Tag Archives: British politics

“Threat to the world”: Brazil’s Covid-19 tragedy | Instant News

Brazil now has the highest daily number of coronavirus deaths anywhere in the world, with more than 4,000 deaths per day recorded twice this month, according to figures compiled by Our World in Data, a project by the University of Oxford.

The country’s total number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus now stands at more than 350,000, the second highest in the world, behind the US, which has a larger population.

Brazil has the second highest Covid-19 death toll in the world

Covid-19 confirmed deaths are cumulative, by country

In March, the country recorded an excess of 89,984 deaths over the average number of deaths during the same month from 2015 to 2019. That’s more than four times that recorded in the United States, a country with a population of one and a half times as much. The number in neighboring Peru is 3,740, a per capita rate almost four times lower.

So how and why did the pandemic develop like this in Brazil?

A number of factors are likely contributing to the rampant spread of the virus, including a new variant of Covid-19 known as P.1, as well as the malfunctioning federal government response, led by president Jair Bolsonaro, who has largely rejected its implementation. locking action to curb disease.

The following chart reveals various aspects of the crisis.

The spread of variant P.1

The P.1 variant is thought to have first appeared in the city of Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon late last year. It contains some worrying mutations, including E484K, which is seems to provide a virus with some ability to circumvent immunity acquired through infection or natural vaccinations. Several other Covid-19 lineages have also developed E484K, including the South African variant – but P.1 includes two other mutations of particular concern, called K417T and N501Y, which also modify the viral spike protein.

Although it is estimated that 76 percent of Manaus’s population have antibodies related to infections during the first wave, the city has been hit by a second wave of coronaviruses which is thought to be linked to the emergence of variant P.1.

Variant P.1 is now estimated to have a prevalence of over 80% in Brazil

Percentage of P.1-positive sequences with upper and lower confidence intervals, 7-day rolling mean

“We firmly believe a large number of cases are caused by this variant, because it is more contagious. There is no doubt about this, ”José Eduardo Levi, a researcher at the University of São Paulo, told New Statesman. In Brazil’s most populous state of São Paolo, the arrival of P.1 replaced all other variants in a short period of time, indicating higher transmissibility, he added.

The prevalence of P.1 has increased rapidly since its discovery in December 2020. It is now estimated to represent about 80 percent of new cases nationwide. It has also spread from Brazil to neighboring countries, including Colombia and Chile, as well as further afield, including several confirmed cases in the US and UK.

The Brazilian variant is still spreading to neighboring countries

The cumulative prevalence of variant P.1 in Brazil and other countries

The Intensive Care Unit was filled with people under their 40s

In the middle of last month, Brazil’s intensive care unit (ICU) was close to capacity, with only two states reporting occupancy rates below 80 percent. The pressure on the hospital system is likely to have continued for a month since then, as deaths and daily cases have remained at high levels.

As of mid-March, only two Brazilian states had occupancy rates below 80% in their ICU beds

Covid-19 ICU bed occupancy for adults in Brazil’s public health system on March 16

Fiocruz Covid-19 Observatory

Additionally, one recent study by the Brazilian Association of Intensive Medicine points to just that more than half of the ICU beds now populated by patients aged 40 and under, a trend some scientists believe may be partly due to P.1.

More than half of ICU patients in Brazil are under 40 years of age

Percentage of ICU patients, by characteristics

“The high number of cases among young people does not explain why, once they are infected, they face worse outcomes,” said Levi, adding that scientists may soon prove that P.1 is more lethal, including among younger patients, apart from being more contagious.

Vaccination rollout is slow

Although Brazil’s public health system is highly respected, their vaccination program lags behind even compared to other South American countries. As of April 13, Brazil has shipped just 27 million doses, as shown in New Statesman International Vaccine Tracker, which worked as 13 doses per 100 people, well behind Chile with 63 and Uruguay 30 per 100.

In addition, more than 40 percent of the vaccine doses Brazil purchased were China’s Sinovac jab, according to Duke University’s Center for Global Health Innovation. Jab is now produced in São Paulo, but is only 50.7 percent effective against the P.1 variant, according to a study.

