More news of layoffs as the novel coronavirus tears through economies and populations: SoftBank-backed shared mobility company Ola has said it will cut 1,400 jobs, or about 35% of its workforce, as the lockdown that has eaten away 95% of business. This comes days after SoftBank posted its first loss in 15 years, of $12 billion for the year ended March, and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma left its board. For the rest of the news you need to know before you start your day, here’s Mint Lite.
Amphan makes landfall
Cyclone Amphan with wind speeds up to 190kmph made landfall on Wednesday, and two women were killed by falling trees, in West Bengal. The cyclone, which formed in the Bay of Bengal a few days ago, touched land around 2.30pm and continued for about four hours before hitting Kolkata in the evening, Indian Meteorological Department said. Bengal’s North and South 24 Paraganas districts are likely to be the worst hit, and IMD expected a 4-5m tidal wave to travel inland for about 10km and inundate low-lying regions. More than 6.5 lakh people in Bengal and Odisha were evacuated. IMD said Odisha is unlikely to be severely affected as the supercyclone was gradually weakening in intensity. The strong winds and rain could continue on Thursday, and Assam and Meghalaya could get rain too.
Flights to resume in 4 days
India, which recorded its biggest single-day rise on Wednesday, with 5,611 new coronavirus cases, is struggling to contain the virus outbreak, while slowly reopening its economy. On Wednesday, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted that domestic flights would begin “in a calibrated manner” from 25 May and “all airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations”. The aviation sector is one of the worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak and the nearly two-month lockdown. All domestic and international flights were suspended in March. The Indian aviation industry may require funding of up to ₹35,000 crore till 2022-23 as profitability will be affected by a sharp fall in revenues and higher fixed costs during the lockdown period, credit rating agency ICRA said last week.
Less food in rural homes
As seasonal labourers from cities return to their villages to escape the nearly two-month lockdown, states are recording a spike in new coronavirus cases, especially in rural areas. Chhattisgarh has reported nearly two dozen cases among those who recently returned to the state, while Bihar found that 26% of those back from Delhi-NCR were infected. The loss of wages and cost of treatment increases the burden on rural households, where a survey found that over 50% of households have reduced the number of meals since lockdown was imposed (see chart). The survey, Covid-19: How is hinterland coping? covered 5162 households in 47 districts in 12 states (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal).
Push for EU recovery fund
It’s taken an unprecendented crisis for Germany and France to break some unwritten rules and work towards greater fiscal integration. German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron have proposed that the EU borrow 500 billion euro ($545 billion) as common debt and transfer it to member states most ravaged by the virus. Its repayment would be the responsibility of the entire bloc, though it would primarily benefit countries such as Italy and Greece whose economies have been hit hardest. Germany has long opposed mutual debt to fund other member states, but now, European leaders agree that if they fail to rescue economies in freefall, they risk something worse than the debt crisis of a decade ago. It’s also a new chapter in cooperation between France and Germany, indicating what leadership in the EU could look like in future now that UK has exited. The deal is not yet done. To pass, it needs backing from all 27 capitals. Austria, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have said they will offer only loans, not grants.
Covid-19 virus may be changing
Chinese doctors say the coronavirus is manifesting differently among patients in its new cluster of cases in the northeast region compared to the original outbreak in Wuhan. This suggests that the virus may be changing, which complicates treatment and control efforts. Patients in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces appear to carry the virus for more than two weeks before showing symptoms, and take longer to recover. This delayed onset is making it harder for authorities to catch cases before they spread. About 46 cases have been reported in two weeks in Shulan, Jilin city and Shengyang, most likely brought in from Russia, which has one of the worst outbreaks in the world. China has one of the most comprehensive virus detection and testing regimes in the world, yet it is struggling to contain this cluster.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at [email protected] or tweet to @shalinimb