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Asia’s Covid-19 case count crossed 10 million over the weekend despite slowing infections. Asia now accounts for about one-fourth of the global caseload of 42.1 million. With over 163,000 deaths, the region accounts for 14% of the global covid-19 toll, a Reuters tally based on official reporting by countries shows. The true numbers of cases and deaths are likely higher, experts say, given deficiencies in testing and potential underreporting in many countries. India, with 7.8 million cases, is the worst hit in the region, followed by Bangladesh, which has 400,000 cases. For more updates, here’s Mint Lite.

A new era in Seychelles after 43 years

For the first time in 43 years, since Seychelles gained independence from the UK in 1976, an opposition candidate was voted president. Wavel Ramkalawan, who made his sixth bid for the presidency in three decades, won the election that was held from Thursday to Saturday. He captured 54.9% of the vote while Danny Faure, who ran for a second term, got 43.5%, the electoral commission said Sunday. Ramkalawan of Linyon Demokratik Seselwa party promised to hike the minimum wage after covid-19 devastated the tourism-dependent economy. The economy is expected contract by 13.8% this year, IMF estimates. He has also promised to continue working with Faure, whose United Seychelles party was in power for 43 years but this was the first time he faced voters himself. He was vice-president when his predecessor resigned in 2016 after a constitutional amendment was passed limiting presidents to two terms.

Protests in Poland against abolition ban

Street marches against a near-total ban on abortion went into the fourth day in Poland on Sunday despite curbs on gatherings due to covid-19. Thousands have participated in the protests since Thursday when Poland’s highest court ruled that an existing law allowing the abortion of malformed foetuses was incompatible with the constitution. Abortions will be allowed only in cases of rape, incest or if there’s a threat to the woman’s life. Poland already had among the strictest abortion laws in the EU and less than 2,000 legal terminations are carried out each year. Women’s rights groups say at least 150,000 abortions are performed illegally or abroad. Protestors have said they may intensify protests on Monday. Since the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which draws support from the Catholic church in a religious nation of 38 million, was elected in 2015, it has moved to restrict women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ rights.

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Tech can grow insurance reach

Unforeseen health expenses tip about 20 million Indians into poverty every year because they have no insurance. With the pandemic, this risk is greater. Insurance penetration in India is low, and the big question is whether technology can improve access. Insurance penetration, or insurance premium as ratio of GDP, has been hovering at 3-4% (see chart), much lower than the global average, and lower than markets like US (7.1%), UK (10.6%) and Japan (8.9%). Non-life insurance penetration is even lower in India at 0.97%, compared to the world average of 2.78%. Digital tech not only promises to increase customer convenience but also reach by bringing down costs of onboarding and processing data. A number of startups are working on this. For more, see Startup Inc.

A woman rises from Beirut rubble

Artist Hayat Nazer has created a sculpture of a woman made out of rubble from the Beirut Port explosion, with a clock at its feet that stopped at the moment of the accident at 6:08pm on 4 August. The statue, which faces the city with one arm raised and stands near the site in Lebanon’s capital, is made from broken glass, building debris and household items that were destroyed when about 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, stored at the port exploded. More than 200 people were killed, over 6,000 injured and an estimated 300,000 people left homeless. It is still not known what ignited the chemicals stored at the facility for six years. Last week, Human Rights Watch said a Lebanon-led probe into the explosion has been marred by political meddling and lack of judicial independence, and called for a United Nations-led inquiry to determine responsibility.

Make space, flying cars have landed

Flying cars are no longer just a concept from cartoons or films, with many automakers getting into the act. Hyundai has planned a line-up of aerial vehicles that can carry six or seven people, which it hopes will take to the skies by 2028. Last month, Japanese startup SkyDrive, with financial backing from Toyota, successfully tested a flying car, and said it hoped to make the vehicle available to consumers in three years. Auto-makers have an edge over planemakers because of their mass-production expertise, reports Bloomberg. Typically, Airbus and Boeing each deliver fewer than 1,000 aircraft a year, while carmakers can make millions. Hyundai showcased its flying-car concept, developed with Uber, early this year, and said pilots from Uber could fly the vehicles till they become autonomous around 2035. Experts say individual air transportation will be a trillion-dollar industry by 2040.

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