Japan readies for big Olympic crowds
With millions of tickets for Olympics already sold to both domestic and foreign travelers, the Japan government seeks to find a fine balance between welcoming large crowds and ensuring safety, while refraining from imposing excessive restrictions on movement. Given the enormity of the event, officials are finding it difficult to predict the exact number of foreign travelers that might come into the country. The govt is readying a contact-tracing app which links Covid negative report, tickets and other information to unique ID of each visitor. The app will also let users track their physical condition. Users will be notified if they may have come in contact with someone who tested positive. The games are expected to be the first large-scale global event since coronavirus onslaught and could offer a template going forward. Read here
Special: How and why UK approved vaccine ahead of US, EU
The United Kingdom became the first country in the world to approve Pfizer vaccine ahead of European Union and United States, paving way for mass immunisation of vulnerable groups.
How did Britain get ahead of EU: The UK still remains under the authority of the EU medical regulator until the end of the Brexit transition. But, Britain used an exception in case of a pandemic for temporary authorisation of the vaccine prior to EU. Scientists and clinicians at the UK regulatory agency had “worked round the clock” to review more than 1,000 pages of information as and when data arrived from the Pfizer trial. The EU regulator has delayed formal assessments of vaccines, citing the need for ‘extensive’ data for conditional marketing authorisation. The first vaccinations in Europe are unlikely to start unil next year. Read more to know about the regulatory differences between UK and EU.
Why US is taking longer than UK for approval: UK and US analyse vaccine data differently. The US drug regulator is known for its rigor of vaccine reviews, even if it involves reanalysing raw data from the trials to validate the results and turning over thousands of documents. On the contrary, UK regulators depend heavily on companies’ own analyses. Unless there are large anomalies in the data, the decisions will be based on company provided-reports. However, scientists and industry experts believe British regulators maintain high standards and often set the bar for other country approvals. Both the countries’ regulators consult outside experts to make a decision, but in case of Britian, the panel has the flexibility to review data and meet as it needs to, allowing it to move more quickly. Read here
Covid crisis fuels global wage inequality
The International Labour Organization (ILO) warned that inequality in wages has worsened across the world due to pandemic. Lower paid workers — especially women — are most affected by a loss of working hours. Minimum wage policies could help to lessen wage inequality, depending on their design and coverage, the global agency noted. The pandemic’s impact on global earnings follows a long period of slow wage growth around the world. In emerging economies, informal workers have been particularly hit hard. Read here
IMF chief warns against complacency on global economy
The global financial system is resilient enough to withstand the impact of the coronavirus crisis but policymakers must act quickly to deliver a return to economic growth and avoid widespread financial distress, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, said. She warned against complacency and said the impact of the crisis would be severe, with a loss to global output of $28 trillion between 2020 and 2025 and 120 million jobs wiped out in the tourism industry alone. She praised steps taken by the G20 group of the world’s largest economies to develop a common framework on debt treatment for poor countries. Read here
Cambodia quarantines officials after first community outbreak
Cambodia scrambles to contain its first recorded community infections, that threaten to derail the country’s coronavirus success story. While hit hard by the pandemic’s economic fallout, Cambodia has so far managed to avoid the type of fast-spreading outbreak that has overrun many Western countries. The government has banned gatherings of more than 20 people for two weeks and ordered schools, museums, and cinemas to temporarily close. The outbreak is linked to Country’s prisons director and family members. It could be catastrophic should it enter the country’s drastically overcrowded prison system, a scenario experts fear could create death traps. Read here
CDC shortens Covid-19 quarantine period
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened the recommended quarantine period to seven to 10 days for people in the US who have been exposed to the new coronavirus, updating its guidance to reflect scientific findings on the time it takes for infections to develop. The new recommendation lowers the quarantine period from 14 days. For travel or to end a quarantine at seven days, people can use either a molecular test, such as a laboratory-based PCR test, or a rapid antigen test. Those who are quarantining because they might have been exposed to the virus should get tested five to seven days after the exposure to end the quarantine at seven days. Read here
Special: Have countries led by women coped better with Covid-19?
Have female leaders been better at rallying their voters to combat the pandemic than men? We do have a big enough sample size of male- and female-led countries to compare. The findings are striking. Female-led nations did not impose stricter conditions, such as school closures and travel restrictions, than those headed by men, according to an Oxford university tracker. But it does seem that countries with female heads of government had better results than their male counterparts on death rates. The data also reveals that female-led countries test more rigorously for coronavirus. Female leaders have also been successful in showing enough empathy to talk to people in a language they understand. Read here