will be subject to random tests. Those flying in from countries deemed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to have a high risk of virus transmission will be tested.

As of July 1, all Greek airports will reopen to international flights, with random screening for all passengers. Arrivals by sea will be allowed as of July 1, also subject to random testing.

In Britain, more stores will be allowed to open starting Monday, and small groups from different households can meet outdoors. Primary schools will open in England with new social-distancing rules and spaced seating. The government also gave the green light for professional sports to resume under strict protocols, according to government guidelines published on Saturday.

Other countries are creating “travel bubbles,” allowing visitors from nations with low infection rates.

Norway and Denmark will allow leisure travel between the two countries, excluding Sweden, where coronavirus infections are higher. Norway will also allow entry to business travelers from the other Nordic countries from Monday, the government said.

But in Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Sunday that he would ask Parliament for a sixth and final extension to the state of emergency, allowing his central government to keep control over the lockdown in Madrid, Barcelona and other parts of the country until June 21.

Mr. Sánchez told a news conference that Spain needed to “immediately” recover its tourism sector, but that quarantine rules for outside visitors would be kept in place until July 1. “We cannot throw away all the work that we have done,” he said.

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

Since April, U.S. landlords have looked to the first of the month fearing that tenants would stop paying their rent. For the most part, that has not happened. Despite a 14.7 percent unemployment rate and millions of new jobless claims each week, collections are only slightly below where they were last year, when the economy was booming.

At the same time, many of the numbers showing only a slight dip skew toward higher-end buildings. Other surveys show that buildings with poorer tenants have lower collection rates.

And deferrals and partial payments appear to be increasing: Apartment List, a rental listing service, said 31 percent of respondents failed to make the full May payment on time, up from a quarter the month before. Hoping for a swift recovery, many landlords are telling tenants they can pay later, knowing this often won’t happen.

The rate of those who have been able to continue paying rent is unlikely to remain stable without a swift and robust recovery, which is becoming increasingly unlikely, or without another big injection of government money, which Senate Republicans say will not happen anytime soon.

American households were struggling with rent long before the economy went into free fall, and there are signs — from an increase in partial payments to surveys that show many tenants are putting rent on their credit cards and struggling to pay for essentials like food — that this pressure is building.

Credit…Divisione Produzione Fotografica/Vatican News, via Associated Press

Pope Francis appeared in person on Sunday to bless a gathering of the faithful in Saint Peter’s Square for the first time since the coronavirus exploded in Italy and the government imposed a national lockdown in March.

“Today since the square is open we can return,” he said to a scattered audience that applauded as he approached an open window of his private study. “It is a pleasure.”

Francis recited the Regina Coeli prayer and gave his blessing to the crowd.

“You know that from a crisis such as this we will not be the same as before,” he said. “Let’s have the courage to change in order to be better than before.”

The pope began reciting the Angelus prayer from the Library of the Apostolic Palace on March 8 because of the pandemic. “It is a bit strange this Angelus prayer today,” he said then, “with the pope ‘caged’ in the library. But I can see you. I am close to you.”

Earlier Sunday, the pope celebrated a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in front of a limited number of worshipers. In his homily, he urged people to fight three enemies: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism, saying that they “prevent us from giving ourselves” during the pandemic.

Credit…Alex Edelman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thousands of maskless vacationers flocked to the Maryland town of Ocean City this weekend as the Greater Washington region began to emerge from a coronavirus lockdown.

As Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland has emphasized, the state is at Phase 1 of his “Roadmap to Recovery,” which includes restrictions to keep the virus from spreading. Among them are a requirement that face coverings be worn inside businesses.

But at the Quiet Storm Surf Shop, a clerk folding T-shirts said, “We make them optional.” On the boardwalk outside, a police officer said that the problem was that merchants have to enforce the mask order, but many are reluctant to alienate their first summer customers.

Not all of the tourists were nonchalant about the restrictions. Sitting on a wall dividing the boardwalk from the beach, Kelly and Dan Goddard, who live in a Baltimore suburb, were wearing masks. Their children were sporting tie-dyed cloth ones sewn by relatives.

