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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government is assessing GDP contraction and is not closed to the option of another stimulus package to soften the blow the pandemic dealt the economy. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said India’s covid-19 count would drop to 40,000 active cases by February 2021 if “coronavirus-appropriate behaviour is followed", a prediction based on modelling done by “scientists from the world". This comes a day after a Central panel said India’s caseload has peaked and the outbreak may be under control by February. For more updates, here’s Mint Lite.

Are we cool enough for the vaccine?

From factory to syringe, the most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates need non-stop sterile refrigeration to stay potent and safe. Despite improvements to maintain vaccine cold chains in developing countries, nearly 3 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion people live where temperature-controlled storage is insufficient for an immunization campaign to bring covid-19 under control, reports AP. Even for rich nations, the cold chain won’t be easy as the vaccines need temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius. Infrastructure and cooling techno-logy lags behind the high-speed leap vaccine development has taken this year. India has floated the idea of setting aside part of the vast food storage network for the vaccines. Experts estimate India has about 30% less storage capacity than needed for a vaccine. Lack of public transport is another obstacle to getting citizens inoculated before vaccines go bad, they say.

China’s next big problem is rising

An aspirational middle class combined with a boom in e-commerce has turned China into the world’s biggest fashion market, overtaking the US last year. China discards 26 million tonnes of clothes every year, less than 1% of which is recycled, reports Bloomberg. The clothing goes straight to the trash, filling up 654 landfills ahead of schedule. Part of the problem is that non-charitable sales of used apparel is banned for health and safety reasons, and, in Chinese society, used clothes are considered unhygienic and unlucky. And covid-19 has reinforced that bias. So high-quality garments that are collected are usually sold overseas, mostly Africa. Over the last few years, unwanted garments have been cut, shredded and added to wet waste in trash-to-energy incinerators to make them more efficient though they produce high emissions. The real solution, though, might be simple: Buy less clothing.

Asia's 10 most powerful
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Asia's 10 most powerful

Who influences APAC most?

The US holds the most influence, but China is closing in as the most powerful country in the Asia-Pacific. India, at fourth place, has lost ground, while Australia and Vietnam have gained the most, shows Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index 2020, which uses 126 indicators to rank 26 countries. The US’ slow response to the pandemic and various trade disputes has led to a slide in its position. The US economy could take until 2024 to recover; in contrast, China’s has rebounded and is the only large economy expected to recover in 2020. This could give it an advantage over its neighbours in the next decade, the report notes. India, the fourth most powerful nation on the index after Japan, lost economic growth potential due to the pandemic and is ceding strategic ground to Beijing.

Migration fall raises economic risks

International migration has dropped to an unprecedented degree during the covid-19 crisis, the OECD has said, raising concerns about the longer-term outlook for a key driver of the global economy. Issuance of new visas and permits by the organization’s 37 members fell 46% in the first half of 2020 compared with a year earlier, Bloomberg reports. Migrant workers play a crucial role in transport, domestic services, IT, and agriculture. The crisis also highlights their importance for the health sector, as they account for 24% of doctors and 16% of nurses. OECD said migration will continue to play an important role for economic growth and innovation. Yet immigrants have suffered a greater increase in joblessness, particularly in the US, Canada, Norway, Spain and Sweden. It also said that migrants face greater health risks as they have worked on the front-lines of the pandemic and often live in lower quality housing.

Crowdfunding for Notre-Dame clock

When A fire broke out at Paris’ 850-year-old Notre-Dame cathedral in April 2019, its 2.2m tower clock, dating to 1867, crashed down with the roof and spire. The parliament decided to rebuild the cathedral but the clock’s original drawings had been long lost. Watchmakers lost hope until they found a nearly identical version of the Notre-Dame clock movement hidden under old furniture at the Sainte-Trinité church, 4km from the Notre-Dame. The old clock had been forgotten after it was replaced by an electric one 50 years ago, reports Quillandpad. Now, a group of clock restorers and enthusiasts have started Notre-Dame Clock Association to raise funds and rebuild the clock. Though $1 billion has poured in for the cathedral, there’s no budget for the clock. The association is meticulously measu-ring and digitizing the Sainte-Trinité clock’s mechanisms to create a computer model and build a replica for Notre-Dame.

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