Doctors and nurses attend to COVID-19 patients at the Guillermo Almenara hospital in Lima, Peru, May 22, 2020 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Few governments acted more decisively to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic than Peru, whose president, Martin Vizcarra, mobilized the country’s resources even before the World Health Organization formally declared COVID-19 a pandemic. By most objective measures, Vizcarra did almost everything right. Most importantly, and in contrast to other leaders, he took action early, something that epidemiological models confirm is vital for preventing widespread contagion. And yet, tragically, Peru still stands as one of the world’s COVID-19 hotspots today, with the second-highest number of confirmed cases in South America. Only Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has put on a […]

A boy paddles a kayak down a flooded street in Midland, Mich., May 20, 2020 (Photo by Katy Kildee for Midland Daily News via AP Images).

Historic floods washed over swaths of Michigan after a dam breach earlier this month, just days after a major typhoon struck the Philippines. Last week, Cyclone Amphan slammed into eastern India and Bangladesh, killing dozens of people. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a busier-than-normal Atlantic hurricane season, which officially kicks off on June 1. The timing, obviously, couldn’t be worse. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Samantha Montano, an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, for a conversation about the challenges of preparing for, and responding […]

Sacristan Michael Seewar prepares the altar for a livestream Easter service at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, April 12, 2020 (AP photo by Elaine Thompson).

An article published earlier this month in the largest English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, the Daily Star, inadvertently revealed a lot about different perspectives on religion’s role in society, including during the coronavirus pandemic. The writer argued that religious actors play a “vital stabilizing role” during such global crises and can “offer a beacon of hope” amid “the ravages of this pandemic.” But in the comments, a reader took a starkly different stance with what he called “a rude question”—a few of them, in fact. First, can faith and science go together? Second, how can faith actors help when they fight […]

Dr. Joseph Ballinger gives Marjorie Hill, a nurse at Montefiore Hospital in New York, the first vaccine for the H2N2 virus to be administered in New York, Aug. 16, 1957 (AP photo).

Months into the coronavirus pandemic, it has become clear that countries that recently dealt with other outbreaks of infectious diseases have been more successful in containing COVID-19. From East Asia and the Pacific to West and Central Africa, authorities have made good use of epidemiological expertise they acquired from tackling outbreaks of SARS, MERS, Swine flu and Ebola to quickly roll out containment measures. Yet even governments lacking such experience should have been able to foresee the destructive potential of COVID-19. President Donald Trump may insist that “there’s never been anything like this in history,” but the history of the […]

A woman wearing a face mask holds her child at a marketplace in the Nioko-2 suburb of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, May 14, 2020 (photo courtesy of Clair MacDougall).

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—Residents in the capital of this small, West African country rejoiced last weekend as their beloved corner bars, known as maquis, reopened seven weeks after the government had ordered them closed to curb the spread of COVID-19. In a maquis in the suburb of Wemtenga on Sunday evening, beer bottles clinked and chairs sidled closer together as patrons smoked and swayed to Ivorian music under drops of colored light pouring from a plastic disco ball. That same day, authorities had called on citizens to respect an earlier government order to wear masks—an edict that many Burkinabe, including those […]

A government propaganda poster showing Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the words “China Dream” in Wuhan, China, April 2, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. In a speech Monday to the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization, Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for international cooperation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular for greater support for the developing world. Xi’s remarks were a bold assertion of Chinese leadership at the WHO and in global efforts to contain the coronavirus, carefully designed to deflect international criticism of Beijing’s handling of the initial outbreak. At the annual meeting of […]

A billboard encouraging people to wear face masks is installed on an apartment building in Cape Town, South Africa, May 16, 2020 (AP photo by Nardus Engelbrecht).

From the moment the novel coronavirus burst out of China and began to spread around the world, many commentators quickly took for granted that Africa would become the pandemic’s biggest and deadliest target. Yet the continent has so far dodged those dire predictions. In retrospect, few things were more predictable. For decades, the convention in Western media coverage has been to treat Africa with a casual scorn that plays up its problems—pretending wrongly, for example, that its wars are unusually brutal by the standards of our times, or that its politicians, sneeringly dismissed as “Big Men,” are uniquely power hungry […]

A nurse injects an elderly woman with an influenza vaccine in Lima, Peru, March 17, 2020 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

The global quest for a coronavirus vaccine is heating up. Moderna, a Masschusetts-based biotechnology company, announced promising results this week from a limited early trial of its vaccine candidate. And last Friday, President Donald Trump unveiled “Operation Warp Speed,” a new public-private partnership that aims to make a vaccine available in substantial quantities by the end of the year. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Paul Offit, a physician and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, to discuss what it will take to safely manufacture—and fairly distribute—a […]

A medical staffer looks out from an emergency medical tent in Brescia, northern Italy, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Luca Bruno).

