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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Chileans riot, Belgium's sky-high numbers, Afghan doctors strike

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Chileans riot, Belgium's sky-high numbers, Afghan doctors strike

Chileans take to the streets: When Chile declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, the country's months-long mass protests about inequality fizzled fast. But now the lockdown measures themselves are causing unrest. Riot police on Tuesday clashed with demonstrators in a Santiago suburb protesting food shortages under lockdown. The upheaval comes just days after a fresh surge in cases prompted the government to reimpose quarantine measures in the capital region. Chile has so far confirmed about 46,000 cases and just under 500 deaths. President Sebastian Piñera — who pledged an additional 2.5 million food baskets — has the difficult task of balancing public health concerns with economic ones in one of the most unequal countries in the world.


Afghan doctors demand their pay: Hundreds of medical workers in Herat, Afghanistan's third largest city, staged a walk out Tuesday because they haven't received their government-paid wages in three months despite being on the frontlines of COVID-19. The doctors and nurses who staff the city's 10 government-run hospitals say they continue to go to work despite a shortage of testing materials and protective equipment, but that they shouldn't be expected to do so for free. The government, for its part, says it's working on addressing the problem. These protests add mounting pressure on an already-stretched Afghan government, whose weak healthcare system is overwhelmed by both a surge in coronavirus cases and new war injuries amid clashes between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces. Violence has, in fact, increased since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed earlier this year.

How sick is Belgium? According to Johns Hopkins, Belgium has the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world. An estimated 16.3 of every 100 confirmed cases (compared to 6 in the US) has died. Belgium also has the highest death rate per 100,000 people. Why? One reason is that countries measure the disease's impact in different ways. In some, deaths are attributed to COVID only if the deceased tested positive for the virus before dying. But Belgium, by contrast, looks at the number of people who die during a particular month and compares that to past averages of deaths over the same period to determine the rate of "excess deaths" attributable to the pandemic. Some scientists say the larger number produced by that method is more accurate. Others disagree. Isn't it possible, they ask, that people with illnesses unrelated to COVID are now dying at higher rates because fear of catching it dissuades them from seeking medical treatment? As the stats debate continues, Belgium continues to distinguish itself as one of the very few places willing to post high numbers.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Even as vaccines roll out around the world, COVID-19 is continuing to spread like wildfire in many places, dashing hopes of a return to normal life any time soon. Some countries, like Israel and the UK for instance, have been praised for their inoculation drives, while still recording a high number of new cases. It's clear that while inoculations are cause for hope, the pace of rollouts cannot keep up with the fast-moving virus. Here's a look at the countries that have vaccinated the largest percentages of their populations so far – and a snapshot of their daily COVID caseloads (7-day rolling average) in recent weeks.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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