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SPOTLIGHT: QUARANTINES CAN BE TOXIC FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE

One-third of the world's population is now said to be on lockdown. The purpose of the confinement appears clear enough to most: to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, there are consequences, and not just for the economy.

Across the globe, advocates against domestic abuse are warning that this period of imposed self-isolation will almost certainly provoke an increase in intra-family violence. In China, where the COVID-19 outbreak began, there's already evidence of that being the case.

An extended quarantine places a huge psychological strain, even on families without a history of abuse. And so in situations where violence is already present, the dangers are now that much greater, says Elisabeth Liotard, director of a women's protection association in Lyon, France.

"We're clearly expecting things to get worse," she told the French daily Le Monde. "In this period of uninterrupted cohabitation, violent men will have even more pretexts to lose control and the cycles of violence are probably going to accentuate."

For victims — women and children mostly — quarantine means there's no place to escape, and no time in the day when they can extricate themselves from an abusive environment. There's also the question of how a woman, in such a situation, might make a plea for help while on lockdown. Calling a hotline, for example, may not be an option when the victim is constantly in the presence of the abuser.

Marie-Pierre Badré, a leading anti-abuse advocate in France, says that since the lockdown began in her country, there has already been a significant decrease in calls to the 13 13 hotline. But there are other ways victims can reach out — by texting emergency services, for example, she said in an interview with French public radio.

According to Buenos Aires-based Pagina12 daily, Argentina took a very practical step toward ensuring special protection last week, by automatically extending restraining orders and other temporary legal protections for abuse victims. Simiar moves will be needed elsewhere, as this toxic side-effect of coronavirus spreads around the world.

Benjamin Witte

THE SITUATION - 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: Deaths in Italy slow for the fourth day in a row, but in the second hardest-hit European country, Spain, deaths rose by 738 in 24 hours and the Parliament has voted to extend the State of Emergency until April 11. U.S. death toll passes the 1,000 mark.

  • U.S. jobless record: More Americans filed unemployment claims, 3.28 million, last week than anytime since records began being tracked in 1967.

  • Vaccine hope: Experts conclude that a vaccine could be long-lasting as COVID-19 mutates at a slower rate than other respiratory viruses like the flu.

  • Africa spread: The virus is spreading rapidly through Africa, with 2,400 confirmed cases across 46 of the continent's 54 countries. Some 700 of those are in South Africa, where President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nation-wide, 21-day lockdown starting Thursday night.

  • Iran restrictions: Iran's government bans internal travel and warns of a "second wave" of COVID-19 as the official death toll passes 2,000.

  • Returning home: In Afghanistan, the western province of Herat has emerged as the epicenter of the country's outbreak, representing 54 of the 75 reported deaths, and the government fears the situation will worsen as Afghans keep returning from neighbouring Iran. Between March 8 and 21, 115,000 Afghans crossed the border from Iran.

  • All 94 residents of a New Jersey nursing home are believed to be infected.


DRASTIC DRAGHI: "Wars," writes Mario Draghi, former Europe Central Bank President, in an OpEd in the Financial Times, "(are) the most relevant precedent" for the economic response to the COVID-19 crisis." The only effective way to reach immediately into every crack of the economy is to fully mobilise entire financial systems. And it has to be done immediately."

CHINESE STUDENTS, CAUGHT BETWEEN: As the COVID-19 virus spreads across the world, stories pile up of people living abroad struggling to get home, or stuck isolated in a foreign land. The stories of the 370,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. have a unique angle of their own, reports The Initium, a Chinese-language global news site.

  • Some 45 % of these students major in STEM subjects, i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often many subject to single-entry visas, in particular the ones studying biotechnology, computer science, robot manufacturing applications and aerospace. Each time they leave the United States, they have to re-apply for an entry visa.

  • Mao, a computer science major at the University of Southern California, had secured a Google internship this summer, which she now fears may be canceled. Tensions over the virus between the two countries have continued to grow. In mid-March, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted that it was probably the US army that had brought the coronavirus to China. President Trump refuted this claim calling it a "Chinese virus."