Weak locking

Bolsonaro has largely resisted the lockdown, which he said caused more serious economic damage than a virus he once called “the little flu.”

“We will not accept the ‘stay at home, close everything, lock’ policy,” he said last week. “There will be no national lockdown. Our soldiers are not taking to the streets to force the Brazilians into their homes.”

Brazilian workers have never been away from work as much as other countries

Percent change in number of visitors to workplaces, relative to the pre-pandemic period, 7-day rolling average

Although some states and cities have implemented restrictions independently of the federal government, Google’s mobility data shows that a lack of coordinated federal response has caused more Brazilians to move around than people in neighboring countries. Brazilian workers also didn’t stay away from work as much as in other countries, data showed, with a drop in activity around late December and early April likely linked to the Christmas and Easter holidays.

Bolsonaro “prioritizes economic openness versus lockdowns and underestimates the relevance of the virus”, Elena Lazarou, a fellow at the Chatham House think tank, told New Statesman. “In some states, the governor has a very different approach to the federal government and Bolsonaro in particular,” but was not given sufficient government funding to impose restrictions, he added.

The lack of a coordinated federal response means there are fewer restrictions on interstate travel, which contributes to the rapid spread of the P.1 variant, Levi said. “Manaus can only be reached by boat or plane. It is enough to prohibit people from riding without PCR [Covid] test, we were able to significantly limit the spread of the P.1 variant. ”

Without more vaccine doses, the virus is likely to continue spreading in Brazil, not only among those not vaccinated but also among those who have been infected by other variants, creating the ideal petri dish for the emergence of further variants of concern, said Levi. , adding: “Brazil represents a threat to the world.”

[See also: Everything you need to know about the Brazilian Covid-19 variant]


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As German restrictions dragged on indefinitely, I turned to gardening to lift the gloom of the environment | Instant News

German has an extraordinary ability with regard to precision and discovery. I saw this in action the other day when a German complained to me about prevailing understanding Reasonable impotence here in Berlin. This term is a classic compound noun, smelting reason (one of the two German words for responsibility) with Weak (somewhere between unconsciousness and helplessness). This simultaneously conveys the experience of numbness trying to act responsibly over a long period of time and the feeling that acting responsibly doesn’t seem to be getting anything.

Reasonable impotence captures the mood in Germany today and in its capital city in particular. Angela Merkel’s government imposed a “partial lockdown” on November 2 last year, with shops and non-essential services closed for most of the period since then, and has now been extended to April 18. Even in normal times Germany’s winters are long and dark. Clouds hang low and snow often falls. Prior to Covid-19, it was made lively by Christmas markets, cozy pubs and beer halls, social clubs and societies and, in Catholic areas like the Rhineland, by carnivals. But this year all of that is impossible. People are discouraged, tired and disgusted by acting responsibly.

Now the first flash of spring is coming. The crocodile is out. Each new sunny season brings more people to the canalside near where I live in Berlin, to mingle, sip beer and play table tennis. Despite obscure posters of the city’s transport authorities (“Mask, wear Berliner”), the discipline continues to evolve. More people gathered behind closed doors, breaking the rules regarding contact between different households. The droplets of newspaper stories about illegal parties turned into torrents.

While most Germans used to agree to stricter restrictions, a survey by YouGov shows only 30 percent do so now, while 37 percent want less regulation. But the pandemic is going in another direction: infections are on the rise, the more contagious strain of B117 (everywhere referred to as the “British variant”) is now dominant and vaccination is progressing very slowly. At the time of writing, the only German I know who has taken the first hit is 90 – and it didn’t come until March 23rd. The government said the tariff would be accelerated soon. However, while life is gradually returning to normal in the UK, we in Germany may be in some form of lockout or semi-lockdown until summer.


In December I heard a discussion about Deutschlandfunk, Germany’s answer to BBC Radio 4, in which the sociologist Hubert Kleinert was asked about the difference Max Weber made between “Ethics of mind“(Ethics of belief) and”Responsibility ethics(Ethics of responsibility, using the second German word for the concept). Kleinert, a former Green Party politician, argues that “demonstrations of conviction play too big a role” in German politics and that Covid-19 has strengthened an ethic of responsibility, where actions must be judged not by their moral purity but by foreseeable consequences.

I was reminded of the discrepancy when, on March 15, Germany temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns about blood clots – an action that several other European countries were soon copying. German health experts and officials, loyal to the precautionary principle, consider it their duty not to be harmful, so stop injections while the vaccine is being investigated. That Responsibility ethics will propose a different approach: continue vaccination to prevent future infections, and thus certain deaths, while investigating the possible risks of blood clots. The Germans restart AstraZeneca’s blows on 18 March, but the damage has been done.


My little joy in the long journey of the pandemic is helping out in the garden. Last month’s job was pruning the vines. The grapes appear only on the wood that was grown last year, so when cutting you should think about the shoots that will produce grapes this summer, which will produce grapes next summer, and which may grow next summer and produce next year’s grapes; all without overloading the plants. Professional vineyards train the vines appropriately according to the tending method (where the shoot grows from a thick, older branch) or the Guyot method (where the shoot grows from the stem itself). With garden vines, the trick is to apply the best pruning method for each position and growth, taking into account each option in terms of this year’s harvest, next year, and the following year. Brutal is generally better.

Next up is the rose. Pruning them too quickly can produce new growth which then dies from the cold, stunting plant growth. The rule is to wait until the forsythia flowers start blooming, which usually come in early spring. But it was a long, cold winter, even by German standards, and the forsythians were biding their time so far.

It’s a cliché, but gardening really gives you an idea of ​​the season and improves your mental health. Watching forsythias to see the first signs of their annual display, or finding out which vine clippings will produce the biggest and freshest grapes this summer and in the summers of 2022 and 2023, are great ways to put the gloom of the environment in perspective and jolt itself into longer botanical timescales; especially for those of us who live in big cities. It is politically difficult to build housing above the green belt. But in an age where pandemics can prove a new normal, is it so unpopular to research them on rations?


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My grandmother, Karachi and me | Instant News

I was ten years old when my grandfather died. In Pakistani culture, mourning is a collective effort – people pay their respects in person, and bring food to the bereaved. I remember some confusing school holidays, sitting in my grandparents’ flat in west London filled with people, some I knew and some I didn’t. The people came out of the living room and into the corridor. They crowded around the kitchen table – heaving with casseroles and Tupperware plates – and leaning against the counter. There were prayers, tears, and even laughter as people shared stories about my grandfather. At one point, a cousin dragged me into one of the bedrooms, declaring that we needed peace. We sat together and enjoyed almost silence. But that’s also catharsis. And in the middle of it all was Grandma, tears streaming down her face for days, but still taking strength from the people around her. He was always in his element surrounded by people.

A decade later, in my early twenties, I started spending time in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the hometown of my grandfather. My grandmother moved there from Indore after getting married in 1948; It was a year after Partition, and she excitedly brought into her new home and her new Pakistani identity. I grew up listening to his stories about Karachi, the heart of a cosmopolitan beach in a new country. But the city I saw in 2011 – during my first visit since childhood – has changed radically since my grandparents left for London in the 1970s. It occurred amidst outbreaks of extraordinary violence, with ethnic conflict, gang wars and uncontrolled terrorism. I was there mainly as a journalist, but also because I wanted to understand more about this place which has been featured so much in my childhood tapestries.

In 2012, I moved to Pakistan for a year. Karachi was so large that even though one area was ravaged by urban warfare, another area could operate more or less normally. I adjusted to the double life of the usual Karachi: happy dinners and gatherings on the one hand, constant violence on the other. One of the unexpected pleasures of this time has been talking to relatives and family friends who had known my grandparents when they were young, before they left for England. In these stories they are glamorous and pretty socialites – a little away from the gentle old man who had made me burst out laughing as a child by drawing a poodle on my belly bureau; or the silver-haired woman who pulls the stool up to the stove to ease her leg pain as she teaches me how to cook.

Since then, I have returned to Pakistan every year, sometimes more often. Even though I travel all over the country, Karachi always draws me back. I profiled crime journalists and ambulance drivers in the city, fascinated by the way people fit in and find normality in the crevices of extreme situations.