“There are a lot of unknowns and not a lot of real clear guidance,” Mr. Goddard said. “But I don’t think people realize how serious things are, or they don’t care.”

Patrick Kingsley, an international correspondent, and Laetitia Vancon, a photojournalist, are driving more than 3,700 miles to explore the reopening of the European continent after coronavirus lockdowns. Read all their dispatches.

PRAGUE — To attend her first play in more than two months, Marie Reslova, a prominent Czech theater critic, drove into Prague, headed to a large vegetable market, parked next to a convertible sports car and switched off her engine.

Soon, actors from the Czech National Theater strode onto a platform a few yards from Ms. Reslova’s windshield.

The play had begun. And she hadn’t even left her car.

The Czech Republic enforced tighter restrictions than most European countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic. For several weeks, Czechs were barred even from jogging without a mask. Even after the government eased that restriction, masks were still mandatory in most other public contexts.

But the country also loosened the lockdown earlier than most — and that has made it a laboratory for how arts and culture can adapt to a context in which some restrictions on social life have been lifted, while others remain in place.

The drive-in theater at Prague’s vegetable market was an ambitious example. To circumvent restrictions on public gatherings, audience members watched plays, concerts and comedy from behind their steering wheels — in a monthlong program that ended with a variety act by the National Theater last Sunday evening, attended by Ms. Reslova.

Across Europe, drive-ins have become a familiar means of circumventing pandemic restrictions. By default, cars keep their occupants socially distanced, leading even nightclub owners and priests to set up drive-in discos and churches.

Read the full dispatch here.

As U.S. unemployment claims exceed 40 million and those filing them grow more desperate, an altruistic instinct has emerged among some people who are more financially secure. Yet the sheer breadth of the pain is almost overwhelming, and the appeals are widespread.

So what is the best way to give money to those who require it for food, shelter and other necessities?

Sites and services like GoFundMe can connect donors with real people, but they may lack vetting of recipients, their back stories or their plans. They also may not make it possible to be identified or anonymous based on the preference of a giver or a beneficiary.

Donors with large amounts to give may want to use tax deductions to increase what they can afford to donate but may not be able to get them through one-off cash transfers.

Credit…Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

Throngs of Muslim worshipers returned to formal services in Israel and Saudi Arabia on Sunday as two of Islam’s holiest sites reopened for the first time since being closed more than two months ago because of the coronavirus.

At the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third-holiest site, worshipers entering the compound for dawn prayers were greeted by officials who took their temperatures, distributed masks and implored them to follow social distancing guidelines.

“We are depending on your heedfulness,” Omar Kiswani, the mosque’s director, said through a loudspeaker system.

Ibrahim Zaghed, 25, an unemployed resident of Jerusalem, wept as he laid down his prayer mat. “Today is no different than a holiday,” said Mr. Zaghed, who was not wearing a mask. “I feel like a complete person again.”

The compound, which Jews revere as their holiest site and refer to as the Temple Mount, is often at the center of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

In Saudi Arabia, the government said that 90,000 mosques across the kingdom had reopened on Sunday, including parts of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, considered Islam’s second-holiest site. The most revered site in Islam, the Kaaba in Mecca, remains closed.

Imam Kiswani of the Aqsa Mosque, who estimated that about 3,000 people participated in the prayers on Sunday, said that while most followed social-distancing guidelines, some needed to exercise “greater attentiveness.”

Manal Balala, 50, a housekeeper from Jerusalem who was wearing a mask and gloves, was overjoyed as she socialized with her friends after prayers.

“I feel like my soul has been restored,” she said.

Credit…Andreea Alexandru/Associated Press

The Romanian prime minister, Ludovic Orban, paid a fine on Saturday for breaking his own coronavirus restrictions, after a photo widely shared on social media showed him with other cabinet members smoking in his office and not wearing a mask.

In a statement, Mr. Orban admitted to breaking the lockdown rules on May 25, his 57th birthday, when some cabinet members gathered at his office after work.

