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

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.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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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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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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9.2 trillion: COVID vaccine hoarding by rich countries and uneven global access to the jabs will draw out the global recovery from the pandemic. In fact, it'll cost the world economy as much as $9.2 trillion, according to a new study by the International Chamber of Commerce.

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