Coronavirus Politics Daily: Singapore shutdown, European strawberries stranded, Mossad's medical mission

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Singapore shutdown, European strawberries stranded, Mossad's medical mission

Singapore's "circuit breaker" lockdown: The Asian financial hub of Singapore has been held up as an example of a country that had the COVID-19 outbreak under better control than most. The chief of the World Health Organization chief even singled out Singapore for praise, commending its "all-government approach" to containment and mitigation of the deadly disease. But after experiencing its largest daily rise in new cases, it will now shutter schools, workplaces, and non-essential businesses for at least a month, in a move dubbed a "circuit breaker" to stop the disease's spread. The growth of "unlinked" or untraceable community infections is part of "very worrying trends," a government minister said Friday. Come Tuesday, Singaporeans will join half of humanity under stay-at-home orders. If even the countries that have done best at fighting coronavirus still have to take more drastic measures like this, it's a grim sign for what awaits the rest of the world.


Mossad's medical mission: The Mossad, Israel's top spy agency, is known for tracking down far-flung enemies and foiling plots through its sly undercover operations. Now, those crafty spooks have been assigned a new mission: procuring medical equipment from around the world to fight COVID-19. While Mossad officials confirmed that they have overseen the shipment of millions of medical masks and testing kits in recent days – as well as around 30 ventilators – they are staying mum on where the equipment is coming from. One Mossad agent told the Washington Post that at a moment when everyone is scrambling for the same diminishing supplies, "we are utilizing our special connections to win the race." Some observers have suggested the Mossad could be getting equipment from officially hostile Arab countries with which the agency has strong back-channel relations. But not all of the vaunted Mossad's efforts have gone well: when it ordered a huge number of coronavirus tests recently, it discovered that a lack of swabs made them unusable.

Coronavirus vs the strawberry harvest: With the spring strawberry crops just about ready to be picked, Germany will now allow farms to bring in some 80,000 seasonal agricultural workers, mainly from EU countries in Eastern Europe, reversing an earlier coronavirus-related ban on outsiders entering the country. The German agriculture sector had lobbied fiercely for the change, fearing that without its usual supply of labor, the upcoming spring harvest of fruits and vegetables would rot in the fields, leaving supermarkets short-stocked. Farms all across Western Europe are struggling with the same problem: coronavirus border closures have cut them off from an essential labor force. Some in Italy are even asking the government to open up more spots for non-EU farm workers. The seasonal workers who go to Germany will arrive by plane and will be subject to a 14-day quarantine period. Now, spare a moment to consider again the many ways in which the coronavirus crisis highlights the kinds of workers — and migrants — who are irreplaceable for the functioning of our societies and economies.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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