World politics faces impact of new Covid spread | Daily News

World politics faces impact of new Covid spread

Worshipers gathering before the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Worshipers gathering before the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

This week saw the coronavirus spread accelerating in many countries across the world, with the United States remaining the worst affected country, followed by Brazil and India. Australia has also shown a record number of daily cases. The Covid 19 spread is impacting global politics and economics, with increasing concerns about the world economic structure in the coming years.

The global reach of the coronavirus exceeded 17 million this week, with related deaths in excess of 650,000. The US has reported 4,426,924 cases and more than 15,000 deaths, with figures continuing to rise. This is followed by Brazil with 2,552,265 infected and 90,135 deaths, with India remaining third with 1,581, 963 cases and 34,955 deaths. Russia is in fourth place with 832,993 infected and 13,778 deaths.

Europe is starting to see signs of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The UK has imposed restrictions on persons returning from places abroad where there are outbreaks, and Spain has been identified as the country worst affected, and introduced a 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers returning from Spain.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez described the UK’s new rules and recommendations as “unjust” arguing that in most parts of Spain the prevalence of Covid-19 is lower than in the UK. The numbers infected in Spain was 282,641 midweek, with 28,441 deaths. The country has been among the worst affected in the first wave of the virus.

A growing number of European countries are grappling with recent rises in coronavirus cases. The head of Germany’s public health agency, Lothar Wieler said he is very concerned by rising infections. “We don’t know yet if this is the beginning of a second wave but of course it could be,” Wielder said at a press conference. Belgium’s Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced a series of new restrictions on Monday, following a significant spike in infections and warned of a potential second lockdown.

Australia has reported the highest number of confirmed cases since the coronavirus pandemic began. The state of Victoria is the worst-hit with outbreaks centred around care homes and workplaces in Melbourne and its sprawling suburbs. State authorities reported 723 new cases on Thursday and 13 deaths.

Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people -- mostly local tourists -- from the popular resort city of Da Nang, with the authorities rushing to nip a potential new outbreak in the bud, after recording its first locally-transmitted case of Covid-19 in 100 days on Saturday.

Vietnam has been held up as a leading example in containing the virus, thanks to an aggressive strategy of early screening of passengers at airports and a strict quarantine and monitoring programme. The country has not reported any deaths from Covid-19 and has confirmed just 420 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Japan sees its highest daily spike, with some 981 new cases recorded on Tuesday, eclipsing the previous high of 966 set on July 23.

China records over 100 new cases: Fresh outbreaks in China’s far western region of Xinjiang and northeastern province of Liaoning have continued to spread. The country recorded 101 new infections midweek, its highest daily increase since April 12.

Britain has signed an agreement to secure up to 60 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine currently being developed by pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline. The UK has now signed deals to secure access to four potential vaccines being developed, totaling 250 million doses.

The WHO Director General says Covid-19 is “easily the most severe” global health emergency the WHO has ever declared. More than 16 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally and there have been more than 648,000 deaths from Covid-19 recorded since the pandemic began. It has been almost six months since the WHO declared Covid-19 a public health emergency of international concern at the end of January. “Covid-19 has changed our world,” said the director-general, adding that the pandemic “has shown what humans are capable of – both positively and negatively.”

US troops withdrawa l

The US is set to withdraw almost 12,000 troops from Germany in what it described as a “strategic” repositioning of its forces in Europe.

About 6,400 troops will be sent home, with the rest moved to other NATO countries such as Italy and Belgium.

President Donald Trump said the move was a response to Germany failing to meet NATO targets on defence spending. But it has attracted widespread opposition in Congress from those who believe it will embolden Russia. Senior German officials have also expressed concern.

Mr. Trump has long complained that European members of NATO should spend more on their own defence. He has said that NATO members should no longer be relying so heavily on the US to shoulder the costs of maintaining the alliance.

“We don’t want to be the suckers anymore,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House shortly after the move was announced. “We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills; it’s very simple.”