But over the last decade, as my world developed, my grandmother shrank. As he approached his nineties, his eyesight deteriorated, eventually rendering him nearly blind. She lost her two great pleasures: reading and cooking. Arthritis, meanwhile, made her legs and joints bent. Throughout my eighties, I joked that his social life was more active than mine in his twenties – but because his eyesight and mobility faltered, he stopped going out. I used to visit my grandmother regularly, sometimes picking up ingredients for something we could cook together; he will direct and I will cut. But his energy waned, and the excruciating pain made him drowsy and withdrawn. My sharp, agile, and naughty grandma was more difficult to access.

In 2018, I began working in earnest on a book – a narrative non-fiction tale about Karachi, telling the story of its urban conflicts through a close focus on five ordinary people. That means a series of long reporting trips to the city. Every time I am in London, I visit my grandmother. Desperate to pull her out of her low mood, I explained the work I was doing. Something’s happened. He was excited, his voice permeated with an energy I haven’t heard of in years. He was very interested when I told him about my reporting in a village bordering Karachi, where residents were displaced by property developers who illegally took land. I told him about Jannat, the woman I interviewed there – not just about the situation, but the fact that she constantly scolded me for not getting married in my thirties. My grandmother laughed, and told me about her own work on the outskirts of Karachi, in the 1940’s when, as a young woman, she volunteered in refugee camps for those displaced by Partition, at odds with her new parents-in-law. desire. Telling him about my trip was one of the best parts of my research.

Last year, 2020, was really bad for a lot of people; I may not be alone in thinking that it is really bad for me. In January, my beloved aunt – my grandmother’s youngest child – died, a few short months after doctors confirmed that her cancer had returned. We were told he would have two to five years; he’s gone in three months. My grandmother is bed bound at this time, and is unable to attend the funeral. In early March, still in grief, I went to Pakistan on a two week work trip to Karachi and Islamabad. Before I left, I visited my grandmother and told her about my travel plans. But we were both too sad to muster much enthusiasm. I said that I would visit her as soon as I returned. That was not true. Within days of my return, Britain was in full national lockdown. I never saw my grandmother again.

On April 23, he died at the age of 96. He did not die from Covid, but Covid undoubtedly made the consequences more difficult. Only ten people were allowed to attend the funeral – nine family members and the priest, who gave burial rites at the side of the grave. I remembered the crowd that filled the house for 40 days after my grandfather’s death, and how comforted Grandma was from him. I hope it can be the same for him. We’re talking about holding a memorial, celebrating his life, now it’s all over. But for now, there is calm in thinking that, when he was alive, I knew the place he loved the most, and we experienced it again through each other’s eyes.


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Free and fair trade – POLITICO | Instant News

Liz Truss is Britain’s international trade secretary.

LONDON – After nearly 50 years, Britain is back to being an independent trading country.

This is an unrivaled opportunity to realize our vision of a Global UK, fostering an export and investment driven recovery by championing free and fair trade.

As stipulated by the British government on Tuesday at Integrated Review, a full assessment by the British government of its place in the world since the Cold War, we are determined to shape the future international order – a new era rich in jobs and opportunities for people in both developing and developed countries.

We are driven in this approach by our strong belief in the benefits of free trade, from lower prices to higher wages and productivity.

Free and fair trade is the best way forward for all of us. It is a force that has reduced poverty on a scale unprecedented in human history, igniting the spark for transformative innovation and bringing great prosperity.

But lately, confidence in free enterprise and free trade has wavered. Protectionist rhetoric and actions have escalated, and several countries have increased barriers to trade further during the pandemic, which Britain has completely rejected.

To restore support for free trade, we must make it fair and show that it provides things of public concern: better jobs, more prosperous communities, higher standards of living, a greener planet. We will do this by addressing practices ranging from state-sponsored forced labor to the degradation of environmental standards and the use of unreported industrial subsidies to gain trade benefits.

Now it’s time to turn the page. This year, Britain stepped in as G7 president and COP26 host to build a united allied front driven by common values ​​and modern views.

