Tuesday, 21 March, 2023
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How pandemic is proving to be cover for authoritarianism, virus hits Gaza & other Covid news

As the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of letting up, ThePrint highlights the most important stories on the crisis from across the globe.

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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate countries across the world — the latest count is over 2.40 crore cases and more than 8.23 lakh deaths.

Across the world, several leaders are using the pandemic to extend authoritarian measures. In the US, President Donald Trump used the Republican convention to rewrite his pandemic record. As infections rise in Spain, a blame game has ensued. Meanwhile, India and Japan join hands to help emerging countries develop a digital platform for welfare services.

ThePrint brings you the most important global stories on the coronavirus pandemic and why they matter.

Pandemic is providing cover to authoritarianism

From Hong Kong to Thailand, Covid is increasingly being used as a cover to carry out authoritarian measures across the world, reports The Atlantic.

“Though the coronavirus has posed an enormous challenge for world leaders, it has also presented an opportunity—for those who wish to consolidate power, pandemic containment rules offer a convenient tool to stifle inconvenient dissent. Here in Hong Kong, for example, the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, postponed legislative elections scheduled for September by an entire year, sapping momentum from a prodemocracy camp that looked poised to make sizable gains,” says the report.

“In Thailand, where protests against the government have grown in recent weeks to the largest in years and have expanded to criticize the largely untouchable monarchy, rights groups have warned that regulations enacted as a pandemic response serve ulterior motives,” it adds.

Trump tries to rewrite Covid history at convention

US President Donald Trump used the Republican National Convention to rewrite the history of the pandemic that has taken more than 175,000 lives in America, reports The Washington Post.

“President Trump used glitzy video and misleading testimonials to spin a tale of heroism and resolve far removed from the grim reality of a country in the throes of an uncontrolled public health crisis,” says the report. “One campaign-style video that aired during the convention hailed Trump as the “one leader” who stood up to the virus while quoting Democratic figures who played down the severity of the virus in its early stages.”

It adds, “It’s a revisionist version of recent history belied by hours of videotape.”

Also read: Tough on China, peacemaker in Middle East – that’s Trump, Mike Pompeo hails his boss

California’s tryst with Covid and wildfires

As badly hit California continues to struggle with the pandemic, it is now also grappling with unprecedented forest fires, reports The New Yorker.

“This past week, evacuation orders were issued across the state, including in Napa, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and parts of San Mateo County, which abuts Silicon Valley. People fled their homes in Solano County, near Sacramento, and in rural areas close to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which includes Yosemite National Park and Tahoe National Forest. To date, more than a hundred thousand people have been evacuated,” says the report.

“The state has always had a fire season, but this month’s fires are unprecedented. Unprecedented does not mean unanticipated: in recent years, fires have intensified—a consequence of climate change, exurban sprawl, and neglected electrical infrastructure,” it adds.

Pandemic shakes up an already fragile Venezuela

While Venezuela’s official death toll is just over 300, its healthcare workers suggest that the situation might be much worse, making an already crippled country sink further deep, reports The Guardian.

“In one recent three-day period in July, 26 patients reportedly died of Covid-19 there but none was included in the official count,” notes the report.

“The pandemic is now shaking South America’s most fragile nation — and even its political elite — with terrifying force. Several senior figures in Nicolás Maduro’s administration have been struck down in recent weeks including the oil minister, Tareck el Aissami; the communications minister, Jorge Rodríguez; Freddy Bernal, Táchira state “protector”; and Diosdado Cabello, the Socialist party strongman who appears to be recovering after falling seriously ill,” it adds.

Gaza under lockdown after first infection

The disputed territory of Gaza has gone under a 48-hour lockdown following its first cases of Covid-19, reports The New York Times.

“The discovery of the first four cases of community transmission of the virus deep inside Gaza set off an epidemiological investigation into the outbreak’s source, and prompted Hamas, the militant group that governs the territory, to impose a 48-hour curfew, a first step in the effort to control the outbreak,” notes the report.

“But it has also raised fears that the pandemic could spread quickly in the densely populated enclave, exacerbating the already dire economic situation confronting its nearly two million residents,” it adds.

Also read: Big pharma rivals are joining hands to fight Covid. The unity shouldn’t end with pandemic

Spain’s central, provincial govts tussle as infections rise

A tussle has ensued between the central and provincial governments as the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge in Spain, which currently has the highest infection rate across Europe, reports the Financial Times.

“At present Spain is suffering by far the worst coronavirus rates in Europe, with 176 cases per 100,000 population in the past 14 days, compared with levels of 22.5 in the UK, 16 in Italy and 63 in France,” says the report.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has asked the regional governments to request emergency powers to deal with the second wave. “Mr Sánchez said that it was up to the regions to ask for a state of alert if they needed it — although his government would support such a request. He added that the extraordinary powers granted by the measure would be wielded by the regions and would not necessarily imply a lockdown,” adds the report.

Japan, India join hands to help emerging countries

The Japanese and Indian governments have teamed up to help “technology companies build platforms that help emerging nations put government services online, taking ideas from the latter’s all-in-one digital infrastructure allowing access to various public services”, reports the Nikkei Asian Review.

The Indian government claims that its “Aadhar-online system” has helped it speed up Covid-19 assistance. And now India’s technical know-how, coupled with Japanese capacity, will seek to help other countries develop similar digital platforms that could help them during the pandemic and after.

The costs of rescue finance for companies

In response to the blowout of the pandemic, a significant number of corporations in the US and UK have raised unprecedented amounts of money during the second quarter, but this is likely to come with a cost, argues a long read in the Financial Times.

“In the US, S&P 500 non-financial companies were sitting on $1.35tn of cash and equivalents at the end of June, according to a Lex analysis of quarterly and half-year earnings data. Cash and equivalents have also ballooned 30 per cent — to £205bn — at the largest UK-listed non-financial companies on the FTSE 350 index, which includes Tui,” notes the report.

While such leveraging has forestalled collapses, such stockpiling of cash is likely to slow down growth. “Defensively managed corporations will inevitably generate lower returns, creating yet another drag on economies that are already struggling to recover,” adds the report.

What else we are reading:

Pandemic fuels the fires of European separatism: Financial Times

China locks down Xinjiang to fight Covid-19, angering residents: The New York Times

Why tourism in Asia will never be the same: Nikkei Asian Review

Also read: Merkel demands answers from Putin govt after tests find his critic Navalny was poisoned


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