Genius azelyrics.net.ru Lyrics

Genius azelyrics.net.ru .Lyrics

During social distancing, artists collaborate on ‘Long Distance Art’

During social distancing, artists collaborate on 'Long Distance Art'

Long Distance Art, which launched this week, is an international, multidisciplinary collaborative art series with The Social Distancing Festival. Artists can inquire about collaborating with another artist they’ve seen on the site, or have the creator pair them up with another artist of his choosing. 

By
Bianca Hillier

Artist Liza Merkalova painted this piece for the Long Distance Art Series, as part of a collaboration with musician Charlie Rauh. “In conversations with both Liza and Charlie, we decided on a process that involved Liza sending Charlie an existing painting of hers, which he used as inspiration to compose new guitar music,” Long Distance Art series creator Nick Green said.

Credit:

Courtesty of Liza Merkalova

Share

Workers’ movements advocate for rights on May Day; Saudi activists allege man killed over megacity plans; Doctors wait hours as Venezuela faces fuel shortages

Workers' movements advocate for rights on May Day; Saudi activists allege man killed over megacity plans; Doctors wait hours as Venezuela faces fuel shortages

By
The World staff

Trade union leaders carry a wreath of flowers as they attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, during a three-day curfew amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2020.

Credit:

Umit Bektas/Reuters

Share

Saudi activists allege a tribesman was killed over glitzy megacity plans

Saudi activists allege a tribesman was killed over glitzy megacity plans

The death of a tribesman in northwest Saudi Arabia has raised alarms about the government's plans to forcibly remove locals from their land in order to build a $500 billion futuristic city called NEOM.

By
Shirin Jaafari

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Saudi activists have shared an image of Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti’s bullet-ridden home.

Credit:

Courtesy of Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti 

Share

Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti loved his home — so much so that he refused to move. It may have cost him his life.

He lived on a remote stretch of land near the Red Sea in northwest Saudi Arabia. That’s where Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman wants to build his much-celebrated megacity called NEOM.

“NEOM is a bold and audacious dream. It’s a vision of what a New Future might look like (in fact, NEOM means, “new future”),” its website boasts.

Related: Saudi Arabia imposes travel ban to Mecca over coronavirus

Saudi Arabia announced plans for the megacity back in 2017. It described the city as a dreamy, cosmopolitan place that visionaries may want to invest in — and live. Media reports describe it as a futuristic city where there are more robots than humans. Residents would move about in drone taxis. There would be a seaside luxury resort with a state-of-the-art entertainment complex.

But this region is home to the Huwaitat tribe. According to Nabeel Nowairah, an independent Gulf states analyst, the Huwaitat has about 40,000 members. Its membership expands beyond those borders, he said. Some members live in Jordan and in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. They have occupied these areas for hundreds of years and claim to be descendants of Prophet Muhammad, Nowairah said.

Now, they are being forced to evacuate.

‘Attached to this land’

Saudi activists say Abdullrahem al-Hwaiti was an educated, peaceful man.

In the past few months, Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti had posted a series of videos online. In them, he complained about what he called the “forced displacement” of his tribe from the Red Sea region. He said government officials showed up at his doorstep and offered him money in exchange for his land. He refused. But he said he wasn’t going anywhere.

Related: Saudi ‘Davos’ turnout underscores costs of Khashoggi murder

“In one video, he said ‘it’s not unlikely that the Saudi government will come to my house and kill me, and then they [will] put weapons in my house and they [will] say I am a terrorist.’”

Nabeel Nowairah, independent Gulf states analyst

“He crossed the red lines,” Nowairah explained, adding that Abdullrahem al-Hwaiti expected strong backlash. “In one video, he said ‘it’s not unlikely that the Saudi government will come to my house and kill me, and then they [will] put weapons in my house and they [will] say I am a terrorist.’”

In a video believed to be his last, Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti recorded from the roof of his house. In it, he looks upset.

“The method adopted by the state can be called state terrorism,” he said. “They arrest anyone who is against deportation. I don’t want to leave. I want my home. I don’t want money.”

There are two accounts of what happened next. Saudi activists and Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti’s relatives allege that security forces raided his home, then opened fire — and killed him.

Related: What do attacks on Saudi oil facilities mean for US-Saudi relations?

The Saudi government claims Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti was killed in a shootout and that security forces had found “a huge cache of arms from his hideout.”

Saudi activists have shared an image of Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti’s bullet-ridden home. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti 

Either way, this young man is dead.

‘Not about the money’

A few days later, officials returned Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti’s body to his family. But they warned them not to hold a funeral.

Yet defying these orders, dozens of men showed up in their traditional white robes. They carried Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti’s body on their shoulders and cried, “Allahu Akbar.” God is great.

“They were shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ because they were upset. We say that when we protest on the streets. So, they said that when they got his body. That just shows you how much they were angry.”

Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti

“They were shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ because they were upset,” said Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti, who belongs to the same tribe. “We say that when we protest on the streets. So, they said that when they got his body. That just shows you how much they were angry.”

Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti left Saudi Arabia in 2015. She now lives in London and said that members of the tribe sent her photos of Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti’s bullet-ridden home. She posted them on Twitter and called for the Saudi security services to be held accountable.

Related: Are the Saudis using big sporting events to ‘sportswash’ their image?

But then she became a target.

“I got a call saying that they’re going to pull me from here,” she said.“‘Don’t think you are safe because you are in London. We’re going to throw acid on you. We’re going to put a bullet in your head, we’re going to kidnap you, we’re going to hit you by a car.’ It’s terrifying, actually.”

Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti contacted the police, who are now helping her. She has moved several times since the harassment began. Still, she is scared to go outside.

She reiterated what Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti had said in his videos — that for her tribe, it’s not about the money.

“It’s an emotional thing more than anything else. They establish their lives there. They [have] their animals there, and everything.”

Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti

“It’s an emotional thing more than anything else,” she said. “They establish their lives there. They [have] their animals there, and everything.”

Nabeel Nowairah, the Gulf states analyst, thinks there is one more reason why this tribe doesn’t want NEOM on its land.

NEOM, he said, is going to open the door to Westerners.

“Having alcohol or women wearing maybe revealing clothes is not within the Saudi culture, the Saudi tradition,” he said.

Nowairah added that the crown prince envisions NEOM becoming something like Dubai. But he has excluded and alienated the people who live on these lands.

The death of Abdul Rahim al-Hwaiti, Nowairah said, sent a strong message to the tribe: “You have no option but to leave, accepting whatever we give you.”

This is not the first time that the Saudi government has forced people out of their homes for new construction projects, said Adam Coogle, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. He pointed to the demolition of houses in the Shia town of Awamiya in 2017, where “the old quarter was destroyed to make room for new development. And in 2008-2009, following one of the Houthi wars, the Saudis evicted a bunch of residents in the border area.”

Now, Coogle is worried that similar clashes might take place in the region near the Red Sea.

“I think there’s every reason to be concerned about this because they just don’t have a good track record, and there’s also concern about it bubbling over into more violence.” 

Adam Coogle, Human Rights Watch

“I think there’s every reason to be concerned about this because they just don’t have a good track record, and there’s also concern about it bubbling over into more violence,” Coogle said.

Meanwhile, Alya Abutayah al-Hwaiti, the woman from the tribe, said she is not going to give up fighting. She has started a campaign to shame those who are investing in NEOM.

The way she sees it, this glitzy megacity is “being built on the blood and bones of the people who live there.”

‘We’re dead here’: Migrants stranded in Panama rainforest amid coronavirus

'We're dead here': Migrants stranded in Panama rainforest amid coronavirus

With borders closed and entire countries on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, some 2,000 migrants — many of them children under age 5 — have been detained for months in Panama, near the rainforest separating South and Central America.

By
Jorge Valencia

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Migrants are seen at temporary shelter in the village of La Penita, Panama, on August 23, 2019.

Credit:

Erick Marciscano/Reuters

Share

Immigrant ‘digital first responders’ provide vital services. They’re in a financial crisis. 

Immigrant ‘digital first responders’ provide vital services. They're in a financial crisis. 

By
Rupa Shenoy

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Harjot Singh Khalsa (left) and Rajkaranbir Singh are hosts of Punjabi Radio USA, which provides valuable information to immigrant workers.

Credit:

Courtesy of Punjabi Radio USA

Share

Doctors wait hours to fill tanks as Venezuela faces fuel shortages

Doctors wait hours to fill tanks as Venezuela faces fuel shortages

Lines to buy fuel have been common in parts of Venezuela for years. But in recent weeks, the problem has arrived in the capital, where drivers are now waiting hours to fill their tanks. 

By
Mariana Zúñiga

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Customers wait while a fuel dispenser machine is fixed at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, April 23, 2020.

Credit:

Manaure Quintero/Reuters 

Share

When Dr. Arturo Martínez woke up in his Honda Civic, his car was a mess. It looked like a small apartment — full of pillows, blankets, cutlery and Tupperware with the leftovers of yesterday’s dinner.

“We prepared ourselves to spend the night here to be able to refuel. We brought some food and pillows to be a little bit more comfortable while waiting,” Martínez said.

Martínez was one of the hundreds of motorists waiting for gasoline in a miles-long line at a station in eastern Caracas. He arrived at 2 a.m., but five hours later, he wasn’t even close to reaching the pumps.

Related: As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico’s food prices soar

This is an unusual scene for Caracas’ residents. Lines to buy fuel have been common in parts of Venezuela for years. But, in recent weeks, the problem has arrived in the capital where drivers are now waiting hours to fill their tanks.

Every day before dawn in Caracas, essential workers, like doctors, line up for hours at the few gas stations that still have fuel. The OPEC nation with the world’s largest oil reserves is short on gas because its refineries have collapsed, and the country can’t import fuel due to US sanctions.

Martínez feels frustrated, he says — the shortages are limiting his ability to function as a doctor. His car is the only way he can get to work due to a lack of public transportation.

“There will come a time when there will be such great discomfort that doctors will say, ‘I am not going to work. I am not going because I have to suffer to get gasoline, and I am exposing myself to the virus while being in line.’”

Dr. Arturo Martínez

“There will come a time when there will be such great discomfort that doctors will say, ‘I am not going to work. I am not going because I have to suffer to get gasoline, and I am exposing myself to the virus while being in line,’” he said.

Related: Bolsonaro’s ‘so what’ response to coronavirus deaths is the latest in his spiraling political crisis

Further back in line, Dr. Alejandro Rodriguez is also waiting for gas.

“I arrived at 5 a.m. It’s 9 a.m.,” Rodriguez said. “I should be in the hospital right now. Fortunately, what we do as colleagues is that we cover somebody’s shift when that person is queuing for gas. This is what we do, but it shouldn’t be like that.”

The government has promised that doctors and hospital workers will have preferential access to fuel stations. But Rodriguez has found the solution to be less than useful.

“I’ve had to line up within a special queue for doctors, but it’s still a line. They are daylong lines, practically. I don’t know if ambulances get preference, but my car doesn’t.” 

Dr. Alejandro Rodriguez 

“I’ve had to line up within a special queue for doctors, but it’s still a line. They are daylong lines, practically. I don’t know if ambulances get preference, but my car doesn’t,” he said.

Some fuel stations in Caracas were shut down in recent days, as authorities try to ensure the effective fulfillment of a nationwide quarantine and contain the spread of the coronavirus. The measure also aims to ration the country’s dwindling gasoline inventories.

Related: Chile’s ‘COVID-19 card’ sparks controversy over ‘uncertainty of evidence’ about immunity

According to fuel stations workers in Caracas, authorities are rationing gasoline by limiting drivers to five gallons for small cars and 10 gallons for trucks, vans and ambulances.

Increasing petrol shortages is making Venezuelans’ lives tougher. When the pandemic struck, Venezuela was already suffering from hyperinflation and a battered health system. Critics of President Nicolás Maduro blame the collapse on government corruption and mismanagement. The government blames US sanctions.

In Venezuela, filling a tank is basically free. Thanks to government subsidies, a full tank could cost less than a penny. But, out of desperation, some people, like Jesus Peña, who sells chicken at an open-air market, are now turning to the expensive black market for fuel.

Peña pays between $1 and $2 per liter. But, few people can afford those prices in a country where the minimum wage is less than $5 per month.

Venezuela has less than 500 reported cases of the coronavirus. The country imposed a nationwide lockdown in March when just a few cases were detected. Since then, Peña hasn’t been able to fill his tank at a station due to long lines. 

“Yesterday, my neighbor sold me 20 liters that he took out of his car. I paid $20 for it. This problem is going to get worse. I have more than one colleague who is not delivering anymore because they ran out of gasoline.”

