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India approves remdesivir for covid-19.
India approves remdesivir for covid-19.

Mint Lite | Climate change and cyclones, smartphone sales drop and other news to know

People returned to work in May, especially small traders and wage labourers who account for a third of people employed. In April, 71% of them were jobless. Since they’re mostly self-employed, they’re now getting back to work. To catch you up on the rest of the news in 5 minutes, here’s Mint Lite.

India’s unemployment rate remained high in May at 23.5%, but 2.1 crore jobs were added last month as some lockdown restrictions eased, Tuesday’s data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy shows. People returned to work in May, especially small traders and wage labourers who account for a third of people employed. In April, 71% of them were jobless. Since they’re mostly self-employed, they’re now getting back to work. To catch you up on the rest of the news in 5 minutes, here’s Mint Lite.

India approves remdesivir for covid-19

India’s drug regulator has given a go-ahead for the use of antiviral drug remdesivir for up to five doses to treat severe covid-19 patients. The approval comes a day after US Food and Drug Administration reported that the drug, one of the most closely watched in the race to find a cure for covid-19, showed some benefits for patients with moderate coronavirus when given a five-day course. Those who received the medication for 10 days, however, did not fare as well. “(Remdesivir) approved on June 1 under emergency use with condition for five dose administration," Drugs Controller General of India said in an email statement. Remdesivir, which is administered intravenously in hospitals and developed by US pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, is already in use in the US and Japan. Gilead has entered into non-exclusive licensing agreements with pharma firms, including Jubilant Life, Cipla and Hetero, for manufacture and distribution of remdesivir.

Mumbai braces for a storm.
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Mumbai braces for a storm.

Mumbai braces for a storm

Mumbai is preparing for severe cyclonic storm Nisarga to make landfall today. Evacuation is on, and national teams are in place for the coronavirus-ravaged city. This comes less than two weeks after Cyclone Amphan devastated parts of Bengal. Nisarga is expected to be less intense though wind speed will cross 100kmph. Such storms are rare in the Arabian Sea, but scientists say rapid warming of the Indian Ocean is leading to a rise in cyclones by 8% per decade. Cyclones are also picking up wind speed faster, a phenomenon known as rapid intensification. This is when sustained wind speed for a storm rises by 55kmph in 24 hours. Amphan intensified at twice this rate. Another effect of climate change India is battling is its worst desert locust outbreak in decades. The Centre said it has brought locusts under control by spraying insecticides in 55,542 hectares in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and UP.

Worldwide smartphone sales
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Worldwide smartphone sales

Global phone sales drop

Economic uncertaintybrought on by the novel coronavirus outbreak has led to a steep drop in the demand for smartphones across the world. In the first quarter of 2020, the global sales of smartphones to end users declined 20.2%, says a new report by Gartner. Samsung, Huawei and Oppo recorded the worst performances of the top five smartphone vendors (see chart). Around the world, job losses and uncertainty meant people stopped spending on non-essential products during the first quarter. Although Samsung’s smartphone sales dropped 22.7%, it still maintained the No. 1 spot with 18.5% market share. Xiaomi is the only phone maker to have better than expected sales. This rode on strong sales of Redmi devices in international markets and aggressive online channel focus.

Protests against systemic racism, fuelled by economic uncertainty, continue in the US.
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Protests against systemic racism, fuelled by economic uncertainty, continue in the US.


Home loan defaults rise in US

Protests against systemic racism, fuelled by economic uncertainty, continue in the US. Data indicates further troubles for its economy. Home loan defaults are at their highest since January 2015. In April, 3.6 million homeowners missed mortgage payments, up 1.6 million from March, loan platform Black Knight says. Over 40 million Americans are jobless. At 6.45%, the default rate doubled from 3.06% in March. In India, RBI announced a moratorium on loans till August, and 25% customers have taken it. The default curve here doesn’t follow the same path as the US for two reasons: savings rate is relatively higher and the market is not as leveraged. But given the climate where a health crisis has spiraled into an economic one, the situation could turn adverse. Salary cuts and indiscriminate layoffs could lead to loan defaults, and affect the banking system if non-performing assets rise.

Korea’s QR code tracking route
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Korea’s QR code tracking route

Korea’s QR code tracking route

South Korea is testing a new quick response (QR) code system to track visitors at entertainment facilities after an outbreak in a nightclub led to a spike in coronavirus cases some weeks ago. Starting 10 June, visitors to nightclubs, bars, gyms, and concert halls will have to use any commercially available app to generate a one-time, personalized QR code that can be scanned at the door. After the nightclub outbreak, authorities struggled to trace people as a lot of the information customers had provided at the gate turned out to be false. The government will store the data for two weeks, and delete it. In Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus outbreak first emerged, no new cases of covid-19 have been found after testing 9.9 million of its 11 million residents. City authorities said on Tuesday they identified 300 asymptomatic carriers. The cost of the city-wide testing effort, started on 14 May after a new cluster of cases emerged, was about $126 million.

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