The COVID-19 risks you're hearing less about: India, Nigeria, and refugee camps

The COVID-19 risks you're hearing less about: India, Nigeria, and refugee camps

The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.


This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown of the entire country, "a total ban on venturing out of your homes." His words triggered an immediate run on shops for all kinds of supplies, and some police have already used force against violators of Modi's order.

Bottom-line: Coronavirus risks to public health (and public order) in India are enormous and growing.

Next to Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and largest economy. Early headlines told a good news story. At the beginning of this week, this country of nearly 200 million people had confirmed fewer than 50 cases of COVID-19 infection. Some have lauded Nigeria's Centre for Disease Control as a model for other countries.

The bad news is that it appears that just 152 people had been tested as of March 22. Compare that with some 15,500 tests conducted in South Africa.

Bottom-line: While Nigeria's health officials have valuable experience in dealing with Ebola, Lassa Fever, and other infectious diseases, it probably lacks the equipment needed to manage a health emergency as broad as COVID-19. And it doesn't help that oil-exporting Nigeria is struggling with the current crude price crash.

Finally, to refugee camps inside Turkey. Concerns are growing for the health of the more than 3 million refugees living in close quarters in camps inside Turkey. Forget the 20-second handwash. Reports from the camps say large numbers go a week without showers, and hundreds share water taps and toilets.

Earlier this month, Turkey's President Erdogan threatened to send large numbers of these desperate people toward Europe in response to events inside Syria that threatened to overwhelm Turkey's ability to cope. That crisis has been averted for now.

But fear is growing that living conditions inside these camps make them an ideal breeding ground for the rapid spread of COVID-19 — and with precious few resources to treat the infected.

Bottom-line: If coronavirus begins sweeping through these camps, how will Turkey cope? Will refugees find themselves caught in a lethal trap between Turkey, Syria, and Europe?

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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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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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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