Jesus Peña, vendor at open-air market

“Yesterday, my neighbor sold me 20 liters that he took out of his car. I paid $20 for it. This problem is going to get worse. I have more than one colleague who is not delivering anymore because they ran out of gasoline,” Peña said.

Related: Advocates raise alarm as countries fail to collect racial data of coronavirus patients

The fuel shortages are already harming food production and delivery. Producers are not being able to get their goods to markets, and farmers are being forced to let crops rot in fields.

Even though Peña desperately needs the gas to keep his business going, he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep paying the high prices.

“I have gasoline for this week, I don’t know what will happen the next one. It’s worrying. I’m really worried,” he said.

Back at the gas station, as the line advances, some drivers, like Martínez, push their cars rather than turning on the ignition. Anything to save just a little extra gas.

What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US

What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US

Hundreds of wind and solar co-ops have taken on big utilities and shown they can reliably power the grid — and hugely reduce emissions.

By
Dan Gearino

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Pauline Daemgen (right foreground) and Quang Anh Paasch (left) lead the crowd at a Fridays for Future demonstration Aug. 27, 2019 in Berlin. 

Credit:

Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News

Share

A longer version of this story was originally published by InsideClimate News.

Twenty years ago, before climate change was as widely seen as the existential threat it is today, Germany embarked on an ambitious program to transform the way it produced electric power.

Over the next two decades, it became a model for countries around the world, showing how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels in a way that drew wide public buy-in by passing on the benefits — and much of the control — to local communities. 

The steps Germany took on this journey, and the missteps it made along the way, provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to fight climate change.

Last summer, I went to Germany to figure out where the energy transition, or “Energiewende,” stands today, with climate change blaring like a siren across a nation already alarmed. Record-breaking heat in successive summers had left the fabled German forests dotted with clumps of dead brown trees. My hotel room in Berlin was broiling.

Related: Decades of science denial related to climate change has led to denial of the coronavirus pandemic

As a longtime energy reporter, my working hypothesis was that Germany’s experience held many lessons for the United States.

While Germany has made immense progress on climate and clean energy, the United States has lagged far behind. Germany now generates 43% of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with 17.5% in the United States. 

“What Germany did has made a huge difference for everybody, for the whole world.”

Greg Nemet, University of Wisconsin

“What Germany did has made a huge difference for everybody, for the whole world,” and the United States should pay attention to that, said Greg Nemet, a University of Wisconsin public affairs professor who has spent years studying German energy policy.

Yet Germany’s energy transition was hardly a straight-line journey of success. 

Hope, disillusionment, then hope renewed

It was a time of far-reaching optimism and ambition in 1998, when German voters thrust a center-left coalition into power. The new government aimed to dramatically increase renewable energy while phasing out nuclear power.

Two years later, lawmakers passed landmark legislation that provided the financial incentives for the coming boom in wind, solar and other renewable energy. The 2000 law was in many ways the starting point for the intense period of progress that followed.

“We thought we could change everything,” said Eveline Lemke, a member of Alliance 90/The Greens, the coalition partner that made clean energy a centerpiece of national policy.

The new policies transformed the energy economy, making it cleaner and less centralized. Solar panels popped up on roofs and giant wind turbines sprouted across the countryside.

Eveline Lemke was a consultant and campaigner for Alliance 90/The Greens and went on to be the party’s leader in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. She now leads a sustainability think tank, Thinking Circular.

Credit:

Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News

But the growth wasn’t sustained. By 2014, the steep cost of renewable energy subsidies produced high electric bills and a conservative backlash. Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose center-right government was first elected in 2005, responded by making changes to clean energy laws that slowed development.

The momentum faded into disappointment for many Germans. One of the big problems was that emissions from vehicles were essentially flat. This meant that Germany was on track to miss its emissions-cutting target for 2020, which was to reduce emissions 40% from 1990 levels.

But last year, spurred by mounting protests and calls for more aggressive climate action, Merkel’s government took a series of steps to assert the country’s commitment to move away from fossil fuels. 

The German Parliament passed a $60 billion proposal that would, for the first time, impose a tax on nearly all carbon dioxide emissions. It also provided additional subsidies for wind and solar energy, and accelerated the push to cut emissions from automobiles, trucks and airplanes. The parliament also adopted a plan to shut down all coal-fired power plants by 2038 and provide $45 billion to help coal miners and their communities through the changes. 

A bubbling up of grassroots enthusiasm has given renewed hope to many people at the heart of the early-2000s push for renewable energy.

Yet environmental activists are quick to note that the new momentum did not originate in the halls of parliament. It came from the cities and villages, and from the massive Fridays for Future demonstrations inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist — a bubbling up of grassroots enthusiasm that has given renewed hope to many people who were at the heart of the early-2000s push for renewable energy.

That new hope was what I had come to Germany to see.

A scorching summer

One of the first things I noticed in Berlin was the heat. My hotel and most of the offices I visited did not have air conditioning, having been built at a time when cooling was rarely needed in this northern city.

Scientists say it’s not possible to attribute a single heatwave or unusually hot summer to climate change. But the long-term trend is clear: Berlin and indeed, all of Germany are getting hotter, as is the world.

Related: Earth’s hottest decade on record marked by extreme storms, deadly wildfires

And that feels particularly dire for people whose work is tied to the energy transition.

One of those people is Karsten Neuhoff, head of climate policy for the German Institute for Economic Research. On my second day in Berlin, I went to his austere office building, located near Checkpoint Charlie, a former border checkpoint from when Berlin was a divided city during the Cold War.

Karsten Neuhoff is the head of the climate policy department at the German Institute for Economic Research.

Credit:

Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News

For me, this was much more than an ordinary interview with a policy expert.

I grew up in Norwalk, Iowa, a small city near Des Moines. When I was a freshman in high school in the 1990s, an exchange student from Germany lived with a host family across the street from my parents’ house. He and I were in band and speech classes together. He was funny and friendly, with an exceptionally wavy head of hair. His name was Karsten Neuhoff.

As I was preparing to travel last summer, I asked researchers in the United States to recommend German experts I should interview. One of the names they gave me was Karsten Neuhoff.

I assumed there was no way that this energy economist could be the same person who was in marching band with me. Then I saw his photo. It was.

When we met in Berlin, I saw that his warmth and smile were just as I remembered, but his head of hair was sadly lost to time.

He told me about his vivid memories of how his host family in our town felt pride that Iowa farmers provide corn for the world, and how this would later inform the way he viewed Germany’s transition to clean energy.

The key, he said, is for people to have some control over renewable energy development and to directly benefit from it, as opposed to having the development imposed on them.

He added, “Citizens must have confidence in the ultimate goals of the system: Why are we doing this?”

A village finds a new income source: Renewable energy

To see what a decentralized energy system looked like up close, I made the daylong journey by train to Wildpoldsried, a village of about 2,600 residents that produces about eight times more energy than it consumes, and sells the surplus back to the grid.

“I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me.”

Günter Mögele, Wildpoldsried deputy mayor

“I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me,” said Günter Mögele, a high school teacher who has served as deputy mayor since the late-1990s.

Renewable energy can be seen from almost every vantage point in the village, with solar panels fastened to clay-tile roofs and wind turbines in the distance. 

What I found most remarkable about Wildpoldsried wasn’t how extensively renewable energy was relied on, but what leaders chose to do with the financial proceeds. By selling electricity to the grid, the village gave itself a new income source and improved the lives of residents, offsetting most of the costs for preschool, child care, sports and community theater. 

Many other communities have their own version of Wildpoldsried’s energy accomplishments and have used money from wind turbines and solar arrays to improve services and lower taxes.

In a battle over cost, Merkel’s conservatism wins out

But the momentum of the early years of the Energiewende didn’t last. Merkel and her government began to change the formula that had led to the rapid growth of renewable energy. 

Merkel agreed with the country’s broad consensus that carbon emissions must be drastically reduced. But she wanted to do it in a way that was mindful of costs.

It wasn’t hard to make the case that the costs were too high, considering that the renewable energy surcharge had more than tripled from 2010 to 2014. For a small household, the cost had risen to about 20 euros — or $22 per month.

By 2014, the government had agreed to overhaul renewable energy policy, a change that took several years to implement. Instead of being open to almost everyone, groups that wanted to create renewable energy projects and sell the power to the grid needed to compete in auctions to see who could offer the lowest price. 

Related: On Baffin Island in the fragile Canadian Arctic, an iron ore mine spews black carbon

Solar and wind power continued to grow, but the new rules meant that small players had a much more difficult time. The energy transition was becoming the realm of big developers.

Now Mögele and many other local leaders are calling for the government to overhaul the rules once again, making it easier for small local energy producers. Wildpoldsried had already done enough to secure its financial stability, he said, but he could see how those opportunities were vanishing for others. 

“It will change. It has to change,” he said.

A teenage protester helps revitalize a movement

There is no clear point at which the Energiewende began its revitalization, but one of the central factors was the arrival on the scene of Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old in Sweden, who skipped school to stage a one-person demonstration outside her country’s parliament building in 2018 to call attention to the failure of leaders to address climate change.

Thunberg’s message and ongoing activism gripped much of the world, and had a particularly strong effect in Germany. 

Climate change environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg participates in a climate strike rally in Iowa City, Iowa, US, on Oct. 4, 2019. 

Credit:

Daniel Acker/Reuters

Merkel’s government has seen the rise in public interest in climate change and has taken steps to address some of the most vexing challenges in the energy transition. But Merkel is also on her way out, planning to step down ahead of the next election.

And yet, there are vital ingredients still missing. Critics of the government’s recent actions  say more needs to be done to reinvigorate the small, local projects that were so important to creating the sense of shared benefits in the early days of the energy transition.

But many here say it’s the first step in a process, a signal that the country has a renewed focus. 

An unexpected crisis and a warning for the future

Earlier this month, I called Karsten Neuhoff on Skype. Our countries were several weeks into coronavirus lockdowns.

I wanted to know how the global crisis had affected the trajectory of German climate policy, and to see how he was coping with the pandemic. 

“Sometimes doomsday scenarios can happen.”

Karsten Neuhoff, German Institute for Economic Research 

“It demonstrates that sometimes doomsday scenarios can happen,” he said, speaking from his kitchen table, late in the evening. “The idea of viruses that spread globally were the stuff of TV movies, and suddenly it became reality.”

He added that he thought this had implications for climate policy, because the public might now have a deeper understanding of the economic disruption that is possible if climate change is unchecked.

Related: Exxon and oil sands go on trial in New York climate fraud case

We agreed, though, that the crisis could also have detrimental effects on climate policy, with the sudden drop in emissions caused by the economic fallout potentially giving cover to backslide on climate. Indeed, a recent forecast shows Germany is now likely to reach its emissions-cutting target for 2020, a goal that previously seemed out of reach.

What about the big takeaway from my time in Germany, the idea that the success of the energy transition is closely tied to whether the public is engaged and feels like it has a stake?

That hasn’t changed a bit, Neuhoff said. The virus, and people’s response to it, has demonstrated that we’re all in this together, a sentiment repeated often in recent weeks, both in Germany and in the United States.

Neuhoff said he is hopeful that the US government and the public will embrace this idea as it applies to climate change. If and when that happens, Germany has two decades worth of trial and error to show how this can be done.

Swedish town uses chicken manure to disperse crowds — and stop spread of coronavirus

Swedish town uses chicken manure to disperse crowds — and stop spread of coronavirus

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Garden worker Robert Nilsson shows chicken manure with which he fertilizes lawns in Stadsparken in an attempt to prevent residents from gathering for the traditional celebrations to mark the Walpurgis Night amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Lund, Sweden April 30, 2020.

Credit:

Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency/via Reuters

Share

A town in southern Sweden has turned to a traditional source to try to prevent the coronavirus spreading during an annual festive event on Thursday — chicken manure.

The university town of Lund began spreading chicken droppings in its central park to put off would-be revellers who would usually come on April 30 to celebrate Walpurgis Night.

The occasion, marking the shift away from dark, chilly winter days towards brighter spring and summer days, is typically celebrated with picnics, parties and bonfires across the country, and regularly attracts thousands of students. 

“This is a park where usually 30,000 people gather, but with COVID-19 this is now unthinkable,” the town’s mayor, Philip Sandberg, told Reuters. “We don’t want Lund to become an epicentre for the spread of the disease.” 

Sweden has taken a softer approach than many other countries to preventing the spread of the respiratory disease that the coronavirus can cause, asking rather than ordering people to maintain social distancing. 

In line with this policy, authorities have requested people avoid gathering for this year’s Walpurgis Night, but have not banned festivities.

The authorities fear young people, especially students, will still want to enjoy a picnic and drink in the park. 

“Most students in Lund and other parts of Sweden respect the recommendations … although even a small number of people still going to the park can become a big risk,” Sandberg said.

