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Coronavirus

Coronavirus

In Shanghai, A Brewing Expat Exodus As COVID Crackdown Shows "Real" China

Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. A recent survey of foreigners in the Chinese megacity found that 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year.

SHANGHAI — On the seventh day of the lockdown, Félix, a French expat who has worked in Shanghai for four years, texted his boss: I want to "run,' mais je sais pas quand (but I don’t know when). A minute later, he received a reply: moi aussi (me too).

Félix had recently learned the new Mandarin word 润 (run) from social network postings of his local friends. Because its pinyin “rùn” is the same as the English word “run,” Chinese youth had begun to use it to express their wish to escape reality, either to “be freed from mundane life”, or to “run toward your future.”

For foreigners like Félix, by associating the expression “run” with the feeling of the current lockdown in Shanghai, “everything makes sense.” Félix recalled how at the end of March, the government denied rumors of an impending lockdown: “My Chinese colleagues all said, Shanghai is China’s top city, there would be no lockdown no matter what.”

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Sin Of Disinformation, The Guatemalan Pastors Who Condemn COVID Vaccines

Vaccination rates in Guatemala are among the lowest in the Americas, and misinformation plays a key role. From their pulpits, some religious leaders spread messages against the use of masks and the efficacy of vaccines.

ESCUINTLA, GUATEMALA — One year since the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 began in Guatemala, only 45% of the population over 12 years old has been fully vaccinated and 15% have received a booster.

The figures are far from the projections the National Vaccination Plan presented in February 2021, with the aim to vaccinate the country's entire adult population within six months.

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Shanghai Stakes: Why COVID In China's "Bourgeois" Capital Is A High-Risk Affair

The port city is China's most international and cosmopolitan, which helps explain the ongoing culture clash between its residents and Chinese authorities aiming to enforce a strict Zero-Covid policy of restrictions on movement and freedom.

Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million inhabitants with a rich and colorful history, stands apart in China.

The southern port boasts the most international and cosmopolitan population on mainland China, where commercial wealth and relative personal freedom meet. The natives of Shanghai are often chided by other Chinese as the nation's "bourgeois" class.

Through the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had first spread around the world from Wuhan — another Chinese mega-city some 500 miles to the west — Shanghai had largely been spared from its effects, with local administrations being praised for “precise epidemic prevention.”

All that has changed over the past month. Both its special status and previous success in keeping the virus at bay help explain the crisis engulfing the city over the past month. With the sudden spread of the Omicron variant, a strict lockdown has been in force since March 28. And locals are pushing the limits in what is, despite local attitudes, an authoritarian regime in China.

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It Takes Two To Tango, But One Pandemic Has Nearly Killed It

The pandemic has devastated Argentina’s tango culture — and the thousands of people who depend on it.

BUENOS AIRES — What María Campos missed most was the tango embrace. Two dancers, entwined like braided rope, whirling across a floor in wordless harmony. For tangueros, it’s as elemental as breathing. “Many older people in the tango milieu have died of sadness more than of COVID,” she says, “for not being able to dance.”

Tango was born in Argentina and is an international ambassador for the country of 45 million. Even so, the coronavirus has proved a formidable adversary. Tango thrives on intimacy, on commingled limbs and breath. So does the airborne virus. For 18 months, until September, the government barred tango events, or milongas, which shuttered tango venues, emptied dance studios and canceled competitions. Even now, dancing indoors requires proof of vaccination.

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Coronavirus

In Rare Challenge, Chinese Youth Defy Government On COVID Lockdowns

On social media and at universities, with sarcastic videos and graffiti, young people are showing they are sick and tired of Zero COVID policies. People are still waiting to see how the Xi Jinping regime might react.

BEIJING — Since March, mainland China has experienced the largest local outbreak of COVID-19 cases since the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan, in January 2020. According to the National Health Commission of China, between March 1 and 18, more than 29,000 infections have been reported in mainland China, affecting 28 provinces. Restrictions and lockdown measures were introduced in various provinces, but the “Zero COVID” policies are facing rising dissent among the population.

The concerns have largely been economic-related: A post on Weibo (China’s equivalent to Twitter) summarizes people’s complaint, “the landlord is telling me to pay the rent, the banks are telling me to repay loans, the state is telling me not to go to work, the government is telling me not to go out, the whole country is telling me to carry on, but no one is telling me where the money is supposed to come from.”

Demands for lifting measures spread across the nation via TikTok videos and social media posts, countering the tight regulations and the state’s endeavor to secure the “Zero COVID” campaign.

