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.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the country's liberation war to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.

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As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary since American forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, global non-proliferation efforts, first codified in Cold War-era treaties, are in jeopardy. While the overall number of nuclear weapons continues to decrease — mainly because the US and Russia have set about dismantling retired weapons — both countries, which account for 90 percent of the world's total nuclear arsenal, continue to modernize their nuclear weapons programs. Meanwhile, the New START treaty, which limits the number of long-range nuclear weapons that each side can deploy to about 1,500 apiece, is at risk of collapsing. Here's a look at which countries have nuclear weapon stockpiles and who's ready to use them.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, we are in August, summer, should be taking it a little easier. Coronavirus not taking the stress levels off but hopefully giving people the excuse, if you're not traveling so much, be close with your families, your loved ones and all that. Look, this is not a philosophical conversation, this is a talk about what's happening in the world, a little Quick Take for you.

First of all, you know, I'm getting a little bit more optimistic about the news in the United States right now. Yes, honestly, I am. In part because the caseload is flattening across the country and it's reducing in some of the core states that have seen the greatest explosion in this continuation of the first wave. Yes, the deaths are going up and they should continue to for a couple of weeks because it is a lagging indicator in the United States. But the fact that deaths are going up does not say anything about what's coming in the next few weeks. That tells you what's happened in the last couple of weeks.

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TikTok, ya don't stop: The wildly popular video app TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American lawmakers for many months now. Why? Because the app is owned by a Chinese company, raising national security concerns that it could funnel personal data on its 100 million American users to the Chinese government. The plot thickened in recent days after President Trump abruptly threatened to ban the app altogether, risking a backlash among its users and imperiling US tech giant Microsoft's efforts to buy the company's North American operations. After a weekend conversation between Microsoft and the White House, the sale negotiations are back on but US lawmakers say any deal must strictly prevent American users' data from winding up in Chinese Communist Party servers. The broader fate of TikTok — which has now been banned in India, formerly its largest market, and may be broken up under US pressure — nicely illustrates the new "tech Cold War" that is emerging between China and the United States. A Microsoft/TikTok deal is expected by September 15. Tick..Tock.

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