Author: gbaddy

116mn babies will be born under pandemic: Unicef

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) has estimated that 116 million babies will be born under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New mothers and newborns will experience global containment measures such as lockdowns and curfews, overwhelmed health centres, supply and equipment shortages, and a lack of sufficient skilled birth attendants, Xinhua news agency quoted the Unicef as saying on Thursday.
Coronavirus lockdown: Latest updates
The report comes two days before Mother’s Day which will be marked this year on May 10 by some 128 countries.
“Millions of mothers all over the world embarked on a journey of parenthood in the world as it was,” Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
“They now must prepare to bring a life into the world as it has become — a world where expecting mothers are afraid to go to health centres for fear of getting infected, or missing out on emergency care due to strained health services and lockdowns.

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“It is hard to imagine how much the coronavirus pandemic has recast motherhood,” she said.
The organization is urgently calling for governments and health care providers to take measures, including helping pregnant women receive checkups and delivery care, and ensuring that health workers are provided with the necessary personal protective equipment.

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Wuhan market had role in virus outbreak, that’s clear but more research needed: WHO

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GENEVA: A wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan played a role in the outbreak of the novel coronavirus last year, as the source or possibly as an “amplifying setting”, the World Health Organization said on Friday, calling for more research.
Chinese authorities shut down the market in January as part of efforts to halt the spread of the virus and ordered a temporary ban on trade and consumption of wildlife.
“The market played a role in the event, that’s clear. But what role we don’t know, whether it was the source or amplifying setting or just a coincidence that some cases were detected in and around that market,” said Dr Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO expert on food safety and zoonotic viruses that cross the species barrier from animals to humans.
It was not clear whether live animals or infected vendors or shoppers may have brought the virus into the market, he told a Geneva news briefing.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said there is “a significant amount of evidence” the virus came from the Wuhan laboratory, although he has also said there wasn’t certainty.
No public evidence has linked the outbreak to the lab in Wuhan and scientists have said the coronavirus appears to have developed in nature. A German intelligence report cast doubts on Pompeo’s allegations, Der Spiegel reported.
Ben Embarek did not address the accusations.
He noted that it took researchers a year to identify camels as the source of the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus, a coronavirus that emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and spread in the Middle East, adding: “It’s not too late.”
“What is important, what would be of great help, is to get hold of the virus before it adapted to humans, before the version we have now. Because then we would better understand how it adapted to humans, how it evolved,” he said.
“In terms of investigations, China has most probably, most likely, all the expertise needed to do these investigations. They have lot of very qualified researchers to that,” he said.
A common sight across Asia, wet markets traditionally sell fresh produce and live animals, such as fish, in the open air.
Many markets worldwide that sell live animals must be better regulated and hygiene conditions improved, and some should be closed down, Ben Embarek said. “But the vast majority can be fixed, can be better organised.”
It is often a question of controlling waste management, the movement of people and goods, and of separating live animals from animal products and from fresh goods, he said.

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Varun Dhawan’s SWEET Birthday Wish For Girlfriend Natasha Is Too CUTE For Words


Varun Dhawan took to social media to wish his ladylove Natasha Dalal on her birthday.


Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan posted a cute birthday wish for his girlfriend Natasha Dalal. The actor, last seen in ‘Street Dancer 3D’ opposite Shraddha Kapoor, wished his ladylove by sharing pictures on social media. Although, Natasha is celebrating her ‘isolation birthday’ amid the Coronavirus lockdown, we are sure Varun’s sweet wish will definitely bring a smile on her face.

Varun also shared a picture of Natasha with her pet. He wrote, “Happy birthday Nata. I choose you over the ufc.” The ‘Sui Dhaaga’ chose to wish Natasha in his own special day. Check out his post!

(Swipe to see the photos)

Several Bollywood celebs including Aditya Roy Kapur, Sonam Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor and Huma Qureshi dropped comments on the post.

