Coronavirus Politics Daily: India lags, Cali closes, Silver linings

Read our roundup of COVID-19 themes and stories from around the globe.

India is way behind on testing – With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassing 250,000 globally, the World Health Organization has sent a clear message to countries around the world: "test, test, test." But to date, only 14,000 of the 1.4 billion people living in India have been tested, one of the lowest rates in the world. The government's official position is that the disease hasn't yet spread communally – but how can they know without testing? Medical experts say India is worried that its feeble healthcare infrastructure would collapse under the strain of on-demand testing. The country spends just 1.28 percent of GDP on healthcare, has only eight doctors per 10,000 people, and has few ventilators. Partial lockdowns in many Indian cities have already begun, but without broader measures and better testing, virologists warn that India, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, is about two weeks behind the infection rates in Italy and Spain.


The world's fifth largest economy is closed – Late yesterday, the world's fifth largest economy closed for business, ordering some 40 million people to go into lockdown. We're not talking about Germany or Japan here, but California, America's most populous state, with an economy bigger than India's and 50 percent larger than Italy's. All non-essential businesses in the state are now closed, and residents can leave their homes only for essential purposes like going to the grocery store or seeing a doctor. California is one of the world's biggest economies to implement a lockdown of this kind, and with up to 80,000 Californians now applying for unemployment every day, the move could hasten the United States' slide into recession. Meanwhile, New York State – no slouch with an economy the size of Canada's – implemented a similar directive today, as the state's caseload steadily creeps towards 8,000, making it the country's coronavirus epicentre.

One silver (greenish) lining for all of this – No, dolphins and swans have not suddenly re-appeared in the canals of Venice. If you saw that story and shared it, you – like us at first – were duped by another vector of misinformation that has gone viral about coronavirus. But what is true is that the increasingly polluted (and rising) waters of Venice are a lot cleaner now, because Italy's lockdown is keeping the city's boats docked. And it's not just Venice. Coronavirus-related economic shutdowns are reducing air pollution across the globe. NASA satellites have captured a visible decrease in air pollution over Wuhan, China, and northern Italy in recent weeks. In New York City, meanwhile, carbon monoxide emissions appear to have fallen by 50 percent in recent days. Global emissions also fell significantly during the global financial crisis ten years ago, only to rocket back up once the economy started humming again. But in the decade since, climate change has emerged as a much more urgent political issue. Will the COVID-19 scourge create an opportunity to change course on global warming? Or will the perceived economic trade-offs of capping emissions seem even more daunting given the economic wreckage that the pandemic is certain to leave behind?

Civil rights activist Janet Murguía joins the 'That Made All the Difference' podcast to discuss her upbringing as the daughter of immigrant parents and how that experience informs her life's work advocating for Hispanic-Latino civil rights and battling systemic inequality.

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It's the decision that could kickstart intra-Afghan dialogue, and pave the way to ending the US occupation in Afghanistan after 20 bloody years.

On Sunday, after days of deliberations that involved thousands of Afghan delegates packing into one tent (what's COVID again), President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release hundreds of Taliban prisoners from government jails. The move opens the way to intra-Afghan dialogue under a deal that the US brokered directly with the Taliban earlier this year.

The Trump administration has touted this development as a major step towards peace, but after nearly two decades of war, the relevant players are still miles apart when it comes to laying out a common vision for the conflict-ridden country. What do they all want?

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Just days after an explosion tore through the heart of Beirut, journalist and born-and-raised resident Kim Ghattas describes where she was when the blast happened - and what she actually thinks was the cause. This episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer begins airing Friday, August 14 on US public television. Check local listings.

"Go ahead, take it," President Putin says to you.

"Take what?" you ask.

"This Covid vaccine," he continues, turning a small syringe over in his hands. "It's safe. Trust me. We… tested it on my daughter."

Would you do it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that a lot of people will say yes. On Tuesday he announced that Russia has become the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine, and that mass vaccinations will begin there in October.

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20.4: The UK economy is now officially in a recession for the first time in 11 years, after British economic growth plunged by 20.4 percent quarter-on-quarter from April to June 2020. The quarterly decline — attributed to the economic crisis fueled by the coronavirus pandemic ­— is double that of the US and second only to Spain's in Europe.

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