The World Today for June 08, 2020

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Dear Readers: Over the months, we have watched the development of the pandemic closely, at first focusing on infection rates of countries such as China, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Iran and the US – all part of the initially relatively static top 10 list of countries ranked by total confirmed infections. But that list has become more dynamic – China has dropped out, Germany, Italy and Spain have dropped lower, and countries such as India, the UK, Turkey, Brazil and Peru have entered the top 10, or at least flirted with it.

As a result, we have decided to change our COVID-19 update to reflect that development. We will continue to publish the Top 10 countries daily but now focusing on their total number of infections, following the Discoveries section. And we will continue to highlight in the NEED TO KNOW and WANT TO KNOW sections, developments we believe deserve special attention.  


Truth and Consequences

Brazil, Britain, Russia and the United States have something in common when it comes to the development of the coronavirus pandemic.

They’re all countries where populist leaders are presiding over increases in cases of the virus. Those leaders also happen to be “illiberal,” or skeptical of open democracy and pluralism, rejecting the advice of scientists and promoting conspiracy theories, according to the New York Times.

That analysis depends on experts whose ideologies might raise questions about their biases in reaching their conclusions.

The populist leaders’ defenders might say, for example, that some of their so-called conspiracy theories have been correct. China withheld information from the World Health Organization that might have prevented or mitigated the lockdowns that threaten to damage the global economy for generations to come, a recent Associated Press investigation found.

But there is little doubt that the coronavirus appears to be maintaining momentum in some countries more than others, usually because officials didn’t follow best practices in stopping the spread.

And while most of Europe has reduced its infection rate to under 1 percent and has reopened for business, China faces a massive second wave of cases because much of the country lacks immunity, CNN reported. The size of the surge will be hard to judge, however, because China has suppressed the true statistics on its infections. Lockdowns in the county are coming to an end, however.

A second surge has already occurred in South Korea, where the response was a model for the rest of the world in the early days of the pandemic. Reuters wrote about how school openings were delayed or closed after they had reopened only days before.

The virus has now also reached Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, reported National Public Radio. Officials have cancelled Indonesians’ hajj pilgrimages this year to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, citing fears of infection.

The virus has not appeared to have spread as much in Africa as aid workers initially predicted – and feared. Poorly funded health systems, impoverished citizens and sprawling cities are a scary mix. But, like in China, Al Jazeera noted that it’s not clear if scientists are getting a full picture of the virus on the continent.

In South Africa, where cases in the region are the highest, doctors are bracing for a surge that is almost certain to overwhelm them, reported the BBC.

Meanwhile, Latin America is now the “new epicenter,” Marcos Espinal, director of communicable diseases at the Pan American Health Organization, told CNN.

There are roughly about a million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 50,000 deaths across the region’s 33 countries, and those numbers are rising quickly, said the broadcaster. In fact, it’s the only region in the world where the outbreak is reaching new heights.

Brazil has surged past Italy, the United Kingdom and Russia to record the second-highest number of cases in the world. Over the weekend, it stopped publishing the official infection rates, Politico reported.

Mexico is also facing a higher death toll due to a healthcare system that lacks capacity or resilience, the Washington Post wrote. High levels of obesity and other preexisting conditions are adding to the mortality rates. The pandemic is expected to reach its peak soon.

There is a saying that every nation gets the government it deserves. But not everyone deserves the consequences.



‘It’s Complicated’

German politicians expressed outrage over the weekend over reports that US President Donald Trump is planning a large-scale troops withdrawal from Germany, the Guardian reported.

Politicians from the ruling Christian Democratic Union called Trump’s plan “regrettable,” adding that a withdrawal would only benefit Russia and China.

Lawmakers from the leftwing Die Linke party, however, welcomed the move and argued that it would save taxpayers “billions.”

A report emerged Friday suggesting that the Trump administration was planning to withdraw about 9,500 troops out of the 34,500 permanently assigned to Germany.

Following the furor, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Sunday that his country’s relationship with the United States has been “complicated,” Politico reported.

Maas emphasized that the US troops stationed in Germany are “in the interest of both our countries.”

The presence of American troops has been considered part of Washington’s commitment to its European allies and deterrence against Russian aggression since World War II.


Deflection and Distraction

Thousands of Jewish and Arab demonstrators hit the streets of Tel Aviv over the weekend to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank next month, the Times of Israel reported.

Leftwing Israeli and Arab politicians and civil rights groups organizing the demonstrations described the plan as a “war crime” and “apartheid.”

Critics say the plan would damage Israel’s relationship with Jordan and Egypt, and with its trade partners in Europe.

They also accuse Netanyahu of employing the proposal as a distraction from his ongoing corruption trial and the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Netanyahu’s annexation proposal, Israel would extend its sovereignty over Israeli settlements in the West Bank region and the Jordan Valley.

The plan is in line with US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” aimed at resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu’s plan has been criticized regionally and internationally, while the United States has told the embattled prime minister to slow down.


Not Adding Up

Brazil’s government stopped publishing data on total coronavirus deaths and infections over the weekend, a move criticized for obscuring the true death toll of the disease in South America’s largest nation, the Associated Press reported.

The move comes after months of criticism from scientists and health experts, who say that Brazil’s statistics were already skewed and make it impossible to know the true impact of the virus on the country.

The nation of 210 million had more than 670,000 cases and 35,930 deaths as of Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

On Friday, Brazil’s federal health ministry took down the website that showed daily, weekly and monthly figures on infections and deaths in Brazilian states.

The site returned Saturday but only showed the numbers for the previous 24 hours – while removing the total numbers of infections for states and the nation.

President Jair Bolsonaro said the numbers are “not representative” of Brazil’s situation.

A council of state health secretaries condemned the move and said they will fight the changes by Bolsonaro’s administration, which has tried to stop attempts to impose lockdowns and social distancing rules.


Feet Apart

As lockdowns worldwide are easing, governments have been urging people to maintain a distance of six feet to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In that spirit, Romanian shoemaker Grigore Lup has developed a unique way to keep people – literally – a few feet apart, Reuters reported.

The 55-year-old cobbler has created long-nosed leather shoes that would create a distance of nearly five feet between people.

“If two people wearing these shoes were facing each other, there would be almost one-and-a-half meters between them,” he explained.

His peculiar shoes were adapted from a model he previously created for stage actors.

The long footwear costs $115 a pair. It takes Lup two days and more than 10 square feet of leather to make them.

Lup’s business primarily relies on custom orders from theaters and opera houses, but it took a hit as most events were cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, the seasoned cobbler remains cautiously optimistic about future sales: His new product has already created a buzz.

Click here to see a new approach to social distancing.

COVID-19 Global Update

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

  1. US: 1,942,363
  2. Brazil: 691,758
  3. Russia: 467,073
  4. UK: 287,621
  5. India: 258,090
  6. Spain: 241,550
  7. Italy: 234,998
  8. Peru: 196,515
  9. France: 191,102
  10. Germany: 185,869

Source: Johns Hopkins University

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