  • Andrew, a Chinese student who has been living in Boston for six years, says he wore a mask when he took public transport at peak hours. But since the wide propagation in March, he has stopped doing so. "I'm worried that wearing a mask puts me at an even higher risk than that of the virus." — Read the full article, translated from Chinese by Worldcrunch.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: How to enforce your local lockdown? Forget about fines and fees, or even being sent to jail, Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz warns that he may start sending citizens not respecting the strict rules of confinement to a place that may be more dangerous than jail: to the local hospital for community service work. According to Le Parisien, there have been a total so far just under 10,000 noted infractions in Paris since the lockdown began a week ago. Heitz's choice of this particular community service might not just provoke fear, but also remind people that when they break the quarantine the pressure, and risk, increases for the medical staffs working at local hospitals.

CHOMSKY SCHADENFREUDE: For many long-time critics of global capitalism, COVID-19 is a glaring new example of how our prevailing economic system no longer serves the common good. Among those is the 91-year-old public intellectual and self-described anarcho-syndicalist Noam Chomsky, who shared his thoughts on the crisis in an interview with the Chilean news site El Mostrador. Here are three takeaways:

  • Big Pharma: Like climate change, the pandemic is another case of massive market failure. For private pharmaceutical companies, the market signals were clear: Don't waste resources preparing for a pandemic ahead of time.

  • Neoliberalism gone wrong: The [U.S.] government could have intervened, as in South Korea, but that conflicts with neoliberal ideology that centers on the sacred rights of concentrated private power. The government's role is to subsidize and provide exorbitant patent rights — ensuring colossal profits — but not to interfere with privilege and wealth.

  • Worse to come: The crisis reveals deep flaws in the dominant economic models, flaws that will soon lead to much worse crises, unless important preventive steps are taken. As terrible as the coronavirus crisis is, there will be recovery. There will be no recovery from global warming if it is not controlled.

WHY SUCH DIFFERENT FATALITY RATES?: Over the past three weeks, Europe has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, killing thousands of people. But why are 9.2% of infected people in Italy and 7.5% in Spain dying, while Germany has a fatality rate of just 0.37%? Since such discrepancies cannot be justified only by the difference in age population or the quality of health systems, French daily Les Echos provides a clearer explanation:

  • Choosing who to test: Some countries like Germany and Italy are testing a lot of people, even those who do not show symptoms and therefore register a higher number of cases. Others like France choose to primarily test severe cases while some US states are facing shortage of testing kits.

  • Cause of death: Not all countries record the death tolls using the same method. Some include in the total count, every death of infected patients, even if an infection or pre-existing disease or condition ultimately caused the death, while others only included deaths caused by interstitial pneumonia, which is specifically linked to Covid-19.

  • Delayed impact: It is also impossible to measure the exact fatality rate (dividing the number of deaths by the total of confirmed cases) because the latter number is probably higher than we know. The testing program in Iceland revealed that half of those who tested positive showed no coronavirus symptoms. In the United Kingdom and the United States, the real count could be "10 times higher" than official numbers, according to epidemiologists Neil Ferguson and Marc Lipsitch. Other experts think the number of confirmed cases should be increased fivefold to obtain the real count. This does not mean that the actual fatality rate is proportionally lower, as we have to take into account the delay between the infection and the death of a patient, i.e. 5.5 days for the incubation period followed by 8 days for the disease to develop, according to a recent study by the Italian National Health Service.


SNORKEL MASKS TO RESCUE: The shortage of breathing equipment is a crisis in itself, with respiratory failure responsible for many of COVID-19's fatalities. One innovative response, reports Milan-based Corriere della Sera, comes from an Italian doctor to convert ordinary full-face snorkeling masks into an apparatus that allows for artificial ventilation. Doctor Renato Favero has teamed up with 28-year-old engineer Alessandro Romaioli, to connect "Easybreath" masks sold at Decathlon to plastic air valves that Ramaioli has developed for immediate production thanks to 3D printers.


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