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Coronavirus Politics Daily: China's corona cases spike, Nicaragua's pres vanishes, Syrian refugees flee again

Coronavirus Politics Daily: China's corona cases spike, Nicaragua's pres vanishes, Syrian refugees flee again

China's COVID-19 cases jump again: Two worrisome stories have emerged from China in recent days. First, Chinese health officials, now working hard to prevent a second wave of COVID-19, reported the highest daily number of new coronavirus cases on Monday since March 6, with 108 new infections registered. State media blame this latest jump in cases, at least in part, on border crossings from Russia. Second, the central government has reportedly issued new rules that restrict the publication of academic research on the origins of COVID-19, which most experts say began in China's Hubei province. This appears to be part of an official effort to blunt criticism of the government's initial response to evidence of outbreak.


Nicaragua's president is MIA: Amid coronavirus fears, many heads of state are making weekly (if not daily) public appearances to address their government's pandemic response efforts. In the Central American country of Nicaragua, however, President Daniel Ortega has not been spotted in public for over a month. Ortega, the socialist leader of the Sandinista movement (who has been widely denounced for veering into authoritarianism in recent years) has not surfaced since March 12, prompting rumors that he is gravely ill, dead, or else engaging in some sort of bizarre publicity stunt. In Ortega's absence, his wife and vice president, regarded by many as Nicaragua's more powerful leader, has been leading the response to COVID-19 – which is to say, leading almost nothing: the government has done little to halt the spread of coronavirus, leaving schools and businesses open and even encouraging Nicaraguans to gather at public events. Official data report just one death from the virus and no community transmission to date – claims widely dismissed as farfetched by the healthcare community.

Syrian refugees flee to...Idlib: The Syrian government's onslaught in northwest Syria forced as many as 1 million Syrians to flee north to the Turkish border where they have since languished in ramshackle refugee camps. But now many of those displaced people are heading back to their homes in Syria's Idlib province, wagering that returning to war-torn northern Syria is safer than staying in overcrowded camps potentially rife with coronavirus. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in these refugee camps to date (though there's also been no testing there), but the scarcity of medical supplies, food, heat, and clean water would handicap any virus containment efforts, humanitarian aid groups warn. With a tentative ceasefire brokered by Moscow and Ankara more or less holding in Idlib province, over 70,000 displaced Syrians have reportedly returned there. While many are worried that the Syrian regime could start shelling their villages again at any moment, for now, a deadly coronavirus outbreak in a crowded camp seems like the bigger threat.

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 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia 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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The United States has never been more divided, and it's safe to say that social media's role in our national discourse is a big part of the problem. But renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher doesn't see any easy fix. "I don't know how you fix the architecture of a building that is just purposely dangerous for everybody." Swisher joins Ian Bremmer to talk about how some of the richest companies on Earth, whose business models benefit from discord and division, can be compelled to see their better angels. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

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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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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