Some Americans feel safer in Lebanon when it comes to COVID-19 response

Some Americans feel safer in Lebanon when it comes to COVID-19 response

By
Rebecca Collard

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Lebanese demonstrators wear face masks during a protest against the collapsing Lebanese pound currency outside Lebanon’s Central Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, April 23, 2020. 

Credit:

Mohamed Azakir/Reuters 

Share

When the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, canceled classes in early March, Max Tamer-Mahoney jumped on a plane home to Boston, Massachusetts, to spend the unexpected break with his family. Two weeks later, he was back in Beirut, in theory just to pick up his belongings when it became clear that the semester would move online. But after a few days in Beirut, he reassessed. 

Related: Lebanon’s ‘two crises’: coronavirus and financial collapse 

“It seemed like things were going rapidly downhill in the US that it was better for me to ride it out here.”

Max Tamer-Mahoney, American livnging in Lebanon

Max Tamer-Mahoney feels safer in Lebanon than the US when it comes to COVID-19. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Max Tamer-Mahoney 

“It seemed like things were going rapidly downhill in the US that it was better for me to ride it out here,” says Mahoney, who is studying computer science and Arabic language and literature. 

“Better” is probably an understatement. Massachusetts has roughly the same population as Lebanon. But while Massachusetts has over confirmed 53,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,000 deaths, Lebanon has just over 700 confirmed cases and around two dozen deaths, as of April 28, 2020. 

At first, friends and family tried to convince Mahoney to return to the United States, but now almost all of them say it was the right decision to stay in Beirut. 

“My mother just told me she was unable to find chicken and toilet paper in our local supermarket,” Mahoney said. 

Mahoney is not alone. Many Americans are looking at the US and say they feel safer abroad, even in a country like Lebanon, which has suffered six months of protests and is teetering on the edge of an economic collapse.

Those protests have been mostly quiet during the lockdown, but now they are back for the third night in a row as prices are rising quickly and many Lebanese fall below the poverty line. 

Cecilia Blewer, who is from New York, has also decided to ride out the pandemic in Lebanon, rather than return to the United States.

“I wasn’t going back, because I was afraid of what was waiting at the other end, so I decided to stay here,” said Blewer, who is 64, and arrived in Lebanon in January to spend a few months studying Arabic and volunteering. 

What was waiting in New York was overcrowded hospitals, makeshift morgues and shortages of protective equipment.

“I would say to Trump, there is a Hezbollah-leaning government that has just outperformed you by a thousand times. Take that on board.”

Cecilia Blewer, American living in Lebanon

Blewer said that in Lebanon, despite months of protests, a fractured government and a looming financial collapse, the government’s handling of the crisis is much better than the US. “[The Lebanese] understand that God throws curveballs,” Blewer said. “I would say to Trump, there is a Hezbollah-leaning government that has just outperformed you by a thousand times. Take that on board.”

Related: Hezbollah’s latest front line? The fight against coronavirus.

Other Americans point to the high cost of repatriation flights and the fact that some Americans won’t have health insurance if they go back to the US — which has one of the world’s most expensive health care systems. Many Americans living abroad have health insurance that covers every country except their own because of international policies that cover the US are more expensive. While Lebanon’s health system is highly privatized and suffering from the economic crisis, many expats are in a privileged position, with resources or health insurance here that will get access to good health care. 

Lebanon has been under a state of medical emergency since March 15. Technically, people are not supposed to leave the house unless absolutely necessary. The curfew begins at sunset and security forces come out to enforce it. Everyone in supermarkets wears masks and gloves — shoppers and employees alike. Customers have their temperature checked before they can enter. One chain even set up what they call “sani-tunnels” at the entrances, insisting customers pass through a corridor of spay disinfectant to enter. 

Related: How Lebanon’s ‘WhatsApp tax’ unleashed a flood of anger

“Lebanon was on this much sooner than the US,” said Dr. Madelynn Azar-Cavanagh, an American physician who has worked with hospitals in the US to help them prepare for infectious disease outbreaks. She happened to be in Lebanon visiting her brother when the pandemic broke out. Azar-Cavanagh was supposed to fly back to Boston in March, but she said that by then, it was already clear she was better off staying in Lebanon. 

“Starting about March 8, you started to see the restaurants close down, bars closing down, and eventually, they did a hard lockdown where only groceries and pharmacies were open,” Azar-Cavanagh said. Lebanon’s curve flattened much more quickly than the US, and the country has already started easing restrictions. 

Dr. Sasha Fahme decided to return to New York City from Beirut in March. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Dr. Sasha Fahme 

Dr. Sasha Fahme went the opposite direction, deciding to return to New York City from Beirut in March. 

“I returned to the US out of a sense of moral obligation,” said Fahme, a physician and a researcher who has been taking care of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 illness since she returned. 

Fahme said it’s hard to say what’s “safer,” but that in both New York City and Beirut, certain populations are going to suffer more than others.

“For people that are in a position of privilege in Lebanon, then certainly it might be safer,” she said. “But I think that’s true for people that are in a position of privilege everywhere.”

Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million refugees, mostly Syrian and Palestinian. Some live in informal camps, others in equally overcrowded urban neighborhoods. And almost 50% of Lebanese live below the poverty line — sometimes in conditions not much better than the camps.

“The ability to social distance, in and of itself, is a privilege,” said Fahme. “It is impossible to enforce social distancing in a refugee camp.”

If the virus spreads in those settings, it will be a catastrophe. So far, that seems to have been averted. But Fahme also pointed out that testing is at a much lower rate in Lebanon than the US, meaning the numbers may be deceiving.

But even anecdotally, Lebanon is faring much better — for now, at least. There is no shortage of protective equipment, no makeshift morgues or health care workers facing tough decisions about triage.

Mahoney blamed what he calls the “anti-science” tone of the Trump administration for how poorly things are going in the US, and says Lebanon has just handled the crisis much better. 

“[When] a so-called global superpower such as the US is struggling — in comparison — to protect its people, it’s really, really a shame,” Mahoney said.

Where is the world in the race to combat coronavirus? ‘Only renewables’ holding up in global energy slump; As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico’s food prices soar

Where is the world in the race to combat coronavirus? 'Only renewables' holding up in global energy slump; As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico's food prices soar

By
The World staff

A laboratory technician is seen at the Inselspital Universitaetsspital Bern university hospital during research for a vaccine against the coronavirus in Switzerland, April 22, 2020.

Credit:

Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Share

Fauci says leak concerns fueled his White House revelation of Gilead drug results

Fauci says leak concerns fueled his White House revelation of Gilead drug results

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci attends a coronavirus response meeting at the White House, April 29, 2020.

Credit:

Carlos Barria/Reuters

Share

Concerns over leaks compelled the top US infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci in the Oval Office on Wednesday, to reveal positive data on Gilead Sciences experimental drug remdesivir, the first in a scientifically rigorous clinical trial to show benefit in treating COVID-19.

The dramatic announcement by Fauci prompted concerns among scientists that the Trump administration was raising hopes about a coronavirus treatment before sharing the full data with researchers.

As a cautionary example of inflating the potential value of a therapy, some pointed to President Donald Trump’s repeated endorsements of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, with no evidence that it works.

Newer data suggests the malaria treatments may carry significant risks for some sufferers of the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is running the trial, said he took the first opportunity to get the word out that patients taking a dummy treatment or placebo should be switched to remdesivir in hopes of benefiting from it.

He expressed concern that leaks of partial information would lead to confusion. Since the White House was not planning a daily virus briefing, Fauci said he was invited to release the news at a news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.       

“It was purely driven by ethical concerns,” Fauci told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I would love to wait to present it at a scientific meeting, but it’s just not in the cards when you have a situation where the ethical concern about getting the drug to people on placebo dominates the conversation.”         

An independent data safety and monitoring board, which had looked at the preliminary results of the NIAID trial, determined it had met its primary goal of reducing hospital stays.

On Tuesday evening, that information was conveyed in a conference call to scientists studying the drug globally.    

“There are literally dozens and dozens of investigators around the world,” Fauci said. “People were starting to leak it.” But he did not give details of where the unreported data was being shared.       

Several scientists interviewed by Reuters felt the White House setting seemed inappropriate for the release of highly anticipated government-funded trial data on the Gilead therapy.

They had expected it to be presented simultaneously in a detailed news release, a briefing at a medical meeting or in a scientific journal, allowing researchers to review the data.    

Information from various trials of remdesivir has been leaked to media in recent weeks. In a statement on Wednesday, Gilead said the NIAID’s much anticipated trial had met its primary goal, but gave no details.

Data in a separate NIAID statement after Fauci spoke detailed preliminary results showing that patients who got the drug had a 31 percent faster time to recovery than those who got a placebo, cutting hospital stays by four days.

The trial also came close to showing the drug helped people survive the disease, but the data fell just short of statistical significance.

“I want to see the full data. I want to understand the statistics. I want to understand the benefit and risk. I want to understand the structure of the study, and all of it,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, the chief academic officer at the Cleveland Clinic.

“Am I encouraged from what I’ve heard? Yes, I’m encouraged. But I want to get a full understanding of what happened here, and not get it via a photo opportunity from the Oval Office.”     

Data Gilead released on its own trial of remdesivir drew less attention, as it did not compare outcomes between those receiving therapy and those who did not.

Results from a third study in China suggesting remdesivir failed to help COVID-19 patients were released in the British medical journal the Lancet after review by a peer group of scientists.        

“That’s the only thing I’ll hang my hat on, and that was negative,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California.    

He was unimpressed by remdesivir’s modest benefit.

“It was expected to be a whopping effect,” Topol added. “It clearly does not have that.”    

At the Oval Office news conference, Fauci compared the study findings to AZT, the first drug to show any benefit against HIV, decades ago.    

“We know that was an imperfect drug. It was the first step,” Fauci said in the interview.

“Similar to AZT, it’s (remdesivir) the first baby step towards what hopefully will be a number of better drugs that will come in and be able to treat people with COVID-19.”

By Julie Steenhuysen/Reuters

Can Biden turn out Latinos to vote? Advocacy groups aren’t sure.

Can Biden turn out Latinos to vote? Advocacy groups aren't sure.

By
Daisy Contreras

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks as former Vice President Joe Biden reacts during the ninth Democratic 2020 US presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas Nevada, on Feb. 19, 2020.

Credit:

Mike Blake/Reuters

Share

Bolsonaro’s ‘so what’ response to coronavirus deaths is the latest in his spiraling political crisis

Bolsonaro’s ‘so what’ response to coronavirus deaths is the latest in his spiraling political crisis

By
Michael Fox

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro reacts while addressing the media during a news conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasília, Brazil, April 24, 2020.

Credit:

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters 

Share

On Tuesday night, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro met with reporters in Brasília. The country had surpassed China in the total number of deaths from the coronavirus and had just registered its highest death count in a 24-hour period: 474 people.

In China, 82,858 cases have been confirmed to date, with the official death toll at 4,633. As of Wednesday, Brazil has seen 74,493 infections and 5,158 deaths.

“So what? I’m sorry, what do you want me to do about it?” Bolsonaro said Tuesday.

His statement went viral, as did the response. Brazilians took to social media to attack the already embattled president.

“So what?” in portuguese “E daí ?”

said Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, about more than 5000 deaths by coronavirus. Confirmed deaths in Brazil today exceed China. pic.twitter.com/vQ4GDa3lEP

— Sheila de Carvalho (@she_carvalho) April 29, 2020

 

1/ “So what?” Jair Bolsonaro told reporters when asked about the record 474 deaths that day in Brazil. “I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?”
“E daí” https://t.co/cymzTkiVCi pic.twitter.com/hNXcoJIy4O

— Leticia Kawano-Dourado (@leticiakawano) April 29, 2020

 

Brazil: 5k dead. 500 in 24 hours.
70k confirmed cases. Some state health systems already collapsing.
Bolsonaro responds: “So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? I’m a Messiah (Messias is one of his surnames), but I don’t do miracles.”…

— Daniel (@Daniel_IV_) April 28, 2020

Bolsonaro has fought hard against social restrictions in response to the coronavirus, attending rallies and demanding the economy be reopened. Two weeks ago, he forced out his health minister for vocally defending quarantine measures.

Brazilian President Bolsonaro greeted a few dozen supporters protesting quarantines in Brasilia today. He told them that 70% of the country was going to get sick sooner or later so everyone should just get back to work. #coronavirus #covid19 #Brazil pic.twitter.com/mMmfZR5Rsj

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) April 18, 2020

This is only the latest as Bolsonaro wades through the worst political crisis of his administration — and the calls from Bolsonaro’s supporters for a return to military rule don’t help. 

