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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Mint Lite | Corona vaccines, flood, gold prices, Eid and other news

A daily wrap of news and views, opinions and talking points to start your day

The last phase of testing has begun for two more coronavirus vaccines—those produced by US biotechnology company Moderna and pharma giant Pfizer—with the first set of volunteers receiving shots. Each company will enrol 30,000 people. While Moderna will conduct tests at 90 sites in the US, Pfizer will begin in the US and expand to volunteers in 120 sites worldwide. The results will determine the effectiveness of the vaccines against covid-19, and whether they should be cleared for widespread use. For the rest of the national and world news, here’s Mint Lite.

Facing flood during covid

Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains in Assam and Bihar have affected eight million people and killed 111 since May, at a time with the number of covid-19 cases in the two states is rising rapidly
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Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains in Assam and Bihar have affected eight million people and killed 111 since May, at a time with the number of covid-19 cases in the two states is rising rapidly

Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains in Assam and Bihar have affected eight million people and killed 111 since May, at a time with the number of covid-19 cases in the two states is rising rapidly. Since the start of the monsoon season on 1 June, Assam has received 15% more rainfall than a 50-year average and Bihar 47% more, says the India Meteorological Department. The Brahmaputra in Assam is flowing above the danger level in many places, while heavy rains that began this week in Bihar will last until Wednesday. The floods in Assam have affected 5.7 million people, more than 45,000 of whom are still in relief centres. In Bihar, floods have displaced more than 2.4 million people. Physical distancing and other measure are hard to enforce during such a crisis. Bihar has recorded over 41,000 covid-19 infections, and Assam over 33,500 cases. Cases are expected to peak by September in both states. India’s covid-19 tally is over 14.83 lakh with a recovery rate of about 64%.

Gold is high. what next?

Gold has emerged as a safe haven for investors as covid-19 has ravaged world economies
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Gold has emerged as a safe haven for investors as covid-19 has ravaged world economies

Gold has broken all records and is expected to cross $2,000 an ounce soon. But what happens next? That’s where analysts are divided. Some expect gold to move higher and then stay within the $2,000 range for a while, reports Bloomberg. The middle-path analysts say the rally may only fade by the middle of next year as economies slowly recover. A further spike in infections, interest rate changes in the US or geopolitical uncertainly could push it even higher. Others say gold has already risen 27% in 2020, which is close to its peak, and could lose steam later this year. More optimistic banks and analysts expect the metal to reach $3,000 an ounce over the next 18 months. Gold has emerged as a safe haven for investors as covid-19 has ravaged world economies. Gold prices touched $1,981.27 on Tuesday, before settling at $1,915, about $60 more than its previous high in 2011.

Tech giants on buying spree

Tech giants on buying spree
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Tech giants on buying spree

The five biggest US tech companies—Amazon, Apple, Alphabet’s Google, Facebook and Microsoft—have acquired a number of smaller rivals this year despite the pandemic’s effect on the global economy. The number and pace of acquisitions in the first six months is the fastest since 2016, shows data compiled by Bloomberg (see chart). Till June 30, the five firms announced 27 deals, up 29% from the same period last year. The worry is they are potentially choking off competition by acquiring smaller firms that could emerge as rivals. Tech deals have accelerated despite the US government investigating Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook for monopolistic practices. Their heads are scheduled to appear before a congressional sub-committee on Wednesday.

Want goat for Eid? go surf

PashuBajaar, which sells goats for Indian farmers, told AFP that its online sales had spiked from a few dozen in 2019 to over 2,500 in the past three months
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PashuBajaar, which sells goats for Indian farmers, told AFP that its online sales had spiked from a few dozen in 2019 to over 2,500 in the past three months

As fears about catching covid-19 keep customers away, livestock breeders and traders in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have turned to websites and social media to showcase their animals as Muslims across the world prepare to celebrate Eid al-Adha on 30 July. PashuBajaar, which sells goats for Indian farmers, told AFP that its online sales had spiked from a few dozen in 2019 to over 2,500 in the past three months. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned citizens to continue to follow social distancing guidelines, warning of a possible new surge in cases after Eid al-Adha. Authorities are also encouraging people to buy sacrificial animals online or at least wear masks when visiting cattle markets. On Tuesday, Pakistan registered its lowest single-day rise in cases in three months. Pakistan saw covid-19 cases rise by 936, the lowest single-day rise since April 29. It has recorded at least 275,000 cases, with nearly 6,000 deaths.

Let it all out in iceland

The island country, which has eased travel restrictions after containing an initial spike in covid-19 cases in February, is inviting people to record their screams to be broadcast in the wilderness
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The island country, which has eased travel restrictions after containing an initial spike in covid-19 cases in February, is inviting people to record their screams to be broadcast in the wilderness

Frustration has probably been a dominant emotion in 2020, besides anxiety—and Iceland really gets it. The island country, which has eased travel restrictions after containing an initial spike in covid-19 cases in February, is inviting people to record their screams to be broadcast in the wilderness. “Record your scream and we’ll release it in Iceland’s beautiful, wide-open spaces," says the tourism board’s website, with images of the Northern Lights and snowy peaks. Iceland’s handling of the outbreak has been praised, after it followed a strict protocol of testing, closing borders and introducing restrictions. The country, with a population of around 360,000, has recorded fewer than 2,000 cases and 10 deaths. After covid-19 hurt Iceland’s tourism, the government is trying to promote domestic tourism. Residents taking staycations get vouchers worth $74 to spend in restaurants and other attractions.

Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com or tweet to @shalinimb

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