What We’re Watching: EU COVID pass mess, Bolsonaro in trouble, Kim Jong Un’s latest shakeup
EU rolls out COVID digital certificate: As of today, the EU's long-awaited COVID Digital Certificate system — a centralized database of residents' vaccination status and test results — is up and running. Good news for those wishing to travel around the bloc again this summer, right? Not so fast. First, countries worried about the more infectious Delta COVID variant are still permitted to restrict travel from countries where the strain is prevalent. Second, some EU member states are still not fully integrated with the system, so the usual testing and quarantine requirements are in place. Third, the system greenlights people who have received vaccines approved by the European Medical Agency, but not others such as the WHO-approved Sinovac or Sputnik V, which are being administered, for example, in Hungary. As with its vaccine rollout, we predict the bloc's vaccine (gasp!) "passport" scheme will be initially glitchy, but ultimately work out fine.
Brazil's president jabbed by vaccine scandal: For two months, Brazil's Senate has publicly probed the government's mishandling of the pandemic. With more than 500,000 Brazilians already killed by COVID, the hearings have focused chiefly on the government's failure to secure vaccines fast enough, even as Bolsonaro doubted the severity of COVID and pushed quack cures. But this week brought some bombshell testimony: health officials said President Jair Bolsonaro ignored their concerns about corruption in the procurement of shots from India. If true, Bolsonaro could face criminal charges. Opposition leaders will doubtless seize on these new revelations to bolster their case for impeachment, but as long as Bolsonaro can count on the unwavering support of 25 to 30 percent of Brazilians, his opponents may have an uphill battle to remove him. A bigger question is how this affects Bolsonaro's 2022 re-election campaign. Recent polls showed him getting trounced in the first round by his nemesis, the leftwing former president Lula.North Korean reshuffle: Kim Jong Un is quite upset these days (and not because Joe Biden is ghosting him). First, he admitted that North Korea, the worker's paradise where nothing can go wrong, has a food shortage problem. Then, the portly Kim found that instead of congratulating him for shedding a few pounds, his own countrymen are shedding tears over their beloved Supreme Leader looking "emaciated." Now he's fired an unknown number of his most senior officials for not doing enough to prevent a "great crisis" for the country with the pandemic — a somewhat bizarre statement, considering that to this day the country has yet to admit that there have been any COVID infections at all. The purge seems to be Kim's biggest shakeup since 2013, when the relatively new Supreme Leader ordered the execution of his uncle to show the elite of the one-party state that he wasn't to be trifled with. Now, the circumstances are quite different. With North Korea's economy in shambles due to crippling US sanctions and facing famine, Kim needs his lieutenants at the top of their game to help him drag the Hermit Kingdom out of its current troubles.