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Scientists running a trial in UK have made a “major breakthrough", finding that dexamethasone cuts the risk of death for coronavirus patients on ventilators by 33%. A widely available steroid, dexamethasone is used to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, and seems to stop some of the damage caused to the immune system as it tries to fight off the novel coronavirus. To catch up on the rest of the news in five minutes, here’s Mint Lite.

BORDER TENSIONS TO HIT INDUSTRY

News that an Indian Army officer and two soldiers were killed on Monday in a “violent face-off" with Chinese troops—the first in 45 years when both sides reported casualties—in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley is likely to have an impact on business though markets haven’t slid yet. An escalation in border tensions and trade restrictions could push up domestic manufacturing, experts say. China is India’s largest trading partner—16% of India’s imports are from China—and a conflict would impact Indian manufacturers, who rely heavily on China for raw materials and semi-finished products. Supply chains are already under strain due to the covid-19 outbreak. Indian companies will have to shift to other markets to de-risk or manufacture at home. The Sensex and Nifty didn’t seem too badly affected by India-China tensions on Tuesday, but markets are witnessing wild swings due to covid-19 and border tensions, and could be negatively impacted in future.

Over 100 vaccines are being developed globally, including some already in human trials from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, to control a disease that has hit over 8 million people worldwide
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Over 100 vaccines are being developed globally, including some already in human trials from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, to control a disease that has hit over 8 million people worldwide

Singapore set for vaccine test

Singapore scientists testing a covid-19 vaccine from US firm Arcturus Therapeutics plan to start human trials in August after seeing promising responses in mice. Over 100 vaccines are being developed globally, including some already in human trials from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, to control a disease that has hit over 8 million people worldwide. The vaccine being evaluated by Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School works on the relatively-untested Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which tells cells to make specific coronavirus proteins that produce an immune response. Researchers are hoping it will be ready in a year. Vaccines are among the most effective weapons against infectious disease, and prevent up to 3 million deaths a year, according to WHO. But as countries race to develop vaccines, the early ones may not be 100% effective, say scientists. Early vaccines may not prevent infections, but can slow and eventually stop progression.

Graphic: Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint
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Graphic: Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint

EVS GET CHARGED UP

The number of public charging points for electric vehicles rose 60% globally in 2019, the biggest increase in three years, going by International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook 2020. In India, the installed base for electric cars, which comprises batteries, charging stations and repair services, is concentrated in Bengaluru and Delhi (see chart). Installed base is important to build an ecosystem, and make it easier for drivers to use EVs. China, the largest car market, leads with 60% of the world’s public charging spots. The rise in charging spots worldwide reflects efforts to build infrastructure ahead of an expected EV boom as customers look to sustainable ways of living following covid-19. In 2019, 2.1 million electric cars sold globally, a 6% growth from the previous year, even at a time when car markets contracted.

Data from aviation regulator DCGA shows that Indigo, the market leader, filled just 52% of seats on all its flights in the last seven days of May
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Data from aviation regulator DCGA shows that Indigo, the market leader, filled just 52% of seats on all its flights in the last seven days of May

AIRLINES FLY HALF EMPTY IN MAY

Domestic flights resumed on 25 May, but fears of infections, quarantines and the sudden cancellations by airlines kept passengers from flying. Most airlines flew at 50% capacity during the first seven days after services resumed. Data from aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation shows that Indigo, the market leader, filled just 52% of seats on all its flights in the last seven days of May. In industry parlance, this is load factor, or the how much of an airline’s passenger carrying capacity is used. SpiceJet registered 57% load factor in May, and national carrier Air India 54%. Revival could be a challenge as worldwide, too, passenger traffic has shrunk and industry bodies expect air travel to remain depressed this year, only touching 60% of 2018 levels by the end of this year. Domestic air passenger traffic declined 43% in January to May 2020, as compared to the same period last year.

Governments are taking an active interest in people’s personal lives, even if only to ensure they stay safe
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Governments are taking an active interest in people’s personal lives, even if only to ensure they stay safe

CUDDLE WITH A BUDDY, SAY GOVTs

The pandemic has meant some governments are taking an active interest in people’s personal lives, even if only to ensure they stay safe. Last week, UK allowed “support bubbles" for singles, after easing covid-19 rules, which included what social media called a “sex ban" or a ban on people meeting or spending the night together. The easing of rules will help elderly and single people who have been struggling with living alone. In May, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health suggested that single people find a “cuddle buddy" or “sex buddy" with whom they could safely partner during the pandemic. Canada allowed two separate households to pair up in “double bubbles". Sweden also has guidelines on dos and don’ts of sex during the pandemic, while observing “closeness, intimacy and sex are good for well-being and public health". New York has put out a ‘Safer Sex and Covid-19’ document, advising, “You are your safest sex partner".

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