Biden at 100 days • Britons vote, Johnson redecorates • The curse of long covid • India’s deadly second wave

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FOR DECADES ambiguity has helped to keep the peace in the Taiwan Strait. China insists Taiwan is merely a rebellious province, but has not tried to take it by force. America officially recognises only the government in Beijing, but has armed the one in Taipei. Taiwan, whatever its inclination, dare not declare independence. This balance of contradictions is looking less stable. China has built up its military capability over the past quarter-century to the extent that America is starting to fear that it may not be able to defend Taiwan from invasion. And American views of China, among analysts as well as officials, have lately become more hawkish. War across the strait would be catastrophic, pitting two nuclear powers against one another. It would also be a global economic calamity, because Taiwan is at the heart of the world’s semiconductor industry. Ensuring that it remains too risky for China requires both America and Taiwan to think ahead.


At noon on April 30th Joe Biden had been president of the United States for exactly 100 days. Dull in the election campaign, in office Mr Biden is drawing comparisons with Franklin Roosevelt, thanks to a $1.9trn stimulus bill, a rapid covid-19 vaccination programme, ambitious infrastructure plans, a flurry of executive orders—and this week, he told Congress, a scheme to reinvent America’s social safety-net. He proposes higher taxes on companies and the rich, including a doubling of levies on capital-gains and dividends. Higher capital taxes will not crush growth, as his critics claim, although without improved design they could harm investment. Meanwhile, as a post-pandemic boom builds, some American employers are finding themselves short of labour.


This Thursday Britons will vote for local councillors, mayors and police commissioners, devolved parliaments (in Scotland and Wales) and one new MP—in Hartlepool, in north-east England, where the governing Conservatives hope to snatch yet another old Labour stronghold. A rumpus over who paid what and when for the redecoration of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat seems to be doing little damage to the prime minister’s party. In Scotland, a big win for Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party will surely fuel calls for another independence referendum. Northern Ireland will soon have a new leader, even though no elections are being held there: Arlene Foster, the unionist first minister, resigned this week, amid turmoil over Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal.


One explanation for Mr Johnson’s popularity is the speed with which Britain has rolled out covid-19 vaccines. Yet as infections subside in Britain and other countries where inoculation is well advanced, evidence is building of the prevalence of “long covid”—a range of lingering symptoms, including breathlessness, fatigue and “brain fog”. Half a million Britons have had it for more than six months. Long covid appears to be a combination of lingering infection, an autoimmune disorder and tissue damage. Medicines for the first two of these may one day be found. But health-care systems must prepare to support long-covid sufferers; and employers should be ready to accommodate the needs of staff prone to recurrent illness.


Unusually, this week we have published two first-person reports, by correspondents in Delhi and Kolkata, as a deadly second wave of covid-19 continues to ravage India. The number of new infections reported daily has set one grim global record after another, reaching 386,000 on April 30th. The country now accounts for two-fifths of the world’s total. And the case count and death toll are surely understatements. Hospitals and even crematoria are overwhelmed. As criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis grows, ordinary citizens, charities, tycoons and companies are striving to provide care and to help in the increasingly frantic hunt for oxygen. Like the health impact, the economic cost of the pandemic is plain but hard to measure. Economists are trying to track it in electricity usage, mobile-phone data and even views from space.