Mint Lite is a quick update to bring you up to speed on all the news you need to know—and some things that are just fun to know—in five minutes before you start your day
Domestic air passengers won’t be quarantined after flights resume on Monday, and fares on some routes have been capped. The railways has said it will open bookings for more trains starting today. Travel is opening up even as 11,000 new cases were reported countrywide in the last 48 hours. For the rest of the news you need to know, here’s Mint Lite.
New database of workers
The National Skills Development Corporation is working with private artificial intelligence companies to launch a platform by June and map skilled and certified workers to industrial clusters where they are in demand. The idea is to create a local ecosystem in every region so that industries aren’t entirely dependent on seasonal workers, and to provide workers with opportunities closer to their homes. When factories were shuttered in March to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, thousands of seasonal workers were stranded without work or wages, and have now returned home to their villages. The manufacturing sector now fears that the traumatized workers may not return to industrial hubs, but would prefer to work closer to their homes. This would create a huge labour shortage in an already stressed economy.
Bay of Bengal’s history with cyclones
Seventy two people died when supercyclone Amphan hit West Bengal with winds up to 185kmph, bringing down trees, electricity and phone lines, and inundating homes. At its peak, Amphan recorded 3-minute sustained wind speeds of 230 kmph, the highest a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal has recorded in the 21st century, and the fourth highest since the beginning of record-keeping, reports Weather Underground. Of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones on record, 26 have been in the Bay of Bengal. The triangular shape of the bay acts as a funnel and causes massive storm surges, inundating coastal regions where about 500 million live. Though cyclone damage is also due to strong winds and torrential rain, what kills more people here than any other is the storm surge. Most deaths in Amphan, however, were due to tree falls. India has also improved its early warning systems and evacuation plans, which has helped reduced deaths.
Asian startups see largest drop in funding
The past year has been a harsh one for the startup world with both the number of deals and the total funding dropping due to a slowdown, and Asian startups seem to have been hit hardest. The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the damage and a number of startups around the world have laid off staff, slashed salaries and suspended operations. In Asia, deal activity declined 20% year-on-year in Q1 2020, compared to declines of 17% in North America and 10% in Europe, according to data from CB Insights (see chart). Some of this decline can be attributed to the covid-19 pandemic.
If not held in 2021, Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled
International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach has said the Tokyo Games, postponed for the first time due to covid-19, would have to be scrapped if it cannot be held next year. In March, the IOC and Japan government decided to delay the Games, which were to start in July, for a year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has since said the event could not take place in 2021 unless the virus is contained. Bach on Thursday said he understood this position. “You cannot forever employ 3,000 to 5,000 people in an organising committee," Bach told BBC. “You cannot have the athletes being in uncertainty." He said staging it behind closed doors was “not what we want", but he needed more time to consider whether that was feasible.
Brexit talks miss human touch
Brexit talks have resumed virtually in the past week after nearly a month’s break due to the coronavirus pandemic but having to negotiate via video call has virtually stalled any progress on a new trade pact. Negotiators say they miss face-to-face meetings and informal chats over coffee or a drink, which often pulled things back from the brink. Tensions are rising on the UK and EU side as the 30 June deadline to close a new free trade deal draws closer. Brussels wants one big agreement, but the UK prefers a number of mini deals alongside a basic free trade agreement. In the past, off-the-record, personal meetings have yielded breakthroughs—images of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar chatting during a stroll in the countryside last October come to mind. If a new deal cannot be agreed upon in time, the UK faces the prospect of having to trade with no deal in place.