And in Belgium, a nephew of King Philippe tested positive for the coronavirus last week after attending a party in Spain, according to the Belgian royal palace.

The nephew, Prince Joachim, 28, tested positive on Thursday after attending an event in the southern city of Cordoba, the palace said. Spanish news outlets reported that 27 people had attended the party, which would be in violation of regional lockdown rules that limit gatherings in private households to 15 people.

Prince Joachim traveled from Belgium to Madrid and then to Cordoba, where he contracted the virus and has been isolating since then. Under Phase 2 of Spain’s reopening plan, those who violate lockdown rules face a fine of 600 to 10,000 euros, or about $650 to $11,100.

Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When Boris Johnson became the editor of The Spectator in 1999, he said he planned to make the weekly magazine, Britain’s oldest, a “refuge for logic, fun, and good writing.” It would, he promised somewhat paradoxically, “continue to set the political agenda, and to debunk it.”

Now that Mr. Johnson is Britain’s prime minister, the magazine he once ran has never been closer to fulfilling his ambition of being both in bed with the country’s conservative establishment and willing to yank the covers off it.

Yet The Spectator’s incestuous ties with the governing elite have thrust it into the heart of an uproar over a 260-mile drive that Mr. Johnson’s most influential adviser, Dominic Cummings, and his wife made, violating Britain’s lockdown rules.

Mary Wakefield, one of the magazine’s senior editors, is married to Mr. Cummings and wrote a vivid account of how she and her husband both fell ill with the coronavirus. Mr. Cummings, she said, lay “doggo” in bed for 10 days before emerging into “the almost comical uncertainty of London lockdown.”

The trouble is, she did not mention that they had gone to northern England — a journey that has brought charges of hypocrisy and calls for Mr. Johnson to dismiss Mr. Cummings.

Ms. Wakefield’s omissions have also cast an unflattering light on The Spectator. Critics have accused it of misleading readers. Britain’s Independent Press Standards Organization, a watchdog group, has received more than 100 complaints about the column. Pending an investigation, it could force the magazine to publish a correction.

Reporting was contributed by Niki Kitsantonis, Roni Caryn Rabin, Raphael Minder, Karen Zraick, Conor Dougherty, Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Ron Lieber, Emma Bubola, Jack Healy, Dionne Searcey, Patrick Kingsley, Elizabeth Williamson, Elian Peltier, Yonette Joseph, Hannah Beech, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Aimee Ortiz, Suhasini Raj, Adam Rasgon, Kai Schultz and Derrick Bryson Taylor.

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Health News

Public Health to provide COVID-19 update – CBC.ca

Public Health will be holding a news conference at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday to provide an update on COVID-19 in New Brunswick.

CBC New Brunswick will carry the news conference live at cbc.ca/nb or on Facebook and Twitter. 

One new case of COVID-19 was reported Saturday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to nine. All nine cases are in the Campbellton region, also known as Zone 5.

Eight of the nine active cases in the province are linked to a family doctor who contracted the virus in Quebec and didn’t self-isolate upon his return to New Brunswick. The doctor has been suspended.

The ninth case, an individual in their 70s, is under investigation.

Three of the nine cases are in hospital and no patients are in intensive care. Two patients were removed from the ICU on Saturday. 

Public Health conducted nearly 700 tests between Friday and Saturday.  

The government is urging people in the Campbellton area and those who travelled there in the last couple weeks to get tested. 

Testing sites in Campbellton, Dalhousie

Testing sites are set up at the Memorial Civic Centre in Campbellton and the Dalhousie Inch Arran Ice Palace.

Sunday is the last day of mass testing. No appointment is required and testing is available for everyone regardless of whether they’re showing symptoms.

Those who get a negative test result should monitor for symptoms for the next 14 days. It takes up to 48 hours for test results to come back. 

Around 150 others may have been exposed to the virus.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said people living outside of Campbellton are in the circle of transmission as well.

