Coronavirus Politics Daily: Burundi boots the WHO, vaccine squabbles, Haiti braces for an outbreak

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Burundi boots the WHO, vaccine squabbles, Haiti braces for an outbreak

Burundi expels the WHO: Just days before Burundians head to the polls to elect a new president and parliament, the government has expelled officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) who are in that country to help steer the government's pandemic response. Burundi's government did not give a reason for the dismissal, but critics say it was a reprisal against WHO personnel who had criticized the ruling party, currently led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, for holding large political rallies in recent weeks that have been banned in most parts of Africa, and for threatening citizens who called out the government's poor response to the outbreak. This isn't the first time that Burundi's ruling party, which won the vote in 2015 in an election that many say was illegitimate, has booted out UN representatives who raise human rights concerns. Burundi's officials, for their part, point to the country's low infection rate (there are currently around 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19) as proof of their success in handling the crisis, but critics say that's only because of the country's limited testing capacity. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, says that the health infrastructure in Burundi – where half the population of 11 million is food insecure – is so weak that the WHO's support and expertise are needed now more than ever.


Vaccines: who gets them? As labs around the world race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, a thorny question looms: who gets them first? It's a moral, medical, and monetary dilemma that spilled into the open this week when the head of French Pharma giant Sanofi suggested the US would get first dibs on vaccines from the company. His reasoning? Washington put up big money to fund the vaccine development, which isn't cheap. But his remarks provoked an angry response in France, with President Emmanuel Macron summoning the Sanofi boss for a meeting to ask him why les Americains should get the vaccine before, say, the French. Sanofi, the world's third largest vaccine-maker, has since walked back the idea, saying Friday that any vaccine would be available in all regions of the world at the same time. Still, the problem remains: with supplies of any vaccine sure to be extremely limited at first, what's the right criterion for whether you can get one – your passport or your wallet? Is a global rationing system possible? Tough questions with a silver lining: merely asking them will mean that a vaccine is finally close.

Haiti's border problem: Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island and a border, but so far, their experiences of the coronavirus pandemic have been markedly different. The DR, a popular tourist destination, has suffered the worst outbreak anywhere in the Caribbean, with about 12,000 cases, while Haiti, which has grown increasingly isolated after a year of political unrest, has registered just 230. But now as 150,000 Haitian migrants working in the Dominican Republic lose their jobs (and their legal status) and are forced to return home, they risk bringing the virus with them. At the moment, around 22,000 homeward-bound Haitians are crossing the border every week. Public health experts warn that Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, could not handle a serious outbreak of disease. The country's decrepit health care system would reportedly need an additional 8,000 hospital beds in order to accommodate a surge in cases. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Haiti had been rocked by a series of crises including perennial political corruption scandals, a catastrophic earthquake, and violent political protests. As coronavirus crosses the border, the challenges for the country will be immense.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

More Show less

Listen: India's latest COVID explosion hits home as one Delhi-based journalist speaks with Ian Bremmer about her own father's death from the virus. Barkha Dutt has been reporting on the pandemic in India since it began, but nothing could prepare her for the catastrophic second wave that has hit her country in the last few weeks—and that has now shattered her own family. Would her father have survived if the oxygen tank in his ambulance had been working, or if the ambulance hadn't gotten stuck in Delhi traffic?She asks similar questions of her national government. Why was it caught so unprepared by this second wave, well over a year into the pandemic? Why has India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, been so slow to vaccinate its own citizens? And how much of the blame falls at the feet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

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.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's going on between the United Kingdom and France over fishing rights?

Yes, good question. Why on earth are they sending the Royal Navy to chase away some French fishermen from the island of Jersey? Fishing rights is very controversial. It was one of the key issues in the Brexit negotiations. Extremely divisive. Fishermen are fairly determined people but sending the Royal Navy to handle the French fishermen was somewhat excessive. I guess it played rather well with the English nationalists for Boris Johnson in the local elections, though.

More Show less

COVID has officially killed almost 3.5 million people around the world since the beginning of the pandemic. But some public health experts believe that the real number could be more than twice as high, because of challenges to accurately reporting the death toll in many countries around the world. A new study from the University of Washington contends, for example, that actual deaths are nearly 60 percent higher than reported in the US, twice as high in India, more than four times as high in Russia... and a staggering ten times higher than the official tally in Japan. Here's a look at how official figures compare to actual estimated deaths in the 20 countries where COVID has claimed the most lives.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

More Show less

Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal