Coronavirus Politics Daily: Mexico's deadly healthcare, South Korea's lockdown, Qatar's contact tracing fiasco

Mexico's healthcare system kills: Years of underinvestment in its healthcare system has left Mexico woefully underprepared for the emergency now plaguing its 128 million people. As a result, many Mexicans are dying not from the virus itself, but from medical malpractice or other mistakes as overstretched hospitals fail to manage the surging caseload. Anecdotal evidence from cities like Mexico City and Tijuana reveals that a shortage of medical workers means patients in critical care units can go up to eight hours without a visit from an attending physician. That has resulted in otherwise preventable deaths from clogged breathing tubes and septic shock. Meanwhile, scarcity of basic equipment to monitor patients' vitals, like heart monitors, for example, has resulted in what one Mexican doctor called "dumb deaths," referring to patients dying as a result of improper medical care. Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has acknowledged that the country has 200,000 fewer healthcare personnel than it needs to manage the crisis, but has done nothing to meaningfully address the problem. The stakes are climbing. Mexico has now recorded more than 8,500 deaths from COVID-19 (and has one of the highest daily death tolls in the world), though authorities acknowledge this is likely an undercount because of the country's low testing rate.


South Korea reimposes lockdowns: South Korea, long praised for its successful handling of the pandemic, reinstated some lockdown restrictions this week after Seoul experienced its largest surge in COVID-19 cases in seven weeks. Museums and galleries will now be closed until at least June 14, while residents are advised not to gather for social events in the capital, home to half of South Korea's population of 51 million. Several new coronavirus clusters have been identified in the metro area since the government eased restrictions in early May, delaying the much-anticipated reopening of schools amid fear of a second wave of infections. South Korea's coronavirus response strategy – which includes a widespread testing scheme and meticulous contact tracing – has been hailed globally for its success in curbing the virus' spread. But recent events show that the country that had the first reported case of COVID-19 outside China back in January is not yet out of the woods.

Qatar's contact app fiasco: In a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus, the government of Qatar last week ordered everyone in the small, gas-rich Persian gulf state to install a contact tracing app, under penalty of a $55,000 fine or three years in prison. The app uses Bluetooth technology to determine whether users have been within six feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The government didn't realize, however, that the app was built in a way that gives hackers ready access to loads of personal data. The government says it has fixed that problem, which was discovered by researchers at the human rights watchdog Amnesty International. But there are still concerns about whether Qatar's authoritarian government itself might use the app to snoop on its citizens. How governments balance the need for contact tracing with the protection of privacy is a big deal, but some experts point to a more basic problem: for all the hype about contact tracing apps, no one is sure if they really work.

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick joins That Made All the Difference podcast to discuss how his career as a surgeon influenced his work as an educator, administrator and champion of underserved communities, and why he believes we may be on the cusp of the next "golden generation."

Listen to the latest podcast now.

It's been a bad week at the office for President Trump. Not only have coronavirus cases in the US been soaring, but The New York Times' bombshell report alleging that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan has continued to make headlines. While details about the extent of the Russian bounty program — and how long it's been going on for — remain murky, President Trump now finds himself in a massive bind on this issue.

Here are three key questions to consider.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:

Do some of the Facebook's best features, like the newsfeed algorithm or groups, make removing hate speech from the platform impossible?

No, they do not. But what they do do is make it a lot easier for hate speech to spread. A fundamental problem with Facebook are the incentives in the newsfeed algorithm and the structure of groups make it harder for Facebook to remove hate speech.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Yes, still in the middle of coronavirus, but thought I'd give you a couple of my thoughts on Russia. Part of the world that I cut my teeth on as a political scientist, way back in the eighties and nineties. And now Putin is a president for life, or at least he gets to be president until 2036, gets another couple of terms. The constitutional amendments that he reluctantly allowed to be voted on across Russia, passed easily, some 76% approval. And so now both in China and in Russia, term limits get left behind all for the good of the people, of course. So that they can have the leaders that they truly deserve. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here. It's sad to see. It's sad to see that the Americans won the Cold War in part, not just because we had a stronger economy and a stronger military, but actually because our ideas were better.

Because when those living in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block looked at the West, and looked at the United States, they saw that our liberties, they saw that our economy, was something that they aspired to and was actually a much better way of giving opportunities to the average citizen, than their own system afforded. And that helped them to rise up against it.

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Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US politics:

How likely is bipartisan action against Russia in light of Taliban bounty reports?

I think it's probably unlikely. One of the challenges here is that there's some conflict of the intelligence and anything that touches on the issue of President Trump and Russia is extremely toxic for him. Republicans have so far been tolerant of that and willing to stop any new sanctions coming. I think unless the political situation or the allegations get much worse or more obvious, that stalemate probably remains.

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