Related: As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico’s food prices soar

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into Bolsonaro’s alleged interference with police investigations for political gain. This case against him stems from allegations made by Bolsonaro’s former star Justice Minister Sérgio Moro’s resignation, who stepped down after the president fired federal police chief Maurício Valeixo.

“It’s clear that there was interference in the federal police,” Moro told reporters on Friday when he announced his resignation. “The president told me more than once that he wanted someone in direct contact with him. He wanted to be able to call someone. He wanted to be able to have access to information and intelligence reports.”

It’s widely held that Bolsonaro’s sudden interest in the federal police stems from his hope to block criminal inquiries into his three sons, who are under investigation for a series of crimes, including running a fake news scheme, money laundering and embezzlement.

According to the Supreme Court documents, there are seven accusations against the president, including malfeasance and obstruction of justice. The federal police now have 60 days to question Moro over the charges. If confirmed, Congress could begin a process of impeachment.

So far, 31 requests for impeachment have been submitted to Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, including from members of Bolsonaro’s previous allies. But Maia has so far said impeachment is not the priority amid the coronavirus crisis.

Regardless, the turmoil isn’t likely to encourage the president to change his tone.

“Bolsonarism is a political ideology that depends on enemies. If they don’t exist, the president has to invent them every couple of days. In order to justify his behavior and mobilize his followers, he consistently needs new enemies and traitors.”

Maurício Santoro, Rio de Janeiro State University

“Bolsonarism is a political ideology that depends on enemies. If they don’t exist, the president has to invent them every couple of days,” said Maurício Santoro, a political scientist at the Rio de Janeiro State University. “In order to justify his behavior and mobilize his followers, he consistently needs new enemies and traitors.”

Related: Advocates raise alarm as countries fail to collect racial data of coronavirus patients

This was again overtly clear when Bolsonaro ignored quarantine measures a week and a half ago and participated in a rally in front of the army headquarters.

AI-5 has been trending all day in #Brazil.

AI-5 was the 1968 dictatorship decree, which suspended Congress, habeas corpus, etc.

It’s essentially what Bolsonaro’s supporters called for today @ a rally in Brasilia attended by the president.@LemusteleSURpic.twitter.com/jLSXY6UypC

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) April 20, 2020

A few hundred of his supporters protested social restrictions and called for a return to the dictatorship and the disbanding of Congress and the Supreme Court — claiming that these institutions are actively working against the president.

“Now, the people are in power,” Bolsonaro told the crowd. “More than a right, you have the obligation of fighting for your country.”

Calls demanding military intervention aren’t new in Brazil, but Bolsonaro’s presence at the rally was a disturbing sign.

Bolsonaro is a former military captain who has praised known torturers and the military regime that controlled Brazil from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. He has more military officials in his government than any since the end of the dictatorship — a third of his cabinet members, including his vice president and chief of staff — have military backgrounds.

Related: Bolsonaro’s denial of coronavirus puts the country at risk

“There is much to be concerned about. There is always a type of military threat hanging over the heads of the Brazilian people. So, you live in a state of permanent siege.”

Emiliano Jose, retired journalism professor

“There is much to be concerned about. There is always a type of military threat hanging over the heads of the Brazilian people,” said Emiliano Jose, a retired journalism professor, who was detained and tortured for many years under a dictatorship in Brazil. “So, you live in a state of permanent siege.”

The Brazilian dictatorship was a brutal period. Hundreds of people were disappeared. Thousands were imprisoned. Roughly 30,000 were tortured, according to a 2007 report from a government commission investigating state crimes.

In Brazil, the threat of military rule is never far from sight. On the night Bolsonaro won the October 2018 presidential elections, gun-wielding soldiers in fatigues celebrated by riding through the streets of Niterói on top of a procession of military transport vehicles.

Last October, the president’s son, congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, told a reporter that if leftist Brazilians hit the streets in mass protests, the government would have to sink the country into a dictatorship, suspending habeas corpus and the rule of law.

This rhetoric actually goes over well with Bolsonaro’s supporters, many of whom look back on the military regime with nostalgia for what they call order and progress.

On the heels of military rule, truth commissions revealed the horrors of the past, but no one has ever been held responsible.

Related: Bolsonaro is still downplaying the coronavirus. Many worry about the impact on the most vulnerable.

Federal University of Santa Catarina Historian Cristina Wolff says this failure to confront Brazil’s dark history is key to understanding why many still feel empowered to demand its return.

“I do believe that this issue of never holding anyone accountable for the crimes of the dictatorship makes a big difference. Because in Argentina, where torturers were brought to justice, people could watch the trials on TV. The press covered it. So, the people had to remember.”

Cristina Wolff, Federal University of Santa Catarina

“I do believe that this issue of never holding anyone accountable for the crimes of the dictatorship makes a big difference,” she said. “Because in Argentina, where torturers were brought to justice, people could watch the trials on TV. The press covered it. So, the people had to remember.”

We are not likely to see tanks rolling on the streets in the coming days. But the strength of the military is expected to grow inside Bolsonaro’s government as it descends into deeper turmoil and attempts to battle the growing financial, political and health crises.

That, more than anything else, may be driving Bolsonaro’s rhetoric these days. 

As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico’s food prices soar

As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico's food prices soar

By
Emily Green

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Maria Solis, a street vendor selling fruit, shows a sign that says “The coronavirus won’t kill me, hunger will. Here you can do your panic buying too,” as the spread of COVID-19 continues in Mexico City, Mexico, March 25, 2020.

Credit:

Carlos Perez Gallardo/Reuters

Share

French dentists strip naked to protest lack of protective gear

French dentists strip naked to protest lack of protective gear

Producer
Lucy Martirosyan

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Dr. Maud Braun-Reys, left, a dental surgeon in Obernai, France, posted an image on Facebook of herself naked in her office along with her father, Dr. Daniel Reys, also a dentist, to protest the lack of PPE.

Credit:

Courtesy of Dr. Maud Braun-Reys

Share

It will be a couple of weeks before people get back to work in France. But for now, the country’s dentists are feeling especially vulnerable.

Many of them say they won’t have enough personal protective equipment, or PPE, to protect them from the coronavirus as they treat their patients. So they’re protesting in a unique way: They’re stripping down.

Dozens of dentists have taken pictures of themselves naked in their offices and posted the photos online with the hashtag #dentisteapoil — or, dentists in the buff. The photos are composed with carefully positioned props like books and flowers to conceal their private parts.

Dental surgeon Dr. Maud Braun-Reys posted a photo of herself naked in her office in Obernai, near Strasbourg, France. She also posted a naked photo of her 72-year-old father, Dr. Daniel Reys, who is also a dentist. 

“If tomorrow the health ministry doesn’t free up this talk of PPE that is currently blocked or give us the possibility to order, it will be like going naked to work,” Braun-Reys said. “The fact is that because of the shortage of masks in the hospital, all dentists make a donation of their stock of PPE. So without protection for us and for our patients, it’s really impossible to face COVID.” 

Screengrab of naked German doctors protesting in the nude because of lack of PPE during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Credit:

Blankebedenken

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World 

The French dentists are joined by health specialists throughout Europe posing naked to demonstrate their vulnerability. In Germany, nude photos appear on a website urging politicians to ensure doctors and clinics have enough protective gear.

“I learned how to stitch wounds, why do I now have to learn how to stitch masks?” reads a placard held by a female doctor with a stethoscope and a red mask in one photo. The naked doctors said that outpatient and general practice care for COVID-19 patients was as important as hospital care, putting them on the front line in the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to the French dentists’ protest, the country’s government said it will provide the dentists extra masks when the country’s lockdown begins to lift on May 11.

“Last week we announced an extra 150,000 FFP2 masks to be provided to them by the 11th of May to allow some cabinets [offices] to reopen and handle relative emergencies,” a spokesperson for the French ministry of health told The World. “After the 11th of May, we will progressively reopen all dentists and provide the necessary PPE for this activity to be possible.”

“It’s not enough for 42,000 dentists. It will just only last for one day of work.”

Maud Braun-Reys, dentist

According to Braun-Reys, much more gear is needed: “It’s not enough for 42,000 dentists. It will just only last for one day of work.” 

Braun-Reys noted that the images have shocked people around the world, particularly in the US. But the intention was not to draw attention to French dentists’ naked bodies, she said.

“It’s just to explain that we are totally defenseless,” she said. “So it was really to shock maybe a little bit the opinion, but also to alert the authorities. And we are all united in this movement. All the dental profession is united. We have made 260 photos for the moment and it’s going to grow and grow all over the world.” 

Reuters contributed to this report. Editor’s note: A previous version of this story used the wrong image for Dr. Daniel Reys.

Chile’s ‘COVID-19 card’ sparks controversy over ‘uncertainty of evidence’ about immunity

Chile’s ‘COVID-19 card’ sparks controversy over ‘uncertainty of evidence’ about immunity

Writer
The World staff

Producer
Amulya Shankar

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

A man wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rests in a public square in Valparaiso, Chile, April 27, 2020. 

Credit:

Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters 

Share

Chile is one of several countries trying to plan ahead for a return to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its health ministry has pushed for the use of so-called “immunity passports” — an all-clear card of sorts issued to people who have already had the illness — so that parts of the population can return to work. 

Related: Countries herald lifting of coronavirus lockdowns, but UK says not yet

But scientists, doctors and researchers still lack much information about the coronavirus and how it works. Experts with the World Health Organization worry about moving too quickly and have advised against the use of such passport documentation to indicate immunity from COVID-19. 

Paula Daza, sub-secretary of Chile’s health ministry, told reporters on Sunday that while many uncertainties remain about the coronavirus pandemic, evidence points to a reduced risk after the first bout of the coronavirus.

“One of the things we know is that a person who has…lived through the disease is less likely to become ill again,” Daza said. She said certifying this status was the “goal of the COVID-19 card that is being prepared will soon be delivered” to patients.

WHO said that issuing certificates could inspire false confidence and increase the risk of spreading the virus. People who have recovered may ignore advice about taking precautions against the virus, the WHO said.

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” said WHO. 

Daza clarified on Sunday that the certificates Chile planned to issue did not certify immunity.

“It is very important, and I want to reiterate, that we have not talked about an immunity card,” she said.

But Chile’s top health official, Jaime Manalich, said early in April that those who have recovered from the coronavirus represented a population that was immune to it and incapable of transmitting it.

He said those with the medical discharge certificate would be “freed from all types of quarantine or restriction, specifically because they can help their communities enormously since they pose no risk.”

Daza did not specifically address the contradiction when asked by a reporter Sunday.

Chile has confirmed 14,885 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began in the South American nation in early March, as well as 216 deaths.

Related: Kids in Spain venture outside for first time in weeks

Dr. Cristóbal Cuadrado is a professor of public health at the University of Chile who joined host Marco Werman from Santiago to discuss the idea behind the immunity passport concept — and why it sparked so much controversy. 

Marco Werman: Dr. Cuadrado, can you tell us what Chile has decided with regard to the immunity passports?

Dr. Cristóbal Cuadrado: There has been a lot of controversy regarding this issue in the last weeks. At the beginning, the Ministry of Health wanted to give this kind of immunity passport to any person that had acquired the disease in the last two weeks. So, any person that has been diagnosed and cleared from the disease was suspected to be immune, and therefore, given this kind of passport. Additionally, there was a discussion into if antibody testing should be added to the definition.

But the problem, as World Health Organization has mentioned, is that we don’t know if this rapid testing available now in the market really is able to detect effective antibodies on how long this potential immunity could last. So, I think there is a lot of controversy at this point in Chile, and also in other countries that are looking forward to move on these kinds of measures.

Right, and depending on how you feel about this idea, I suspect you may or may not agree with even whether to call it an “immunity passport.” The WHO has recommended against them because there is no evidence currently supporting immunity. The idea that if you’ve been infected once that you can’t be reinfected — we just don’t know. So, has the Chilean government addressed these concerns in any way?

The use of this documentation is not clear any longer because the initial idea of the government was to produce this documentation so people could move freely and not be forced to stay at home, for example, when quarantines were in place in some cities. But just recently, a few days ago, they needed to step back on this and they stopped calling this an immunity passport. So, this is still something that is ongoing and probably we will hear from the Chilean government in the next week, how they are going to or plan to use this documentation if it’s not aiming to warrant immunity to the persons that are holding it.

So in a matter of a few weeks, the Chilean government contradicted itself on this. What kind of reaction has there been to the plan so far?

In the media, it has been very clear that there were profound differences with the ministry of health. For example, the Chilean Society of Immunology or the Chilean Society of Infectology were both calling for prudence on the implementation of these measures in the context of uncertainty of the evidence. And I think the message from the World Health Organization during the last week was also very, very influential for the decision of the government to step back on this decision.