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Coronavirus
Carl-Johan Karlsson

We’re All Sweden Now: How COVID Fatigue Brought Us Back To Herd Immunity

Early in the pandemic, Swedish authorities were roundly criticized for the lack of COVID-19 restrictions and for arguing for a different cost-benefit calculation in trying to eliminate the virus at all costs. Now, more and more countries are dropping all restrictions even as Omicron continues to spread. But is this really about herd immunity?

Since Denmark became the first European nation to drop all COVID restrictions in late January, a slew of countries around the world have followed suit — including Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic and, most recently, the UK. After almost two years of curfews and mask mandates, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared Monday it was time to “live with the coronavirus.”

And the list of others taking the same path is set to grow: Italy and Spain recently lifted masking mandates for outdoor spaces, while French authorities have announced indoor masking will no longer be mandated starting next week. Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer harkens “a dignified spring awakening” with most restrictions to be lifted by March 5 — while German Chancellor Olof Scholz hailed last Wednesday “a very special day of the pandemic” after agreeing with 16 state governors on a schedule to drop most restrictions in the coming months.

But all of this rosy talk and rescinded restrictions also begs the question of why this is a special time. Why, as the Omicron variant is spreading far faster than previous versions, and when it’s clear that no nation on Earth has come close to conquering COVID, is it time to abandon containment efforts?

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Coronavirus
Irene Caselli

How Courts Around The World Are Stripping No-Vaxxers Of Parental Rights

The question of who gets to decide questions around a child's health when vaccines are at play is complicated, and keeps popping up from Italy to Costa Rica to France and the U.S.

It is a parent’s worst nightmare to find out their child needs heart surgery. When it happened to the parents of a two-year-old child in the central Italian city of Modena, there was something extra to worry about: The blood transfusion required for the operation could include traces of the COVID-19 vaccine, which they opposed for religious reasons.

The parents asked the Sant'Orsola clinic in Bologna if they could vet the blood for the transfusion to make sure it hadn’t come from vaccinated donors. When the hospital refused, the parents took it to court, putting their child’s surgery on hold.

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Coronavirus
Boucar Diouf

Anti-Vaxxers Of Yore: Pandemic History Is Rife With Conspiracy Theories

Debates around COVID-19 are now fueled by conspiracy theories, fake news and scapegoats. But as the story of Quebec in the 19th century makes clear, pandemics have always been linked to outbreaks of mass skepticism and witch hunts.

Last summer, Quebecois comedian, storyteller and biologist Boucar Diouf featured an episode of a radio show with Denis Goulet, an associate professor at the University of Montreal and a specialist in the history of medicine. They talked about Goulet’s book, "Brève histoire des épidémies au Québec – du choléra à la COVID-19" (“A Brief History Of Epidemies in Quebec — from Cholera to COVID-19”).

MONTREAL — Let’s go back to Montreal between 1875 and 1885. Although waves of smallpox were raging like Facebook trolls, many francophones refused the vaccine to protect themselves against the disease. Some columnists and clergymen even started a rumor that the British authorities were trying to weaken the French Canadian population by injecting poison into their veins! An anglophone newspaper went as far as to peddle the idea that the virus was spreading due to the bad hygiene of francophones.

That’s just how it goes; the witch hunt for scapegoats is tied to the history of epidemics. You can even find doctors ready to testify that vaccines are useless. It should be noted that at the time, vaccines — made using a virus with a weakened virulence — had their risks. Contrary to today’s hyper-safe vaccines, the vials of yore sometimes contained microbes that were “healthy” enough to infect someone during their vaccination.

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Coronavirus
Wolfgang Schmidbauer*

​​Lord Of The Rings, A Guide​​ For Mending Relationships Damaged By COVID

The pandemic has changed our lives permanently and paranoid fantasies have taken root. But a remedy for the crisis of trust we're facing might be found in an unlikely place — in J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings.

First, there was 2020, the year of the virus. Then 2021, the year of vaccinations. But what will 2022 be? My first thought was “the year of exhaustion.” The second idea — which I like better — was “the year of repairing.”

In our efforts to save lives and keep everyone safe, much has been broken. That was inevitable.

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Coronavirus
Karen Mossman and Matthew S Miller

Hey People, The Pandemic Is Not Over

Yes, COVID fatigue is real, as are the deep impact of restrictive measures on everything from the economy to mental health to education. But we should remain vigil in making sure we minimize the worst health effects of a still aggressive and deadly virus.

This is no time to give in to COVID-19.

It’s understandable that after two years, everyone is tired of being afraid, staying home, wearing masks and queueing up for rounds of vaccines and tests.