In early March, Lombardy, Italy’s most prosperous region, was fast becoming the epicenter of a global pandemic. As the number of coronavirus cases spiked above 7,000, with more than 350 deaths, the Italian government moved to quarantine the worst-affected towns in Lombardy and the rest of northern Italy, a move that was almost unthinkable at the time, with police setting up checkpoints to control traffic in and out. Yet as the world focused on Italy’s north, Filippo Anelli, the president of the country’s national federation of doctors, saw another crisis coming. “If Lombardy has been brought to its knees,” he […]

A U.S. Marine stands guard as the USNS Comfort hospital ship prepares to leave New York City, April 30, 2020 (Photo by Anthony Behar for Sipa via AP Images).

The twin global emergencies of COVID-19 and climate change are forcing the U.S. foreign policy establishment to reassess its traditional conceptions of national security. According to a still dominant paradigm, the gravest dangers the United States faces emanate from adversaries with sufficient military capabilities to attack the nation and its allies or, at a minimum, thwart its political and economic objectives. These threat perceptions expanded dramatically following 9/11. After a handful of jihadists armed with boxcutters inflicted a grievous wound on the U.S. homeland, transnational terrorists joined geopolitical rivals and rogue states in the pantheon of security threats. But the […]

A motorcyclist drives past a poster calling on people to take care of their health amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 14, 2020 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam—As countries around the world debate how quickly they should reopen their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnam is largely ahead of the curve. A national social distancing campaign that shut down non-essential businesses ended on April 22, and life has returned to a striking normalcy. Restaurants, bars, cinemas, barbers and other shops have reopened, though karaoke parlors and nightclubs are still closed. Sporting events and festivals are now allowed to resume as well, with the country’s top soccer league scheduled to hit the pitch next month. Domestic tourism is slowly picking up, as authorities ease […]

Pedro dos Santos, the leader of a community named Park of Indigenous Nations, in Manaus, Brazil, May 10, 2020 (AP photo by Felipe Dana).

Far from being a “great equalizer,” the coronavirus pandemic “is reinforcing the brutal inequality that separates the world’s privileged and marginalized communities,” WPR columnist Stewart Patrick wrote recently. Consider the indigenous people of South America, whose populations were decimated long ago by the arrival of European colonizers who introduced new and deadly pathogens to the continent. In an email interview with WPR, Rosaleen Howard, chair of Hispanic Studies at Newcastle University, explains how centuries of exploitation and neglect have left these indigenous communities especially vulnerable to COVID-19. World Politics Review: What kinds of unique challenges are indigenous communities in South […]

A boy wearing a mask walks past a mural warning people about the coronavirus, Nairobi, Kenya, April 18, 2020 (AP photo by Brian Inganga).

A recent survey by Reuters found that across Africa, there is less than one intensive care bed per 100,000 people. The continent’s three most populous countries—Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt—only have 1,920 intensive care beds to service more than 400 million people between them. Just two countries, South Africa and Ghana, accounted for 46 percent of all tests carried out in Africa as of May 7. As recently as April 17, 10 countries in Africa did not possess any ventilators at all, according to the World Health Organization, and just 2,000 ventilators were spread across 41 countries home to hundreds of […]

A United Nations camp for internally displaced people in Wau, South Sudan, May 14, 2017 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. COVID-19 has reached a camp for internally displaced people outside South Sudan’s capital, Juba, raising alarm that the virus could spread quickly among the thousands living there in crowded conditions. The positive diagnosis of two COVID-19 patients this week is a worst-case scenario for health experts in South Sudan, who warn that sick patients could quickly overwhelm the camp, which has few supplies or health facilities. The country’s already limited health infrastructure was gutted during its recent civil war; there aren’t even […]

Workers disinfect the streets to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Qamishli, Syria, March 24, 2020 (AP photo by Baderkhan Ahmad).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about the problems around the world—from Syria’s civil war to human rights abuses in China—that are being overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and risk deteriorating further. They still must be addressed somehow whenever this crisis is over. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:Is All Hope Lost for a Global Cease-Fire Resolution at the U.N.?As COVID-19 Hits Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Military Seek an Electoral EdgeThe ‘Swedish Model’ Is a Failure, Not a PanaceaThe […]

Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, at a coronavirus press conference in Stockholm, May 4, 2020 (Photo by Jessica Gow for TT News Agency via AP Images).

When economies around the world started grinding to a halt in an effort to stop the carnage inflicted by the coronavirus, Sweden stood out with an approach that appeared to defy the prescription of most experts. Instead of shutting down, the Swedish government opted for much milder measures. The idea looked appealing. It suggested the possibility of containing the pandemic at a much lower economic cost. The final judgment on Sweden’s unorthodox approach cannot be rendered until the crisis moves into the history books. So far, however, the statistics suggest that the Swedish model is more disaster than panacea. If […]

A police special forces officer patrols near a mural of Armando Bukele, father of President Nayib Bukele, in San Salvador, El Salvador, April 23, 2020 (AP photo by Salvador Melendez).

El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, has overseen one of the quickest and most aggressive strategies to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the Western Hemisphere. He ordered a national quarantine on March 12, four days before President Donald Trump announced federal social distancing guidelines in the United States and a week ahead of California’s statewide stay-at-home order. And he has ordered the police and the military to enforce a tough lockdown, which allows Salvadorans who work for nonessential businesses to leave their homes only twice a week to shop for food and medicine. Thousands of people have been detained […]

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