Will it give people false confidence when we just don’t have full details on immunity to COVID-19?

Yeah, absolutely. I think that one of the main criticisms of this idea of the immunity passport is not to be transparent in the uncertainties behind the idea. So, I think you can implement something like this, but you need to be very, very transparent to the public. What we do know and what we don’t know. I think that is, of course, a point of contention, because the economy needs to start working again. But we need to do it in a way that we protect the population’s health as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

1.5 billion could lose livelihoods; International students caught in limbo; Ghana’s dancing pallbearers go ‘viral’

1.5 billion could lose livelihoods; International students caught in limbo; Ghana's dancing pallbearers go 'viral'

By
The World staff

A general view of an empty high street in Hemel Hempstead as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain March 24, 2020.

Credit:

Matthew Childs/Reuters

Share

South Korea reels from latest high-tech, online sex trafficking case

South Korea reels from latest high-tech, online sex trafficking case

By
Kelly Kasulis

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Cho Ju-bin, leader of South Korea’s online sexual blackmail ring known as the “Nth room” walks out of a police station as he is transferred to a prosecutor’s office in Seoul, South Korea, March 25, 2020. 

Credit:

Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters 

Share

One story might be dominating South Korean headlines even more than COVID-19: The Nth Room sex trafficking scandal.

In late March, Korean news organizations began revealing details about a series of pay-to-view, sex trafficking chat rooms on multipurpose, encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram and Discord. The Nth room — which is actually eight different chat rooms on Telegram — circulated footage of at least 74 women and 16 minors performing forced sex acts for thousands of users who paid cryptocurrency to view it.

Many of the women and children, who were referred to as “slaves” in the chat room, were blackmailed using private information illegally obtained from government offices. On camera, the victims were raped, beaten and forced to self-mutilate. 

Related: South Korea’s controversial ‘life-size’ sex doll imports

Even worse, it’s unclear how many men paid for this footage, how many messaging apps are involved or how many copycat chat rooms have been made. Several minors between the ages of 12 and 17 are also being investigated for managing similar chat rooms and circulating or selling videos of rape and sexual assault.

“At least up to 10,000 men in Korea have had access to that chatroom, and they shared videos of sexually assaulting a bunch of minors,” said Yudori, a feminist graphic novelist and cartoonist who uses a pen name to protect her identity.

Yudori, like many other South Korean women observing these issues unfold in the media, is skeptical about whether the victims will see justice. Already, one of the individuals involved with creating the Nth room was sentenced to just 42 months — 3.5 years — in prison.

“I feel like there is still a possibility that they will get very, very lenient sentencing,” Yudori said. 

The Nth Room is a shock to many in South Korea, but it’s part of a greater trend of high-tech, national sex crimes. There was the Sora.net scandal in 2016, in which thousands of illegally filmed, nonconsensual spycam porn videos were circulated to up to 1 million site visitors. (One of the site’s co-founders was sentenced to four years in prison last year.) Similarly, in 2018, thousands of women rallied against spycam porn filmed inside hotels, spas and public bathrooms around the country.

Related: These Argentine women fight against a justice system ‘written by men’ 

“The platforms change and the message and the details change, and the patterns are similar and you see the same patterns in the nth room, and that’s treating the sexual objectification and the dehumanization of women as a game.”

Haeryun Kang, freelance journalist, South Korea

Haeryun Kang, a freelance journalist from South Korea and the creative director of a media startup called VideocusIN, recently created a short film called “Color of Rage: The Nth Room” that addresses the impact of these sex crimes on women.

“The platforms change and the message and the details change, and the patterns are similar and you see the same patterns in the nth room, and that’s treating the sexual objectification and the dehumanization of women as a game,” Kang said. 

But even as a journalist who reports on these issues frequently, the cruel nature of the Nth Room was hard for Kang to imagine.

“The Nth Room shocked me because of the way these women were treated and the things they were coerced into doing,” she said. “Yes, those actions were shocking to me, but what was shocking to me, even more, was the callousness of the language, and how people just talked about rape as if it was just a joke.”

For now, it’s unclear how the government will react to the Nth Room in the long run. Police are investigating several chat room handlers, and the story continues to develop in South Korea on a daily basis.

Lee Soo-jung, a professor of criminal psychology at Kyonggi University, said it’s time for the government to create laws that crack down harder on internet sex crimes.

Related: In Japan, sexual harassment isn’t a crime

“This is an astonishing case for people who didn’t know about cyberspace, the dark web and how the world works. How can there be a place where such inhumane, uncivilized crime can happen in secret?” 

Lee Soo-jung, professor of criminal pyschology, Kyonggi University, South Korea

“This is an astonishing case for people who didn’t know about cyberspace, the dark web and how the world works. How can there be a place where such inhumane, uncivilized crime can happen in secret?” she said. “We’re running into a problem where offline law and order does not yet apply to the online world. So, how do we make a law that can cover all kinds of dubious, illegal activity in cyberspace? That’s our homework for now.”

Mitch S. Shin contributed to this report.

Actor Irrfan Khan, star of ‘Life of Pi, ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ dies at 53

Actor Irrfan Khan, star of 'Life of Pi, 'Slumdog Millionaire,' dies at 53

Indian actor Irrfan Khan arrives for the screening of the film “Dabba (The Lunchbox)” at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival, 2013.

Credit:

Mark Blinch/Reuters

Share

Fires, orchestras, parachutes. Some other ways to describe coronavirus — besides war.

Fires, orchestras, parachutes. Some other ways to describe coronavirus — besides war.

If you think the war metaphor is being overused, you’re not alone. But why is this kind of rhetoric such a go-to for world leaders? And should we consider other metaphors? 

By
Patrick Cox

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects), also known as the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab which was isolated from a patient in the US. 

Credit:

NIAID-RML/Handout via Reuters 

Share

Very few of us have experienced anything quite like the crisis we’re going through now. We don’t know how to describe it, or what to call it, or what to compare it to.

Our leaders, though, seem pretty certain. China’s Xi Jinping set the tone in February when he called for a “people’s war” against the virus. On April 1, Donald Trump declared that the US continued to “wage all-out war to defeat the virus.” On April 26, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that every Indian complying with that country’s lockdown “was a soldier in this fight.”

French President Emmanuel Macron was perhaps the most succinct. As he prepared to shut his country down in March, he simply told the French people, “We are at war.”

Related: Corona Diaries: Open-source project chronicles pandemic life via voice notes

If you think the war metaphor is being overused, you’re not alone. But why is this kind of rhetoric such a go-to for world leaders? And should we consider other metaphors?

Metaphors allow us to see one thing in terms of another. Arguably, they are most effective when the comparison transforms our thinking. But there’s a danger in that, too.

“The choice of metaphor can affect not just the way in which we talk about something.”

Elena Semino, linguist, Lancaster University in Britain

“The choice of metaphor can affect not just the way in which we talk about something,” said Elena Semino, a linguist at Lancaster University in Britain. That choice, she said, can also “change the way we think about something and experience it.”

Related: ‘Stay home or dance with us’: Ghana’s dancing pallbearers urge social distancing

We’re not at war, we all know that. But our situation bears enough resemblance to life during wartime so as to make the metaphor appealing.

The ability of metaphor to change how we think, and maybe act, is at the root of the power of the war metaphor. It is why leaders confronted with this pandemic reached so quickly for the language of bombardment and trenches and sacrifice. They need to convey the peril in the starkest of terms.

In a way, they’re all trying to channel the likes of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who of course had to deal with a real war.

“What crimes has Hitler and all that Hitler stands for brought upon Europe and the world?” asked Churchill in 1941. “The outrage of the unopposed air bombing applied with calculated and scientific cruelty to helpless populations.”

Once Churchill had established the existential nature of the threat, he made his appeal for renewed resistance with a combination of hard truths and optimism.

Related: Shutdowns have led to cleaner air quality. Is it sustainable?

“Lift up your hearts,” he continued. “All will come right out of the depths of sorrow and of sacrifice.”

With a formula as powerful as that, why wouldn’t a president or governor declare that we’re at war with a virus? And why wouldn’t we buy it?

“I have to say that I, too, sometimes slip up and fall into that language. But I think it’s really important to correct ourselves and think about the impact that can be had when you’re using really violent language at a time when people are already anxious and already scared.”

Seema Yasmin, Stanford University

“I have to say that I, too, sometimes slip up and fall into that language,” said Seema Yasmin who teaches medicine and journalism at Stanford University. “But I think it’s really important to correct ourselves and think about the impact that can be had when you’re using really violent language at a time when people are already anxious and already scared.”

The trouble is, Yasmin says, this stuff is almost hardwired in us. We’ve deployed war metaphors to describe our attempts to control epidemics since at least the mid-1600s when a prominent British doctor called Thomas Sydenham made the comparison.

Related: Amid pandemic, Animal Crossing gamers create dreamy ‘islands,’ travel and mingle with friendly (and really cute) animal neighbors

“I attack the enemy within,” Sydenham declared. “A murderous array of disease has to be fought against, and the battle is not a battle for the sluggard.”

“This might be one of the earliest instances of that kind of violent language in medicine,” Yasmin said. She notes that French biologist Louis Pasteur spoke of infectious diseases as “invading armies that lay siege to our bodies.”

Yasmin says that in the 1920s, cancer cells were described as anarchists or Bolsheviks, the enemies of that era. And in 1971, Richard Nixon took aim with his own “war on cancer.”

So, are there better ways to talk about our current situation? Lancaster University’s Semino says yes. She oversees a crowdsourced project called Metaphor Menu, which lists the many ways people with cancer think of their condition. Weaponizing their struggle works for some patients, she says. But others prefer to think of being on a journey, or in a difficult relationship — or for one person, like having a stone in her shoe. As for the coronavirus, Semino says it might be time to drop the war talk.

“If a war is protracted, people could become fed up with it,” she said. “They could think there is no victory in sight, so the messages could become less effective.”

Semino has come across several other metaphors that she thinks work better. The most comprehensive one compares the pandemic to a forest fire.

“There are firefighters fighting it directly, such as doctors and nurses,” she said. “But other people have to be vigilant in order not to get in the way and not to be in danger themselves.”

The metaphor can be extended. When the main fire appears under control, we might still have to continue to modify our behavior so that it doesn’t flare up again. Even after it has been all but extinguished, smoldering ashes could reignite the forest.

“To avoid future fires, you need to look after the wood and the land,” Semino said.

If the forest fire metaphor proves inaccurate or unwieldy, Semino has found others on Twitter and elsewhere. These include comparisons with child development, orchestras and parachutes.

Social distancing is like asking a string section to play pianissimo: it only works if everyone does it. pic.twitter.com/KowZA7dOHG

— Classic FM (@ClassicFM) March 27, 2020

Patrick Cox is with the language-themed podcast, Subtitle, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

‘Stay home or dance with us’: Ghana’s dancing pallbearers urge social distancing

'Stay home or dance with us': Ghana's dancing pallbearers urge social distancing

By
The World staff

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Credit:

Ghana’s dancing pallbearers – BBC Africa

Share

COVID-19 shakes up international student life — and university budgets

COVID-19 shakes up international student life — and university budgets

More than a month after the coronavirus pandemic shut down US universities, international students continue to face uncertainty over what the coming school year will look like — some aren't sure if they would be able to come back to campus. What kind of financial hit could US universities expect if there's a drop in enrollment among international students?

By
Marnette Federis

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

A student carries bags to her car before a deadline to vacate University of Dayton in Ohio on-campus housing due to measures to combat the spread of novel coronavirus, in Dayton, Ohio, March 11, 2020.

Credit:

Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Share

When the novel coronavirus pandemic forced US university closures in March, Julia Jing, a sophomore at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, wasn’t sure if she should return home to Beijing or to stay in the US. 

The journalism and art design student eventually purchased a ticket home to China, but that flight was canceled. Jing has since been hunkering down in her apartment near campus and taking classes remotely. But she’s also spending a lot of her time contacting the US embassy in China and trying to figure out what she’ll do next. 

“It’s hard to connect with the embassies. They didn’t answer my phone and they didn’t reply to my email. And I don’t know what to do right now.”

Julia Jing, sophomore, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“It’s hard to connect with the embassies. They didn’t answer my phone and they didn’t reply to my email,” Jing said. “And I don’t know what to do right now.”

An estimated 1.1 million international students were enrolled at US universities during the 2018-19 academic year. And by paying tuition, renting apartments and buying books and supplies, they contributed an estimated $41 billion to the US economy, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. 

But those students have been forced to scramble as universities across the country closed in-person education this spring to slow the spread of the virus. Some who lived on campus had to find a new place to live, while others rushed to get back to their home countries before flights were canceled or national governments shut down borders. There is still uncertainty about what the coming academic year will look like for international students. Some, like Jing, aren’t sure if they’ll be able to return to campus in the fall. 