The argument between the allies focuses around the target agreed by all alliance members that defence spending should reach 2% of GDP (gross domestic product, the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country) by 2024. Germany, along with many other countries, has yet to meet this target.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the decision, suggesting it was part of a broader plan to reposition US forces in the region, ... “a major strategic and positive shift” that would “unquestionably achieve the core principles of enhancing US and NATO deterrence of Russia”.

The move is set to cost the US government several billion dollars and will reduce the country’s military presence in Germany by more than 25%. A squadron of fighter jets would be moved to Italy while some troops could be relocated to Poland, Mr. Esper said.

The decision was criticised by German officials, with the chairman of the country’s foreign affairs committee suggesting it would “weaken the NATO alliance”.

And the head of the German state of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, said he regretted the decision. “This puts a burden on the German-American relationship,” he told reporters.

There was also bipartisan criticism in Washington. “This is a self-inflicted wound... against American interests,” Democratic Senator Jack Reed said.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney described the decision to remove troops from Germany as a “grave error” and a “a slap in the face at a friend and ally”.

The US military presence in Germany is a legacy of the post-World War Two Allied occupation of the country. Germany currently hosts by far the largest number of US forces in Europe, followed by Italy, the UK and Spain.

Malaysia - former PM guilty

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been sentenced to 12 years in jail by a court, found guilty on all seven counts in the first of several multi-million dollar corruption trials.

Najib had pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power. The case against him is seen as a test of Malaysia’s anti-corruption efforts.

The 1MDB scandal around a state-owned wealth fund in Malaysia has uncovered a global web of fraud and corruption, sending shockwaves through Malaysia’s political establishment, leading to the toppling of Najib’s UMNO party, which had governed the country for 61 years since it gained independence.

Najib, in office from 2009 to 2018, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for abuse of power, and 10 years in jail for each of six counts of money laundering and breach of trust.

“After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali told the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Tuesday’s verdicts centred on 42 million ringgit ($10m; £7.7m) transferred from the fund to the then-prime minister’s private accounts. Najib’s defence team argued he was led to believe the funds in his accounts were donated by the Saudi royal family - rather than misappropriated from the state fund.

Malaysian and US authorities allege that $4.5bn was illicitly plundered from the fund and diverted into private pockets. The missing money has been linked to luxury real estate, a private jet, Van Gogh and Monet artworks - and even a Hollywood blockbuster, The Wolf of Wall Street.

A separate trial has accusations the former prime minister illicitly obtained 2.28bn ringgit ($550m, £448m) from 1MDB between 2011 and 2014, with 21 counts of money-laundering and four of abuse of power but again denies any wrongdoing. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, also faces money-laundering and tax evasion charges, to which she has pleaded not guilty.

US - Portland and Politics

With less than 100 days to go for the US Presidential Election in November this year, the Trump administration that is losing in opinion polls is moving on to action against Black Lives Matter demonstrators, and taking action to ‘restore’ Law and Order as President Trump says in several Democratic controlled cities and states.

There are moves to withdraw some federal security forces from Portland, Oregon, sent there by the Trump administration, after weeks of clashes with protesters.

The security forces were sent there on July 4 to protect federal buildings that were vandalised during weeks of protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May. Their deployment exacerbated the civil unrest, especially when footage emerged of demonstrators being grabbed off the street by federal officers and forced into unmarked cars.

The governor and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, both Democrats, complained they never asked for the federal intervention, blasting it as an election-year stunt by the US president.

Portland has been rocked by 62 consecutive days of demonstrations.

US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the pull-out was conditional on local police protecting federal buildings, the focal point of unrest. Oregon Governor Kate Brown said federal agents would start leaving the state’s biggest city from Thursday. He added that “state and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack”.

The governor tweeted on Wednesday: “They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.”

After the announcement, Mr. Trump, a Republican, declared victory, tweeting: “If the Federal Government and its brilliant Law Enforcement (Homeland) didn’t go into Portland one week ago, there would be no Portland.

