CORRIERE DELLA SERA
Founded in 1876 as an evening newspaper ("Evening Courier), the Milan daily has long been a morning paper. The flagship publication of the RCS Media Group, Corriere della Sera is noted for its sober tone, reliable reporting and moderate political stances.
Geopolitics
Mattia Feltri

Italy And Fascism, A Lingering Question Of National Character

Giorgia Meloni, rising star of Italy’s far-right, was a member of neofascist organizations in her youth. She insists that she's changed her way, and that fascism is not an Italian peculiarity. Not all agree.

-Essay-

ROME — A couple of weeks ago, under our apartment window, my kids and I heard a neatly lined-up demonstration passing by, chanting a single uninterrupted chorus: "Where are the anti-fascists?" It wasn't a huge crowd, and maybe that's why my kids heard the slogan differently: "Where are the other fascists?"

I recalled this after reading a letter in the Corriere della Sera daily penned by Giorgia Meloni, rising star of Italy's far-right. Her party, Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), has recently shot up in opinion polls, on the verge of becoming Italy's most popular party. Meloni, now 44, was a member of neofascist organizations in her youth, and uses the letter to insist that fascism is not an Italian peculiarity.

Mussolini once acknowledged that fascism had not been his invention.

If the founder of modern fascism, a certain Benito Mussolini, could read that line, Meloni would get a good talking to. But then again, even Mussolini (never known for his modesty) once acknowledged that fascism had not been his invention — he had extracted it from the unconscious of Italians.

Supporters of the Leader of the Lega Matteo Salvini hold up a sign in solidarity — Photo: LaPresse/ZUMA

Writer and critic Ennio Flaino once wrote that fascism is bossy, rhetorical, xenophobic; it loathes culture, despises freedom and justice, despises the weak, serves the strong, and is always ready to indicate in others the causes of its helplessness. As the years go by, rather than fading, the standard portrait of the fascist seems to become more vivid. And that of the Italian fascist too, which Flaiano argued is part of the national character.

After all, Meloni is a fascist just like most of the rest of us are. But as she becomes more and more convincing to Italians, Meloni has the additional problem of having to tend to the few people who also claim out loud to be fascists — like those parading under my window — and who make up her hardcore supporters, around 20%, according to recent polls. And so, maybe my kids heard right — and I was wrong. They were out looking for the other fascists after all.

Rue Amelot
Alessio Perrone

Italy To India To Brazil, How COVID Has Trivialized Mass Death

We've gotten used to too many people dying, and too many dying alone.

-Analysis-

MILAN — I was recently alerted to an event I had missed here in Italy: A couple of weeks ago, as the government announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions and restaurant workers protested because Italy wasn't reopening fast enough, funeral parlors also took to the streets of Rome. It was "a funeral of funerals," they said.

With wreaths of flowers, hearses and signs of condolences, participants quietly marched near the Baths of Caracalla, close to the city's center. It was an act of mourning, a reaction to the staggering loss of life, yes, but also to the burial crisis that is taking place in Rome as a result.

With hundreds of people still dying of COVID every day in Italy, the capital's cemeteries and crematoriums have been overwhelmed. Crematoriums have waiting lists of hundreds of bodies. Some 2,000 coffins are stacked in improvised waiting rooms as they await their turn to be buried in the city's cemeteries.

Covid_Italy_funeral_parlors

Funeral workers with placards ""Apologies but they don't let us bury your loved ones "" during the protest of workers in the funeral sector. — Photo: Cristiano Minichiello/ Avalon/Avalon/ZUMA

The grief of thousands of families remains truncated as a result, and there's little indication that things will change anytime soon. In at least one case, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reports that a family has been given an appointment to bury a relative nearly seven months after his death. "We live in a city where dying, too, has become difficult," Paolo Conti wrote for the paper.

We have become numb to the mass death that occurs around us.

I was surprised to catch myself thinking that 2,000 coffins seem like a small number these days. Last week, we gazed mesmerized at the photos of mass cremations in India, as the country became the epicenter of the pandemic and went through a tsunami of deaths. In a spine-chilling quote, a Delhi crematorium worker told Scroll.in that at his workplace: "There are more bodies than wood" to cremate them.

Before India, the center of our attention was Brazil, where more than 4,000 people died every day, and where the agony mixed with fury at President Jair Bolsonaro's staggeringly bad management of the pandemic. Yet we forget that here too — among us! — hundreds die every day.