Until last week, New Brunswick had no active cases of the respiratory disease. All 120 people infected since the pandemic began in March had recovered. 

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Crypto News

Crypto Wallet BRD Sees Record Downloads Amid Pandemic – Forbes

Video conferencing and social media aren’t the only things getting more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. With people stuck at home, cryptocurrency is seeing renewed interest by some investors. 

“I expected with the pandemic people would want to pull money back, especially if they are losing their jobs,” said Adam Traidman, CEO and Co-Founder of BRD, the cryptocurrencies digital wallet company, in a recent interview. “If you look at the downloads, it’s setting all-time highs every month this year.” 

Since March BRD has added 678,000 users in the U.S. and is on track to hit 5 million on a global basis by the end of August. Prior to the pandemic, the 5 million user mark was an end of 2020 goal.

Traidman credits a lot of the surge in downloads to stay-at-home orders still in place in cities across the country and world. People have more time to research alternative asset classes, including cryptocurrency. It didn’t hurt that U.S. stocks were taking a beating in the early days of the pandemic. Panicked investors looking for alternatives set their sights on cryptocurrency. In March and April, trading volumes for bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency, reached record highs on that interest.

Then there’s the need to send money cross borders. With stores shuttered, consumers are forced to find alternatives to get money in the hands of family overseas. Since the pandemic hit in March, shares of bitcoin, have been surging. That doesn’t mean the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies won’t remain volatile, but with the pandemic changing the way we do pretty much everything it could become more mainstream in a post COVID-19 world. 

Samsung Electronics seems to think so. Last week it announced a deal with Gemini Trust, the U.S. cryptocurrency exchange and custodian. Gemini is powering Samsung’s blockchain wallet, enabling its U.S. and Canadian customers to buy, store, and sell digital tokens from the mobile app. By integrating with Gemini Trust, Samsung is removing some of the steps necessary when purchasing cryptocurrencies, making it easier to be adopted by the general public. A big knock on cryptocurrency has been the complexity in purchasing tokens. 

JPMorgan JPM is also showing the cryptocurrency market some more love. Earlier this month it accepted Coinbase and Gemini Trust as banking customers. It’s the first time JPMorgan brought on cryptocurrency companies as customers. JPMorgan’s support is good news for the industry, given the bank’s CEO Jamie Dimon had been a critic of bitcoin in the past. He did eventually come around with the bank  launching its own digital currency in February of 2019. 

While bitcoin has failed to take off with the masses, that may change in a post COVID-19 world where people favor digital payments over physical currency. Contactless payments will undoubtedly grow in a world where social distancing is the norm. That bodes well for digital wallets, whether it’s housing payment information or cryptocurrencies. It’s a new reality the nation’s financial institutions’ are waking up to as well. Traidman at BRD said he’s been fielding calls from major financial institutions that are expressing a need for digital asset technology. “People want a wallet on their phone. They don’t care if it’s in dollars or crypto,” said the executive.

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Economy News

Five charts that track the U.S. economy as states reopen – CNBC

People congregate outside a restaurant in the upper east side during the coronavirus pandemic on May 2, 2020 in New York City.

Noam Galai | Getty Images

As states gradually reopen, the U.S. economy is showing signs of life after one of the most significant downturns in history. 

Though many restrictions remain in place across the country, Americans are gaining a greater sense of normalcy as they venture out to restaurants, increase travel and buy new homes. 

These charts track five key indicators that signal a growing revival of the economy as consumers resume familiar routines and move forward from lockdown measures and business closures. 

Americans are starting to drive and walk again, though transit use is lagging

Apple Maps is often a go-to navigation app for many travelers. However, with stay-at-home orders implemented throughout the majority of the U.S. in March and April, many Americans could only venture out for essential reasons, such as a trip to the grocery store. Data from Apple shows a sharp decline in requests for directions on Apple Maps during the early stages of pandemic as lockdown measures were put in place. 

As states began to ease travel restrictions, data shows an increase in requests for walking and driving directions. With retailers, beaches, parks and other places reopening, travelers have had more places to visit these past few weeks.

