Coronavirus Politics Daily: Jordan's COVID-19 response, New Zealand's long weekend plans, Philippines' illegal hospital

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Jordan's COVID-19 response, New Zealand's long weekend plans, Philippines' illegal hospital

Jordan's COVID-19 successes – and failures: Jordan, which imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, has fared relatively well compared to neighboring countries. To date, the country of over 10 million has recorded just nine deaths, a per capita death rate of just 0.88 per million people, compared with 32 per million in Israel and 9 in Saudi Arabia. The Jordanian government's Epidemic Committee, which is overseeing the pandemic response, has been widely praised for listening to medical professionals and delivering clear and consistent messaging to Jordanians on how to curb the disease's spread. But while the low caseload and death rate have paved the way for some businesses to reopen already, the economic impact has been severe, and critics say Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz's government hasn't done enough to help jobless Jordanians and small business owners weather the economic downturn. The Kingdom, already mired in economic crisis before the outbreak, says it just doesn't have cash on hand to offer unemployment benefits. As Jordan slowly moves from the public health phase of the crisis to the economic one, the government's challenges are only beginning. The month of Ramadan is usually the busiest shopping season, and a boon for small business owners who account for some 75 percent of Jordan's total GDP. But this year, sales in the money-making apparel sector dropped 70 percent compared to the same period last year. Jordan's economy is expected to contract around 3 percent this year because of the pandemic.


New Zealand's long weekend plans: The pandemic is upending long-established rhythms of life, work, and commerce around the world, but now New Zealand is taking aim at one of the cornerstones of modern life: the five-day workweek. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, lauded for her government's effective handling of the COVID crisis, has suggested moving to a four-day week in order to give a boost to an economy that is set to shrink by 8 percent this year. The idea is that the extra day off will encourage consumption, domestic tourism, and general well-being as society works through the shock of the pandemic and its aftermath. Ardern isn't the only world leader to float the idea — Finland's Prime Minister floated it back in January, before the pandemic hit, and a smattering of employers around the world have slowly been experimenting with shorter work weeks in recent years. Whether New Zealand's businesses take up the idea broadly remains to be seen, but we'd like to point out that even the five-day work week that we take for granted is itself a relatively recent, and largely arbitrary, invention, as this fascinating piece reveals.

Philippines busts a secret hospital: Philippine police this week raided a luxury villa in the city of Angeles that was operating as a clandestine pharmacy and hospital for illegal immigrants suffering from COVID-19. The facility, which has been providing coronavirus testing and treatment for several months, was treating Chinese nationals, most of whom are thought to be working illegally in the Philippines' lucrative online gambling scene, an industry which is outlawed in China. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Chinese nationals living without papers in the Philippines are avoiding hospitals even if they are gravely ill for fear of being arrested and deported. This is a problem with universal resonance. Research shows that in many parts of the world, migrants, who already face heightened risk of falling seriously ill from COVID-19, are afraid to seek testing or medical care because they fear expulsion.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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