It must be one of the most distinctive characteristics of this phase of the pandemic. More than a year into restrictions, obsessing over how quickly we should get vaccinated, eager to savor our newly found lives, captivated by the incredible tragedies occurring in poorer far-away places, we have become numb to the mass death that occurs around us.

As Celso Ming recently wrote in Estado de Sao Paulo: "One of the consequences of this pandemic is the trivialization of death." People continue to die in large numbers, he pointed. And they die alone, without a funeral, company or last rites, departing for early oblivion and curtailing the mourning of their families. The rest of us, in the meantime, just accept it all — "as if it were a new normal."

Society
Clémence Guimier

Why Italy Is So Slow In Protecting LGBTQ From Violence

Proposed Italian legislation to punish public acts of homophobia continues to be blocked by both the Catholic Church and right-wing politicians. But the country's most popular rapper has entered the debate.

-Analysis-

Whether it's newlywed visitors to the canals of Venice, lovers under Romeo's and Juliet's balcony in Verona or bronze-skinned couples on the beaches of Sicily, public displays of affection have long been part of the everyday scenery in Italy. But if you're gay, it could put your life at risk.

As reported in Corriere della Sera, Christopher Jean Pierre Moreno, a 24-year-old from Nicaragua, was assaulted on a Rome metro platform in February after he'd exchanged a kiss with his boyfriend, Alfredo Zenobio, 28. Before them, a young man had to go under reconstructive surgery after a group of seven people beat him up. His crime? Holding hands with his partner in the central Italian city of Pescara.

These and other stories (with video evidence) have been widely shared by LGBTQ activists who continue to call for a better legal protection of gay people. Some 8,000 people turned out last Saturday for a demonstration urging senators to pass long-awaited anti-homophobia legislation, La Repubblica reported.

Italy remains one of the few European countries deprived of a law specifically punishing homophobic discrimination and violence — the Netherlands passed its Equal Treatment Act as early as 1994, while Britain and France respectively passed similar discrimination protections in 2003 and 2004.

Too many in Italy still see gay people as a threat to the traditional idea of a family.

Over the course of the last 25 years, many attempts have been made by legislators to include LGBTQ rights in Italian law with the most recent being "Ddl Zan", a bill drafted last November by Parliament Member Alessandro Zan. If approved by the Parliament, this new law would punish violence and hate speech with additional fines of up to $7,200 and four years in prison.

With the historical influence of the Catholic Church, too many in Italy still see gay people as a threat to the traditional idea of a family. Despite recognizing same-sex unions five years ago, Italy has the highest rate of social, political and institutional homophobia in Europe, according to the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

Catholic organisations such as Courage continue to categorize homosexuality as a disease, reports Italian news website Linkiesta, proposing to cure it through so-called "conversion therapy," a practice still legal in Italy.

Though Pope Francis has gone further than any of his predecessors in defending the rights of LGBTQ, the Italian Bishops Conference and rightwing politicians continue to block progress. "There is no need for a new law," the Bishops said in a statement. "(It) would risk opening up to controls on freedom; whereby, rather than sanctioning discrimination, the expression of a legitimate opinion would be targeted." Right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini recently declared that his duty was to "defend the right of a child to have a mother and a father."

Salvini_Italy_protest

Matteo Salvini joins a demonstration against a proposed trans-homophobia law, in Rome, in June 2020. — Photo: Tenagli Piero/Abaca/ZUMA

Ever since November, the hate-crime legislation has been blocked in the Senate by Salvini's party allies, recently citing the priorities of the pandemic as a reason to stonewall.

One potential breakthrough came at a widely viewed televised concert on May 1 when popular Italian rapper Fedez took to the stage to accuse the League of homophobia. The 31-year-old rapper, very publicly married to fashion icon Chiara Ferragni, made his declaration in Rome, just a mile or so from the metro station where Christopher Jean Pierre Moreno was punched for simply kissing the man he loves.

Society
Alessio Perrone

Hiding The Dough: Woman Caught Smuggling €70,000 In Pasta

Italy, as everyone knows, is the place for pasta. And so it goes without saying that visitors to the country often head home with a package or two in their duffels or suitcases.

The woman in this story was no exception, in that regard. And yet, there was something about her that must have puzzled authorities when she showed up recently at customs controls in Milan Malpensa airport.

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reports that the woman — who has not been identified by name but it said to have Nigerian origins and been living near Turin, in the country's northwest — was boarding a connecting flight to Istanbul, Turkey, with final destination Lagos.

At customs control, when asked if she was carrying cash, bonds, or other valuables out of the country, she declared she had less than 10,000 euros in cash — the maximum amount that can be taken out of the country without notifying authorities according to Italian law.