“It would be burned and beaten to the ground. If the Mayor and Governor do not stop the Crime and Violence from the Anarchists and Agitators immediately, the Federal Government will go in and do the job that local law enforcement was supposed to do!”

In tandem with the crackdown in Portland, the Trump administration has sent federal agents to several Democratic-run US cities rocked by rising gun crime: Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque.

The US Department of Justice said on Wednesday it would also send federal officers to three more Democratic-run US cities - Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee - owing to “disturbing increases in violent crime, particularly homicides”.

Haj Festival - Mecca

Muslim pilgrims, donning face masks and moving in small groups after days in isolation, began arriving to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca on Wednesday for the start of a historically unique and scaled-down Haj experience reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Haj is one of Islam’s most important requirements, performed once in a lifetime. It follows a route the Prophet Muhammad walked nearly 1,400 years ago and is believed to ultimately trace the footsteps of the Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail.

Rather than standing and praying shoulder-to-shoulder in a sea of people from different walks of life, pilgrims this year are social distancing — standing apart and moving in small groups of 20 to limit exposure and the potential transmission of the coronavirus.

The communal feeling of more than 2.5 million people from around the world — Shiite, Sunni and other Muslim sects — praying together, eating together and repenting together has long been part of what makes Haj both a challenging and rewarding experience.

This year, however, pilgrims are eating prepackaged meals alone in their hotel rooms and praying at a distance from one another. The Saudi government is covering all the pilgrims’ expenses of travel, accommodation, meals and healthcare.

For the first time in Saudi history, the government barred Muslims from entering the kingdom from abroad to perform the Haj in order to limit exposure of the coronavirus. Instead, as few as 1,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the Haj this year. Two-thirds are foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented at the Haj. One-third are Saudi security personnel and medical staff.

The pilgrims, who were selected after applying through an online portal, were required to be between the ages of 20 and 50, with no terminal illnesses and showing no symptoms of the virus. Preference was given to those who have not performed the Haj before. Pilgrims were tested for the coronavirus, given wristbands that connect to their phones and monitor their movement and were required to quarantine at home and in their hotel rooms in Mecca ahead of Wednesday’s start of the Haj. They will also be required to quarantine for a week after the Haj concludes on Sunday.

Mecca was sealed off for months ahead of the Haj, and the smaller year-round Umrah pilgrimage was suspended earlier this year, with pilgrims already in the city at that time flown back home.

During the first rites of Haj, Muslims circle the Kaaba counterclockwise seven times while reciting supplications to God, then walk between two hills where Ibrahim’s wife, Hagar, is believed to have run as she searched for water for her dying son before God brought forth a well that runs to this day.

This year, pilgrims will only be able to drink water from this Zamzam well that is packaged in plastic bottles. Pebbles for casting away evil that are usually picked up by pilgrims along Haj routes will be sterilized and bagged ahead of time.

India - China

India and China are trying to out-build each other along their disputed Himalayan border.

Both India and China have devoted money and manpower to building roads, rail links and airfields along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) - the de facto boundary separating them - as well as modernising their military hardware in the region.

India’s recent building work, including the 255km (140-mile) Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road, winds through mountain passes up to the world’s highest airstrip more than 5,000m above sea level in the Ladakh region. Its completion could increase India’s ability to move men and materiel rapidly in a conflict, has reportedly angered China. But China has been busy building along the border for years. Both sides tend to view the other’s construction efforts as calculated moves to gain tactical advantage, and tensions flare when either announces a major project.

The June 15 clash, in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, gave rise to concerns that tensions between the two nuclear powers could boil over. They have never agreed on the exact position of their 3,500km border, and their armies - two of the world’s largest - come face-to-face at many points along the rough, inhospitable terrain.

Both India and China have devoted money and manpower to building roads, rail links and airfields along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) - the de facto boundary separating them - as well as modernising their military hardware in the region.

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