However, requests for transit directions still remain at less than half of their previous levels. As employees continue to work from home and travelers remain fearful of catching the virus in crowded subway cars, buses and trains, public transportation may not be an ideal option yet for many commuters.

Diners are returning to restaurants

The restaurant industry was hit hard by the coronavirus as most states restricted their business to takeout, delivery and curbside pickup. Data from the OpenTable network shows that restaurant bookings plummeted as these regulations were put in place, and were down 100% in the last weeks of March and most of April when compared to last year. 

However, several states have allowed restaurants to reopen dining and there was a recent uptick in bookings in May, indicating that the worst of the pandemic could be over for the food service industry. These restaurants are often required to operate under new health guidelines such as capacity limitations and having to space tables six feet apart. 

Hotel occupancy rates are coming back

The pandemic dealt a serious blow to the hotel industry and the broader travel sector, as restrictions were put in place both within the U.S. and abroad. During the initial stages of the outbreak, global hospitality research company STR reported that the occupancy rate for U.S. hotels was at just over 20% in April, a steep drop from their more than 60% occupancy in February. The pandemic also prompted major hotel chains and resorts to temporarily close properties as travelers put their plans on hold. 

However, occupancy rates began to increase in April and May as people resumed travel for business and leisure, and more hotels reopened. To help keep guests safe, major hotels have enhanced their cleaning procedures and put new health protocol in place, such as requiring employees to wear masks and putting plexiglass barriers at the front desk.

Air travel is picking up, but still down significantly

With airlines clamoring for government bailouts to stay afloat, the air travel industry has been one of the most visible parts of the economy impacted by the coronavirus. The daily number of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints fell almost 100% year-over-year in March and April and has picked up only slightly in May, according to data from TSA screenings.

However, as travel has increased, airlines have had to adjust booking policies in order to ease customers’ fears of contracting the coronavirus. Companies like American Airlines and United Airlines are alerting passengers when planes are full and are making it easier for them to switch flights. 

Home purchases are up vs. last year

As coronavirus-related restrictions ease, potential homebuyers have been able to tour open houses and resume their search for a new home. Though the singly-family home mortgage purchase index saw a more than 30% drop in April when compared to last year, it has since reversed its course, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The index is now up almost 10% compared to the same period last year, indicating that the home purchase market could be on its way to a quick recovery. 

Categories
World News

Coronavirus: Brazil now fourth-highest nation in Covid-19 deaths – BBC News

Health tests are carried out in the rural area of Manaus, Amazonas Image copyright EPA
Image caption Covid-19 tests are carried in a rural area near Manaus in Amazonas state

The number of coronavirus fatalities in Brazil has risen by almost 1,000 in a day, making the country’s overall death toll the world’s fourth highest.

Its figure of 28,834 has now surpassed France, and only the US, the UK and Italy have recorded more deaths.

President Jair Bolsonaro has consistently played down the outbreak, although the country has the world’s second-highest number of cases.

He has criticised state lockdowns for harming Brazil’s economy and jobs.

What are the latest figures?

Brazil’s health ministry said the past 24 hours had seen 956 new deaths.

This puts it past France’s total of 28,774. Even if new figures raised the French total back above Brazil, the trends in the two countries show deaths in the Latin American nation are on a far steeper upward trend.

According to a count by Johns Hopkins University, Brazil now has 498,440 confirmed cases.

Only the US has more, with 1.77 million.

The number of deaths in Brazil has been doubling roughly every two weeks, compared to about every two months in the UK, four months in France, and five months in Italy.

Experts have warned that the real figure may be far higher due to a lack of testing.

Will this change Brazil’s policies?

Mr Bolsonaro is unlikely to alter his stance, arguing that the economic fallout of lockdowns is worse than the outbreak.

He has fought what he calls “the tyranny of total quarantine” by state governors – despite the upward tick in cases – and has even called for Brazil’s football season to resume.

