Coronavirus Politics Daily: Protest in Mumbai, IMF cancels debts, women lead best COVID-19 responses

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Protest in Mumbai, IMF cancels debts, women lead best COVID-19 responses

Migrant workers protest in Mumbai: After India's government extended a nationwide lockdown until May 3, thousands of jobless migrant workers stranded in Mumbai staged a protest at a local railway station. The quarantines are especially hard on Mumbai's migrant laborers, many of whom have left their families behind to work in the city in textiles and service industries. They are now not only unemployed while India's economy is in hibernation, but also stuck in the city because public transport has been halted. Some have tried to make their way home on foot. Many say they are now staying in cramped shelters (or in some cases on the street) where social distancing is impossible and food is scarce, and they want the government to restart bus and train services so they can get home. So far, the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, has been hardest hit by the virus.


Women lead on Covid-19 responses: Now more than ever, concerned citizens are turning to their elected officials to guide them through a once-in-a-lifetime global health and economic crisis. What do some of the world leaders who have shown the most innovative and compassionate approaches to managing the pandemic have in common, one Forbes analyst asks? They are women. Consider that in Taiwan, where new coronavirus cases have hovered in the single digits for weeks, President Tsa Ing-wen was an early adopter of data technology to trace those infected. She also ramped up production of crucial protective equipment before global supplies dwindled. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been praised for closing borders and enforcing home quarantines early, despite the low number of cases in her country. Arden has also taken to Facebook to respond directly to questions from concerned New Zealanders, while reassuring children that the Easter Bunny and tooth fairy are essential workers. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, meanwhile, held a special conference specifically for children where she spent half an hour answering their questions. Meanwhile, in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the severity of this crisis early, before rolling out one of the world's most consistent testing programs, which has contributed to Germany's relative success in dealing with the pandemic.

IMF cancels debt for poor nations: Amid what could be the worst global economic crisis in 90 years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed Monday to annul six months of debt repayments for 25 of the world's poorest countries. Many of these cash-strapped countries, which include those mired in conflict like Yemen and Afghanistan, as well as low-income countries in Africa, have limited medical supplies, few doctors, and poor healthcare systems – a serious outbreak of COVID-19 in any of these countries would be catastrophic. More than 90-countries have so far lobbied the IMF for financial assistance in recent weeks, in an unprecedented appeal for help from the Fund. The IMF says that emerging market economies will need at least $2.5 trillion this year to make ends meet.

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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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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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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