UK's new COVID restrictions: In a last-ditch effort to avoid another national lockdown, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday sweeping new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country that could last up to six months, including limits on the number of people that can attend social gatherings. Warning that the country has reached "a perilous turning point," Johnson said that similar measures would soon be extended to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The PM's announcement comes as his government struggles to battle what he now admits is a second wave of the coronavirus. The UK now has the fifth highest death toll in the world and a steadily rising caseload. The new restrictions represent an about-face for the British government, which has been criticized for walking back its earlier calls for workers to return to the office. Will Johnson's move be enough to flatten the (second) curve?
What We're Watching: Mexico dismisses US report on drugs, UN warns Burundi, Biden's limits on US-UK trade
Mexico rejects top drug hub claim: In response to a new US report on the countries that are major transit points and producers of illicit drugs, Mexico's populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, rejected the report's findings — which called out Mexico as one of the world's most prolific drug production hotspots — as merely a matter of "opinion." AMLO said that the accusation is an example of things that come up in its relations with the US that "we [Mexico] don't accept," but made clear that he would not seek confrontation with Washington over the disagreement. Indeed, AMLO's dismissal is remarkable considering he came to power in 2018 in part on his promise to root out crime linked to the country's powerful drug cartels. But to date, crime in Mexico has only exploded under AMLO's watch, while more recently, the country's powerful cartels have exploited the pandemic to expand their operations (evidence suggests that lockdowns have exacerbated the addictions of their US clientele, who account for over $20 billion of Mexican drug sales each year).
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UK's Brexit tweak could breach international law: Boris Johnson's government came under fire this week after signaling that it would rewrite parts of the deal negotiated with Brussels last year that set terms for the UK's exit from the European Union. That agreement allowed Northern Ireland, still part of the UK, the same trade rules and customs as the rest of the EU — a key condition of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 between the UK and Republic of Ireland that ended decades of violence. The British government now says it plans to pass legislation that could upend the provision that guarantees an open Irish border. Many observers say this would breach international law, putting the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. In the United States, meanwhile, Democrats have warned that a future Biden administration would reject any move to create a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that Johnson's latest move would undermine chances of negotiating any future US-UK free trade agreement. More immediately, this maneuver also undermines the trust on which ongoing UK-EU relations will depend.
As economies reopen, what is the update with the pandemic?
We're no longer epicenter here in the United States or New York, it's now South America. It still feels like the epicenter is New York but no, we're moving along. Big challenges in terms of how those economies are going to respond to lockdowns as they move towards peak, are going to be much more impactful economically on those countries. They're going to need a lot more international support. It's going to be challenging for them to get it. In particular, Brazil, which is the new epicenter taking over from the United States. Has had some of the worst governance of any democracy in responding to this crisis. Massive infighting domestically between the president and governors, the blue state-red state issue, the president wanting to open up and cheerleading, and the governors who in Brazil are much more responsible for health care than they are for the economy in the eyes of the voters, they particularly, they want to actually keep lockdowns. The impact of all of this on individuals in Brazil is because they have a president who is saying this is all fake news, is they're not engaging in social distancing. That's led to a lot more people dying in Brazil. In fact, larger numbers of daily death count now in Brazil than the United States. It's why the US put the travel ban on non-Americans, of non-citizens, non-permanent residents coming back from Brazil.
Coronavirus Politics Daily: Guatemalans unwelcome at home, UK minorities hit hardest, Turkey's PPE-diplomacy
Ethnic minorities hit hardest in the UK: We recently wrote about how long-standing structural inequalities in health and healthcare in the United States have put African American communities at higher risk of falling seriously ill from COVID-19. Now data out of the UK shows a similar trend: ethnic minorities in the UK are dying at disproportionately high numbers from the disease. Research conducted up to April 19 found that Black, Asian and minority ethnic people (referred to as "BAME" in the UK) account for 19 percent of all hospital deaths despite making up just 15 percent of the overall population — and are overrepresented in the total COVID-19 death toll by 27 percent. While the analysis doesn't unpack precisely why this dynamic is playing out, some public health experts say that structural health inequalities, as well as social exclusion of minorities in the UK, have resulted in increased burden of comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease that put BAME individuals at higher risk of falling seriously ill from COVID-19. This comes as the situation in the UK is spiraling, with over 27,000 coronavirus deaths, the second highest toll in Europe behind Italy.