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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Navajo Nation's outbreak, Wuhan's testing, Latin America's dual epidemics

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Navajo Nation's outbreak, Wuhan's testing, Latin America's dual epidemics

Navajo Nation's outbreak: The Navajo Nation, the most populous of the American Indian reservations within the US, is now reporting more COVID-19 cases per capita than any US state, with roughly 1,798 infections per 100,000 people. That surpasses New York, the country's worst-hit state. More than 100 people in the community, located in the American southwest, have died from the virus, including young people. Health professionals say that there are several reasons that the community has been so hard-hit. First, many in the Navajo Nation already suffer from diabetes, making them particularly vulnerable to serious illness if they do contract COVID-19. It's also common for Navajo to live with large families in intergenerational homes, which speeds the virus' spread. Crucially, around 1 in 3 residents lack access to running water, making it all but impossible to stop outbreaks through regular hand-washing. Doctors Without Borders, an NGO accustomed to sending medical and public health professionals to conflict zones, has now dispatched a team to the reservation to help the roughly 170,000 inhabitants deal with the surging outbreak. The Trump administration, for its part, said it will dole out $600 million in aid to help the community weather the storm.


Wuhan's "mass battle": After a cluster of new coronavirus cases was identified in Wuhan, China, this week, public health authorities have vowed to test the city's 11 million inhabitants in under two weeks, a project the government's calling "10 days of mass battle." Wuhan, where the world's first COVID-19 cases were reported back in December, has not seen any new infections since April, owing to one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. But after six new cases emerged in recent days – five of which were asymptomatic carriers – the city has told districts to come up with a mass testing program for their respective enclaves. In the absence of any new cases since April 3, schools and businesses had slowly started to reopen, and public transport in surrounding Hubei province resumed operations. The findings of this ambitious testing scheme will now either legitimize Wuhan's return to normalcy – or alternatively, could force the city to put millions of residents back into isolation.

Latin America's dual epidemics: Even as Latin American governments are struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, another disease is slowly sweeping the continent: the mosquito-borne dengue fever. The disease, which resurges every 3-5 years and can be deadly, had infected 3.1 million people in the Americas in 2019 alone. But with hospital resources and medical attention across Latin America and the Caribbean now directed almost exclusively towards the coronavirus crisis, the disease is poised to spread further. Countries including Chile, Mexico and Colombia have all seen fresh spikes in dengue cases in recent months, and medical professionals there are worried that overcrowded hospitals will have to turn these people away, risking a surge in otherwise preventable deaths from the disease.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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