Together, we will lead the responsibility for a more effective, modern and green World Trade Organization that keeps pace with the opportunities and challenges of modern trade. We have to hold the next ministerial conference under the Director General of the WTO Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as an opportunity to rebuild a better trading environment where everyone plays by the rules and the full benefits of trading are felt around the world.

We will work together to reshape global trade rules to reflect our core values: democracy, human rights and high standards across everything from environmental and labor rights to data flows and intellectual property.

British values-driven policies have had success in trade negotiations. We have reached a follow-up agreement covering 66 countries plus the European Union to secure £ 890 billion worth of trade. Our agreement with the European Union is the first block approved based on zero rates and zero quotas. It includes services and has strong measures for digital commerce. We have agreed to state-of-the-art terms for digital and data in our deal with Japan, and are pursuing ambitious agreements with the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

We intend to be at the heart of that action, which is why the UK is deepening trade with markets in the Indo-Pacific region – which will dominate the global economy by the end of this decade – and signed up to join 11 dynamic economies. as part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It’s just like free trade that made Britain great in 19th century, we can be even bigger in 21st by becoming a global hub for digital commerce and services.

The Prime Minister has launched our new Office for Investments, demonstrating that the doors are truly open to potential investors in Global Britain. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has launched our first raft freeport, and I have launched a lower, simpler and greener UK Global Tariff regime.

As the Integrated Review states, Global Britain means local jobs – what I mean is that the opportunities we pursue abroad will support livelihoods across our country. Research last week released by the Department of International Trade estimated that 6.5 million local jobs were dependent on British exports.

By securing new opportunities abroad, business in all parts of the UK will be able to grow through exports, be it a Scotch whiskey refiner, a Welsh sheep farmer or an auto maker in the Midlands.

Trade and investment is also helping Britain play its strength as a science and technology superpower by securing high-quality jobs in the industries that will define our future through innovation and clean technology. From a factory in North Wales producing hundreds of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed in the UK to British innovators in northern England building the UK’s first electric car battery “gigafactory”.

What’s good for Britain is good for the world. We help build back better by unleashing our full potential, creating new jobs, businesses and industries across the UK and beyond. This is Global Britain in action.


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How Lula da Silva shook Jair Bolsonaro’s grip on Brazil | Instant News

The Brazilian left lion returns to the arena. On March 8, the political landscape in South America’s largest country was regenerated in one fell swoop by Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin’s unexpected decision. The corruption conviction of former leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – known as Lula – was dropped. The ruling, pending approval from the entire Supreme Court and possibly a retrial of relevant cases in federal court, has cleared Lula after three years in prison and paved the way for him to run again in the next series of presidential elections in 2022.

In a speech disseminated after his release, Lula sought to position himself and the Workers’ Party (PT) as the main opposition forces against the government, attacking his notes on vaccine launches and the privatization of state enterprises.

This is very bad news for Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. Despite the crisis in public security in major Brazilian cities such as Rio de Janeiro, and destructive viral response – The government is now the fourth health minister since the start of the pandemic – Bolsonaro was until last week an easy favorite for another term. A demoralized and disorganized left is unlikely to coalesce around a candidate, while the political appeal of center-right figures including São Paulo’s governor João Doria is unclear.

One decision by the Supreme Court arguably did more to cloud Bolsonaro’s political future than a year full of death and chaos. For the first time he faced the prospect of running against a candidate with proven and deep national appeal. One recently election did Lula win in the hypothetical round.

Observers have noted a distinct shift in the government’s position, undertaken in the hope of warding off new criticism. Bolsonaro and his allies appeared to be wearing masks and began to speak in a positive tone about the vaccination attempt. “Our weapon now is the vaccine,” tweeted Bolsonaro Eduardo’s son, trying to undermine the pro-vaccine sentiment along with the government’s gun rights campaign through the image of the Brazilian vaccine cartoon mascot, Zé Gotinha, holding a syringe shaped like an automatic rifle. Eduardo quickly deleted the tweet, reposting no “now” – the original message had revealed in a somewhat too transparent manner that the new tone was an immediate reaction to Lula’s challenge.

