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Coronavirus Politics Daily: COVID in the rainforest, Ethiopia ballot delayed, Norway feels different

Coronavirus Politics Daily: COVID in the rainforest, Ethiopia ballot delayed, Norway feels different

Coronavirus reaches the rainforest: Brazil has reported the first case of coronavirus within one of its more than 300 indigenous tribal communities, after a 20-year old medical worker deep in the Amazon rain forest has tested positive. Officials believe the woman, who lives more than 500 miles from the nearest major city, was infected by a doctor in the area who had recently returned from a vacation in southern Brazil, where the virus has already spread rapidly. Brazil's 850,000 indigenous are at high risk, as they live in highly communal fashion, in remote areas that lack extensive healthcare infrastructure. For some historical context, these people are, themselves, the descendants of the barely 10 percent of indigenous peoples who survived the scourge of infectious diseases brought by European colonizers half a millennium ago.


Norway feels different now: For decades, Norwegians have thought of themselves as annerledeslandet, "the different country." Between the smart use of oil revenues that began pouring in back in the 1970s, and the country's lucrative fishing industry, Norway has enjoyed a much-coveted quality of life and economic stability. But the recent tumble in oil prices, a result of a Saudi-Russian price war and coronavirus lockdowns, has thrown the economy of Europe's largest oil producer, into disarray. In the past month, Norway's currency, the krone, has fallen by about 15 percent against the US dollar, while around five percent of the population has filed for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks alone, producing the highest unemployment level since WWII. Luckily, Norway has the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, a rainy day cushion of around $950 billion, which the government can use to boost the economy. Still, the pandemic is a real test of one of the world's most well run social democracies. After this is all over, will Norway still be different?

Ethiopia elections stalled over COVID: Ethiopia's August presidential and parliamentary elections have been postponed as the country tries to rein in its growing coronavirus outbreak. The long-anticipated polls were largely seen as a referendum on the reformist agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 promising to spearhead a democratic awakening, and has since released thousands of political prisoners while lifting the country's ban on opposition parties. But Ahmed is also accused of cracking down on journalists and stifling dissent. Some observers warn that delaying the ballot could further inflame a recent resurgence of religious and ethnic tensions that has left dozens dead and displaced around three million people. Ethiopia, Africa's second-most populous country, and one of its fastest growing economies, has an uphill battle in fighting the pandemic as it grapples with limited testing resources and a neglected medical system (there are just 0.3 hospital beds per every 1,000 people, and around 435 ventilators for a population of 114 million).

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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