Something about woman didn't sit right, though, and so after a routine check on the spot, the officers decided to search the woman's checked luggage. That's when they found several paper boxes of penne, rigatoni and pipe rigate. Hmmm....

Intrigued, the officers then decided to open the boxes, and that's when they discovered — hidden under the different types of pasta — various wads of 20-, 50- and 100-euro notes. Oh, mamma mia!

Italian authorities report that in total the woman had some 70,240 euros with her, at least 60,000 of which were in the pasta packets. According to the news report, they seized half of the undeclared cash but did not say whether the woman was allowed to travel on to Istanbul and Lagos.

Also unclear is whether she was able to keep her valuable pasta.

Weird
Alessio Perrone

Italian Nonna, 98, Finds Treasure At Home While In COVID Confinement

ROME — The story began grimly, with an all too familiar ring: another Italian grandmother had tested positive for COVID-19. At the age of 98, Nonna Maria was at particularly high risk in one of countries hit hardest by the pandemic — and though she had only developed light symptoms, doctors told her to remain at home in "maximum isolation."

But it was while in quarantine last November, that this COVID story would take a very different twist: the Nonna ("grandmother") found a fortune hidden in her apartment in eastern Rome, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reports.

Without much else to do in lockdown, Maria had set out to organize her memorabilia and tidy up her apartment. It was in the hidden compartment of an old sewing machine that she found a 1986 government bond that she had completely forgotten about. Her late husband, a former army official, had decided to put his savings into an Italian Post bond originally worth 50 million Italian lira (26,000 euros), before hiding it there to protect it from burglars.

An ongoing legal investigation will confirm the bond's present value. The Italian Post has already offered 200,000 euros, although some have questioned the math and say she could be due as much as half a million, or about 19 times the amount of the initial investment.

And the best bit of good fortune: Nonna Maria had fully recovered from COVID-19.

Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Beating COVID-19: What The East Got Right, And West Got Wrong

It's said to be cultural differences, but what separates the success of countries in East Asian and Oceania is above all a question of policy choices.

Last week, with COVID-19 daily case counts hitting new record highs across both the Western Hemisphere and Western Europe, life in the East was remarkably normal. Countries like Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand have managed to stave off both major restrictions and to keep the case death toll at a minimum. In China, where the virus first began to spread late last year, there were exactly 738 cases registered throughout the entire month of October, and the economy is back to chugging at full steam.

Many point to the culture in Asian countries as a key to their success against the coronavirus. Because populations tend to be more collectivist and obedient, and some governments are more authoritarian, the reasoning goes, it's easier for Asian countries to adopt the draconian measures required to fight the pandemic. Western individualism, meanwhile, is a disadvantage in times when a united, coordinated response is needed.

But citing culture may hide more than it reveals. New Zealand is an open, liberal country, not a communist dictatorship. Taiwan and Japan, too, are thriving democracies. All three countries fare better than the US and parts of Western Europe in various indicators of a healthy free society, such as the Human Development Index.


No, when it comes to limiting COVID's spread and death count, and preventing the second wave of infections, it is ultimately a question of policy choices made and actions taken. Here's a look at what the East did right, and what the West got wrong:


1. Testing, testing, testing

When China (official caseload since the start of the pandemic: 85,940; deaths: 4,634. Many question the accuracy of Chinese government data) discovered six new cases of Covid-19 and six new asymptomatic cases in the coastal city of Qingdao, it moved to test all of the city's nine million residents — in just five days. It wasn't a first: China had done the same in Wuhan, population 11 million, and has since also mass screened the western city of Kashgar, La Stampa reports.

  • The rate of almost two million tests per day in just one city remains unimaginable in Europe, where countries currently test between 200,000 and 400,000 people per day.

European countries had been warned. Just one of many examples: in August, a prominent Italian microbiologist, Andrea Crisanti, had recommended the government quadruple the country's testing capacity, as he explained in Milan daily Corriere della Sera. What happened to the plan? "It was ignored by the government," Crisanti said recently.

  • At the current rate of testing, it would take health authorities 34 days to test the entire city of Milan, population 1.4 million — and only if they chose to stop testing all other towns in the surrounding region of Lombardy.

  • Be smart: By itself, building capacity wouldn't have prevented the second wave. Testing campaigns must be strategic and data-driven, although it's difficult to do that now that France is recording close to 50,000 new cases per day. "You have to test with a purpose," French epidemiologist Dominique Costagliola told Le Monde.