Fear of losing the Workers’ Party in 2022 could be a good incentive for Bolsonaro’s government to try to make up for a stalled vaccination campaign, as the country complains under the pressure of a dire second coronavirus wave. As much of Europe and North America is seeing lower infection rates amid accelerated vaccine rollouts, Brazil has recorded the number of cases it has recorded and – despite successful mass vaccination campaigns – is registering injections. rate that’s half of most European countries.

Bolsonaro’s government also failed to negotiate a timely agreement to receive a vaccine dose from Pfizer. Instead, the state of São Paulo, which is taking the lead in vaccine supply, agreed to produce a jab dose of CoronaVac developed by Sinovac from China. The decision now appears to be decisive, as is the small-scale study awaiting peer review given early indications that CoronaVac may have limited effectiveness against P.1, a variant of the virus believed to have caused the partial collapse of the health system in the Amazon city of Manaus.


In the months leading up to the next election – most likely Bolsonaro versus Lula, although the latter is yet to be confirmed as a party candidate – all eyes will be on the financial elite, the armed forces and the judiciary.

After several unsuccessful bids for the presidency, Lula won Brazilian business-class approval during the successful 2002 campaign by promising to maintain the fiscal restrictions imposed by her predecessor. Later, the same class turned against Lula and his successors, supporting Bolsonaro in the hope that his Chicago-trained economy minister, Paulo Guedes, would carry out liberal reforms, boosting Brazil’s economy.

Hopes for Bolsonaro’s presidency have dwindled, as some investors fear the government’s environmental policies are hurting investment, but Lula is still a bigger threat in the view of many. Brazilian currency degenerate approaching all-time lows following news of Lula’s release, and growing regret at having helped elect Bolsonaro likely won’t be enough to push the inhabitants of São Paulo’s Faria Lima Highway – “Brazil Wall Street” – into the arms of the Party Workers. A new agreement reached between the party and Faria Lima is possible, but the circumstances that helped create the first deal – the commodity boom that swelled Brazil’s treasury – are long gone.

Another sector of Brazilian government to watch out for is the military. Active and retired generals make up most of Bolsonaro’s cabinet, and for a decade anti-Labor sentiment has been strong at all levels of the Armed Forces. No one forgets the threat tweet by Brazilian army commanders on the eve of a 2018 Supreme Court decision on Lula’s eligibility for that year’s election. This time, no public announcement was made against the court’s decision, but reports were circulating grumble in line.

The Brazilian judiciary, especially at the highest levels, is not completely immune to political accusations bias of various types. Particularly sensitive is the speed at which cases pass through various stages of the appeal. In the run-up to the previous presidential election, Lula’s petition was judged at an astonishing pace so that, apparently, the final decision had been made by the time voters went to the polls. It is not impossible that a similar acceleration might have occurred under reconsideration, in federal court rather than in regional courts, of allegations of corruption against Lula, including irregularities relating to real estate transactions involving triplex apartments in the state of São Paulo. It is possible that Lula could eventually be disqualified from running in 2022.

However, the strength of anti-corruption and anti-Labor party sentiments in public opinion has weakened. Lava Jato’s corruption investigations – which initially brought down Lula and many other politicians – have themselves been underway discredited with accusations of inappropriate behavior. For the judiciary to prevent Lula from running for a second straight election against Bolsonaro will inspire anger among former supporters and create an unstable political climate.

Finally, Lula’s return means that the long-term question for the Brazilian left has been postponed once again: what to do after the political career of his aging champion is over? It is disappointing to some who think the work required to map out the next steps will now be more difficult when the time comes. But like the more moderate Biden administration in America, the third Lula administration presented prospects for more than just restoring the status quo ante. This may offer an opportunity to elevate the next generation of leaders, such as São Paulo’s politician Guilherme Boulos (present at Lula’s recent speech), to a national profile. And after several years of ineffective slander and opposition, while the Labor Party lost much of its influence in state and local politics, it couldn’t get any worse.

[See also: Brazil’s Covid-19 variant point to a long, hard road out of the pandemic]


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