At least two dozen people drowned and presumed dead after a boat carrying migrants bound for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, the UN migration agency said Tuesday.
Safa Msehli, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, told The Associated Press that Libya’s coast guard intercepted three boats on Monday, and one of them had capsized.
She said the coast guard retrieved two bodies, and survivors reported 22 others were missing and presumed dead.
At least 45 survivors on the three boats were returned to the shore. All migrants were men, with a majority from Egypt and Morocco, she said.
“This new tragedy signals yet again the need for increased search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean. Instead, we are seeing restrictions on NGOs and long, unnecessary stand-offs,” the IOM official said.
The shipwreck was the latest maritime disaster involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Last month, a boat carrying migrants sank leaving at least 45 people drowned or missing and presumed dead, marking the largest number of fatalities in a single shipwreck off the coast of the North African country.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.
India on Tuesday confirmed more than 83,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, pushing its caseload to nearly 5 million.
The Health Ministry also reported 1,054 new deaths, taking the fatalities up to 80,776, reports AP.
With 4.93 million confirmed cases, India currently has the second-highest total in the world after the US.
Infections have maintained an upward surge amid an ease in coronavirus restrictions nationwide. More than 600,000 new cases have been confirmed in India in the last week alone.
Maharashtra, with more than 1 million cases, remains the worst-hit state, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
India also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s recovery rate stands at 77.8 percent, with nearly 3.8 million people recovering from the virus so far, according to the Health Ministry.
India’s Parliament, which reopened Monday after being shut down for more than five months due to coronavirus, said that more than 10 million migrant labourers had made their way back to their home states from various corners of the country during a strict nationwide lockdown. It said there was no data available for the number of migrant deaths.
Read Also: Covid-19: India’s caseload rises to 4.75 mln
Thousands of migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, went out of cities and headed back to villages when Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The unprecedented migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country.
The lockdown also caused a severe economic crisis. India's economy contracted nearly 24 percent in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.
Developing economies in Asia will contract this year, the first such downturn in nearly six decades, the Asian Development Bank said Tuesday in an update to its forecasts.
The update of the ADB’s outlook estimates the regional economy will contract 0.7 percent this year, recovering to 6.8 percent growth in 2021, reports AP.
Conditions could deteriorate further if the coronavirus pandemic worsens significantly. The update downgrades growth estimates for many countries in the region where outbreaks of coronavirus have surged.
The report said that China has already begun to recover and will see its economy grow 1.8 percent this year and 7.7 percent in 2021. The 6.1 percent growth for China's economy last year was the slowest pace in decades.
Asia's status as a production base for many medical products, digital devices and optical equipment helped to cushion the blow to trade from the pandemic downturn, the report noted.
Nonetheless, the downturn is the worst since the early 1960s, the report said. “This has set back efforts to life hundreds of millions of people in our region out of poverty," said the ADB's chief economist, Yasuyuki Sawada.
Many countries have imposed border controls, lockdowns and other restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus and prevent more outbreaks. But such measures come at a huge economic cost.
To help compensate, regional governments have promised $3.6 trillion, equivalent to about 15 percent of regional economic activity, in subsidies, loans and other support for individuals and businesses.
But small companies that account for most business in the region are short of capital to weather the crisis, the ADB said. It expects a recovery to be “L-shaped," or “swoosh-shaped" rather than V-shaped.
Read Also: Bangladesh GDP to grow by 6.8pc in FY21: ADB
Even with a recovery, economies will be “substantially below expectations before COVID-19," Sawada said.
A prolonged pandemic could put countries into debt crises or destabilise their financial markets, the report said. “Another risk would be worsening geopolitical tensions, most notably potential for US–PRC (China) friction over trade and technology to intensify," it said.
In this file photo, a foreign tourist walks along an empty road lined with closed shops in Bali, Indonesia.
South and Southeast Asian countries have seen some of the worst devastation from the pandemic, with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand logging double-digit contractions in the April-June quarter from a year earlier. All of their economies are expected to shrink by 5 percent or more this year.
Strong government spending will be crucial to support their recoveries, the report said. The ADB said that ensuring health systems are improved is also vital for sustained growth.
