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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Rural Ecuador needs doctors, Greece's tourism slump, Nigerian doctors strike

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Rural Ecuador needs doctors, Greece's tourism slump, Nigerian doctors strike

Ecuador's dearth of doctors: When COVID-19 began to ravage Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, the government transferred medical workers from rural areas to the city to help overwhelmed hospitals deal with the surge in cases. But now as coronavirus cases pile up in small towns and fishing settlements along the nation's Pacific Coast, villagers say there are no doctors left to treat them or to prescribe medication. Anecdotal evidence reveals that many people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, particularly those in rural areas where poverty is rife and access to healthcare was limited even before the pandemic, can't get tested for the infectious disease. In many cases, they have relied on natural remedies such as lemon and eucalyptus to manage their respiratory ailments in recent weeks. Community leaders say they have appealed to the health ministry for help but have yet to receive a response. Ecuador, which has one of the highest COVID-19 caseloads in Latin America, has recorded almost 3,000 deaths from the disease, but authorities acknowledge that, given the state of the country's overstretched healthcare system, the death count is likely much higher.


Greece's tourism slowdown: The summer months usually bring about two million visitors to the island of Santorini, Greece's most popular holiday destination, pumping cash into the country's economy. But with travel paralyzed by coronavirus lockdowns, the global health crisis could be particularly catastrophic for Greece, whose tourism industry employs some 700,000 workers and accounts for a fifth of GDP. (Greece's tourism sector brought in a whopping 18 billion euros in 2019.) The current downturn threatens to send Greece back to the ruinous state seen at the height of the debt crisis a decade ago, economists warn. The EU predicts that Greece's economy will shrink by 9.7 percent this year, one percentage point more than at the height of the eurozone crisis. Athens, for its part, is pushing the EU to come up with bloc-wide rules that will allow tourism to ramp up again in the near-term, while keeping both travelers and locals safe from infection. But even if people are allowed to venture out on holiday, it's unlikely that large numbers will feel comfortable traveling abroad for a vacation before a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.

Nigerian doctors strike Lockdowns are meant to help countries "flatten the curve" to ensure hospitals aren't overwhelmed by surging numbers of infected patients. The plan is less effective, however, if it also keeps doctors from getting to work. That seems to be what's happened in Nigeria's sprawling commercial capital city of Lagos, where doctors are going on strike to protest detentions by police who are overzealously enforcing a new curfew. The local doctors' association says that even ambulances carrying sick patients through the city of 17.5 million have been stopped by cops. The problem seems to stem from confusion about who is exempt from new restrictions on movement. Nigeria has so far confirmed 6,400 cases of COVID-19, with 192 fatalities. The country's death rate of 0.10 per 100,000 is currently one of the lowest in the world, but there is reason to believe that many COVID-related deaths haven't been properly counted.

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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