He has also been seen mingling with hundreds of supporters in Brasilia while not wearing a face mask.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionAerial footage of Latin America’s biggest graveyard

On Sunday, Pope Francis added to the pressure on the president by highlighting the plight of the people of the Amazon.

“We call on the Holy Spirit to grant light and strength to the Church and to society in Amazonia, which has been harshly tested by the pandemic,” he said.

Amazonas state has one of Brazil’s highest infection rates and also one of the most underfunded health systems.

Many experts believe Central and South America are now the major hotspots for increased infections.

A combination of under-pressure healthcare systems and a mixed response by governments to the severity of Covid-19 has meant the region cannot apply the same easing of lockdowns taking place in Europe and elsewhere.

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Business News

Should one buy property post-lockdown? – India TV News

Representational image
Image Source : PTI

Representational image

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis engendering high volatility in the capital markets is leading to investors losing their hard-earned money, at least for the time being. Most of the sectors have been badly affected due to the COVID-19 economic crisis. According to analysts, property prices after have declined by two to nine per cent after March, when the lockdown first came into effect. Even though the property prices have come down, the pandemic and the resultant lockdown have put a brake on people’s aspirations of owning a house of their own.

Among those affected are homebuyers who decided to buy a property in the new financial year by taking a home loan. But these people are now no longer sure if they would be able to afford the equated monthly investments (EMIs). Their reasons vary, ranging from layoffs, lack of business earnings to salary cuts, among others. The real estate sector has been hit by the lockdown, as construction activity all but came to a grinding halt with looming uncertainty over project completion dates.

Although the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, took major steps to contain the fallout, still there are certain factors beyond her control as well, including lack of available manpower at construction sites. 

The macro-economic uncertainty coupled with job cuts has left the buyers confused. We have come up with a piece of consolidated advice for homebuyers, if they are after owning a property in the post-lockdown economic scenario.

What a homebuyer should do?

  • It would be best for the potential buyer with capital to wait for a couple of months and keep a close watch over the liquidity situation of the market.
  • “Supply chain issues, labour availability and issues of raising any form of institutional capital will have their impact on projects and development timeline. Therefore, it would be prudent for buyers to pick up units in completed projects or wait till the construction activity on the site is resumed when it comes to under-construction projects,” says Ajay Sharma, Managing Director, Valuations (India) at Colliers International.
  • It is prudent for a buyer to stick with prominent developers with a good track record with both customers and financial institutions. This will ensure safety in capital invested by them. “Given that residential pricing will be under pressure, good deals will come the buyer’s way but the timing of the buy should be prudent and not delayed in hope of more discounted pricing,” added Sharma.
  • Buyers should evaluate their financial position, both current and in the next five years. They should carefully gauge if they are ready to take on any more loan liability, especially if they are solely dependent on monthly income from jobs.
  • It would be important that they access all information from the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) sources to evaluate any buying-decision.
  • It would be better if they take professional opinions from registered RERA brokers for a property before embarking on the decision to buy a project.
  • “Buyers should closely work with their financial partner (banks or NBFCs) to obtain all information regarding the project they are evaluating,” said Sharma.
  • Also, buyers should keep a sharp eye out for interest rates and take advantage of low-interest regimes at the same time. According to Adhil Shetty, CEO, BankBazaar, “With interests at an all-time low, this is a good time to buy a house. We’re currently in a low inflation period, and there are few triggers for an interest rate spike. Therefore, with rates falling regularly, a repo-linked loan will work to the borrower’s advantage.”
  • A ready to move-in flat is more advisable to buy as compared to under-construction ones. Avoid putting your money into incomplete projects.
  • Check the builders’ detail and then go and buy ready to move-in flats. Check all RERA rules before buying a flat. “Opt for a longer tenure if possible. While this means a higher interest rate, it means smaller EMIs. You can start putting together a small kitty towards your home loan, which you can pre-pay from time to time. This will reduce the impact of your increased tenure,” adds Shetty.
  • For example, assume a loan of Rs 40 lakh at 8 per cent interest. For a 20-year loan, you will be paying an interest of Rs 40.3 lakh. For the same loan, you will have to pay an interest of Rs 65.7 lakh if the tenure is 30 years. However, a prepayment of Rs five lakh at the end of the third year will bring down the interest payable to Rs 41 lakh. Use a calculator to understand how you can prepay your loan to get maximum benefits.
  • Consider opting for a smaller house with fewer premium amenities. This will bring down the costs for now. Over time, you can upgrade to a bigger premium home.
  • With respect to any purchase decision, it is advisable to bring in financial consultant and take informed calls based on one’s ability to take liabilities.
  • If the buyer is to dispose of a property to buy a new one, it would be best to complete the deal before signing on for a new apartment. This will ensure cash flow continuity and no hard surprises.
  • It’s a common practice to monetise long-term savings like PPF to finance buying of the property, but in current times, it would be sensible to leave at least 9-12 months equivalent of monthly income in savings before buying a new property.
  • Fiscal prudence should be paramount and it will help in making the right decisions for buying property.