Varun Dhawan confirmed dating Natasha Dalal on Karan Johar’s talk show ‘Koffee With Karan 6’. Speculations over their wedding have been rife for quite some time now. It was even said that the two lovebirds would get married in May 2020 in Goa. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has spoiled all their plans, according to reports.

On the professional front, Varun Dhawan will be next seen in the remake of ‘Coolie No. 1’. The film, directed by his father David Dhawan, also stars Sara Ali Khan.

Watch this space for more updates!



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China says Taiwan will fail in bid to attend key WHO meeting


Woman is seen past a portrait of Chinese President Xi in Shanghai. File photo used for representation (Reuters…Read More

BEIJING: Taiwan will fail in its bid to take part in a key meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) as its efforts are not based on concern for the health of Taiwan’s people but are “political manipulation”, China said on Friday.
Taiwan has been lobbying to attend, as an observer, this month’s gathering of the WHO‘s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA), and has won high-level support from the United States and several of its allies including Japan.
Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO, due to the objections of China, which considers the island one of its provinces, had angered Taipei’s government, which says this has created a dangerous gap in the global fight against the coronavirus.
Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party was trying to use the pandemic for its own political purposes.
“Its so-called attempts to get into the WHO and participate in the WHA are absolutely not for the health and well-being of Taiwan’s people but are through-and-through political manipulation, and will not succeed,” she said.
Both Taiwan and the United States say that WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has the power, should he so wish, to invite Taiwan to the WHA.
But diplomatic sources in Taiwan say that in practice he is unlikely to do so if China does not approve.
Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council said late on Thursday that health was a basic human right and China was “using politics to infringe upon health and human rights”.
The WHO should “not be manipulated by a single country’s political position” and at this time of pandemic should protect the health and safety of all people around the world, it said.
Both the WHO and China say Taiwan has been provided with the help and information it needs during the pandemic, something Taiwan strongly disputes. Taiwan says it wants full and proper access to the WHO.
China says it has the right to represent Taiwan on the international stage. Taiwan says that only its democratically elected government can speak for the island’s 23 million people.
Taiwan attended the World Health Assembly as an observer from 2009-2016 when Taipei-Beijing relations were warmer.
But China blocked further participation after the election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who China views as a separatist, an accusation she rejects.



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Green hydrogen’s time has come, say advocates eying post-pandemic world

LONDON: Hydrogen has long been touted as a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Now, as major economies prepare green investments to kickstart growth, advocates spy a golden chance to drag the niche energy into the mainstream of a post-pandemic world.

Green hydrogen was pushed to the fore last week when Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said the technology was “ready for the big time” and urged governments to channel investments into the fuel.

Some countries, including the Netherlands, Australia and Portugal, have already begun investing in the technology. Now investors, politicians and businesses are pushing the European Union and others to use its post-crisis recovery plan to support hydrogen in areas like trucking and heavy industry.

The promise of hydrogen as a fuel to help power vehicles and energy plants has been a talking point since the 1970s, but it is currently too expensive for widespread use. Proponents say infrastructure investment and more demand from transport, gas grids and industry will bring the cost down.

Most hydrogen used today is extracted from natural gas in a process that produces carbon emissions, which defeats the object for many policymakers. But there is potential to extract “green” hydrogen from water with electrolysis, an energy-intensive but carbon-free process if powered by renewable electricity.

EU officials, one of whom described green hydrogen as the “holy grail”, said it could replace fossil fuels in sectors that lack alternatives to align operations with the EU’s Green Deal plan to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050.

“Hydrogen could solve a lot of problems. We need everything else as well but the political interest is because to achieve deep energy efficiency and decarbonisation, hydrogen seems relatively easy,” said Jesse Scott, senior advisor at think-tank Agora Energiewende.

“It is less alarming (for policymakers) than some other elements for meeting net zero,” she added, such as carbon removal technology for example.

HYDROGEN GAINING MOMENTUM

Momentum appears to be building; EU industry chief Thierry Breton met hydrogen companies online this week to discuss the bloc’s recovery from the pandemic.

“We could use these circumstances, where loads of public money are going to be needed into the energy system, to jump forward towards a hydrogen economy,” said Diederik Samsom, who heads the European Commission’s climate cabinet.

This could result in hydrogen use scaling up faster than was expected before the pandemic, he added.

The European Commission has earmarked clean hydrogen – a loose term which can include gas-based hydrogen, if fitted with technology to capture the resulting emissions – as a “priority area” for industry in its Green Deal.

Over the past year, several governments, including Germany, Britain, Australia and Japan, have announced or have been working on hydrogen strategies and the pace has picked up over the past month during the pandemic.

This week, Australia set aside A$300 million ($191 million) to jumpstart hydrogen projects. Portugal plans to build a new solar-powered hydrogen plant which will produce hydrogen by electrolysis by 2023.

The Netherlands unveiled a hydrogen strategy in late March, outlining plans for 500 megawatts (MW) of green electrolyser capacity by 2025. A German hydrogen strategy is expected later this month.

The Dutch government is pushing for the EU to follow suit and present an “action plan” for clean hydrogen, a spokesperson told Reuters.

CAN IT BECOME AFFORDABLE?

When it comes to transport, hydrogen fuel cells trail electric batteries in the push for greener cars, given their higher price and the lack of refuelling stations. But proponents see potential for heavier vehicles.

Daimler and Volvo Trucks unveiled plans last month to bring hydrogen fuelled heavy-duty vehicles to market within the decade.

Hydrogen gas is already used in industry to produce ammonia, which goes into fertilisers, and methanol, used to make plastic.

A major drawback of the green hydrogen that governments are most interested in, is that it requires a large amount of renewable electricity to produce. The good news is, renewables prices have fallen sharply in recent years.

According to Bernstein analysts, hydrogen made from fossil fuels currently costs between $1-$1.8/kg. Green hydrogen can cost around $6/kg today, making it significantly more expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives.

However, increased demand could reduce the cost of electrolysis. Coupled with falling renewable energy costs, green hydrogen could fall to $1.7/kg by 2050 and possibly sub-$1/kg, making it competitive with natural gas. Higher carbon prices would also encourage the shift.

“Clean hydrogen produced from electricity is around three times more expensive than that from natural gas, but solar and wind costs have decreased in recent years and if they continue to fall, clean hydrogen produced with lower electricity costs would become more affordable,” said Philippe Vie, global energy and utilities lead at consultancy Capgemini.

“On hydrogen we are right now where we were with renewables in 2000-2005. Ten to 15 years is probably a good time lapse to become competitive,” he added.

MAJOR MONEY NEEDED

Any serious attempt at large-scale use – either in industry or transportation – would also require major infrastructure investments. For example, power from an offshore wind farm would need to be connected to an electrolyser that produces the green hydrogen, which would then need to be transported to end users.

Europe has around 135 MW of electrolyser capacity, but planned green hydrogen projects could bring that to 5.2 gigawatts, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie. But many projects hinge on further investment partners or subsidies, which advocates fear will be scarcer in the COVID-19-induced economic slump.

“Investments that would have been foreseen to be done now are not made because production is delayed,” Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, secretary general of lobby group Hydrogen Europe, told Reuters.

To help lower costs, several projects are being worked on across the gas infrastructure, industry, mining and energy sectors.

Royal Dutch Shell and Dutch gas firm Gasunie unveiled plans in February to build a mammoth wind-powered hydrogen plant in the northern Netherlands, capable of producing 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen by 2040.

In Germany, oil refinery Raffinerie Heide is embarking on a project using excess wind energy and abundant water supply in the region to produce hydrogen to make kerosene.

“The price of hydrogen we pay for now is four times natural gas from an external source fed through the pipeline and produced 30 km away,” said CEO Juergen Wollschlaeger.

