Mint Lite | Return to schools, Kerala landslide, water scarcity & other news4 min read . Updated: 09 Aug 2020, 09:26 PM IST
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New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days since it stopped the spread of covid-19 with a strict lockdown, a rare bright spot in a world that continues to be ravaged by the virus. For the past three months, the only new cases in the country of 5 million have been a handful of returning travellers. Brazil, which has not imposed many restrictions, crossed a grim milestone: 100,000 deaths, five months after the first reported covid-19 case. The country of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths since late May. For more national and international news, here’s Mint Lite.
Time to return to school
The Centre plans to reopen schools in a phased manner between 1 September and 14 November. Rules for reopening of educational institutions, closed since end-March due to covid-19, will be notified with the final unlock guidelines at the end of the month, but states can take a final call. Apart from masks, distancing and sanitizing, schools will have to focus on indoor air quality as more evidence backs the hypothesis that covid-19 could be airborne. University of Nebraska Medical Center rese-archers, in a paper in Nature, said they found coronavirus-filled aerosols, or tiny airborne particles of fluid and virus, in the air in covid-19 patients’ hospital rooms. School and college buildings across India, whether government or private, are poorly ventilated, which could lead to indoor transmission. The solutions range from keeping windows open to adjusting air-conditioning to circulate air more to using UV light to kill the virus.
Now, landslide in Kerala
At least 42 people have died in Kerala’s Idukki district in a landslide triggered by heavy rains on Friday. More than 30 people are still missing. A portion of a hill came down, burying a colony of tea plantation workers, the same day that an Air India Express jet, buffeted by a tailwind following heavy rain in the area, overshot the runway and fell down a gorge at Kozhikode airport, killing 18. An investigation is underway but the pilot could be at fault as the plane landed about 3,000ft, instead of 1,000ft, into a 9,000ft long runway, Arun Kumar, director general for civil aviation, has since told CNN News-18. The Western Ghats have been inundated by heavy rainfall for over a week, affecting Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. A number of dams are at capacity and have been opened to release water. Meanwhile, Kerala recorded 1,420 new coronavirus cases and four deaths in 24 hours, the state’s highest single-day increase.
More food, less rides
The pandemic and restricted mobility around the world will probably change the way ride-hailing companies do business in future. Bookings for Uber’s global food delivery business grew faster than its ride-hailing segment for the first time, going by Q2 results announced late last week. Ride booking fell 75% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year, while food delivery bookings rose 106%. In India, Uber sold its food delivery arm to Zomato in January, just before the pandemic, but its Q2 results point to the troubles that mobility services will face in the near future without a diversified business model. India’s $3-billion cab market is likely to see a sharp contraction this financial year, and it could take up to two years for demand to return to pre-covid levels. Uber’s main rival in India, Ola—which bought FoodPanda in 2017 but has done little with it since—has neither the deep pockets nor a diversified business model and is in a tight spot.
No water to wash hands
Covid-19 may be spreading faster because billions of people worldwide don’t have water to wash. Two in five people don’t have access to soap or water. Frequent and thorough handwashing is an effective means to restrict the spread of the virus, but this is a hard rule to follow for many: three billion people worldwide don’t have access to running water and soap at home, and four billion suffer severe water scarcity for at least one month a year, UN-Water has said. In India, over 163 million people do not have access to a safe water supply. The lack of access to basic water and sanitation is another instance of inequality exposed by the pandemic. The world needs to spend $6.7 trillion on water infrastructure by 2030, not just for the urgent sanitation needs, but to tackle long-term issues from the pandemic such as providing better irrigation to head off a potential food crisis, UN-Water chair Gilbert F. Houngbo said.
What killed the jumbos?
The mystery over the deaths of more than 200 elephants in Botswana continues as the government has ruled out pesticides, agrochemicals or viral disease as the reason. A total of 281 elephants have died mysteriously since March 2020, the government said. They appear to be dizzy, walk in circles and then drop dead suddenly. Some reports put the number of carcasses at 350. The environment ministry has also ruled out two suspected mineral elements and starvation as possible causes of death. The statement said that results received so far do not eliminate poisoning and therefore, environmental factors, including naturally occurring toxins are still being investigated. Since the tusks and other parts were intact, the authorities have ruled out poaching. Botswana, with an estimated 130,000 elephants, is dependent on the large animals for tourism, which accounts for one fifth of the economy.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @shalinimb