But Asian countries have been doing this since day one. In South Korea (caseload: 26,271 total cases; 462 deaths), health workers have been using phone location data to identify thousands of people potentially at risk. In Vietnam (caseload: 1,177 total cases; 35 deaths), authorities have focused on high-risk individuals and on buildings and neighbourhoods where there have been confirmed cases.


2. Act quickly

When Italy announced a ban on gatherings, shut nightspots and high schools earlier in October, not many knew it was copying South Korea, one of the democratic countries most often praised for its effective containment policies.

The difference? On the day South Korean health minister Park Neung-hoo announced the restrictions in late August, saying his people were in "a very dangerous situation", South Korea reported 332 new cases.

  • On 24 October, when Italy closed cinemas, theatres and gyms and mandated high schools to continue remotely for 75% of classes, the country had 19,644 cases and 151 deaths per day — by then, it was too little, too late.

  • In France, introducing measures earlier would have made it "possible to break the dynamic, with less strong measures than those announced today," said Costagliola. "The longer we delay, the more the pandemic progresses, the more we are in this phase of rapid growth, requiring to act strongly."

A medical worker demonstrates collecting sample for the COVID-19 PCR test in Kashima, Japan — Photo: AFLO/ZUMA

3. Total eradication v. flattening the curve

When to end restrictions is as important as when to introduce them. When the West introduced the first nationwide lockdowns in the spring, scientists, politicians and the media told the public that the restrictions were necessary to "flatten the curve". The more we practice social distancing, the rationale was, the slower the virus will spread and kill, the more manageable the health crisis will be.

But countries that have succeeded in staving off a second wave of infections have worked to extinguish the virus altogether, not just flatten the curve.

  • New Zealand (1,949 total cases, 25 deaths), for example, introduced a national lockdown on March 25, when it recorded 102 cases and 0 deaths.

  • When the lockdown was lifted on June 8, the country had had no new local transmission in 17 days, and all patients had fully recovered. To date, life in New Zealand is almost entirely back to normal, with some social distancing.


4. Tighter borders

Countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and France, whose economies rely on tourism, rallied to reopen borders and allow international visitors to spend the summer holidays there.

But the most successful countries have reopened their borders cautiously, if at all.

Experts point to Taiwan's (553 total cases, 7 deaths) border restrictions as among the most efficient: until the end of June, all new arrivals — tourists, business travelers as well as residents — had to book themselves into a hotel to self-quarantine for two weeks.

  • The government subsidised the stay, including a welcome package with dish soap, nail clippers and laundry detergent to facilitate the quarantine; food was delivered on their doorstep; a local district office would phone at least once a day to check in and thank them for doing their part.


5. Single-mindedness

In European countries, closing schools and working from home during the second wave seemed like an unspeakable taboo: the countries just couldn't afford to close down again. All levels of government opposed new closures, even when their countries recorded more than 20,000 new cases every day.

Asian countries such as China and South Korea, instead, have acted decisively at the local level whenever they saw new flare ups. When Beijing recorded 31 new coronavirus cases on June 10, they shut down schools and urged people to work from home. Offices and schools reopened shortly after.

Coronavirus
Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID: The Second Wave Looks Just (And Nothing) Like The First

From Brazil to Canada, Finland to Israel, and well beyond, the impact of the new uptick in coronavirus is being measured across virtually every aspect of society.

Since the first round of lockdowns ended and people around the world were let back into the open, governments have been forced to constantly assess and reassess choices of how much freedom to grant their respective populations. No doubt, we know more about the virus than during the pandemics deadly peak in April and May, but the most important questions (What containment measures are the most efficient? When will we have a vaccine? Masks!?) are still cloaked in uncertainty. Authorities are still grappling with the same life-and-death policy choices as six months ago, though updated the second time around. Here are five key things governments must weigh as a possible second wave looms:


THE ECONOMY With international organizations and individual countries still assessing the economic impact of the pandemic, most governments have ruled out the possibility of a second round of full lockdowns. But national leaders are still walking the tightrope between economic recovery and limiting loss of life, while also having to manage popular opposition and unrest.