Related: International students displaced by COVID-19 face headaches with online classes

Her student visa expires in June, and the US government requires her to return to China to renew it. But flight cancellations may stretch into the coming months, and services at US embassies may still be suspended this summer. And if Jing does go home and can’t renew her visa, she’s not sure if she will be able to return to Illinois and enroll in the fall.

“If I cannot come back, I would just get a year off and stay in China,” she said. 

The American Council on Education predicts that “enrollment for the next academic year will drop by 15%, including a projected decline of 25% for international students,” according to letters it submitted to Congress. That could have serious effects on institutions’ budgets. The organization is advocating for more financial aid for higher education institutions to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World

The potential decline is a troubling scenario for many in higher education. 

International students typically pay full tuition at colleges, which means they pay higher rates compared to most domestic students, said Dick Startz, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“Universities all use that money to help subsidize the education of American students. If we lost a whole lot of our international students, a lot of universities would have a really serious financial shock.”

Dick Startz, economics professor, University of California, Santa Barbara 

“Universities all use that money to help subsidize the education of American students,” Startz said. “If we lost a whole lot of our international students, a lot of universities would have a really serious financial shock.”

Already, since 2016 fewer new international students have been choosing to study in the US. Higher education experts attribute that decline to the Trump administration’s stricter immigration policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

Rachel Banks, senior director for public policy and legislative strategy with NAFSA, said the pandemic will only accelerate the decline. If the number of international students falls, Banks says, the impacts will not just be financial, but could also extend to research and the overall academic learning environment of universities.

Related: Indians stranded in the US due to coronavirus face headaches for online classes

“At the graduate level, a majority of international students are here studying … in STEM fields, and they serve a role on campus as student teachers, supporting faculty and working in research labs,” said Banks.

Universities say they are preparing for all possible scenarios and potential financial losses. But many questions remain unanswered. For example, it’s unclear if international travel will still be limited in the coming months. The overall health of the global economy could impact international students’ ability to enroll. And it’s uncertain if US embassies and consulates around the world will be able to open up and issue student visas for those that need them in time for the fall. 

Another big question is whether the Department of Homeland Security will allow current international students to take classes online next semester.

Another big question is whether the Department of Homeland Security will allow current international students to take classes online next semester. Typically, those with student visas can only count one online class to their full course to remain eligible. But the agency temporarily suspended the rule in light of the pandemic this spring. It’s also unclear if newly admitted international students would be allowed to take classes remotely.

“We don’t know what it’s going to look like in August,” said Martin McFarlane, director of International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign said. “But these things are going to be restricting for returning students, just like they’re going to be restricting to new students, as well.”

At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, McFarlane said accepted international students still have a lot of interest in coming to the US.

“I did speak to the admissions office very recently,” said McFarlane. “They say the number of international students accepting their offer remains on pace with what we’ve seen in recent years. Our incoming class at the moment are hopeful and believe they’re going to be able to attend and fall.” 

Jing also wonders how new international students will fare in the fall, especially if classes are remote. She said she decided to study in the US for the experience of being on campus and meeting new people. 

“I like to experience the life here, how you join some clubs, hang out with friends … having this experience is more special for me,” Jing said.

She hopes to be able to continue studying in Illinois in the fall and to be with her friends, but if classes continue to be remote, she said she’ll enroll to make sure she can graduate on time.  

“I’m worried about my future,” she said. 

The economics of a global emergency

The economics of a global emergency

By
Sarah Leeson

A “telepresence” robot which provides face-to-face medical consultation is pictured at Changi Exhibition Centre which has been repurposed into a community isolation facility that will house recovering or early COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, during the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Singapore, April 24, 2020.

Credit:

Edgar Su/Reuters

Share

Everyone is feeling the impact of the pandemic in one way or another, and those feeling it financially are in the millions. Current estimates put the United States’ unemployment rate in the teens, and there has been a record number of unemployment benefits claims. The International Monetary Fund said it expects this to be the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression. 

When it comes to what happens next, nothing is certain. According to David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-chair of the MIT Work of the Future Task Force, the recession ultimately could be “transformative” for the country’s economy —  both positively and negatively  —  but this type of crash is almost unprecedented.

“We can’t really be super confident in the projections that we typically use,” Autor said. “For example, the Congressional Budget Office has terrific models that they use to forecast the unemployment rate, the return to growth, the output gap between potential and actual, and how that affects the rate of reemployment. But those models are based on past history, and that may not be a good guide.”

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World

The main difference, Autor said, is that this crash wasn’t due to a bubble. It wasn’t a sluggish or fundamentally unhealthy economy that caused the current decline. Instead, it was a necessary, society-wide reaction to a pandemic. Economic models haven’t really taken that into account.

While we can’t know for sure how this will play out, we are seeing that anyone can be affected. Kate, who asked that her real name not be used because of concerns about future job prospects, is one of millions who has been laid off in the last few weeks. Up until recently, she thought that her job working in a DNA sequencing lab was stable. But as more places shut down, there were fewer samples to collect and Kate was let go.

“I didn’t think my job, the company, or any of it was in peril,” Kate said. “It was just like, ‘Oh, shut down for a month and everything’s fine, everyone will go back.’ But the fact that it might not be fine is starting to sink in.”

Logan Patino was also in an industry that seemed untouchable: technology.

“I think I was a bit naive when I started hearing about it,” Patino said. “I think I understood early on how serious it was from a health perspective, but when it came to the economy and people’s jobs and everything, I kind of thought, ‘Well, okay, I’m in tech, and tech always has jobs.’”

The startup Patino was working for had just received $400 million in funding in February, but that didn’t save his job.

“I mean, it can affect pretty much everybody —  and it will for the near future for sure,” Patino said.

While neither blue nor white-collar jobs are certain in the face of the recession, many blue-collar positions face the added threat of automation, which, according to Autor, is imminent. Studies tell us that automation does not happen in a linear fashion. Instead, robots are introduced to the workplace in bursts, largely concentrated during times of economic downturn, such as right now. In fact, Autor called the current recession “an automation forcing event.”

“Employers are going to learn quickly things that they could do without workers, that they thought they needed workers to do,” Autor said, “And once things go back to normal, employers are not going to unlearn that lesson.”

For people working jobs that remain driven by humans, though, there may be a bright side. Autor suggests that society may have a chance to re-examine how we treat and compensate people in positions that have proven to be essential in the current crisis, including caretakers, grocery store workers, trash collectors and janitorial staff.

“A lot of those people are taking great risks and they’re not well remunerated,” Autor said. “And we have an opportunity to re-examine whether that’s the deal we want to offer them because it doesn’t have to be that way.” 

Sarah Leeson is an associate producer with Innovation Hub. You can follow her @sarahbration.

Brazilian Supreme Court orders probe into Bolsonaro; El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread; Harvard student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston

Brazilian Supreme Court orders probe into Bolsonaro; El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread; Harvard student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston

By
The World staff

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro walks as he leaves the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 22, 2020.

Credit:

Adriano Machado/Reuters

Share

Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered an investigation into accusations from Sergio Moro, the former justice minister, that allege President Jair Bolsonaro tried to “interfere” with police work for political gain. Moro — previously an anti-corruption judge — resigned last week, sending the administration into turmoil. A majority of Brazilians believe there is truth to accusations against Bolsonaro, but are split on whether or not he should be impeached.

And: Embraer takes Boeing to arbitration over failed deal as Brazil eyes China tie-up

Also: A Republican effort to sabotage Obamacare was just rejected by the Supreme Court

El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread

“No ray of sunlight” will enter prison cells holding gang members, said El Salvador’s security minister Osiris Luna, after a spate of homicides occured over the weekend. The government says prisoners were passing messages to the outside about the targets of the killings. Photos released by the office of President Nayib Bukele show inmates stripped down to shorts and crammed together on prison floors, most with no protection from the spread of the novel coronavirus. Human rights organizations have warned about the deadly consequences of the virus in Latin America’s overcrowded prison facilities. 

And: ‘Calamitous’ — domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown

WHO warns children could die as vaccinations for other diseases are delayed

The World Health Organization warns that children are at risk as the pandemic has created vaccine shortages in at least 21 countries for other potentially deadly diseases. Immunizations and treatment for diseases such as malaria have been put on hold, which could lead to a spike in cases later. “The tragic reality is children will die as a result,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urging countries to ensure vaccine programs are funded. 

Also: Vaccine rates drop dangerously as parents avoid doctor’s visits

And: US was warned of threat from anti-vaxxers in event of pandemic

Discussion today: Pandemic exposes health inequities

With the coronavirus pandemic making its way around the globe, poor communities and communities of color have been hit particularly hard, exposing longstanding health disparities. As part of our weekly series, The World’s Elana Gordon will be taking your questions and moderating a conversation with Dr. Mary Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and former commissioner of health for New York City, on Tuesday, April 28 at 12 p.m. ET.

Harvard grad student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston

The coronavirus pandemic is creating an insatiable demand for medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) that has overwhelmed the world market. China has ramped up the production of needed supplies by bringing new manufacturers online. In an international marketplace where companies, federal and state agencies are fighting for equipment, Harvard business student Sophie Bai and her colleagues are creating a new supply chain.

And: Shutdowns have led to cleaner air quality. Is it sustainable?

COVID-19 interrupts fertility plans for hopeful couples in the UK

Thousands of women may lose out on their chance to have a baby because of COVID-19. Fertility clinics across Britain shut their doors in mid-April, pausing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment for many women midcycle. The decision has left thousands in limbo. No one knows when the clinics will open up again and for those who have spent years trying to conceive — the closure is a cruel blow.

Also: Kids in Spain venture outside for the first time in weeks as lockdown gradually eases up

Corona Diaries: Open-source project chronicles pandemic life via voice notes

A map of Europe and North Africa showing locations where people have tagged recordings uploaded to the crowdsourced project, Corona Diaries.

Credit:

Corona Diaries

During the novel coronavirus pandemic, some are turning to their diaries to document this incredible time. Fellows from Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism had a different idea to chronicle daily life. They have started the “Corona Diaries” — an open-source audio project where anyone — including you — can contribute their audio story.

Morning meme

Chris Woodhead is taking a more permanent approach to tracking his pandemic experience: a tattoo for every day in lockdown.

    View this post on Instagram         

Self-isolation tattoo no.31

A post shared by Chris Woodhead (@adverse.camber) on Apr 16, 2020 at 6:39am PDT

In case you missed itListen: As some countries ease lockdowns, UK’s Boris Johnson asks Britons to be patient

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks outside 10 Downing Street after recovering from the coronavirus, in London, England, April 27, 2020.

Credit:

Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/handout via Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back on the job and urging the public to be patient with the lockdown restrictions. Meanwhile, the British parliament is back up and running though, without the traditional rancor for which the body is known. And, different countries are enforcing rules on self-isolation and quarantine differently. In the Philippines, a large part of the country is on lockdown with potentially deadly curfews. Also, the “Corona Diaries” gives people an opportunity to share their experiences of life under lockdown. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS

Harvard grad student creates a new PPE supply chain from China to Boston

Harvard grad student creates a new PPE supply chain from China to Boston

By
Rachel Rock

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Personal protective equipment brought to the US through an operation run by Harvard Business School student Sophie Bai.

 

Credit:

Courtesy of Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Share

Recently, Brigham and Women’s Hospital received a shipment of 3,000 face shields and goggles through an unusual channel — a Harvard Business School student from China, Sophie Bai, and a team of classmates and medical advisers working pro bono around the clock.

Dr. Mark Davis, vice president of Brigham Health International, said he has seen his own procurement office tirelessly search for supplies as their normal distributors have run dry. They, too, have created innovative solutions, such as sterilizing disposable equipment for reuse. But, with an endless demand, Davis and his colleagues welcomed the additional gear.

Related: Kids in Spain venture outside for the first time in weeks as lockdown gradually eases up

“Through this donation, we are able to prove the reliability of this really new sourcing mechanism. It’s something that’s new, it’s critically important and I think it will be instrumental to giving us the sort of PPE that we need here and around the country.”

Dr. Mark Davis, Brigham Health International, vice president

“Through this donation, we are able to prove the reliability of this really new sourcing mechanism,” Davis said. “It’s something that’s new, it’s critically important and I think it will be instrumental to giving us the sort of PPE that we need here and around the country.”

The coronavirus pandemic is creating an insatiable demand for medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) that has overwhelmed the world market. China has ramped up the production of needed supplies by bringing new manufacturers online. In an international marketplace where companies, federal and state agencies are fighting for equipment, Bai and her colleagues are creating a new supply chain.