A big fear for companies in the hydrogen industry is that they will be unable to take advantage of the unique opportunity presented by vast economic stimulus packages, and that governments will favour supporting traditional high-carbon fuel sectors that have been hit hard by a collapse in energy demand.

“For us, that will be the question to be answered in the next weeks. Will the carbon fuel industry succeed in convincing the officials to support them?” Bernd Hübner, chief financial officer at German green hydrogen start-up Hy2gen said.

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50 trains: Bihari NGO in Mumbai offers to pay for 50 trains to send migrants home | Mumbai News – Times of India

A large crowd of migrants walks along a National Highway 8 on their way back to Mumbai after they were sent ba…Read More

MUMBAI: Days after Congress president Sonia Gandhi offered to pay for the travel of stranded migrant workers by trains to their homes, a Bihari NGO has offered to pay for the travel cost of 50 trains to carry Bihari migrants and students stranded in Mumbai.
Pained by the plight of lakhs of Bihari migrant workers and students in Mumbai, Bihar Navnirman Yuva Abhiyan, an NGO working for the welfare of Biharis, has written to Union railway minister Piyush Goyal, demanding 50 trains which can take stuck Bihari migrants from Mumbai to Bihar. The Abhiyan’s organiser Tanvir Alam has said that the cost of tickets for passengers of 50 trains will be borne by his NGO.
“We are confident that we can afford to pay for the tickets of migrants who travel by these 50 trains. The railway ministry should consider it and order the release of 50 trains for this purpose,” said Mumbai-based Alam. He added that, since most migrant workers live is congested slums where social distancing is difficult to maintain, it will be better if they are sent to their villages.
“Thousands in slums use a single toilet. The small rooms they live in are crammed and there is little chance of maintaining social distancing. Above all, they don’t have money and their survival in the city is difficult,” Alam said.
When asked how will his NGO pay for around 60,000 migrants–1200 per train, Alam said he would crowd fund. “We would approach Bihari entrepreneurs, businessmen and professionals and get the required money. Money will not be an issue. The railway ministry should give a go ahead and direct the railway authorities to make 50 trains available to us,” he said.
Thousands of Biharis have submitted forms to different police stations in the city and await a call to catch the trains to Bihar. ‘”I submitted a form in Ghtkopar police station last week but have not received any message yet. I don’t know when will I be allowed to board so train. I don’t have money and have survived on charity or some money I borrowed from friends so far. It is difficult to survive here now,” said Mohammed Fareed, a resident of Darbhanga who used to work at bag making unit in Ghtkopar, shut since March 24.

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Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil: Former NCP MP in list of BJP candidates for Maharashtra council polls | Mumbai News – Times of India

Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil who joined the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is the son of former Maharashtra …Read More

MUMBAI: Former NCP MP Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil and three others figure in the list of BJP candidates for the May 21 Maharashtra legislative council poll.
The list was released from Delhi on Friday, a state BJP functionary said.
Senior state BJP leaders Eknath Khadse and Pankaja Munde don’t find a place in the list, which instead has lesser-known faces like Gopichand Padalkar, Praveen Datke and Ajit Gopchhade.
Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil who joined the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is the son of former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite Patil.
While Ranjitsinh joined the BJP officially, his father hasn’t done so formally.
Padalkar who joined the BJP ahead of last year’s assembly polls, had unsuccessfully contested against Ajit Pawar from Baramati. Pawar had retained his seat with a margin of over six lakh votes.
The Council election is being held for nine seats, for which the electoral college is the 288-member Maharashtra legislative assembly.
The quota for a winning candidate is 29 votes.
The election assumes importance Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray is among the candidates.
While Pankaja Munde lost the 2019 assembly election from Parli to estranged cousin and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde, Khadse who was denied Assembly poll ticket by his party, had recently declared that he would like to contest the May 21 poll.
BJP has 105 MLAs and the party has claimed support of 11 members of smaller parties and independents. It needs 116 first preference votes to get its four candidates elected.
Talks are still on among the three ruling MVA alliance partners with the Congress adamant on fielding a second candidate. If the allies contest more than five seats, there would be an election.
During the trust vote in the assembly, the MVA had secured support of 169 MLAs, while four MLAs (CPM 1, MNS 1, AIMIM 2) had abstained.
The biennial elections are being held to fill in seats which fell vacant after Council members retired on April 24.