  • In France, where President Emmanuel Macron has said that the French economy could not withstand another strict nationwide quarantine after the March-to-May lockdown, partial restrictions have been rolled out instead. Bars and restaurants were closed in southern cities Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, while in other big cities such as Paris, Lille, Bordeaux and Lyon, a partial closure has been imposed between 10 pm and 6 am. Le Figaro reports that the closures have prompted protests in Marseilles, with 100 workers blocking a tunnel on Monday and other bar and restaurant owners threatening to defy the ban.
  • Israel remains the only country to have reimposed a country-wide lockdown, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing a three-week quarantine in mid-September. The move prompted the resignation of ultra-Orthodox Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who said the measures would prevent Jews from attending synagogue over the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holiday, The Times of Israel reports.
  • In Manaou, the largest city in Brazil's Amazon region, bars and river beaches have been closed to contain a new virus outbreak. Manaou is one of the cities hardest-hit by the pandemic, with so many residents dying in April and May that hospitals collapsed and cemeteries ran out of grave slots. As nearly half the city's population tested positive in June, many hoped that Manaou would have reached herd immunity. But Mayor Arthur Virgílio Neto recently proposed a new two-week lockdown, as new infections reached 1,627 between September 24 and 28 — a 30% increase compared to the same period in August.

FACE MASKS The first months of the pandemic were a constant alternation between mask on and mask off, partly because of scientific uncertainty and partly because of supply shortages. Today, most governments view strong pro-mask policies as a viable way to limit the spread, but are choosing different approaches.

  • In Finland, where deaths have remained low throughout the pandemic, 800 people have been infected in the last two weeks. As the national health authorities predict a continued spread in the near future, mask-wearing has been made mandatory in most parts of the country.
  • In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has picked the more surgical approach of making masks compulsory in certain locations, including shops, supermarkets, takeaway restaurants, places of worship, cinemas and museums. This week, as cases continued to surge, the government added taxis to the list. "Your harmless cough can be someone else's death knell," Johnson declared on Tuesday.
  • A third approach has been taken in Italy, where Corriere Della Sera reports that masks are now obligatory in certain regions. Last week, the region of Campania was added to the list, which includes Italy's third-largest city, Naples.

In the UK, masks compulsory in certain locations — Photo: Alex Lentati/London News Pictures/ZUMA

NURSING HOMES Nowhere is infection control more of a life-or-death matter than in elderly care centers. In Sweden, nearly half of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes; while in the U.S., The New York Times reported in June that nearly 40% of total deaths were linked to nursing homes. But with no end to the pandemic in sight, governments and local authorities are forced to balance the risk of letting people visit elderly family and loved ones in the face of the prospect of isolating them again.

  • In Sweden, where nursing homes have been opened to visitors October 1, no major breakouts have occurred. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has assessed the risk of spread as very low, granted that sanitary guidelines are followed — adding that infections have shifted to occur mostly among young people, reports Dagens Nyheter.
  • In Italy, authorities have chosen to open common areas to visitors while still holding that the best way to protect the elderly is for visitors to not enter. Yet, opening the doors was deemed a necessity, partly because residents won't be able to enjoy the gardens and outdoor spaces when winter arrives, Il Post reports. The visits still have to be organized beforehand, and extra precautions like frequent testing and rigorous safety protocols are kept in place.

SCHOOLS Denmark was the first country in Europe to reopen its primary schools in mid-April after containing the virus, with only 650 deaths to date. The Nordic country's successful strategy of split classes, outdoor lessons, and strict rules for hand-washing and distancing has become a global model. But there is no accepted model right now as the threat of a second wave coincides with the back-to-school season and the virus increasingly spreading disproportionately among younger people.

  • In the South Korean capital Seoul and nearby areas, schools resumed in-person classes on September 21 following a month-long closure. While daily COVID-19 cases have dropped to the lowest levels since mid-August, students are still under a hybrid regimen of in-person and online classes, with in-person classes limited to once or twice a week, Channel News Asia reports.
  • France has stuck with a nationwide everyone-back-to-class policy even as cases have shot above 10,000 per day. Indeed, the highest proportion of so-called "clusters' of COVID concentrations, approximately one-third, are in schools and universities, reports Le Monde.
  • In South Africa — the country with most deaths on the continent — schools were reopened Aug. 1 following delays as teachers' unions claimed schools lacked sufficient health and hygiene measures to keep educators and pupils safe. While students have now returned to the classroom, many public schools are in poor shape and analysts say that a quarter of them have no running water, making adequate hand-washing impossible, according to Africa News.

France has stuck with a nationwide everyone-back-to-class policy — Photo: Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua/ZUMA

BORDERS Beyond the choices about what to do nationally is another key question: opening up international borders. dilemma as other countries pondering the reopening of their borders.

