Most of the coverage we’ve done has focused on the U.S. and Canada. There are some interesting stories happening in other areas of the world, though, that highlight different aspects of how the pandemic is being managed. Here are a few:
Russia While Vladimir Putin’s government initially tried to play dumb about the virus, insisting that everything is under control, in recent days it’s become clear that the pandemic is spreading there as well. As of April 17 at noon, Russia’s case count stood at 32,008 infections and 273 deaths. Those numbers should probably be taken with a grain of salt because of Putin-inspired propaganda, but Moscow (population 12.5 million) and Saint Petersburg (5.3 million) have reportedly been especially hard hit.
Sweden Unlike most countries, Sweden hasn’t implemented major physical distancing requirements to address the pandemic. Schools have remained open, and businesses such as restaurants have continued to operate. Initially, the policy seemed to be working, and Sweden (irony of ironies, since it’s a socialist country) was being touted by conservative pundits as an example of how the pandemic could be managed without inflicting too much economic harm.
In recent days, though, as Sweden’s infection and fatality numbers have climbed in comparison to their Nordic neighbours Denmark, Norway and Finland, that policy has come under criticism — including by Swedish epidemiologists and scientists.
Germany While Germany hasn’t had any better luck than other major European countries such as France, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy in limiting the spread of infection, the German death toll is much lower. Two possible factors to explain the discrepancy cited by media are (1) the age of the average German infected, at 48, is lower than in other countries with high death tolls and (2) the transmission has been generally widespread, as opposed to having major outbreaks that overwhelm hospitals in a particular region. That’s been credited to vigorous testing and contact tracing by German health authorities, and Germany is moving cautiously to relax lockdown restrictions.
Brazil Populist president Jair Bolsonaro was criticized in late March for downplaying the pandemic and exempting evangelical churches from physical distancing requirements. While the pandemic was slow to take hold in Brazil, the country is now seeing rising infection and death tolls. Unfortunately for Brazilians, Bolsonaro remains committed to putting economic concerns ahead of public health — to the extent of firing his health minister on Thursday after he clashed with him on how to handle the pandemic. And according to Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a backlash is growing.
U.S. & Canada Okay, I can’t resist a brief update here. Some of our coverage has focused on how the Trump administration and fellow travellers in Canada have used the pandemic as cover for rolling back environmental regulations designed to address climate change and protect human health and well-being.
We saw further evidence of that on Thursday when Trump announced that the Environmental Protection Agency would be weakening regulations governing the emission of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. While mercury occurs naturally in the environment, its use in industry can cause it to accumulate in the environment, and have strong negative impact on plant, animal and human health — especially for children.
As for Canada, it emerged today that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has asked federal Natural Resources minister Seamus O’Regan to enact a range of measures to help the fossil fuel industry cope with the challenging financial “environment” it finds itself in. Those include freezing the carbon price at $30 per ton for the foreseeable future and delaying other measures to fight climate change such as clean fuel standards and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands operations.
Well played gentlemen.