Spread of global tensions & minorities worst hit by Covid-19 | Daily News


 

Spread of global tensions & minorities worst hit by Covid-19

UK PM Boris Johnson is back at Number 10, Downing Street
UK PM Boris Johnson is back at Number 10, Downing Street

The Coronavirus disease globally has passed 3, 700,000 cases and the deaths exceeding 263,000 while the world is trying to move away from the lockdown situation and keep a control over the pandemic, in countries and regions, and tensions increase between US and China over spread of the disease.

The USA remains the country with the highest number of diseased persons - 1,228,609 and the highest number of deaths, exceeding 73,000, with President Donald Trump telling the number deceased could be 90,000 or even more; while there are warnings from universities that with the actions against the lockdowns in many US states, the death toll there may even exceed 300,000.

More than 20 states in the US are moving out of the lockdowns, and some protesters against the moves have come with firearms. Golf Courses, Bowling Alleys, tattoo parlours, barber salons, restaurants and retailers are among the many allowed to reopen, causing much concern about the increased spread of the coronavirus.

The spread of Covid-19 in the US is also leading to increased tension in relations between the US and China, with President Trump moving on claims that the Coronavirus was developed in a laboratory in China, and referring to Covid-19 as a new war, and worse than the attack on Pearl Harbour by Japan in World War II.

But the US Government's top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, has dismissed the idea, saying all the scientific evidence suggests the virus began in bats and then spread to humans.

"A number of very qualified evolutionary biologists have said that everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species," Fauci told National Geographic. He said the evidence was "very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted there is "significant evidence" the virus began in a Wuhan laboratory as the Chinese government demanded he back up his claims. He said the administration was not certain about the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, but there was "enormous evidence" the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory.

The Chinese government has challenged Pompeo to back up his recent claim about there being "enormous evidence". The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: “Mr. Pompeo cannot present any evidence because he hasn’t gotten any. I think this matter should be handled by scientists and professionals, instead of politicians”.

European action

Many countries across Europe have started easing Coronavirus lockdowns, allowing people to move around more and businesses to reopen. If the current pattern continues, these governments will take more steps to reopen, and encourage more countries to move down a similar path.

Many of these governments have warned that the process of lifting the lockdowns will be slow, and that any sign that loosening the restrictions is causing the virus to spread further will result in old rules being re-implemented.

In Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany's goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus has been achieved, so all shops can be reopened as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The relaxations include opening schools and more businesses like hairdressers. Two households will be able to meet and eat together, and elderly people in nursing homes and facilities for the disabled will be able to have visits from one specific person. Bundesliga football has been given the green light to resume.

Spain has announced a four-phase plan to lift its lockdown and return to “new normality” by the end of June.

In Italy, which for long had the highest death toll in Europe, some shops and factories have reopened, and bars and cafes are being allowed to offer takeaway services.

In France, non-essential shops and markets are to open again from May 11, but not bars and restaurants. Restrictions on people movement, sales and shopping and social activity are being eased, with social distancing, in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany.

The UK now has 202,359 cases with the deaths passing 31,000, and having the largest number of deaths in Europe, passing Italy (214,457 / 29,684), which for long had the highest deaths in Europe. The death rate in the UK has in the first month not covered those who died of the disease in Care Homes and other facilities. The figures of the deceased are now more accurate. The Government is not pushing for a quick move away from the lockdown and other restrictions.

The UK has begun testing a contact-tracing app which is expected to be of much benefit to curbing the spread of the coronavirus. It is expected to minimise the amount of personal data collected, to ensure privacy. Plans for the app have been discussed at the House of Commons Human Rights Select Committee.

Vaccine Fund

European Union - Significantly, world leaders, international organisations, philanthropists and companies have pledged €7.4 billion to develop a vaccine and new tools to detect, treat and prevent the novel coronavirus, in a move initiated by the EU.

The funds were pledged during a videoconference summit hosted by the EU. More money could be pledged in the coming days - and the funds will only be the start of what is needed to take on COVID-19. All this money will help kick-start unprecedented global cooperation," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, which has pledged €1.4 billion.

Saying they are supporting the World Health Organization’s call for joint action, the world leaders announced the launch of an Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator a “global cooperation platform to accelerate and scale-up research, development, access and equitable distribution of the vaccine and other life-saving therapeutics and diagnostics treatments.”

The US did not formally participate in this global fund raising efforts, though many US companies and philanthropists came in.

Russia is emerging as a new hotspot for the coronavirus as many countries in Western Europe begin steps to ease lockdown measures.

The number of new cases in Russia is substantially higher than the European country in second place, Britain, which reported another 4,339 infections on Sunday. Despite the sharp rise in cases, Russia's official fatality rate has remained low in comparison to countries including Italy, Spain and the United States.

Moscow has emerged as the epicentre of the pandemic in Russia, with around half the total coronavirus cases. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is the highest-profile figure to have contracted the virus. Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin has warned that "the threat is apparently on the rise".

Hitting minorities hard

As the world attempts to come to terms with the pandemic causing serious impacts on the world economy and prevailing social and cultural trends, there are also rising concerns about the increasing danger the pandemic is causing to minority communities in many countries, raising new issues about the health risk faced by people in the current situation, and the deeper impact on ethnic and religious minorities from a virus that is non-selective of people it infects.

In the UK trade unions and social organizations have raised issues about ethnic minorities becoming the larger victims. A study of more than 2,000 patients critically ill with the virus in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had found 35% to be black, Asian or of another ethnic minority, which is more than double their representation in the wider population.

Analysts see the larger number of deaths of doctors and other health service persons in the UK may show that the National Health Service (NHS) has been heavily dependent on ethnic minority staff, today making up more than 40% of the medical workforce - more than double their proportion in the UK population.

There is growing concern in the UK that Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities suffer more from the Coronavirus pandemic in Western societies. Civil Society campaigns have been launched in UK calling for urgent action over the disproportionate impact of the virus on Britain’s minorities. Current reports show reduced access to health treatment compared to white people, the impact of school closures, lower income and insecure housing put ethnic minorities at greater risk.

Trade Unions in UK and the British Medical Association have sought a formal review, with an understanding of the racial disparities in history. As concerns increase the UK Government has announced a review of the situation, with evidence of socio-economic inequality and discrimination among factors for the emerging situation.

Speaking at a recent Downing Street press briefing, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We recognise that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away, especially among care workers and those in the NHS.”

The situation of racial inequality having a harmful impact during this pandemic is also seen in the USA. Some examples are that in Michigan 15% of the population but 40% of the deaths are black. Chicago has a 30% African American population and 70% of deaths, and in Louisiana a 32% black population with a 70% death rate.

Similar data has been recorded in African-American and Hispanic communities in the US "where black people accounted for 72% of deaths from COVID-19 complications and 52% of positive tests, despite making up only 30% of the population”.

The premature restarting of business in the US has raised warnings of new virus cases, putting the country’s most vulnerable populations - Black, Latinos, poor, elderly, disabled - at greater risk of infection and death. The decisions of several states to reopen have fuelled the Black community’s distrust of government and health guidance and leadership. Black people make up 30% of Coronavirus cases, while being only 13 % of the US population.

There is much concern among civil society and social organizations that the low testing in the US will disproportionately impact people who are at greatest risk, particularly African Americans and Hispanic Americans. These people disproportionately lack access to health care and primary care doctors, which worsens the problems they face with this pandemic.

The situation of minorities being worse affected in the current pandemic is also seen in South Asia. The annual report of South Asia Collective (SAC) a group of human rights organizations has warned of this situation, arising from ‘rising majoritarian nationalism’.

The Report refers to the Covid impact on vulnerable communities in South Asia, among them religious minorities, who are often deprived of essential rights and services and having the worst impacts of the pandemic.

South Asian nations are urged to follow UN conventions to protect vulnerable refugee populations, advising them to enforce anti-discrimination laws and repeal discriminatory laws.

Brazil spread

Brazil has become the first country in the Southern Hemisphere to surpass 1,000 deaths.

The number infected has now risen to 126,611 and deaths to 8,588. The numbers are likely to be much higher as only patients at hospitals are being tested. Most states have imposed quarantine measures but President Jair Bolsonaro has challenged the restrictions, saying they harm the economy. Officials say the outbreak is not expected to peak for a few weeks yet.

There is growing concern that the virus could spiral out of control, especially in poorer areas like favelas, crowded neighbourhoods where social distancing is hard to achieve and basic sanitation is lacking.

As BBC reports, there are also fears that Brazil's indigenous communities could be devastated by an outbreak, with them being more vulnerable because they have fewer natural defences to external diseases.

President Bolsonaro has hit the streets of capital Brasília, drawing crowds and greeting followers. In his latest act of disregard for his own government's recommendations of social distancing, he took pictures with supporters and shook hands.

But some residents banged pots and pans in anger while others shouted "Go home!". The far-right leader - who was not wearing a face mask or gloves - was particularly criticised for wiping his nose with his lower right arm at one point, then shaking hands with an elderly woman.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at a protest rally against lockdown measures

 


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