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…

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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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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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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