ANTI-LOCKDOWN PROTESTS ADD MORE WOES IN FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19 PANDEMIC
While some countries around the world have started to ease Covid-19 lockdown, there are still many that continue with such measure as the outbreak situation remains serious with high infection rate.
The lockdown that would have entered weeks by now have also fuelled growing frustration among some quarters that organised themselves into protest groups demanding governments to lift restrictions and reopen the economy. In the United States, supporters of such move in each state collaborated and held what they called “Operation Gridlock” in order to pressure governors to end the “stay-at-home/shelter-in-place” order. Similar protests were also held in Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, Chile and Brazil where participants called for an end to lockdown measures and clashed with police in occasionally.
With the Covid-19 pandemic still showing no signs of abating, the growth of such protest movements is likely to add more challenges to governments should they prolong. In the US, the protests have also become a partisan issue with many of them linked to right-wing and conservative groups. The endorsement by President Donald Trump on some of these protests have also amplified the groups’ voices as well as putting him at odds with health officials’ advice on social distancing. Similar situation can also be seen in Brazil where the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro continued to pile pressure on state governors of major cities such as Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro through anti-lockdown rallies in which he described such measure a “path to failure”. Across the Atlantic, there have also been worries that far-right extremists could infiltrate such groups to advance their cause in countries like Germany.
Although a fundamental right in many countries, the failure to observe social distancing during some of these protests have prompted epidemiologists to warn that they could result in a surge of Covid-19 cases, thus reversing some of the gains made during the lockdown period. In Wisconsin for instance, health authorities have said dozens of people who tested positive for the virus were thought to have attended a “large gathering”, which some believed could be a protest held on the 24 April in Madison. As lockdown measures got extended in some cities or countries locations, there is a chance that such protests growing larger in size therefore straining the already battered public services in the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak.
LEBANON: MAJOR UNREST EXPECTED OVER ECONOMIC CRISIS AND COVID-19 FALLOUT
Nationwide civil unrest that began in October 2019 over taxation issues continues to persist in Lebanon despite the formation of a new government in January.
Given the short timeframe, the new government has yet to effectively address the country’s dire economic conditions caused by decades of mismanagement and corruption. Around the same time, the country was hit by a Covid-19 outbreak, forcing the government to impose a nationwide lockdown from 15 March that has since been periodically extended until at least 7 June. The decision was also the final nail in the coffin that caused the lira, Lebanon’s national currency to plummet. A net exporter of goods, hyperinflation has shrunk the country’s ability to provide basic provisions such as food.
Despite the lockdown, mass demonstrations have been held on several occasions in major urban centres including Beirut and Tripoli to protest the financial crisis. Some of these protests quickly turned into riots and the killing of a protester by security forces in Tripoli on 27 April has only fuelled public anger. Heightened security measures remain in place in the cities. Government attempts to defuse tensions by lifting certain restrictions on commercial activities may have also indirectly caused a spike in Covid-19 cases, prompting further lockdown extensions.
Lebanon’s challenges are expected to persist over the coming months as efforts to secure a financial relief package from international actors is at an early stage. Without international aid, protests are likely to gain further strength nationwide especially in urban centres where the crisis has hit the hardest. Amid this backdrop of unrest, Lebanon remains a divided society and the threat of sectarian conflict looms near as the situation worsens.
RETURN OF DESERT LOCUST SWARMS SPARKS CONCERNS AHEAD OF HARVEST SEASON
Eastern Africa is currently experiencing a second wave of desert locust swarms amidst the worst locust season in 70 years earlier in the year. So far Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are among the countries most-affected. Compared to the previous wave, the locust swarms have multiplied in numbers and size, and so has their potential impact.
Another round of swarms is expected to occur between June and July, and it will coincide with the start of the harvest season. According to recent reports by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), swarms could spread rapidly in other regions, including parts of India, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Uganda and Sudan, depending on weather conditions over the next two months.
Problems with ensuring food security may prove difficult following the swarms. It is estimated that in Ethiopia alone, nearly six million people live in areas affected by desert locusts. Yemen may also pose to become a particularly concerning situation due to ongoing food security problems that has already been worsened by the civil war in the country.
While funding to mitigate the spread of the desert locust swarms and to lessen the impact on food security has been increased, the international response has largely been hampered due to disruption caused by the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.
What to look out for this month:
1–30 LGBT Pride month
2 Republic Day in Italy
4 31st anniversary of 1989 Tiananmen Square Massakre in Beijing
6 National Day in Sweden
12 Independence Day in Philippines
20–24 Midsummer festivities in Northern Europe
24 Legislative election in Mongolia
Analyst Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Senior Analyst and Office Manager Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Senior Analyst Lund, Sweden
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