Pandemic affect from a buyer’s perspective:

  • There will be two types of home buyers after the lockdown period, those who have capital at hand and those who have secured job but need a home loan, says Sharma.
  • The former will look for properties that are complete and compliant from all perspectives as it would be a safe investment though buy-in price may not be much discounted.
  • Investors will have to look at buying for the appreciation of capital value with low consideration for yields that are already very low
  • The push of government for rental housing might see investment into residential units. Potential buyers could be at an advantage in view of the financial sops that could result in decent returns. 
  • Buyers will need to carefully assess two risks- liability risk and property risk. Liability risk will entail the loan taking ability and servicing ability in light of macro-economic issues.
  • Property risks will entail the development stage, progress, solvency of the developer and the ability to complete the project. A delay in raising capital and progress in work will spill over into liability risk and buyers will carefully look at de-risking themselves.
  • Buyers’ cautious approach will defer their buying and preference shift depending on the pricing of the units. Both buyer types will expect discounts from developers and push for box prices that could land them a good deal. “A fair amount of paperwork and verification are also involved. So, also utilise this time to keep these ready, says Shetty.

Things to keep in mind post-COVID-19 lockdown:

  • It is important that a potential buyer of residential real estate have their PPEs on at all times when going for on-site inspection.
  • It is best to wear gloves and avoid touching surfaces to minimise transmission risks.
  • It would be advisable to carry out all documentation online.
  • With respect to any purchase decision, it is advisable to bring in a financial consultant and take informed calls based on one’s ability to take liabilities. “If the buyer is to dispose a property to buy new one, it would be best to complete the deal before signing on for a new apartment. This will ensure cash flow continuity and no hard surprises,” says Sharma.
  • It is a common practice to monetise long term savings like PPF to finance buying of property but in current times it would be sensible to leave at least 9-12 months equivalent of monthly income in savings.
  • Fiscal prudence should be paramount and it will help in making the right decision for buying property.
  • Make sure you have a good credit score. Check there are no misses and pay special attention to ensure that you pay your bills on time in full.
  • There will be a certain amount of credit tightening, and a good credit score can go a long way in ensuring that you get a good deal on your loan.
  • Increase your emergency fund, so that it covers six months to an year of salary as a security. This will ensure you have more funds at hand in case of an emergency. This also gives you sufficient time to get another job in case of a job loss.
  • Read and understand all the property-related documents before you finalise your purchase. Take legal help if required. This will save you heartache in the future.
  • It would be anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months before you can actually go ahead with the purchase. Take this time to understand how home loans work, especially external benchmark-linked ones.
  • Different banks have different loan qualification criteria such as the borrower’s age, job profile, employment stability, credit history and others. Use calculators and eligibility charts to understand your eligibility with a particular lender to avail the best possible offers.
  • Lenders set terms and conditions pertaining to the repayment of home loans. So, you need to clarify the terms related to settlement/foreclosing the outstanding amount, transferring the balance to another lender’s account, pre-paying a part or full amount of home loan before finalising a lender.

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