  • Morocco implemented one of the world's strictest border lockdowns, but the country's economy has been dealt a serious blow, especially its tourism industry, which accounts for 7% of its GDP. Tourism professionals have been urging the government to allow travelers back into the country, as the industry experienced enormous losses during the lockdown, with a drop of $1.2 billion in revenue in the first half of 2020. The city of Marrakech, empty of tourists, looks like a "ghost town," Le Monde reports.
  • On Sept.19, Finland finally eased the tightest travel restrictions in Europe and now allows low-risk countries as well as important trade partners to enter the country, Finish site Yle reports. The loosened restrictions now allow travelers arriving from Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Poland, Germany and Cyprus, as well as residents of Australia, Canada and Japan traveling from their home country to Finland.
  • Despite economic pressure, others are not so keen to reopen their borders. This is the case for Canada, as its neighbor, the U.S. is registering the highest number of cases in the world with over 7.4 million infections and highest number of deaths with over 210,000 fatalities. In mid-September the six-months-long closure of the world's longest land border, between the two countries, to "discretionary" travel was extended to at least until Oct. 21.
Geopolitics

The Latest: Russian Plane Crash, Spanish Murder Of Gay Man, Escaping Quarantine

Welcome to Tuesday, where Belarus hands down harsh sentence, protests erupt in Spain over the murder of a gay man and a Japanese woman tries to extinguish the Olympic flame with a squirt gun. Writing from Sarajevo for French daily Le Monde, Rémy Ourdan introduces us to Benjamina Karic, the youngest mayor in the history of the iconic Balkan capital.

• Belarus: 14-year prison sentence for Lukashenko opponent: A court in Belarus has convicted Viktor Babariko, a former presidential candidate and opponent of strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, on corruption charges. Several Western leaders criticized the conviction and 14-year sentence, with the U.S. Embassy calling the trial a "sham."

• Debris from missing Russian plane found: Debris from the Antonov An-26 plane carrying 28 people that went missing in Russia's far east region has been found. The plane had been attempting to land in the village of Palana when it reportedly lost contact with air traffic control. Authorities say it is unlikely that anyone survived the crash.

• Controversial Israeli citizenship law defeated: Israel's Citizenship Law, which was first passed in 2003 during the Second Intifada and prevents Arab-Israelis from extending citizenship rights to Palestinian spouses living in the West Bank and Gaza, failed to be renewed by the Knesset this year. The law has been consistently renewed since its inception, but is set to expire this Wednesday at midnight after being narrowly defeated in a 59-59 vote.

• Protests in Spain after murder of gay man: LGBTQ rights groups across Spain have organized protests to demand justice for Samuel Luiz, a 24-year-old gay man who was beaten to death in the city of A Coruña during Pride weekend. As investigators search for the perpetrators, Luiz" friends allege he was murdered because of his sexual orientation.

• Vaccine update: In Thailand, a leaked health ministry document has called into question the efficacy of the China Sinovac Biotech's vaccine. The memo recommended that medical staff be given a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine in order to increase protection. Meanwhile, Israel has reported a decrease in Pfizer vaccine protection against infections, though the vaccine remains highly effective in preventing serious illness and death.

• Luxembourg leader hospitalized with COVID-19: Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who tested positive for COVID-19 about a week ago, was hospitalized for the virus on Sunday. The Luxembourg government reported Monday that the 48-year-old is in "serious, but stable" condition.

• The Great Escape: An Australian woman has been fined $2,500 after kicking down a door and scaling two hotel balconies in order to get out of quarantine. Claiming she simply wanted to go to her mother's house in Cairns, the 22-year-old pleaded guilty before a Queensland court for failing to comply with the public health mandate.

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Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Growing Evidence Of COVID-19's Neurological Impact

The most common symptoms are fever, a dry cough and loss of taste and smell. The majority of deaths are due to respiratory failure. But more studies about COVID-19 are now focusing on neurological factors in what is still a largely mysterious pandemic. In the last few weeks, findings from around the world give support for earlier indications of coronavirus infections being linked to the brain.

  • Sweden: A study from the University of Gothenburg shows that certain patients in ICU care have suffered brain damage, reports daily Stockholm-based Svenska Dagbladet. Doctors already knew that severe infections impaired cognitive abilities, but it turns out that even patients not in need of respiratory assistance have experienced similar complications. Swedish scientists are now investigating whether the damage is caused directly by the virus or by immune system failure.
  • Italy: Up to 30% of COVID-19 patients have had some impact on the brain, according to Professor Alessandro Padovani, head of the neurology unit at the University of Brescia, who launched a "NeuroCovid" center to study the effects of the virus on the brain. Padovani told Corriere della Sera that the impact on the brain of COVID-19 patients is a more severe version of the potential neurological risks of a typical flu, particularly for the elderly, including a 1.5% higher likelihood of suffering a stroke. This is one of the reasons it is advisable to get a flu shot, Padovani said.

Inside the COVID department of a hospital in Palermo, Italy — Photo: Igor Petyx/IPA/ZUMA

  • France: Director general of health Jérôme Salomon confirmed in April that neurologic lesions were often identified in patients in intensive care — lesions that were sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent. The first symptoms of neurologic lesions that were highlighted in France were anosmia and ageusia, alteration of the sense of smell and the loss of taste functions.
  • United States: In some cases, impaired respiration is due to damage in the brain center that controls breathing, according to findings from a research team from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. They also identified an inflammation in the area of ​​the brain that determines the respiratory rate. The study shows that injecting anti-inflammatory drugs into the central nervous system reduces inflammation both in the brain and in the lungs.
  • China: A Chinese study published in the Journal of Medical Virology also suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can induce neuronal damage. The study compared the novel coronavirus to previous ones, like HEV67 and avian bronchitis virus, which can first invade the peripheral nerve endings and then access the nervous system.
Geopolitics

Showtime For Epidemiologists: 5 Virus Gurus Around The World

Not since George Clooney was walking the halls of E.R. have doctors gotten so much air time. More particularly, virologists and epidemiologists are taking the lead in guiding us through the coronavirus crisis, both those offering explanations on news outlets and those holding increasingly vital positions of authority who help set national policies in response to COVID-19. Here are some of the highest profile MDs:

  • Massimo Galli: As the first country hit in Europe, Italy was also the first in the West to develop a near daily attachment with an expert of infectious diseases: Dr. Massimo Galli, director of the infectious diseases department at Luigi Sacco University Hospital in Milan, became a household name as his stern, no-nonsense assertions began to fill the Italian media two months back. As the recognition of a true crisis was still impending in less-affected countries around the world, Galli issued sharp warnings to both neighboring France and Spain as well as the U.S., saying that "we're only at the beginning" and that the virus could spread undetected in California and New York as it has in Italy. With a new virus, there are no certainties," he told Corriere della Sera.

  • Anders Tegnell: Leading an approach to the pandemic that stands virtually alone in Europe, Sweden"s state epidemiologist has attracted worldwide attention for the decision to refuse lockdowns even as the virus has spread at a faster rate than in Denmark and Norway that were quick to impose heavy restrictions. But the soft-spoken Swede has received the criticism with composure, saying to Swedish TV4 that "we are flattening the curve, and the healthcare system is working — our strategy has worked the way we intended."

Anders_tagnell_2020_epidemiologists

Anders Tagnell outside of the Karolinska institute in Stockholm, Sweden Frankie Fouganthin

  • Christian Drosten: Another unlikely hero has emerged in Germany, as Drosten, chief virologist at the Charité university research hospital in Berlin, has become a regular in TV morning show studios. Asked about his sudden fame in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit, he said he "sort of slipped into it." Now, he's even got a podcast Das Coronavirus-Update which, by its second episode, was already the most popular in Germany.

  • Didier Raoult: The flamboyant Marseille-based physician Didier Raoult sparked both hope and criticism in France when claiming his research proved the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine can help fight COVID-19 in late February. But scientists were quick to point out major flaws in the trial, and the journal that published the study announced on April 3 that it did not meet its standards. Academic standards aside, Raoult has become something of an online phenomenon, attracting some 400,000 Twitter followers since he set up an account in early March, and the Facebook group Didier Raoult Vs Coronavirus has gathered some 465,000 members in one month.

  • Anthony Fauci: Much of the intellectual acumen of the leading member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is applied to fending off the very unscientific ravings of President Donald Trump. But Fauci, the longtime director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has managed to keep both his calm and scientific credibility as he navigates the delicate experience of regularly sharing the stage with Trump. "You stay completely apolitical and non-ideological, and you stick to what it is that you do," Fauci told The New Yorker. "I'm a scientist and I'm a physician. And that's it."

Society

The World's Cities Get Ready To Take Public Transport Again

Fewer seats, fewer trains, more masks. A quick world tour from Milan to Paris, Beijing to Tehran finds the wheels (tentatively) ready to roll on subways and buses.

As countries loosen lockdown restrictions, one key to getting life and the economy back up and running is how to be sure people can (safely) get around.

