Coronavirus — Global Brief: Quarantines And The Climate Change Long Game
The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.
SPOTLIGHT: WHEN QUARANTINES END — EYEING THE CLIMATE CHANGE LONG GAME
There's been no shortage of hopeful speculation that this epidemic may prompt a turning point in the fight against climate change. We've seen the immediate benefits of imposed reductions in human activity, notably with the unprecedented slowdown in emission-producing transportation. But will these clean spring skies last? Alongside the short-term gains in cleaner air, are we set for some kind of global "wake up" needed to permanently reverse global warming? Or will our carbon footprints simply reappear the day we step out the door when the lockdown ends?
There are signs that real change could stick. Since the spread of the virus, The Sydney Morning Heraldreports that Australians have been buying up solar panels as a back-up energy source in case something goes wrong with the main grid. The expanding supplies of wind power is itself proving to be reliable, with 96% of Europe's turbines continuing with business as usual through the crisis.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), sees the unveiling of national stimulus packages to avert economic collapse as a chance to go green for the long haul, believing a commitment to investing in renewables will "bring the twin benefits of stimulating economies and accelerating clean energy transitions."
Still, lasting change will come down to hard decisions in both halls of government and executive board rooms. It's notable that the United States' unprecedented $2 trillion economic stimulus did not include support for green business. Moreover, many important clean energy projects are spearheaded by top oil and gas companies that are facing a coronavirus-induced collapse in crude prices, and may be strapped for resources to invest in renewables.
As for the rest of us, this crisis has been a sharp reminder that we can actually change our habits, but only if we are obliged. In numerous countries, the quarantines required to limit the spread of the virus did not work on a voluntary basis — the government needed to enforce fixed rules.
Yes, this virus has woken people up to the importance of: policy. A general public that flouts safety regulations, corporations leaving the planet by the wayside, the urgent need for coherent healthcare systems… none of this will change without smart and swift government intervention.
— Rozena Crossman
THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
European glimmers of hope: The daily death toll in Spain has dropped for the fourth day in a row, down to 637 and Italy"s death toll dropped to its lowest in two weeks. France has 6,838 people in intensive care, some 105 of whom are under the age of 30, but the numbers are rising at a slower rate.
UK leaders: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted to hospital for persisting coronavirus symptoms, shortly after Queen Elizabeth gave a rare TV address to urge resolve in face of the pandemic.
Monday markets: Global stocks and U.S. futures on the rise as coronavirus cases slow in some European countries, but oil prices remain on edge with postponed Saudi Arabia-Russia talks.
Japanese emergency: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to declare state of emergency after surge of cases in Tokyo.
Abidjan fears: Locals destroy a coronavirus testing center that was under construction in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, fearing it was too close to their homes.
Feline cases: A tiger tested positive for the virus at Bronx zoo, after being reportedly contaminated by caretaker. Last week a cat was confirmed to be infected in Belgium.
Double duty: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who worked as a doctor for 7 years, has rejoined medical register to help fight against the pandemic.
The Guardian"s April 6 front page
DO YOU REMEMBER BREXIT? As the global pandemic touches virtually every country on the planet, the first Sunday of April was particularly eventful in the United Kingdom. The convulsions of nearly four years of national drama over Brexit suddenly seem like a distant memory. At least three fresh headlines worth noting:
Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised speech Sunday night to praise her fellow Britons' "national spirit." The Guardian noted that was the just fifth time the Queen has addressed the British people in her 68-year reign, aside from her annual Christmas greeting. The 93-year-old monarch thanked healthcare workers and likened the pandemic to war, as a defining moment for modern Britain. "The country needs to come together to vanquish an enemy that brings death not in the terrifying bombing raids of the Blitz but in the ordinary encounters of people transmitting a dangerous pathogen," she said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized on Sunday evening for symptoms, including a persistent fever, related to COVID-19, following a 10-day isolation since first testing positive. Johnson says he is still running the country, but Business Insider notes that if he is incapacitated, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would take the reins of power.
Sunny weather is news too in these parts. Despite pleas by officials to abide by lockdown measures, the warmest weekend in months saw so many sunbathers and picnickers that officials are now considering a stricter quarantine.
"There are three great enemies in the country right now: the health emergency, economic measures to reduce the pandemic's impact mainly on the poor and Bolsonaro himself."
— from El Espectador article on Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro's increasingly isolated policy of ignoring the grave threat of COVID-19 on South America's largest country. Read it at Worldcrunch: Bolsonaro, The Political Cost Of Downplaying Coronavirus.
PHOTO DU JOUR
Photo: Evandro Inetti/ZUMA
Pope Francis continues with Holy Week activities, joined by only a handful of other prelates in an empty St Peter's Cathedral for Palm Sunday.
NOT-SO-FUNNY NUMBERS IN IRAN: Authorities in Iran insist they've been transparent about the pandemic's evolution, but there have been persistent suspicions that the numbers were being downplayed. According to health ministry's most recent report on Friday, there have been a total of 55,740 cases and 3,452 deaths since COVID-19 arrived. A physician from the southern Iranian city of Shiraz told the broadcaster Voice of America that hospital officials ordered doctors to cite just one in five deaths as the result of the virus, and cite the other four out of five COVID-19 deaths to either acute respiratory complications or heart attacks.
FEEDING A SHUTDOWN WORLD: On the list of the most urgent COVID-19 priorities, right after saving the lives of those infected comes feeding the rest of us. A mix of logistics, impromptu trade barriers and economics make these efforts a major challenge. And the longer the crisis continues, and the farther it spreads, the stakes of the food supply chain go well beyond keeping your favorite brands stocked in supermarkets. In some places, it can also be a matter of life or death:
Blocking imports: In Goa, one of the richest states in India, famous among tourists for its picturesque beach resorts, finding food has become dangerously hard since a nationwide shutdown began two weeks ago. French daily Le Monde reports that the local governor has shut off any incoming food supply trucks, and stocks have been rapidly vanishing. Locals report that the population of northern Goa has almost nothing left to eat.
Blocking exports: the world's eighth-largest producer of wheat, Kazakhstan, has banned flour exports and imposed restrictions on selling vegetables and buckwheat abroad. Serbia has banned vegetable oil export. Vietnam, the world's third-largest rice exporter, has a ban on new rice export contracts. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization fears such protectionist measures could provoke global food market instability, raise prices and leave populations at risk of hunger.
Something deeper: Since the beginning of the pandemic, politicians have been reassuring the public that any empty shelves in grocery stores were caused by bottlenecks in the supply chain and stores should be able to replenish quickly. But this short-term emptying is proof of a deeper fragility of our current "just-in-time" consumption system based solely on efficiency, writes The Atlantic. We can add "how we feed ourselves' to the growing list of questions about the ways that life will (or won't) change in the post-coronavirus world.
In case you've already completed all your puzzles at home, The Cooper Gallery in Barnsley, England, is turning its paintings into online jigsaws.
A stop-motion summit: Who said you couldn't ski indoors?
If you need to pretend your home is tidy for your next conf call, don't worry: IKEA has got you covered.
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