Must-know numbers this week: Vaccines, mink, taxes and kiwi fraud

Amid the collective hangover from the United States presidential election and the continuing coronavirus pandemic, it can be easy to get lost in this week’s non-stop news cycle.

That’s why we’re rounding up the must-know numbers each week to keep you informed and up-to-date on major business and economic stories as well as the ones you might have missed.

Here are five major numbers you need to know this week.

90 percent

On Monday, drug companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that the preliminary data for a phase-three clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate had shown it to be more than 90 percent effective.

The announcement triggered a wave of optimism that washed through global markets and beyond.

The big hope is that Big Pharma is on the cusp of defeating a once-in-a-century pandemic that has killed more than 1.2 million people globally, ravaged livelihoods, decimated industries and worsened inequality between and within nations.

President Donald Trump responded to the news with an all-caps tweet, writing “SUCH GREAT NEWS!” while President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to keep wearing their masks and warned that country faces “a very dark winter” before the vaccine is widely available.

45 million

The number of mink pelts produced globally each year. Mink fur is used in clothing, accessories and some false eyelashes, and mink oil is used in cosmetic and medical products and as a treatment on leather goods.

Minks are in the spotlight after animals infected with COVID-19 were discovered on fur farms in several countries and mink in Denmark passed a mutated strain back to humans, sickening more than 200 people. Danish scientists have said a vaccine they are currently testing on animals appears to work in stopping the mutated COVID strain.

Animal rights activists have used the focus on the COVID-19 risk from mink farms to call attention to the brutal conditions animals endure and push for an end to the fur industry. At least one country, the Netherlands, has moved up its date to ban mink farms due to the pandemic.

$37 billion

The amount of an Ant Group’s would-be historic IPO, which was suspended days after the company’s billionaire Jack Ma made a speech at odds with the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the economy.

This week, it emerged that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally halted the IPO, a sign of his “diminishing tolerance for big private businesses that have amassed capital and influence – and are perceived to have challenged both his rule and the stability craved by factions in the country’s newly assertive Communist Party”, the Wall Street Journal reported.

5 percent

The amount of a proposed tax by Deutche Bank on remote workers to help lessen the pinch of the COVID-19 economic crisis and level the economic playing field.

In a report called, “What we must do to rebuild,” Deutsche Bank suggested slapping a 5 percent daily tax on people who work from home and using the funds raised to subsidise the lowest-paid workers who are unable to work remotely.

So, how would it work? Assuming the average salary of a remote worker in the US is $55,000 a year, Deutche Bank calculated that a 5 percent tax would amount to a little more than $10 per working day – standard lunch money for many office workers.

Deutsche Bank reckons in the US alone, the remote worker tax could raise $48bn a year – enough to give a $1,500 grant to each of the estimated 29 million workers who cannot work from home and earn less than $30,000 a year – a pool that includes essential workers.

1,500

The number of allegedly fraudulent votes cast for – wait for it – the little-spotted kiwi in a New Zealand conservation charity’s Bird of the Year contest.

Forest & Bird said it had discovered 1,500 fraudulent votes for the feathered candidate, which is also known as the kiwi pukupuku.

“It’s lucky we spotted this little kiwi trying to sneak in an extra 1,500 votes under the cover of darkness!” Bird of the Year spokesperson Laura Keown said. “But they’ll have to play by the rules like all of the other birds to win the competition.”

In response to the suspicious ballots, which were cast online in the middle of the night and caught by a data science firm, kiwi pukupuku campaign manager Emma Rawson said, “Voter fraud is not the kiwi way.”

Legitimate bird voters have until Monday to cast their ballots. May the best bird win.