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Flight carrying 167 J&K medical students arrives in Srinagar from Dhaka | India News

SRINAGAR: A special flight, carrying 167 medical students hailing from Jammu and Kashmir, arrived here from Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Friday as part of the Centre’s efforts to bring back Indians stranded abroad.
“Total 167 students arrived at Srinagar airport in the special flight from Dhaka this afternoon,” an official said.
Officials said the students were undergoing screening at the airport after which they will be sent to administrative quarantine for a period of 14 days as mandated under the guidelines issued for curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Srinagar deputy commissioner Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary expressed his gratitude to the Indian High Commission in Dhaka for the “tremendous efforts” in getting these students home.
“Profound gratitude to Indian High Commission @ihcdhaka for tremendous efforts. More to follow. For convenience of students — bulk tickets next,” Chaudhary said in a tweet.

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‘Barrister Babu’ Actress Aura Bhatnagar Turns Into Yoga Tutor For Tejasswi Prakash


Aura Bhatnagar plays the role of Bondita in Colors TV’s much-loved show ‘Barrister Babu’.


New Delhi: COLORS Ki Funshala, a unique Virtual Summer Camp organized by the channel had some fun activities hosted by popular actors like Nimrit Kaur Ahluwalia, Tejasswi Prakash, Amruta Khanvilkar, Smita Bansal, Pravisht Mishra and Puneett Chouskey. The camp was held keeping in mind that kids are missing out on all the summer activities owing to the lockdown.

The fitness freak Tejasswi Prakash began the show with a heartwarming welcome of the viewers. Just like our regular morning routines, the camp started with a Yoga session by none other than the ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi 10’ contestant herself. Amping up the fun was Aura Bhatnagar, who joined Tejasswi to motivate everyone to adapt a fun and healthy lifestyle. Aura later took everyone by surprise when tables turned and little Bondita taught a few Yoga asanas to Tejasswi and the enrollees. All in all it was a fun experience for the duo with a strong kick of newness.

Excited and happy about her first experience Aura says, “I am a great fan of Yoga and feel it’s the best way to relieve stress. So, whenever I talk to people, I always tell them to practice Yoga. Even the other day when I was live with Tejasswi Prakash didi I grabbed the opportunity to teach some more. She already knew the asanas and did them perfectly! I also urge everyone to practice Yoga at home to stay fit and healthy.”



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The race to develop coronavirus vaccines is heating up

NEW YORK: When the Soviet Union put the first man into space in 1961, the shock to America’s self-confidence was electric. If China should be first to produce a successful vaccine against the coronavirus, US prestige is likely to suffer a similar blow.

President Donald Trump is putting everything he’s got into a research effort dubbed Operation Warp Speed, which pulls together pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military. So is China, which has a head start at a time the two countries are already engaged in a fight for dominance impacting everything from trade to the roll-out of 5G communications networks.

The stakes in finding a vaccine against the coronavirus couldn’t be higher. In just a few months the disease has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives and shattered economies worldwide.

Lockdown 3.0: Latest updates

While many leaders are talking about global collaboration, history suggests that national interests will dominate — the government that can immunize its workforce first stands to gain not just economic advantage, but the validation of its technological prowess and international influence. If that government is in Beijing, the impact could be as dramatic as Yuri Gagarin’s trip into orbit almost 60 years ago.

“When it’s tense like it is now between the US and China, every single thing gets distorted by the geopolitics,” said David Fidler, a specialist in cyber security and global health at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. Should Beijing produce the first vaccine, the US “will worry that China would weaponize the vaccine in geopolitical terms,” he said.

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Both the US and China have played down talk of competition, with Chinese officials in particular stressing the common nature of the threat from Covid-19. No vaccine has ever been made on the kinds of schedules being targeted, counted in months rather than years. Scientists familiar with the process warn it isn’t certain that one can be developed at all, let alone by the end of the year. So the risk of disappointment is high.

In a recent town hall on Fox News, Trump said the US was working with both Britain and Australia on vaccine projects, and wasn’t focused on who got there first. “I really don’t care,” he said. “If it’s another country, I’ll take my hat off to them. We have to come up with a vaccine.”

Health Secretary Alex Azar said this week that the US expects to be able to start manufacturing the drugs itself, whoever makes the scientific breakthrough.

Still, in the first months of the pandemic, signs of geopolitical rivalry have been there for all to see, and trust lacking even among allies.

The state government in Berlin accused the US of “modern piracy,” for allegedly snatching away shipments of Chinese protective gear earmarked for Germany, a claim denied by the US The Europeans are bringing in new rules to protect their pharmaceutical firms from foreign acquisitions. China has irritated western governments with highly publicized airlifts of medical aid to selected countries and suggestions its success in containing the virus is proof of a superior political system.

The US is signalling that its own efforts are focused on protecting the American people first. Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday described the US vaccine program as aiming “to develop a vaccine for the people of the United States.” The administration is targeting 300 million doses — enough to inoculate most of the country — by January.

China’s research process is for now more advanced, with a total of 508 volunteers joining a second phase trial for a potential vaccine that the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences is developing with a Tianjin-based company, CanSino Biologics. Results from the trial could be known as soon as this month.

Russia has at least four vaccine projects underway, including at Novosibirsk Vector, a laboratory that once worked on Soviet bio-weapons programs, according to Sergei Netesov, a former executive at the lab who now teaches at Novosibirsk State University. The goal, he says, is for Russia to make sure its own population has protection without being dependent on its rivals.

Others are in the mix, too, with the UK saying that if a promising Oxford University project is successful, Britons will be at the front to the line.

To be sure, France and Germany are leading the charge for a more cooperative approach, securing pledges of 7.4 billion euro ($8 billion) at a virtual Group of Twenty fund raiser on May 4. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, meanwhile, has said it will build manufacturing capacity to make as many seven vaccines available, even before they exist, an unprecedented effort to ensure wide and rapid availability.

“This pandemic is a global challenge and we will therefore also only be able to overcome it globally,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the G-20 video conference. “We are ready to go new ways.”

But past experience isn’t encouraging. During the 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic, governments also issued joint declarations committing themselves to collaboration in the development and distribution of vaccines. Nevertheless, as soon as they were available, countries that could afford to bought up doses and hoarded them, to ensure their populations would get inoculated first.

The US snubbed G-20 vaccine initiative, objecting to the involvement of the World Health Organization, while officials in both Washington and Beijing have indulged in conspiracy theories and blame games to accuse the other of responsibility for the virus. Trump has blamed the WHO for failing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and halted US funding to the organization. China is emerging first from its lockdown to reboot its economy, while the US and Europe are still struggling to contain the virus and piling on vast sums of national debt to cushion the economic impact, risking long periods of slow growth ahead.

Even the G-20 leadership of Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron is in part designed to compensate for the failure of the European Union’s collective response to the coronavirus so far, according to Stefan Lehne, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, a Brussels-based think tank. Perceived German and EU failures to help Italy early in the crisis caused resentment and opened a diplomatic window for China and Russia, both of which sent high profile shipments of medical aid to Italy.

“Bill Gates said this is like a world war and we are all on the same side,” says Lehne. “This is not so evident.”

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