A version of this story appeared in the May 31 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
The coronavirus pandemic could have offered a moment of glory for populist leaders. This is a period of heightened fear and anxiety, emotions that typically allow populism to thrive.
But as Angela Dewan writes, the virus is immune to their playbooks.
The United States, Brazil and Russia have the world’s highest number of coronavirus cases and their economies are taking devastating blows. Their leaders – Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Vladimir Putin – initially downplayed the risks, even as the virus overwhelmed other nations. Now they are scrambling as the virus continues to spread and kill, exposing their weaknesses.
Trump has placed blame on China, touted unproven drugs and pressured governors to reopen states. Putin has pulled PR stunts to project the image of a leader in control, like visiting a newly built hospital in a yellow hazmat suit. But Russia’s spiraling infection numbers show the virus has eluded his grasp. Bolsonaro’s repeated claims that the virus is “a little flu” that poses little threat is falling flat, as cases rise by as many as 20,000 a day.
The consequences have proved deadly. If the US had started social distancing just a week earlier, it could have prevented the loss of at least 36,000 lives, say researchers at Columbia University.
Intimidation, fear-mongering and propaganda have not slowed the virus. Countries that have seen some success have followed science, communicated transparently and relied on long-term planning.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: What will a return to work look like?
A: “Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of Covid-19 associated with food,” says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC says that because the coronavirus can’t survive on surfaces for long, there is likely a very low risk of spread from food products or packaging shipped over several days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
A deep dive into the genetics of the novel coronavirus shows it may have spent time infecting bats and pangolins before humans, researchers said yesterday. Up to a third of the pangolin species may have played host to the virus. But researchers say it’s too soon to blame pangolins for the pandemic.
India’s large population of migrant workers has been hard hit by the virus. Many were caught far from home when Prime Minister Narendra Modi enacted sweeping lockdown measures.
Mohit Rao tells the story of one migrant worker who walked and hitchhiked from the southern tech hub of Bengaluru to his village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. He was lucky. He made it home. Hundreds of others have died on the road.
Migrant workers across the world face similar threats. They lose their jobs and can’t send money home. They are unable to return home. And their cramped living conditions place them at high risk of contracting the virus.
Pandemic and protests collide
Health officials warn that mounting protests in the US could exacerbate the spread of a virus that has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
CNN medical analyst Dr. James Phillips stresses the importance of protection during protests.
“This can be done in a relatively safe manner by trying to distance yourself and wearing those masks,” he said. “It’s important to remember, in the middle of a tinder box that is America right now and with all these protests taking place, we can’t lose sight of the fact there’s a deadly virus circulating and it can still spread.”
Reopening must be done “slowly and painstakingly”
England will lift more coronavirus restrictions on Monday. Extremely vulnerable people who have been “shielding” – staying at home at all times and avoiding any face-to-face contact – will be allowed outdoors. Some schools will reopen and people will be allowed to gather in larger groups.
But experts have warned the government against rushing to reopen. The UK, which has the second highest number of recorded Covid-19 deaths in the world, is at a “very dangerous moment” in its coronavirus crisis, says the country’s deputy chief medical officer.
For some, another Sunday with no church
The thrust to reopen religious institutions has recently dominated Covid-19-related debates.
As governors gradually reopen their cities, some churches have argued that they are being treated differently than other groups. Last week, President Donald Trump called on governors to reopen religious institutions, threatening to “override” governors if their states did not follow new guidance from the CDC.
The fight over the reopening of houses of worship reached the US Supreme Court on Friday, when, in a 5-4 vote, it rejected a request from a California church to block limits on the number of people who can attend services.
ON OUR RADAR
- A 5-month-old Brazilian baby survives coronavirus after 32 days in coma.
- President Trump postponed the G7 meeting until at least September. The announcement came hours after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said it “cannot confirm” that she would attend the summit amid the pandemic.
- The CDC will resume its regular briefings following a three-month hiatus.
- More World War II veterans are feeling inspired by Tom Moore. Mickey Nelson is walking 100 miles to mark his 100th birthday and raise money for coronavirus relief in his home town in Minnesota. In Accra, Ghana, 95-year-old Private Joseph Hammond has been walking every day for a week 14 miles to fundraise.
- Pakistan has made it mandatory to wear a mask in crowded public spaces including mosques, bazaars and public transportation.
- Meet the people who have turned the responsibility of wearing the mask into an opportunity to honor and fight for the health of their communities.
- Venezuela announces partial reopening plan: five days on, 10 days off.
- The Formula One season will get underway on July 5 with the Austrian Grand Prix. But the race will be held behind closed doors.
- A balloon artist with autism has made elaborate sculptures to honor essential workers.
Set the rules that you are most comfortable with, such as mask wearing and frequent hand washing. But remember this is not a one-sided discussion. The caregiver’s health is on the line, too.
Here are some tips to make the situation easier:
- Replicate your work environment
- Plan your day the evening before
- Keep up with a morning routine
- Work alongside a coworker
- Set aside time for unplanned distractions
- Take time for self-care