Coronavirus Politics Daily: Moscow lockdown, migrant children, Orban's power grab

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Moscow lockdown, migrant children, Orban's power grab

КОВИД-19 lockdown: Seems like it was just a few days ago that Russian president Vladimir Putin was telling his people that the coronavirus epidemic was under control and that a week off of work would do the trick to slow its spread. Things have changed. Over the weekend, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, who had publicly warned Putin that the official number of cases was a vast undercount, locked down the Russian capital, giving its 12.5 million residents just four hours notice. It's not clear how long the measures will last, but there is talk of issuing scannable digital codes to people in order to determine who is permitted to be outside. Russia had earlier showed a curiously low number of cases for a country of its size – we are about to find out what the real picture is. As a side note, keep an eye on the political fortunes of Mayor Sobyanin, who is now in many ways the public face of the Kremlin's efforts to squelch "КОВИД-19."


Coronavirus and detained migrant children: After several children in a migrant shelter in New York tested positive for COVID-19, a Los Angeles-based federal judge warned of the epidemic's dangers for migrant children in detention facilities. The judge (responding to an earlier lawsuit brought by immigration advocates) urged the federal government to "make continuous efforts" to release many of the roughly 7,000 migrant children whom the federal government currently holds in custody. As of March 15, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which operates some of the detention facilities, had not put social distancing, sanitation, or adequate testing protocols in place. Agencies detaining migrant children now have until April 6 to demonstrate to the court their intention to safely release thousands of children. But considering that a crackdown on immigration has been a central plank of President Trump's political platform, it seems unlikely that he will accept the release of migrants (even children) without one hell of a fight, particularly as the election looms.

COVID-19 sickens Hungary's democracy: Last week, we wrote that Hungary's strongman prime minister, Viktor Orban, was using the coronavirus crisis to justify changes to the country's emergency laws that would allow him to rule by decree indefinitely. Now, Hungary's legislature – where Orban's Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority – has approved the measures, granting Orban unchecked power to suspend parliament, cancel elections, and jail people for five years if they spread misinformation about the pandemic. These exceptional measures put Budapest at loggerheads with the European Union, which had already launched action against Hungary in 2018 for breaching the bloc's "core values." (Hungary walked away with just a slap on the wrist.) The question now is: what will the EU do about one of its member states using the pandemic as an excuse to undermine democratic institutions, indefinitely and on a massive scale? Brussels has a lot on its hands these days…

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Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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750 million: While struggling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world right now, India has approved Russia's Sputnik V COVID vaccine. Moscow has a deal in place to produce 750 million doses of the shot in India.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Andean aftermath: Two big weekend elections in South America produced two stunning results. In Ecuador's presidential runoff, the center-right former banker Guillermo Lasso upset early frontrunner Andrés Arauz, a leftist handpicked by former president Rafael Correa. Lasso will take power amid the social and economic devastation of the pandemic and will have to reckon with the rising political power of Ecuador's indigenous population: the Pachakutik party, which focuses on environmental issues and indigenous rights, is now the second-largest party in parliament. Meanwhile, in a big surprise next door in Perú, far-left union leader Pedro Castillo tallied up the most votes in the first round of that country's highly fragmented presidential election. As of Monday evening it's not clear whom he'll face in the June runoff, but three figures are in the running as votes are counted: prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, rightwing businessman Rafael López Aliaga, and conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Meanwhile, in the congressional ballot, at least 10 parties reached the threshold to win seats, but there is no clear majority or obvious coalition in sight.

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