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Photo: Reuters

Mint Lite | Delhi to increase testing, Agri startups get boost

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Coronavirus cases jumped in Beijing and Tokyo, sparking concern about a resurgence. China cancelled an economic briefing scheduled for Monday after locking down part of the capital due to an outbreak. In India, 11,929 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day spike so far, but the recovery rate has risen to 50.59%, the health ministry said. For the rest of the news you need to know in five minutes, here’s Mint Lite.

Monsoon complicates fight

The southwest monsoon reached Maharashtra and Odisha over the weekend. Though the rains are welcome both for economic recovery and as relief from the harsh summer, it will complicate fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Maharashtra has over 100,000 cases, and under normal circumstances, the monsoon means flooding in Mumbai. In Dharavi, authorities have screened 700,000 people, and new daily infections are down to a third compared with May. Now, the city is preparing 100,000 beds as it expects covid-19 cases to peak in three weeks. Kolkata is bracing for a spike in dengue and malaria cases even as it wrestles with a surge in covid-19 cases. Many of the civic body’s workers have returned home and tree falls during Cyclone Amphan in May have not been cleared completely. Meanwhile, an ICMR study said covid-19 could peak in India around mid-November by which time there will be a shortage of isolation wards, ICU beds and ventilators.

Delhi to increase testing

Photo: PTI
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Photo: PTI


Union home minister Amit Shah and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had their second meeting in less than a week on Sunday to discuss the escalating health crisis in the capital. Delhi is now the worst affected state after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, with more than 550,000 cases expected by the end of July. Shah said the Centre would give Delhi 500 railway coaches and increase coronavirus testing. Testing for covid-19 will be doubled in the next two days and tripled in the next six days in Delhi. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and lieutenant governor Anil Baijal were also at the meeting. Later in the day, Shah met the head of the municipal corporations. He also said that the Centre will form a committee to look into setting aside 60% of beds in private hospitals at reduced prices for covid-19 patients. Delhi currently has 10,000 beds for covid-19 patients, and 70% in private hospitals are full.

Agri startups get boost



Graphic: Mint
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Graphic: Mint


The first few weeks of lockdown were chaotic, but after governments clarified, farming revived in time for a bumper harvest. This has meant a quicker recovery for agritech startups compared to others. Digital platforms for farmers saw a surge in demand as traditional agricultural marketing channels got disrupted. The pandemic seems poised to push adoption of agritech and reduce the role of the middleman. This would put more money in the hands of farmers and cut losses in value along the food chain. Globally, 30-37% of food value is lost along the chain (see chart). In developed economies, wastage is higher at the consumption end, when food is on the plate. In Asia and Africa, the losses are in the early stages of harvest, storage and transport. This is where technology could be a game-changer. For more, see Startup Inc.

Oil spill affects green bonds



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Photo: AFP


It’s been weeks since a storage tank in Russia leaked, letting 20,000 tonnes of oil into a river in Siberia, the biggest oil spill in the Arctic. It is likely to take years to clean completely and threatens species unique to Siberia’s Taimyr Peninsula. Now, analysts are hoping the spill will be a catalyst to push through long-stalled environmental regulations. Russian development bank VEB.RF plans to set guidelines for green bonds this year, and help companies raise $4.3 billion for environmental projects. Russia is the fifth biggest greenhouse gas emitter, but has shown little effort to tackle climate change. The EU has been pushing to embed environmental goals in trade, especially in covid-19 recovery packages. Russia is “carefully analysing" green reforms planned by EU, Bloomberg reports. Worldwide, the shift has started, and global green bond issuance grew nearly 50% to $271 billion in 2019.

At home, world cuts on sugar



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Photo: AFP



The sugar industry has fought lawmakers for years on taxes on sugared drinks and foods, and health groups that urged people to cut back on carbs due to obesity. But coronavirus lockdowns have cut sugar consumption as people spend less and stay home. Sugar consumption is expected to slide 1.2% to 169.9 million tonnes this quarter, according to analysts. The International Sugar Organization said the crisis has wiped out most of 2020’s projected consumption growth. Coke, Nestle and Pepsi have reported fall in demand. In the first three weeks of April, Coca-Cola’s volumes slid about 25%, and the company said the pandemic will affect second quarter result. Pepsi expects second-quarter revenue to fall. Eating comfort foods such as ice cream or cake while binge-watching at home does not match the amount of desserts, soda, chocolates and other sugary foods people consume when they’re out at malls, restaurants or movie theatres.

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