Bai first came from China to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10 years ago to pursue an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. After stints as a private consultant, she decided to get a degree from the Harvard Business School. When Harvard’s campus shut down in mid-March, she said she had time on her hands and saw a way to help protect Boston’s front-line workers in hospitals, some of whom were her friends.

Bai said she has a family friend back home in China who is an established distributor of medical equipment, which provides Bai with direct access to supplies and reliable export infrastructure. So many new factories are now producing supplies that Bai said it’s hard to know which ones can be trusted to deliver quality goods efficiently.

Related: Shutdowns have led to cleaner air quality. Is it sustainable?

“Because my friends have direct access with the factories, they would actually fly there, do the sample testing themselves and be there to get the PPE out when goods are available. This is really important in terms of quality control.”

Sophie Bai, Harvard University, business school student

“Because my friends have direct access with the factories, they would actually fly there, do the sample testing themselves and be there to get the PPE out when goods are available,” Bai said. “This is really important in terms of quality control.”

Bai said she has also worked to interpret the complex dual standards of medical goods between China and the US. She said she has scoured FDA databases to verify a factory’s claim to be certified for a given product and reviewed pages of testing data to reconcile the different standards used in each country. She also researched the comparison between the FDA-approved N95 masks and the KN95 surgical masks from China.

“So, what you really have to look into is the bacterial filtration, particle filtration, fluid resistance, the differential pressure, the flammability,” Bai said. “You have to look into those specs to understand what are the differences. What do those mean.”

In addition to working with the Brigham, WGBH News has confirmed that Bai procured supplies for Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Lahey Health, Boston Medical Center and Hebrew SeniorLife, a large provider of senior health care and living communities. In total, the team has secured 1.4 million pieces of critically needed medical and PPE. Some 300,000 pieces have already arrived, and Bai said she expects to receive another 400,000 pieces soon, with the rest to follow shortly.

Related: Corona Diaries: Open-source project chronicles pandemic life via voice notes

Bai and her team have procured 1.7 million pieces of PPE so far for 12 area hospitals, community health centers and senior living facilities in the state. 

Bai and a team of 11 volunteers in Boston and Los Angeles, mainly her other classmates from Harvard, communicate in Mandarin with Chinese companies and in English with institutions in the US. Having a friend on the West Coast allows Bai to operate nearly around the clock. Even so, though, Bai said she has lost out on opportunities to grab critical goods due to her lack of immediate access to cash to pay for the goods.

Bai’s Harvard Business School professor, Jeff Bussgang, said the international market for PPE is chaotic.

“It feels more like the [New York] Stock Exchange trading floor. People are aggressively pursuing supply, bidding and paying upfront on the spot.”

 Jeff Bussgang, Harvard Business School, professor

“It feels more like the [New York] Stock Exchange trading floor,” Bussgang said. “People are aggressively pursuing supply, bidding and paying upfront on the spot.”

Harvard Business School has no official involvement in the operation, but to connect Bai with quicker access to the funds needed to secure the PPE, Bussgang introduced Bai to The Boston Foundation, which usually funds community programs, including WGBH. The foundation’s Tim Smith said they set up a new funding mechanism specifically to buy medical supplies through Bai’s operation — something they’ve never done before. They partnered with Flywire, a Boston-based financial technology company that wires money between countries faster than traditional banks.

“It’s nontraditional to use a charitable fund to essentially purchase goods and deliver them to local hospitals,” said Smith, the Foundation’s senior director of philanthropy. “It’s definitely a new thing for us and I think it can make a significant impact.”

Related: COVID-19 interrupts fertility plans for hopeful couples in the United Kingdom

The fund currently has over $3 million from at least 29 donors. 

Bai said she’s seen an outpouring of support both in China and from Chinese communities around the U.S. eager to help Boston. And she knows why. Boston is a mecca for Chinese students, she said, and they want to give back to a place they see as their second home.

“There is really an emotional tie between the Chinese community to Boston in general because so many of us had a transformative experience growing up from our late teens to our early 20s,” Bai said.

This story was originally published by WGBH. 

Discussion: Pandemic exposes health inequities in vulnerable communities

Discussion: Pandemic exposes health inequities in vulnerable communities

By
The World staff

Share

A World Bank pandemic funding program will see more than $195 million distributed as soon as next week to help tackle the novel coronavirus among 64 of the world’s poorest countries that have reported cases of the fast-spreading disease, the lender said on Monday.

The World Bank launched a number of instruments under its Pandemic Emergency Financing program to provide rapid financing to affected poor countries after the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that killed at least 11,300 people.

Related discussion: On the front lines of the coronavirus crisis

While developed countries are funneling trillions of dollars into their own virus stricken economies, many poor nations lack the means to mitigate the hit from the pandemic.

But even in the United States, poorer communities, along with Black and Hispanic people, are taking the biggest hit from the novel coronavirus. According to a new report from Pew Research Center, low-income workers, including people of color and those without college degrees, are more likely to report job losses or pay cuts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit underserved populations and communities of color particularly hard, exacerbating longstanding health disparities in the US and around the world.

As part of our weekly series taking your questions to the experts, in partnership with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The World’s Elana Gordon moderated a conversation with Dr. Mary Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and former commissioner of health for New York City. Bassett discussed underserved populations amid COVID-19 and address the urgent need for data exploring health inequities.

The Netherlands to immigrants: Speak Dutch

The Netherlands to immigrants: Speak Dutch

By
Patrick Cox

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Moroccan-born Dutch writer Hassnae Bouazza

Credit:

Patrick Cox/Subtitle

Share

In Hassnae Bouazza’s memory, learning to speak Dutch happened very suddenly.

“I remember very vividly the moment that I realized that I had learned Dutch,” Bouazza said. “I was playing with children at kindergarten. All of sudden realized, I speak Dutch.”

Bouazza, now in her 40s, is the youngest of seven siblings. Her family moved to the Netherlands from Morocco in the 1970s after her father left Morocco to seek work in Europe. In 1977, the rest of the family joined him and settled in a Dutch village — the only immigrants to live there. 

This Moroccan family might have been called model immigrants, if the Dutch government had a model in mind. As Dutch speakers, the family was different from the vast majority of immigrants who moved to Dutch cities, but remained largely separated from Dutch society. 

“Nothing was done to integrate them in the society,” said Ricky van Oers, an immigration law professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen. “The authorities thought too easily of asking someone to come over to work, stay for 20 years and then go back.”

Large-scale migration from Morocco to the Netherlands started in the 1960s under a guest worker program largely geared toward temporary work for men. But many immigrants decided to stay, and in the 1970s, family reunification law allowed guest laborers to bring their families to join them. 

When Dutch officials realized that families from Morocco and elsewhere weren’t returning to their homelands, they tried to get them to learn Dutch. When that only partially worked — it was too late for many — attitudes hardened.

Anti-immigrant sentiment increased around Sept. 11, 2001, when a series of anti-immigrant political parties started winning seats in Dutch elections. Today, the leader of that faction is Geert Wilders.

“There is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe,” Wilders told reporters during the 2017 election campaign in which his party came in second.  

Wilders and his followers have pushed exclusionary language laws for immigrants. That message is gaining popularity: The Dutch government requires people who want long-term work permits to take private Dutch classes and pass a language proficiency exam. 

“If they don’t pass this exam within three years, they are fined,” Radboud University’s Van Oers said. “The Netherlands can be perceived as sort of a guiding country. It is very proud to have taken up that role. And you see that different European countries have copied the Dutch model.”

Those efforts are also inspiring the Trump administration. In May 2019, the White House proposed an overhaul of US immigration law that would include language proficiency regulations. 

“Future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the Rose Garden announcement. Currently, there is no indication that Congress would pass such a measure.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch government has recognized that its system is broken: Immigrants don’t learn Dutch, the government doesn’t offer proper support, and there is no end in sight to right-wing politicians calling immigrants “scum.” The country faces another general election in 2021, and many expect immigration to be a major issue. Some moderates in the ruling coalition think that promises to get tougher on immigrants is a zero-sum game.

“[In an election year] it’s easy to say: ‘We’re just going to make life harder for people who come here,’” said Jan Paternotte, a member of parliament with one of the coalition’s centrist parties. “That’s a signal to everyone else: Don’t come to the Netherlands.”

Paternotte is among those trying to change the system so that immigrants feel incentivized rather than forced to learn Dutch — more like the way Bouazza picked up the language in a village school in the 1980s.

“One of the Dutch values used to be something they were very proud of: tolerance,” said Bouazza, referring to tolerance of other cultures, languages and ideas. “And that’s nearly lost.”

Bouazza now writes books in Dutch that call on her fellow citizens to regain that tolerance. 

Patrick Cox is with the language-themed podcast Subtitle, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Libyans are caught between coronavirus and conflict 

Libyans are caught between coronavirus and conflict 

The recent escalation in fighting has dashed hopes that the pandemic might succeed where previous attempts at diplomacy and sanctions had failed.

By
Halima Gikandi

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Libyan boys check a damaged car after a shell fell on a residential area at Hadba al-Badri district, in Tripoli, Libya, Jan. 28, 2020.

Credit:

Ismail Zitouny/Reuters 

Share

As the number of coronavirus cases steadily climbs in Libya, fighting in and around the besieged capital of Tripoli continues to worsen by the day, as the forces of Gen. Khalifa Haftar continues a yearlong offensive against the UN-backed Government of National Accord.

The recent escalation in fighting has dashed hopes that the pandemic might succeed where previous attempts at diplomacy and sanctions had failed.

“We had hoped from the very beginning that the COVID-19 would have resulted in some sort of ceasefire or at least a truce.”

Kasper Engborg, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Libya Office (OCHA)

“We had hoped from the very beginning that the COVID-19 would have resulted in some sort of ceasefire or at least a truce,” said Kasper Engborg, the acting head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Libya Office (OCHA).

Related: Pandemic security must be ‘top line concern’ says former Amb. Power

“That, unfortunately, has not happened. The fighting has continued, it has even escalated in some areas over the past weeks,” Engborg said. “We still experience heavy shelling that indiscriminately impacts and hits civilian and urban areas where civilians are living,” he continued, citing recent attacks on medical facilities.

Fueled by competing foreign powers, militias, mercenaries and unending proliferation of arms, the latest fighting has become the worst in recent memory for Tripoli residents.

“I remember my mom telling me about a relative of ours who was hit while they were doing barbecue at night,” said Maysem Mabruk, the co-founder of a charity organization called Tripoli Good and a dentist by training.

Mabruk was living in Tripoli until September, when she moved to England to pursue a master’s degree in international development. Like many in the diaspora, she worries about what the tragic combination of the coronavirus and constant shelling will mean for her family and friends back home.

“These incidents aren’t happening in the suburbs of Tripoli or the outside. It’s actually happening downtown,” said Mabruk, who added that the city is now under lockdown due to COVID-19.

Related: US and Mexico are blocking kids from asking for asylum because of coronavirus

“They don’t feel safe at home. But they don’t have the option to leave because there’s nowhere else to go,” she continued.

A fragile health care system

The coronavirus is also putting new pressures on a health care system already struggling with lack of medical personnel and medical supplies.

“Now in Libya, when you go to the public facilities, you often have to bring the gloves, the antiseptics, because the hospitals don’t have anything.”

Dr. Mohamed Aburawi, Harvard University, fellow

“Now in Libya, when you go to the public facilities, you often have to bring the gloves, the antiseptics, because the hospitals don’t have anything,” said Libyan Dr. Mohamed Aburawi, who is currently living in Boston for a fellowship at Harvard University.

Before Libya closed its borders due to the coronavirus, residents who could afford it would typically seek medical treatment abroad. “If you go to the west or east [in Libya], you will see lines of ambulances bumper to bumper looking for health care outside of the country,” Aburawi recalled.

Digital solutions 

When Libya recorded its first case of the coronavirus in March, many feared that the hospital system would quickly become overwhelmed, unable to manage a national epidemiological response.

“There was an issue about tracing, keeping track of people, screening, triaging,” said Aburawi, who stays in touch with colleagues in Tripoli.

Related: Xenophobia ‘takes its toll’ as Trump works to curb immigration

That’s when Aburawi received a call from local health officials. “To help them develop a platform that will basically screen and triage patients,” he said.

Aburawi is no stranger to finding digital solutions to Libya’s health care problems. In 2016, he founded Speetar, a mobile telemedicine platform to help address some of the key challenges facing underserved Libyans, especially those who cannot find specialists in local hospitals or afford to go abroad for treatment.

“We use telemedicine to connect physicians abroad who are qualified and have the same kind of cultural background to many of the countries that need their help,” he said.

Last week, Speetar launched a pilot version of an app for the coronavirus in partnership with the Libyan National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), which is leading the country’s response to COVID-19.