With the virus finding the unvaccinated in greater numbers — as expected — and breakthrough infections affecting the vaccinated, a spirit of resignation threatens to take hold.

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Coronavirus
Christian Putsch

Inside The Launch Of Africa's First COVID Vaccine Plant

As the West hoards vaccines, less than 10% of Africans are vaccinated. But now, the continent's first vaccine factory has opened in South Africa. And behind it is Patrick Soon-Shionga pharmaceutical billionaire with a mission to change the African continent.

CAPE TOWN — Patrick Soon-Shiong can certainly be described as a go-getter. The 69-year-old pharmaceutical entrepreneur became rich in the U.S. by selling cancer drugs, has bought the Los Angeles Times newspaper, and has acquired substantial shares in the legendary L.A. Lakers basketball team. As befits someone who consistently pursues his hobby, he had an underground basketball court built in his Los Angeles estate. Bloomberg estimates his fortune at $11 billion.

This is a remarkable career for the South African-born son of Chinese immigrants, who grew up in modest circumstances during apartheid – “on the wrong side of the tracks,” as Soon-Shiong once said in an interview. But recently in his country of birth, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, he experienced what he described as one of his “most monumental moments”.

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Economy
Laura Villahermosa

The Pandemic Changed How Latin Americans Work — And Where

Once dismissed as being for millennials and hard-up freelancers, coworking firms now occupy Latin America's prestigious corporate towers that have more and more spaces to fill.

LIMA — When workers left their offices in March 2020, with a global pandemic in full swing, nobody knew when they would be back. As firms and workers began warming to working from home weeks into lockdowns and confinement regimes, the real estate sector trembled at the prospect of a massive downturn in demand for office space.

In Latin America, use of corporate office space had already been changing before the pandemic, with the demand for shared offices taking off in 2015-2018. The U.S.-based firm WeWork was one of the beneficiaries. "We had 70% occupation levels before the pandemic," says Claudio Hidalgo, head of WeWork in Latin America.

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Coronavirus
Anna Parrisius

Where Parents And Doctors Dare To Vaccinate Under-5 Kids Against COVID

With trials still underway in Europe, and Pfizer awaiting FDA authorization in the U.S. to vaccinate under-5-year-olds, an association in Germany has decided not to wait, connecting parents who want to vaccinate their babies and toddlers with doctors willing to go "off-label" and defy national regulations.

Anja Kunz saw the COVID-19 vaccination as the only means to get out of isolation with her son Leon, who has a heart condition. The names of mother and son have been changed, to protect their identity.

Kunz had her child vaccinated when he was four years old — without assent from the European Medicines Agency. For children under five, the approval is still pending.

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Coronavirus
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Here's Why Healthcare Workers Around The World Are Quitting In Record Numbers

The long toll of the pandemic is the final straw for many burned out healthcare workers in the West. But the Great Resignation in the medical field is global, with developing countries already struggling to contain the pandemic in the face of a doctor brain drain.

PARIS — The COVID-19 pandemic has led many around the world to reevaluate their careers, becoming part of the so-called “great resignation.” Just take one statistic: a record 4.5 million U.S. citizens quit their jobs last November. By far, the industry that has been most shaped by the pandemic is healthcare, the field leading resignations, with a 3.6% increase in the number of U.S. health workers quitting their jobs in 2021.

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Coronavirus
Dominik Kalus

Why Iceland Is Fighting A COVID Surge Without Vaccine Mandates

Iceland has been one of Europe’s COVID-19 hot spots the past few months, but citizens' vaccination status doesn’t affect their access to public spaces. It is a conscious choice in a small nation to try to avoid conflict in society, and it seems to be working. But death rates are being kept down for one main reason: so many people were already vaccinated anyway.

REYKJAVIK — Iceland is one of the countries in Europe where, up until recently, everything seemed to be almost back to normal. The island nation celebrated its “Freedom Day” last autumn, and even before that was the envy of many other European countries, successfully navigating its way through various waves with relatively few restrictions and a low death rate.

Its isolated position in the North Atlantic wasn’t the only factor. Experts say the country’s effective contact-tracing system and testing strategy were key. Until Omicron arrived on the scene. The new variant sparked the country’s biggest wave since the start of the pandemic.

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Geopolitics
Worldcrunch

The Latest: China Blocks WHO, Taliban Take Kandahar, Russian Bear Mistake

Welcome to Friday, where China blocks the WHO on COVID origins, the Taliban capture Kandahar and a Russian politician makes a deadly bear error. We also have a Die Welt article on the tiny country that isn't afraid to take on China.


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