RESURGENCE OF COVID-19 CASES PRESENTS NEW DILEMMA AS MORE COUNTRIES BEGIN TO REOPEN

Since early May, a number of countries particularly in Asia and Europe have started to ease lockdowns that were imposed to stem the outbreak of Covid-19. While some countries continued to push forward with their reopening phases, others had to pull a stop amidst a resurgence of cases that prompted fears of a second or even third wave of infections.

Border controls were reintroduced in order to prevent the virus from spreading to other localities as seen in Victoria, Australia while schools such as in Hong Kong and Sri Lanka were also forced to be closed again. In the United States, some states have also decided to postpone the next phases of their reopening while mandatory mask usage was enforced in countries like Spain as cases spiked in several regions such as Catalonia and Andalusia.

Heading back into lockdown such as the one seen in Melbourne is a tough call as it means that social and economic activities will once again be significantly curbed though it is necessary to prevent the outbreak from spiraling. There were many factors that came into play for the resurgence of cases though complacency among the public has often been cited as the main reason. Lack of adherence to physical distancing as well as blatant disregard of hygiene measures as if the pandemic is over are dangerous as the virus is still very much present until a vaccine is found.

The role of government is also equally important in preventing a resurgence based on available data. A rush to reopening to jumpstart the economy should also be balanced by capabilities of the healthcare system to prevent it from overstretching. As seen in Florida, the state did reasonably well in the beginning of the outbreak only to see number of new cases breaking records in mid-July, weeks after reopening on 4 May.


The many instances of resurgence of Covid-19 cases are clear indications that the fight against the pandemic is not quite over. With countries that enjoyed early success slowly turning into cautionary tales, governments worldwide will need to continuously assess the situation to determine if the situation is conducive for a lockdown to be lifted and ready to take a step back upon an evaluation of economic and social factors.

Despite this, there are still some bright spots in the fight against the virus as increased testing by many countries also meant earlier detection of cases compared to few months ago. The so-called “smart lockdown” applied in some cities has also been regarded as a way forward by causing minimal disruptions while allowing authorities to be more targeted in deploying their resources. Lastly, doctors are also getting a better idea of the virus as time goes by, thus limiting the number of patients requiring intensive care that in turn avoid putting a strain on the healthcare systems.

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HOLDING AN ELECTION IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC: A TRICKY AFFAIR BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE

Since early May, a number of countries particularly in Asia and Europe have started to ease lockdowns that were imposed to stem the outbreak of Covid-19. While some countries continued to push forward with their reopening phases, others had to pull a stop amidst a resurgence of cases that prompted fears of a second or even third wave of infections.

Border controls were reintroduced in order to prevent the virus from spreading to other localities as seen in Victoria, Australia while schools such as in Hong Kong and Sri Lanka were also forced to be closed again. In the United States, some states have also decided to postpone the next phases of their reopening while mandatory mask usage was enforced in countries like Spain as cases spiked in several regions such as Catalonia and Andalusia.

Heading back into lockdown such as the one seen in Melbourne is a tough call as it means that social and economic activities will once again be significantly curbed though it is necessary to prevent the outbreak from spiraling. There were many factors that came into play for the resurgence of cases though complacency among the public has often been cited as the main reason. Lack of adherence to physical distancing as well as blatant disregard of hygiene measures as if the pandemic is over are dangerous as the virus is still very much present until a vaccine is found.

The role of government is also equally important in preventing a resurgence based on available data. A rush to reopening to jumpstart the economy should also be balanced by capabilities of the healthcare system to prevent it from overstretching. As seen in Florida, the state did reasonably well in the beginning of the outbreak only to see number of new cases breaking records in mid-July, weeks after reopening on 4 May.


The many instances of resurgence of Covid-19 cases are clear indications that the fight against the pandemic is not quite over. With countries that enjoyed early success slowly turning into cautionary tales, governments worldwide will need to continuously assess the situation to determine if the situation is conducive for a lockdown to be lifted and ready to take a step back upon an evaluation of economic and social factors.

Despite this, there are still some bright spots in the fight against the virus as increased testing by many countries also meant earlier detection of cases compared to few months ago. The so-called “smart lockdown” applied in some cities has also been regarded as a way forward by causing minimal disruptions while allowing authorities to be more targeted in deploying their resources. Lastly, doctors are also getting a better idea of the virus as time goes by, thus limiting the number of patients requiring intensive care that in turn avoid putting a strain on the healthcare systems.

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Middle East peace process in limbo amid Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plan

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since late June floated the idea of further annexation of the West Bank, a territory claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. His latest move however has received mixed reactions within the country as well as the international community with the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas leading the chorus of opposition by threatening to end all agreements with Israel and US. Although Netanyahu has put his plans on hold pending further consultation with US

Sri Lanka seeks to avert constitutional crisis with 5 August election

After being delayed twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sri Lankans will finally cast their ballots on 5 August. Amidst concerns over the lack of parliamentary oversight, it has been hoped that the election will put an end to the possibility of a constitutional crisis seen in 2018. Over the past months, critics have argued that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has effectively allowed the takeover of the legislative branch by the executive as he refused to recall the dissolved parliament despite the pandemic. Rajapaksa’s insistence of holding a vote, some have argued would pave way for amendment of the constitution that will grant sweeping powers to the presidency, which has seen its role drastically reduced since 2015.

Parts of US at risk of experiencing extreme weather beginning August

The month of August could see the US battered by more extreme weather that could cause disruption to locals and travellers alike. Heatwave is expected to reach its peak, bringing temperature from comfortable to hazardous levels of up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit especially in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as the northern Plains, Midwest, and Ohio Valley. Cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York will experience the scorching heat in early of the month, while Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City are likely to be hotter throughout August due to elevated temperatures from a strong, sprawling area of high pressure over the Tennessee Valley, called the “heat dome”. Apart from heatwave, multiple states from the U.S Gulf Coast, all of Florida and the Georgia to Carolina coast could also be witnessing severe storms accompanied by hurricane threats, sharply peaking from late August into September due to the formation of cold fronts.

Border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan highlight shaky ceasefire

On 12 June, Armenian and Azerbaijani tanks, artillery, and drones exchanged fire along the northern border regions. Over the next few days of clashes, more than a dozen people including several civilians were killed or wounded. Amid the renewed hostilities, international observers have become increasingly concerned that the fighting could escalate and harm strategic interests, particularly in Tovuz district, Azerbaijan where several transnational oil and gas projects are located. However, the sporadic clashes continue to occur along the same border lines and the violence itself has not spread to Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-controlled region in Azerbaijan that has always been the main source of tensions between the two states. Despite this, it is important to take note that minor border skirmishes occur on an almost monthly basis between the two rival forces. Furthermore, diplomatic channels remain open for ceasefire negotiations. However, until a breakthrough is achieved on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, the next ceasefire is unlikely to halt the violence and the border areas will continue to pose a persistent risk to international security.

AUGUST TIMELINE

What to look out for this month:

Contributors

Adam Yusoff
Analyst Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chan Cheong
Senior Analyst and Office Manager Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Deborah Sheps
Analyst Sao Paolo, Brazil

Ezza Omar
Analyst Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia