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Africa Debt Soared Last Decade, Says World Bank

Source: International Debt Statistics, 2020, World Bank

The 2010s will go down as the decade that saw debt in low- and middle-income countries reach unsustainable levels. Sub-saharan Africa is driving the trend, designated as the region with the fastest growing debt levels in the World Bank’s International Debt Statistics 2020 report.

Several countries in the region have seen their external debt stocks more than double since the beginning of the decade, according to the report: “The average debt-to-GNI and debt-to-export ratios of countries in the region, excluding South Africa, [were] 32% and 127%, respectively; the comparable ratios for 2009 were 24% and 87%, respectively.”

Borrowing is essential for low- and middle-income nations in pursuit of poverty eradication and stable economic growth. But rising debt to unsustainable levels poses serious risks to internal economic and political stability, should governments find it increasingly difficult to meet creditor obligations. A current case in point is Lebanon, which has seen its financial crisis, spurred by unsustainable debt, spiral into political turmoil — Lebanon’s debt-to-GNI and debt-to-export ratios are 145% and 34%, respectively.

Global Flight Activity Rose in June, But Has a Long Way to Go to Full Recovery

Source: Flightradar24

The global aviation industry saw a rise in activity in June, yet total flights are still down 42% this year compared to 2019, as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Commercial flights are down by 62% compared to last year, however they did increase by 32% in June 2020 compared to May, according to Flightradar24, a global flight tracker.

A recent report by Airlines for America predicts that it will take until 2023 to see a return of pre-COVID passenger volumes within the U.S. The pandemic has already forced the airline industry to cut tens of thousands of jobs — and more layoffs are expected to happen in the upcoming months.

American Airlines plans to add 2,000 flights a day starting in July, while United Airlines will be adding 25,000 flights in August. American Airlines is facing criticism for allowing full-capacity flights, despite the recent uptick in coronavirus cases in the U.S. The U.S. administration has not mandated mask-wearing, social distancing or temperature checks at airports or on flights.

New Models Show Dramatic Impact of Proper Safety Protocols on COVID-19 Death Rate

Source: Goldenson Center at the University of Connecticut

Wearing a mask, along with other basic precautions, results in a significant drop in the number of coronavirus cases and number of deaths, according to a new simulator from the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research. The simulation shows how individuals’ actions can directly impact how long the pandemic will last and comes at a time when the U.S. is reaching a record high in case numbers.

The graphic above show a hypothetical model of events after 100 people out of 1,000 become infected with the virus. When only 10% of the population wears masks, observes social distancing and sanitizes, there is a dramatic increase in case numbers and deaths.

The other hypothetical model below shows case results when 80% of the population follows safety protocols. In the second instance, after two months, almost zero percent are infected. It also shows that if a state follows proper safety measures for at least three months after reopening, COVID-19 could be eliminated from the area. 

Over Half of Europeans View the US Less Favorably Than Before COVID-19

Source: European Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. is viewed more negatively now compared to before the coronavirus crisis in the eyes of nearly 60% of Europeans. Over 70% of Danes and Portuguese respondents and 65% of Germans say their views of the U.S. have worsened — with views on China showing similar trends, according to a poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in June 2020.

The ECFR surveyed over 11,000 citizens in nine countries across Europe. The respondents said if cases continue to rise in the U.S., “many Europeans could come to see the U.S. as a broken hegemon that cannot be entrusted with the defense of the Western world.”

The EU is currently seeing an overall decline in COVID-19 cases, while this trend is only being recorded in two states in the U.S. The EU is preparing to open its borders, but most American travelers are expected to be banned, along with those from Brazil and Russia.

Africa Is Polio-Free, After Nigeria Reports No New Cases

Source: The World Health Organization

The WHO has declared Nigeria to be polio-free after the country reached its three-year mark of reporting no new cases. Just eight years ago, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all cases worldwide. This means that Africa is reportedly finally free of the wild poliovirus, although the continent awaits official certification from the Africa Regional Certification Commission, which is expected in August

Although the region is free of endemic transmission of the virus, it continues to struggle with some transmission via vaccine, with Niger recently reporting a vaccine-derived outbreak. The WHO warns that immunization and surveillance activities must continue to prevent the risk of the virus re-emerging.

As the region struggles with coronavirus, “mass immunizations … have been postponed,” according to the WHO, but countries in the region are “planning the resumption of immunization and outbreak response in compliance with the guidance to stop COVID-19 transmission.”

Now, only Pakistan and Afghanistan are left in the fight to end endemic transmission of polio.

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