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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - March 2020

Mar 2020

Mar 31, 2020

Saudi Arabia Assures India Of Uninterrupted LPG supply

  •  India's oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that he had discussed global oil market developments with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Aramco's Chief Executive Amin Nasser as well as uninterrupted LPG supplies to India.
  • Prince Abdulaziz assured of LPG supplies in the coming days to support our domestic requirement, Dharmendra Pradhan posted.
  • Two Indian refiners declared force majeure on crude purchases from the Middle East after fuel demand plummeted due to a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus and the companies' tanks are full.

Delay Brexit Deadline Amid Coronavirus, Say MEPs

  •  Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged by a group of MEPs to delay his Brexit deadline as countries around the world battle the coronavirus.
  • The European Parliament's largest group of MEPs said the pandemic puts pressure on the chance of securing a trade deal by the planned date.
  • The PM's spokesman insisted there were no plans to change the timetable.
  • It comes as EU and UK representatives met to discuss implementing the Brexit withdrawal agreement over video link.
  • Under the agreement, the UK enters a transition period where it will continue to follow EU rules until 31 December 2020, by which time both sides say they hope to have agreed a trade deal.

Mar 30, 2020

Study Shows Good Results With Plasma Treatment For COVID-19

  •  A new report raises hope that the blood of recovered patients can help treat severe coronavirus cases 
  • Five critically ill patients were hospitalized in Shenzhen, China, with serious cases of COVID-19. They received an experimental plasma transfusion and have since recovered to various degrees, according to new research published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Assocation.
  • While the research is far too limited in size and rigor to draw conclusions from, the findings support more robust study of the potential treatment, called a convalescent plasma transfusion, the researchers concluded. New York announced this week plans to test convalescent plasma in severe cases of COVID-19. 
  • Doctors conducted this study at a Shenzhen, China, hospital from January 20 to March 25. The five patients, ranging in age from 36 to 73, received plasma between 10 and 22 days after being admitted to the hospital.

Mar 28, 2020

JICA, Govt Sign Rs 15,295-Cr Loan Pacts For Major Rail Projects For Public, Freight Transport

  •  Japanese government funding agency JICA has signed agreements totalling Rs 15,295 crore with the Indian government for three mega rail infrastructure projects.
  • Under these agreements, JICA has granted Rs 8,553 crore for phase-1 of the Dedicated Freight Corridor; Rs 4,262 crore for Mumbai Trans Harbour Link Project (II) and Rs 2,480 crore for the Mumbai Metro Line 3 Project (III).
  • JICA said the Rs 8,553-crore loan for the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) project (Phase 1) comes with the objective to cope up with the increase in freight transport demand in India by constructing new dedicated freight railway system between Delhi and Mumbai.
  • It will promote comprehensive regional   economic development along the freight corridor as the backbone of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) development plan, said the funding agency that provides long-term low-cost loans for development projects to various countries.

After PM Boris Johnson, UK Health Minister Tests Positive For Covid-19

  •  British Health Secretary Matt Hancock became the second high-ranking UK government member to confirm his Covid-19 diagnosis, soon after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.
  • Matt Hancock, like Boris Johnson, said he has mild symptoms of the disease and has been working from home for the past few days in line with the UK government lockdown advice for people to stay at home as part of efforts to try and control the spread of the pandemic.

Mar 27, 2020

Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders' Summit

  •  An Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders' Summit was convened on 26 March 2020 to discuss the challenges posed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and to forge a global coordinated response. Earlier, PM had a telephonic conversation with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on this subject. The extraordinary G20 Summit was a culmination of the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting and G20 Sherpas Meeting on the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • At the meeting, G20 Leaders agreed to take all necessary measures to contain the pandemic and protect people. They also supported strengthening of the WHO's mandate in the fight against pandemics, including delivery of medical supplies, diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines and vaccines.
  • Leaders also committed to use all available policy tools to minimize the economic and social cost of the pandemic and to restore global growth, market stability and strengthening resilience. G20 countries committed to inject over USD 5 trillion into the global economy to counter the social and economic impact of COVID-19. Leaders also agreed to contribute to the WHO led COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund on a voluntary basis.

Mar 26, 2020

US Senate Passes $2tn Disaster Aid Bill

  •  The US Senate has passed a $2 trillion (£1.7tn) coronavirus aid bill that is the largest economic stimulus in US history.
  • The vote was delayed by a last-minute row between Republican and Democratic senators over unemployment benefits.
  • The plan includes direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and aid to help small businesses pay workers.
  • US coronavirus deaths are around the 1,000 mark and there have been nearly 70,000 confirmed infections.
  • More than 21,000 people with coronavirus have died across the world since it emerged in China's Hubei province in December, while the number of infections is racing towards half a million.
  • Southern Europe is now the centre of the pandemic, with Italy and Spain recording hundreds of new deaths every day.

UN Launches COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan

  •  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched a 2-billion-U.S.-dollar global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 in some of the world's most vulnerable countries.
  • On March, 25, 2020 at the United Nations headquarters in New York participants attended  the launch of the COVID-19 global humanitarian response plan via video teleconference. 
  • The response plan will be implemented by UN agencies, with international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and NGO consortia playing a direct role in the response, said Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.
  • The plan will be coordinated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Lowcock heads.
  • The plan will deliver essential laboratory equipment to test for the virus, and medical supplies to treat people; install handwashing stations in camps and settlements; launch public information campaigns on prevention; and establish airbridges and hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to move humanitarian workers and supplies to where they are needed most, said Lowcock.

Protecting Peatlands Can Help Attain Climate Goals: FAO-UN Report

  •  In accordance with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) report, Peatlands are facing degradation and need to be urgently monitored. The report authored by 35 experts comprised information as well as recommendations to countries on restoring and managing peatland. Peatlands are wetlands with a thick layer of organic soil. Peatlands cover only 3% of the global land area, but they store 30% of the world's soil carbon.
  • When peatlands are drained, they become net sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and contribute up to 1 Gigaton of GHG emissions per year through oxidation.
  • Countries can use System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring (SEPAL) platform developed by FAO for peatlands mapping which contains a number of tools for land use and land-use change monitoring.

Canada Backs $75bn Coronavirus Relief Bill

  • Canada has passed a multi-billion-dollar relief package to respond to the coronavirus slowdown.
  • It allows the government to spend C$107bn ($75bn, £64bn) in emergency aid and economic stimulus to assist Canadians struggling financially.
  • All parties supported the bill following amendments that removed provisions giving cabinet unprecedented powers.
  • It received rapid Royal Assent.
  • The government said Canadians made nearly one million claims for unemployment benefits, which is equivalent to about 5% of Canada's workforce.

Coronavirus Delays Russian Vote On Putin Staying In Power

  •  Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed a vote on constitutional change that would allow him to stay in power, because of coronavirus concerns.
  • He said the public vote - previously due to be held on 22 April, 2020 - would be delayed until a "later date".
  • The proposed changes include scrapping a ban on allowing Mr Putin to run for office again.
  • The changes have already been approved by parliament and Russia's constitutional court.
  • They would give Mr Putin - who is serving his fourth presidential term and has dominated Russian politics for two decades - the right to serve two more consecutive terms.
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