Cities in particular face the tricky puzzle of public transportation in the face of the acutely contagious nature of COVID-19. How can people respect social distancing inside packed buses and subways? But as the clamor to restart shutdown economies grows louder, countries and cities are busy implementing new rules. Here is how four major cities around the world are adapting public transports:

  • Milan: The capacity of the Italian city's subway will be reduced by up to 30%, carrying just around 350,000 passengers a day instead of 1.3 million, reports Corriere della Sera. The access to train and metro stations will also be controlled and limited from May 4, when the lockdown starts to loosen. The city is also testing solutions to help people respecting social distancing, like putting red stickers on the floor to tell them how far apart to stand. Many seats will be removed as well, which will divide by two the numbers of passengers in the same car.

  • Paris: France recently unveiled its plans to gradually end the lockdown beginning May 11, including new rules for the RATP, the state-owned public transport operator in the region of Paris and its daily 12 million travelers. Like in Milan, the use of face masks will be compulsory and markings on the ground will be used to make passengers respect safety distances. But contrary to the Italian city, traffic will increase. For Prime Minister Edouard Philippe public transport is a "key measure for the economic recovery" and therefore, he required the RATP to increase traffic to 70%, as it had been functioning at only 30% of its capacity in March and April, according to Le Parisien.

A staff member disinfecting a subway train carriage in Beijing — Photo: Chen Zeguo/Xinhua/ZUMA

  • Beijing: Beijing metro was one of the firsts to test high-resolution sensing cameras which can identify whether passengers are wearing masks. Now the Chinese capital is lowering its restrictions from the top level to the second level starting April 30 and is going to increase traffic in public transportation. According to Xinhua, the maximum allowable passenger capacity will be raised from 50% of full capacity to 75% on buses and to 65% on subway trains. However, the buses and subway carriages will still need to be disinfected and ventilated regularly and all passengers will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken. Eating in public transport has also been banned, as Beijing has implemented a new set of regulations to promote "civilized behaviour" and improve public hygiene.

  • Tehran: As the Iranian capital increasingly returns to work, the head Tehran's anti-coronavirus task force, Alireza Zaali, estimated that 570,000 people using public transport each day, ILNA reported. But in a separate report, the agency cited Zaali as saying that only half of metro passengers are currently using masks and gloves. The city council is debating the "mechanics' of enforcing the obligatory use of face masks, the daily Hamshahri reported. Some have suggested the government sell cheap masks to transport users at metro stations and bus terminals.

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Geopolitics
Jeff Israely

Will You Give Up Your Privacy To Go Outside?

For most of human history, the best way to protect personal privacy was to simply stay at home. Lock yourself in your room, or the proverbial closet, and nobody can find out a thing. In little more than a decade, those walls and doors have vanished as digital technology invites us to take large chunks of our lives online. Without ever leaving home (or while scrolling our smartphones in an empty forest), we are now vulnerable to a world of connected spies, data miners, identity usurpers, trackers and any number of other private and public-sector violators of what we hold to be confidential information.

The debate over electronic privacy has been escalating ever since in the West: from Edward Snowden's accusations against the state, to those aimed at commercial tech giants like Facebook and Amazon, to the rogue producers of deep fakes and other nefarious trolls. Meanwhile, authoritarian governments — exposed momentarily to the power of the internet to drive dissent — have quickly taken the upper hand in using digital technology as a tool for control. Yes, until two months ago, the lines on the privacy question seemed drawn quite clearly.

Leave it to a highly contagious and lethal disease to quickly blur those lines. With countries in the West preparing to ease unprecedented national and regional shutdowns, officials are looking to include a range of required (or at least strongly urged) digital testing and tracking tools to limit new outbreaks of COVID-19. Mobile phone applications that force people to share personal health data and reveal their location and other forms of relinquishing control of their personal information are now considered integral to ensuring that normal life can begin to resume. We're told it worked in South Korea and China, where concerns about data privacy are either less ingrained in the culture, or simply smothered by the authorities.

All of this may be bringing that old trade-off full circle: If you really want to protect your privacy, you must again stay inside. Let's ponder that alongside the even more pressing worry about preserving our very lives if we venture outside.

None of these tensions are easy to resolve, especially with so little truly known about the nature of this virus. What is the immediate risk of being in public places? What is the longer-term price of keeping our economies on hold? When will it all be over?

Meanwhile, longer-lasting moral questions, like privacy, hover just above it all. For now, a sense of tentative pragmatism seems to prevail, as a crisis of this magnitude prompts citizens to put their fate in the hands of the state for lack of any other viable solution. So if the government says so, most people are probably prepared to share some of their personal information to feel safer — we have, after all, gotten used to knowing that our data is being shared and our smartphone maps know where we are. But after two months of quarantine, one thing we're not used to right now: Going outside.

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