‘Bangladesh economy recovering’
Bangladesh’s GDP is expected to grow by 6.8 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2021, according to the ADB report.
“The growth reflects gradual recovery, supported by a strong manufacturing base and strengthening of growth in export destinations,” ADB said in a press release.
Bangladesh’s inflation is expected to be 5.5 percent and current account deficit to narrow to 1.1 percent of GDP in FY2021. Prudent macroeconomic management and speedy implementation of the government stimulus measures are key imperatives to ensure the projected recovery.
“Bangladesh economy has started recovering from the pandemic. Despite significant pressure on the health and pandemic management systems, the government has managed the economy well with appropriate economic stimulus and social protection measures, ensuring basic services and commodities for the poor and vulnerable,” said Country Director Manmohan Parkash.
He noted that recent economic performance in exports and remittances, and government’s macroeconomic management including securing foreign funds for economic stimulus and social protection have made this recovery feasible.
“We are encouraged by the increase in exports and remittances, and hope the recovery will be sustained, which will help in achieving the projected growth rate,” said Parkash.
He said this crisis is an opportunity to undertake further reforms in resource mobilisation, export diversification, employment generation, skills development, as well as social protection.
ADB has already provided initial assistance of $600 million in loans and $4.4 million in grants for managing socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting quick recovery. ADB has programmed $5.9 billion firm and $5.2 billion standby assistance for Bangladesh in 2021-2023.
In FY2021, the government’s fiscal and monetary stimulus measures are expected to boost public and private investment. The central bank’s expansionary and accommodative monetary policy is expected to aid the projected growth while keeping inflation contained. Strong remittances will stimulate private consumption.
The Nepali government is allowing resumption of domestic flights and long-distance public ground transport services from September 21, after a hiatus of nearly six months.
Nepal had suspended these services in late March in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. The government's decision came ahead of major festivals in Nepal, Dashain and Tihar, when people tend to travel to faraway places.
"Monday’s cabinet meeting decided to resume both domestic flights and long-haul ground public transportation services to help normalise the people's lives," Yogesh Bhattarai, minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation, told Xinhua on Tuesday.
Even though COVID-19 cases in Nepal are resurging in recent weeks, Bhattarai said that these services would be resumed by ensuring that the health protocols are strictly followed.
Read Also: Covid-19: Nepal extends flight suspension
He said that his ministry has already prepared the necessary health protocol to be followed by airlines while conducting domestic flights.
As of Monday, Nepal reported 55,329 COVID-cases and total deaths of 360.
Officially, the Nepali government in early July had decided to allow short-distance public transport to resume services. But local administrations in many districts have halted entire transportation services, citing the resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the recent weeks.
The Himalayan country has already allowed scheduled international flights starting from early September, allowing foreign diplomats, representatives of international organisations and the Nepalis who had received prior approval from the Nepali government to enter the country, to come to Nepal.
Read Also: Nepal confirms its first coronavirus death
China on Monday warned the United States of potential “serious damage” to their relations over US-Taiwan economic talks, reports AP.
China warned US to withdraw from an upcoming economic meeting with Taiwan that is expected to be attended by a senior American official to avoid serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin urged the US at a daily briefing to "stop all forms of official exchanges with Taiwan.
Taiwanese media reported that US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach is planning to visit the island later this week for an economic and commercial dialogue with Taiwan's government.
The visit would follow one by US Health Secretary Alex Azar last month.
Azar was the highest-level US Cabinet official to visit since a break in formal ties between the US and Taiwanese government in 1979, when the US accepted a “one-China policy” with Beijing as its government.
A visit by Krach is likely to inspire further anger from China.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its own territory, and strongly opposes any official contacts between other nations and the island.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed last week that it was in negotiations with the US on such talks, but did not comment on a specific date or who might attend from Washington.
Tensions are high between the US and China over issues including trade, cybersecurity, technology and Hong Kong's new national security law.
Relations have deteriorated further since the coronavirus outbreak. Trump blames China for the pandemic, and he and his administration have repeatedly accused the country of hiding crucial information about the virus from the global community.