Libyans with the access code can log onto the mobile app to fill out a questionnaire about their symptoms and relevant health history.

“The application will automatically classify patients into low risk or high risk,” said Dr. Enas Ali Engab, who works for NCDC’s COVID-19 task force in Tripoli.

Related: Can Asia’s largest armed group fend off coronavirus?

Engab has been training local medical personnel to use the mobile app. “If they are high risk, they will be directed to doctors at the NCDC. Those are experts in dealing with COVID-19 cases,” she continued.

While still in its early stages, the mobile app could help Libyan health officials streamline their response to the virus and improve tracking and tracing of cases — and centralize data.

“We allow these patients once they test positive to go to their phone book and check all the contacts that they came across during the past 14 days, and those contacts will get automatic anonymous messages to tell them they have come in contact with someone who may have tested positive,” Aburawi explained.

Health officials rushing to contain the pandemic hope the mobile app, along with a national hotline dedicated to virus questions, will provide enough transparency to incentivize people to stay away from public spaces.

“COVID-19 is very contagious. It’s transmissible at a very high rate, so we don’t want people to go out of their homes. Because we don’t have the facilities to cover all of these patients.”

Dr. Enas Ali Engab, NCDC’s COVID-19 task force in Tripoli

“COVID-19 is very contagious. It’s transmissible at a very high rate, so we don’t want people to go out of their homes,” Engab said. “Because we don’t have the facilities to cover all of these patients.”

Still, even the most ambitious mobile app will find it hard to maneuver around Libya’s ongoing civil war, where rival parties have divided the country into east and west, and continue to compete over the oil-rich country’s top institutions and resources.

Nor will it provide much relief for the hundreds of thousands of Libyans who are internally displaced, stranded or detained migrants and residents whose homes are no longer safe due to indiscriminate shellings.  

Yet, with no end in sight for Libya’s conflict, Engab sees even more use for telemedicine and other digital solutions.

“Sometimes when there is a conflict or something the streets get blocked, and you might need to go to that hospital or meet with that doctor, but because the streets are blocked you can’t leave your house. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Engab said.

“Telemedicine was required before, but now it is urgently needed,” she added. 

In fight against coronavirus, Ghana uses drones to speed up testing

In fight against coronavirus, Ghana uses drones to speed up testing

Ghana is the first African country to ease its lockdown in response to the coronavirus. The country is using drones to deliver samples collected in more than 1,000 health facilities across the country.

Writer
María Elena Romero

Reporter
Lydia Emmanouilidou

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

COVID-19 tests samples are being delivered from rural areas of Ghana to testing centers in urban areas using drone technology.

 

Credit:

Courtesy of Zipline

Share

This week, Ghana became the first African country to ease its nearly three-week lockdown against the coronavirus.

While large gatherings are still banned, and schools remain closed, some nonessential businesses were allowed to open in Accra and Kumasi, the two main metropolitan areas in the country. Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said his decision came about after increasing the country’s capacity to fight the pandemic, including aggressive contact tracing and expansion of testing. 

Ghana is using a unique approach to reduce the amount of time it takes to get COVID-19 test samples from remote rural areas to labs: drones. Instead of waiting for days for a batch of samples to be transported by truck, tests from rural areas can be delivered for analysis in less than an hour.

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World 

The Ministry of Health expanded its partnership with Zipline, an American company that uses drones to deliver medical supplies. Zipline has set up a system to deliver samples collected in more than 1,000 health facilities across the country.

Zipline’s drones are automated, but they’re also being monitored and, when needed, controlled, by humans. On April 17, on Zipline’s first flight, 51 samples were flown from the Omenako drone distribution center to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, 45 miles away, in what could be the first time that drones have been used to deliver COVID-19 test samples. 

The COVID-19 test samples are packed in special red boxes using guidelines issued by the World Health Organization and then placed inside the belly of the drone. The drone is then put on a launcher, and it’s off to its destination for delivery.

Zipline’s drones are automated but they’re also being monitored and, when needed, controlled, by humans.

Credit:

Courtesy of Zipline

The delivery is contactless. Once at the testing facility, the drone opens up its belly and drops the box filled with samples using a parachute to ease the landing. A health care worker sprays the box down with disinfectant and takes it inside to be processed. 

For nearly a year, Zipline has been delivering vaccines and medications to hospitals around Ghana. It also operates in Rwanda, where it uses its drones to deliver blood samples.

Wilmot James, a visiting professor at Columbia University who has advised the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on biosecurity, has been following Zipline’s operations for years and says the company has a clean track safety record. But he stressed that biosafety is critical in this kind of work and the fact that there is an inherent risk to these types of operations. 

“In this particular instance, we’re dealing with samples that are pathogenic,” James said. “An Ebola sample is another one; you have to make sure that you have proper protocols around that.”

Zipline says they’ve done that in consultation with experts and WHO. 

Ghana conducted more than 68,000 tests during lockdown, and some18,000 testing samples remain outstanding. The country has only  67 ventilators available in its public hospitals for a population of almost 30 million.

In Greece, refugees and migrants turn to each other to get through coronavirus pandemic

In Greece, refugees and migrants turn to each other to get through coronavirus pandemic

By
Fahrinisa Campana

Player utilities

download

Listen to the story.

Arash Hampay and a group of volunteers pack and distribute “hope bags” for refugees and the homeless in Athens, Greece. 

Credit:

Fahrinisa Campana/The World

Share

On a warm April evening in downtown Athens, Greece, Arash Hampay was handing out pink, plastic shopping bags filled with food, soap, hand sanitizer and face masks to refugees and the homeless.

It’s his way of helping the community fight against the coronavirus.

“Just imagine thousands of homeless and refugee families that live on the street. They don’t have the money to go to a hotel or rent a house, and they don’t have the money to buy masks, so how can they protect themselves. Who has to help them?”

Arash Hampay, community acvitist and volunteer, Athens, Greece

“Just imagine thousands of homeless and refugee families that live on the street,” said Hampay, an Iranian refugee who arrived in Greece in 2016. “They don’t have the money to go to a hotel or rent a house, and they don’t have the money to buy masks, so how can they protect themselves. Who has to help them?”

Related: This beloved school gave migrants on Lesbos an escape. A fire turned it to rubble.

Greece closed schools and other places where large groups of people congregate on March 10, and imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 23. Its early and prolonged measures to combat COVID-19 has meant fewer confirmed cases or deaths than many other European countries. As of Thursday, Greece had reported 2,463 cases of COVID-19 and 125 deaths.

Also on Thursday, Greece extended its lockdown by a week to May 4, saying any relaxation would be staggered over May and June. The government has been praised for being proactive to protect its citizens, but concern is mounting over the plight of refugees and migrants.

Dozens of refugees — including many single-parent families — accommodated at a hostel in southern Greece tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. The hostel, quarantined since April 16, is the the third refugee facility in the country to be hit by the virus.

Related: Cross-border tensions over migrants wreak havoc on bucolic Greek village

Since the coronavirus outbreak began in Greece, some have sounded the alarm about the lack of resources allocated toward the 115,000 refugees and migrants the country hosts. And now, at least two camps have been put on total lockdown due to a sudden surge in cases. That means tens of thousands of refugees can’t leave their settlements to get basic supplies.

In the absence of adequate support, some refugees have taken it upon themselves to find their own solutions. That includes Hampay, who, before coming to Athens, lived with his younger brother in the infamous Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.

Hampay has long been an active humanitarian and activist. When his brother was held in immigration detention after they first got to Greece, and threatened with deportation back to Turkey, Hampay held a monthlong hunger strike while camping out in the main square in Mytilini.

Arash Hampay smokes in front of Cafe Patogh before the volunteers arrive to start packing and distributing the “hope bags” in Athens, Greece.

Credit:

Fahrinisa Campana/The World 

The Greek government has granted refugee status to the brothers, and they have relocated to Athens where they share an apartment. In 2018, Hampay opened a community center in the neighborhood to help feed poor people in the city. It’s called Cafe Patogh, which means “hangout” in Farsi.

Now, with the coronavirus outbreak, Hampay sees an even greater need to support refugees and locals struggling to protect themselves. Finding other volunteers to help with the supermarket shopping and preparing the food bags, which they call “hope bags,” has never been an issue.

Related: Xenophobia ‘takes its toll’ as Trump works to curb immigration

On any given afternoon, at least a dozen volunteers, all refugees like himself, help Hampay dole out food and supplies. Recently, they had prepared two dozen bags, though the number varies day by day — they try to give out food every night, but don’t always have the money. 

Securing consistent funding for the bags has been difficult. Hampay isn’t running a formal nonprofit, at least not yet — he’s hired a lawyer and begun the process of registering the community center as a nongovernmental organization, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, everything has stalled.

Instead, Hampay gets funds for what he’s doing in more informal ways — by word of mouth and social media. He has PayPal linked to his social media so that he can receive donations.

Arash Hampay shows his Instagram account where he makes announcements about pickup times for “hope bags” in Athens, Greece. It’s his way to help in the fight against the coronavirus — bringing much-needed supplies and food to refugees and the homeless. 

Credit:

Fahrinisa Campana/The World 

This week, he put a call out for help covering the community center’s rent and utility bills, which are still due even though the place is closed under the lockdown restrictions. Hampay needs to raise nearly 1,500 euros ($1,622) to keep the community center running. He also needs help paying for the hope bags, which cost a little over 9 euros, or $10 apiece to put together.

“They can send it to our PayPal, but I will show you our PayPal — 9 euros, 3 euros, 2 euros.” 

Arash Hampay, community acvitist and volunteer, Athens, Greece

“They can send it to our PayPal, but I will show you our PayPal — 9 euros, 3 euros, 2 euros,” he said with a laugh. Two euros is worth about $2.

Still, he usually has enough money to put some cooking oil, rice, pasta and fresh vegetables in the bags. “When we have good money, we put also sometimes meat and more things.” 

Though this month will be tight, Hampay remains upbeat.

Related: Can Asia’s largest armed group fend off coronavirus?

He hummed as he placed the bright, pink bags in a line outside the door of the community center. Most people who receive the bags know what time to arrive for pickup, but for newcomers to Athens, he spreads the word with short videos on Instagram.

Arash Hampay, who is an Iranian refugee, is trying to bring food and supplies to other refugees and the homeless in Athens, Greece.

Credit:

Fahrinisa Campana/The World 

As a recognized refugee who doesn’t live in one of the many refugee camps spread across Greece, Hampay has an unusual amount of freedom. But he knows many others aren’t as fortunate.

Sohaila Shojayie is a 15-year-old asylum-seeker from Afghanistan who lives with her family in a tent in the Moria refugee camp. Roughly 20,000 people are crammed into the camp that was built to hold under 3,000.

“Moria itself is a virus for asylum-seekers. There’s no soap, nothing,” she said over WhatsApp. Like everyone, Shojayie is worried about the coronavirus and the potential for a massive outbreak in the camp.

“So, some of us Afghan girls and women, we started working hard making masks for our people, for the asylum-seekers. We want to avoid getting coronavirus at Moria camp.”

Sohaila Shojayie, 15-year-old asylum-seeker from Afghanistan

“So, some of us Afghan girls and women, we started working hard making masks for our people, for the asylum-seekers. We want to avoid getting coronavirus at Moria camp,” she said.

Shojayie and her peers are producing more than 6,000 masks a day, which they’re able to do with the support of an NGO called Team Humanity. The NGO has been arranging weekly deliveries of mask-making materials — including professional-grade, polypropylene nonwoven fabric.

Salam Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, says the mask-making team can supply each camp resident with two masks every three or four days.

“We’re distributing them in the camp with two pieces of soap to each person,” he said. “They’re reusable, and people can wash it. We [give] them also a flyer where it says in four languages how to wash their hands, how to boil the mask — you can boil it in water if you cannot wash it — and you need to do it two times in a day.”

So far, Moria camp has managed to avoid an outbreak of the coronavirus. Shojayie hopes that she and the other volunteers will be able to keep it that way.

“The refugees are happy and appreciate us,” Shojayie said. “They said that if they hadn’t gotten these masks from us, then where would they be able to get them from?”

Recently, Greek authorities have stepped up actions to protect some refugees. Over the weekend of April 18, when most Greeks were celebrating Greek Orthodox Easter in their homes, the government transferred 49 unaccompanied minors from island camps to Germany.

They’re also promising to relocate people who are especially vulnerable to hotels on the mainland. The plan has hit a snag, however, over concerns of spreading the virus. The move will now likely take place on April 25 and with a smaller number than the 2,000 originally announced.

For at least some refugees stuck in the camps, they often have to turn to each other to try to fill whatever gaps they can.

“Here we are taking care of each other,” Shojayie said. 

Reuters contributed to this report.