Welcome to Monday, where India worries about a COVID spike, record floods hit Australia and Spring Break gets out of hand in Miami. Clarin also explains the stark contrast in vaccine rollouts between two Latin American neighbors.
• India sees "alarming" COVID spike: After slowing in early 2021 in India, the virus has spread the past week faster than any point since early last year. Experts have yet to determine if new variants have sparked the rise. India has so far recorded more than 11 million cases and 160,000 deaths.
• Congo-Brazzaville candidate dies: Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, the leading opposition candidate in Congo-Brazzaville presidential election, dies just hours after polls closed, from COVID-19 complications. He was 61.
• Turkey lira plummets after Bank chief sacked: Turkey's currency dips 15% to near its all-time low after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's surprise sacking of the central bank governor.
• Record Australia floods: The worst flooding in decades prompts the evacuation of 12,000 people in New South Wales, southeastern Australia, with more heavy rainfall forecast.
• BBC journalist released in Myanmar: Aung Thur, who works for Burmese language reports for the BBC, has been released three days after being taken away by men in plain clothes while reporting outside a court in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw. Forty journalists have been arrested since the Feb. 1 military coup.
• IKEA France accused of spying: The French subsidiary of retailing giant IKEA goes on trial over allegations that the company used private detectives and police officers to spy on staff and job applicants.
• Gold mask: Archeologists have discovered a 3,000-year-old gold mask in southwest China among over 500 other artifacts which could help experts understand how civilization developed in ancient China.
The Australian daily features the evacuation of thousands of people in New South Wales, which is experiencing its worst floods in decades — the same areas that had been ravaged by the country's record bushfire season this past two years.
Argentina vs. Chile: tale of two vaccine rollouts
Despite the geographical proximity of Chile and Argentina and their undoubted cultural and historical links, there is a dramatic contrast between the pace of their coronavirus vaccine rollouts. While Chile has injected almost 11 million doses, Argentina has delivered just over a third of that figure. Why this significant difference? ask Irene Hartmann and José María del Pino in Buenos Aires-based daily Clarín.
Communication is one outstanding difference between Argentina and Chile in this pandemic. While Chile's information database SAS offered clear data from day one of all details of the vaccine situation (who has been vaccinated, where, dosage and vaccine brands), Argentina created a Vaccination Public Monitor after reports of "VIP" or out-of-turn vaccinations sparked public outrage.
Countries like Chile also began planning agreements to buy future vaccines as early as May 2020. As one Chilean deputy-health minister, Paula Daza, said, "Everything was prepared far in advance ... in May and June, conversations began to sign agreements with various laboratories, which allowed us to have today this amount of doses." These agreements meant advance payments (nobody knows how much) to finance the development of vaccines.
Adolfo Rubinstein, a former Argentine health minister and clinical epidemiology professor, says the government had various problems on this front. Firstly, he says, "compared to Chile, Argentina is a less reliable buyer. You cannot get over this. A country that has defaulted on debt 20 times, which had to restructure its debt ... isn't reliable for pharmaceutical firms. Also, while others purchased in advance, Argentina has no dollars. It is a macroeconomic restriction that puts us at a disadvantage."
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