May 07, 2020

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COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest number as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US 1,228,609 (+2.00%)
  2. Spain 253,682 (+1.25%)
  3. Italy 214,457 (+0.68%)
  4. UK 202,359 (+3.12%)
  5. France 174,224 (+2.07%)
  6. Germany 168,162 (+0.69%)
  7. Russia 165,929 (+6.80%)
  8. Turkey 131,744 (+1.74%)
  9. Brazil 126,611 (+9.19%)
  10. Iran 101,650 (+1.68%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Percentage change over 24 hours

NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

No Safe Harbor

Kenya recently banned new refugees from the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, where more than 400,000 Ethiopians, Somalians and South Sudanese refugees live – sometimes for more than 20 years.

The novel coronavirus has not yet appeared in the camps, reported Al Jazeera. Officials understandably want to keep it that way. In Dadaab, authorities have only 110 beds for COVID-19 patients.

The lockdown seems sensible. The obvious question, however, is where will new refugees go in the event of instability in East Africa? People around the world are asking similar questions.

On the border between the US and Mexico, Sam Bishop, a former US Army Ranger who is now the project coordinator for Global Resource Management, is concerned about the 2,500 people living in the Matamoros refugee camp on the Rio Grande across from Brownsville, Texas. He estimates that 70 percent of the camp could be infected within four weeks. Most residents fled criminal violence in their Central American countries.

“The coronavirus can burn through it,” Bishop told the Nation. “It’s a perfect storm of where something can go really, really bad. There is no real access to the full spectrum of medical care, there’s no potential for social distancing, and it’s a disadvantaged population.”

The density of the camps make the potential spread of the virus catastrophic, explained Nature.

Cases of the virus, for example, have spiked in refugee camps in Greece, a country that otherwise has done superbly in stopping COVID-19, Voice of America reported. Alarmingly, refugees and migrants say they were neglected. On the island of Chios, some refugees set fire to their camp after an Iraqi asylum seeker allegedly died from the virus. Lebanon faces similar challenges in its camps, the Associated Press noted. The country hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees plus 200,000 Palestinians.

Such incidents might be why Malaysia has rejected boats full of Rohingya refugees fleeing Bangladesh’s refugee camps. Almost 750,000 ethnic Rohingya fled Myanmar after military authorities cracked down on their community in 2017, joining hundreds of thousands more already living there. Bangladesh has ordered a lockdown on the entire district where those refugees now live – that includes stopping aid workers from entering and exiting the area, the BBC wrote.

Some Rohingya families opted to leave the region. Now they are “crisscrossing” the Bay of Bengal, according to Time, because Bangladesh won’t let them return and they can’t find anywhere else to go. The Bangladeshi authorities’ decision seems heartless. But they weren’t lying when they said their impoverished country is having enough trouble handling the pandemic while feeding its own people.

The United Nations has issued warnings about human rights and refugee rights amid the pandemic. Many leaders have ignored earlier versions of those warnings. Doing so again might produce tragedies that make the refugee crises of recent years look insignificant in comparison.

WANT TO KNOW

INDIA

Along the Straits of Fear

Indian security forces on Wednesday killed four anti-government fighters in India-administered Kashmir, including the commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest separatist group fighting India in the disputed region, Al Jazeera reported.

Indian soldiers launched an operation late Tuesday after receiving intel that commander Riyaz Naikoo was hiding in a village in the southern Pulwama district. Naikoo, a former math teacher, was one of India’s most wanted “rebels” with a bounty of $15,800 offered for information leading to his capture.

He was wanted in 11 terror-related cases and had a key role in recruiting Kashmiris to his organization, according to India’s NDTV. Locals, meanwhile, call him a freedom-fighter.

Separatists in the Muslim-majority region have fought against Indian rule for decades, demanding independence or annexation with neighboring Pakistan. About 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict over the past 30 years.

Dibyesh Anand, a professor of international relations at the University of Westminster said the killing will make “the relationship between Kashmir and India much worse…”

“What’s likely to happen is more frustration, more anger, more anxiety…,” he said. “The main intention of [India’s] Hindu nationalist government is not only to completely occupy Kashmir, but also to erase any form of resistance that Kashmiris have.”

IRAN

Promises and Posturing

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal that there will be “grave consequences” if they buckle to a US legal maneuver to renew a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The United States is aiming to extend the arms embargo due to expire in October or force a snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran if members of the Security Council don’t agree.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions on the country.

Since Washington’s withdrawal, Iran has gradually rolled back some of its commitments, but says it wants the agreement to remain, Reuters reported.

“Iran’s nuclear steps are reversible if other parties to the deal fulfill their obligations and preserve Tehran’s interests under the pact,” Rouhani said, referring to European signatories to the deal.

EUROPEAN UNION

The Euro Crunch

The European Union warned Wednesday that the bloc could be facing “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the economic impact of the novel coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.

The 27-nation bloc predicted a contraction of 7.5 percent this year. It anticipates growth at about six percent in 2021 if lockdowns to ease the transmission of the pandemic are lifted soon and are not reimposed.

EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said that as the virus hit, “economic activity in the EU dropped by around one-third practically overnight.”

Although countries are slowly emerging from lockdowns, the pandemic has hurt many aspects of the bloc’s economy, such as consumer spending, industrial output, investment and jobs.

The unemployment rate in the bloc is expected to rise from 6.7 percent in 2019 to 9 percent this year.

The forecast also predicted that Italy, Spain and Greece would suffer the most economically. France is also high on that list, with its economy expected to shrink by 8.2 percent.

DISCOVERIES

Raining Rocks

British scientists have come up with a new estimate for the amount of meteorites falling on Earth each year, the BBC reported.

In their new paper, Geoff Evatt and his team calculated that more than 35,000 pounds of meteorites each weighing more than 1.8 ounces lands on the planet annually.

Evatt’s team arrived at that number after collecting close to 120 meteorites among the frozen wastes of Antarctica for about a year.

The space rocks also fall on other parts of the planet but the white backdrop of the icy continent makes them easier to spot.

Using the initial data, the scientists created a model that helped them to calculate the global estimate, as well as the possible number of arrivals each year – which amounted to about 17,000.

The study doesn’t account for the amount of space dust that also falls on Earth, which could total more than 44,000 tons.

Other researchers praised the findings and said they could offer new possibilities in meteorite fall research.

Most importantly, it will also help scientists develop better contingency plans in case a doomsday-sized asteroid hurtles toward Earth.

Evatt argued that humanity’s best chance of survival would be on the planet’s frozen poles since they were at lower risks of being struck by giant space rocks.