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Coronavirus ~ Global Brief: Chinese New Wave, Italian Shopping, Trump Control

In Paris on March 16
In Paris on March 16

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The rapid, insidious path of the COVID-19 outbreak across the planet teaches us in a whole new way how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.


"Is there an end in sight?" It's the question that hangs just behind more pressing matters like emergency care and people losing their jobs. It's a question that also brings us (back) to China, where the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, and where the number of new cases and deaths has been quietly abating for the past several weeks.

But the fear in Beijing now, as reported in the state-run Global Timesnewspaper, is that foreign carriers of COVID-19 are starting to bring the virus back to Chinese shores. Beyond the debate over travel bans, this points to some key unanswered questions that are purely medical — and which will be weighing over the world in the coming months. Is a natural immunity created by those who have contracted the virus? Will COVID-19 come back next winter even stronger? If so, can a vaccine be created, and distributed, quickly enough? Questions for the future. Questions for right now.​​



• A rash of new restrictions is rolled out both within and between European countries, as the toll of the virus appears set to multiply in France, Germany and elsewhere, with Italy's death toll hitting new daily records and nearing the 2,000 mark (for updates, consult the World Health Organisation live map).

• Nearly $2 trillion in stock value evaporated in the first few minutes of Wall Street trading Monday, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to send fears rippling through global markets.

• The U.S. woke up to widespread new closures of schools and other public spaces, as well as to a President Trump press conference in which he declared, counter to every possible indication, medical and otherwise, that the COVID-19 outbreak is something "we have tremendous control over."


Last Kiss: French daily Libération says it in ALL CAPS on the front page of its Monday edition: In the country of l'amour, la liberté and "bises' air-kisses, the state of emergency has turned into a STATE OF RECKLESSNESS: Even after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the closing of non-essential businesses (including cafés and restaurants) on Saturday, French crowds still insisted on going out to markets and parks. In Paris like elsewhere, the only way to stop such nonchalance in the face of a grave health emergency, was ultimately to impose ever stricter regulations — which President Emmanuel Macron announced Monday night, declaring that France is "at war."


Counting Toll In Newspaper Pages: Italy offers a distressing picture of where other countries may be headed with COVID-19. And that starts, sadly, with the rising rate of deaths each day. Italian journalist David Carretta quantified the toll with an unsettling video that showed 10 pages of obituaries in L'Eco di Bergamo, the local newspaper in the northern city of Bergamo. Typically the daily death notices take up little more than a page.​

Supermarket Tips: With Italy on a strict nationwide lockdown, the Turin dailyLa Stampaoffered tips for what to do when you go shopping to limit both the spread of the virus and any problems with fellow shoppers or the authorities:

- Go alone

- Wear gloves

- Keep 1 meter distance from other shoppers

- Only shop for essentials

- Make a list beforehand to limit time in store

- Try to limit trips to store, and go when fewer shoppers are there.

It's also a good idea, more than ever, to acknowledge the work of the people serving you at your local market, whose job requires them to come in contact with hundreds of people every day. One was quoted in La Stampa: "We're not angels like nurses, we're just supermarket cashiers and shelf-stockers. But we (too) are forced to risk our lives."​


Uberization-19: The unprecedented global health crisis is intersecting with the digital revolution's transformation of work. The Verge reports that Uber is expanding its emergency policy on sick pay for its drivers during the pandemic. The company announced this week that drivers forced off the road (those who test positive for COVID-19 or forced into quarantine or have their Uber accounts suspended because of health regulations will be eligible for up to 14 days of paid sick leave. It remains to be seen how the so-called "gig economy" will emerge from this crisis — along with the rest of the economy.​


Behind The Mask: Coronavirus is sparking a brand new fear among the younger generation in South Korea: not finding a soulmate. Spring is usually the busiest season for professional matchmakers to make love blossom between their many clients through blind dates, but business has predictably been badly hit. The Chosun Ilbo daily reports that COVID-19 is taking its toll on the romance industry not just because men and women are reluctant to meet their potential partner in person, but because when they do, the masks so many wear to protect them from the virus is seen as a big turn-off, especially by women who also don't want to have readjust their makeup because of it.​


COVIDictionary: The Asahi Shimbun reports on a new word entering the Japanese lexicon. With quarantines forcing people to share cocktail hour with friends virtually, you can now invite someone for some オン飲み (on-nomi), or online drinking.​


Battle Cries And Begging: The COVID-19 crisis is testing the limits of rhetoric coming from national and local leaders around the world. In Iran, one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic, (nearly 15,000 infections and 853 deaths as of Monday) the head of the country's revolutionary guards corps, Hossein Salami, said his troops were "on a war footing in all the provinces, alongside the medical community," to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Still, as we have seen around the world, much of the responsibility for stemming the spread comes to the personal choices of individuals. To that end, according to a report in the semi-official ISNA agency, Salami, also used the same declaration to "beg" Iranians to respect limits imposed on their movement.

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Turkey: The Blind Spot Between Racial And Religious Discrimination

Before the outbreak of the Hamas-Israel war, a social media campaign in Turkey aimed to take on anti-Arab and anti-refugee sentiment. But the campaign ultimately just swapped one type of discrimination for another.

photo of inside Istanbul's Eminonu New Mosque

Muslims and tourists visiting Istanbul's Eminonu New Mosque.

Levent Gültekin


ISTANBUL — In late September, several pro-government journalists in Turkey promoted a social media campaign centered around a video against those in the country who are considered anti-Arab. The campaign was built around the idea of being “siblings in religion,” and the “union of the ummah,” or global Muslim community.

(In a very different context, such sentiments were repeated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the Israel-Hamas war erupted.)

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While the goal is understandable, these themes are highly disconnected from reality.

First, let's look at the goal of the campaign. Our country has a serious problem of irregular migrants and refugees, and the administration isn’t paying adequate attention to this. On the contrary, they encourage the flow of refugees with policies such as selling citizenship.

Worries about irregular migrants and refugees naturally create tension in the society. The anger that targets not the government but the refugees has come to a point which both threatens the social peace and brought the issue to hostility towards the Arabs, even the tourists. The actual goal of this campaign by the pro-government journalists is obvious if you consider how an anti-tourist movement would hurt Turkey’s economy.

However, as mentioned above, while the goal is understandable, the themes of the “union of the ummah” and “siblings in religion” are problematic. The campaign offers the idea of being siblings in religion as an argument against the rising racism towards irregular migrants and refugees; a different form of racism or discrimination.

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