Coronavirus Politics Daily: Alaska's COVID dilemma, global child deaths set to rise, Spain fears second wave

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Alaska's COVID dilemma, global child deaths set to rise, Spain fears second wave

Alaska's brush with COVID-19: Until now, the US state of Alaska has been unscathed by the coronavirus crisis. But with the state's lucrative fishing season about to start, hundreds of fishing boat crews from around the country have descended on Alaskan villages, bringing the disease with them. The first coronavirus case was identified recently in the town of Cordova, when a Seattle-based worker tested positive. The pandemic puts Alaskan officials in a bind: they want to protect their residents, but they don't want to cripple the fishing industry, which generates $5 billion a year and accounts for 8 percent of statewide employment. But continuing with business as usual poses huge risks for workers, many of whom work in crowded fish processing plants – similar to the assembly line in meat-processing centers that have proven to be vectors of disease around the world. Local officials are weighing the dilemma at a time when Alaska has already taken a financial hit because of plummeting prices for oil, its main economic engine, as well as disruption to tourism, another big local industry.


Spain fears second wave: Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has recently been slowly loosening lockdown restrictions as the peak of its outbreak recedes. But on Thursday, the country recorded 217 COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily toll in over a week, sparking fears of a second wave of infection. While things are significantly better than in early April, when almost 1,000 Spaniards died daily from the disease, preliminary anti-body testing across the country shows that only 5 percent of Spain's population, around 2.4 million people, have contracted the virus. Public health experts say that's well below the herd-immunity threshold that would allow society to return to something resembling normalcy. Whether the government will now move to slow or reverse the cautious reopening remains to be seen.

Global child mortality rates set to rise: Public health experts are warning that as lockdowns and travel restrictions reduce access to preventive care and vaccinations around the world, 1.2 million children could die over the next six months alone. This would be the first rise in global child mortality in six decades. Among the countries expected to be hardest hit are Brazil, Nigeria, Somalia, and Pakistan. At the beginning of the COVID outbreak, public health officials already warned of a resurgence of infectious diseases like measles and malaria. The UN, meanwhile, has warned that widespread hunger because of job losses could also compound health outcomes for millions of children and has appealed to the international community for $1.6 billion in aid. "We must not let decades of progress on reducing preventable child and maternal deaths, be lost," a UN spokesperson said.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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