Barkha Dutt, journalist, in her column in Hindustan Times (May 1, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Raam Gottimukkala/Pixabay)
India has extended the national lockdown with some relaxation. The government should have been more liberal in opening up. Other than districts in severely hit red zones, the rest of the country needed to be given space to breathe again. A greater calamity than Covid-19 – humanitarian, social and economic – is imminent if a uniform lockdown is continued.
This is not to argue that the clampdown and enforced physical distancing did not serve their purpose. The number of infections would have been substantially higher had the decision not been taken to shut down the nation.
But India is a global outlier in the number of fatalities from the pandemic. Whatever the reasons, the death rate is not higher than that of other diseases that claim Indian lives every day.
In the meantime, there are other grave crises emerging. Among them is the lack of access to health care for poor citizens.
The biggest gear shift needed is in that of attitude. While aggressive contact tracing and quarantine are essential, we cannot treat testing positive as a doomsday scenario. We have been shutting down housing societies, hospitals, factories and workplaces if even one person tests positive. If every case triggers panic, we shall never be able to rebuild our lives.
How to kickstart the economy should have all our attention. The biggest flaw in a lockdown is that it quarantines healthy people. What’s needed is not a sledgehammer that clamps down, but a sieve that sifts those who really need medical help from those who can just stay at home.
The lockdown has served its purpose. More of this will be a cure worse than the disease.
Chiang Huang-chih, Professor of International Law, National Taiwan University (NTU), in Liberty Times (May 4, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Eric Bridiers/United States Mission Geneva)
Taiwan first started to call for it to participate in World Health Organization (WHO) activities in 1995. This year, there appears to be great deal of optimism that this goal might be achieved. At the end of December 2019, Taiwan appealed to the WHO secretariat to pay attention to cases of unknown pneumonia in China. Subsequently, Taiwan demonstrated an outstanding ability to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. This has helped boost Taiwan’s reputation, with the United States and Japan strongly supporting Taiwan’s participation as an observer in the WHO.
Despite the optimism, the public should manage their expectations. First, the epidemic in Europe has not been completely controlled. As a result, the World Health Assembly (WHA), the governing forum of the WHO, will be held online this year, with the pandemic the focus of discussions. The possibility that Taiwan’s role will be discussed is unlikely. As such, Taiwan’s participation is by no means guaranteed.
Second, the countries that support Taiwan’s participation in WHO activities only express their support for Taiwan as an observer. Previously, such participation has been based on the "1992 Consensus” and as such, would ultimately be determined by China. It is also important to note that there are many types of observers. As Taiwan experienced by having an observer seat from 2009 to 2016, this approach can actually be harmful to Taiwan ’s international status.
If possible, it is necessary to seek further joint proposals from the United States and Japan to allow Taiwan to participate in the voting on resolutions in the Assembly. The benefit of a democratic society is that it is possible to congregate and gather ideas. People seem to be too optimistic about participation in this year’s WHA. For now, it is best to remain both cautious and patient.
He Shuquan, Professor, School of Economics, Shanghai University, in Guangming Daily (April 28, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Magda Ehlers/Pexels)
The Covid-19 outbreak has had a huge economic impact on all countries around the world. After the pandemic, while globalization and global value chains will exhibit new trends of development, the fundamentals will not change.
First, Covid-19 has emerged at a time when global value and supply chains are deeply interconnected. As a result, the social and economic impact on countries affected by the virus will be more extensive.
Second, today's global production network and value chains have made the international trading system more and more complicated. Local demand-side and supply-side shocks can quickly spread to other countries, industries and sectors across the global value chain. Meanwhile, the negative impact on companies will also affect the global financial market.
Third, unlike previous economic and financial crises, the cause of the turmoil originated from outside the economic system. This means that the strength and resilience of various sectors and firms will determine their comparative advantages going forward.
Fourth, while the digital economy has shown an impressive rise and become a new hotspot for industrial development, the fundamentals of economic globalization and global value chains will not change. The physical manufacturing capacity of each country alongside the core competitiveness of firms will remain the key factors that support economic growth and development.
Finally, national public-health security will become a more important part of the business environment and a factor in international competitiveness. Multinational companies will pay greater attention to a host country's medical and public-health system as well as the government's ability to respond to epidemics. In addition, firms will put more focus on the resilience of supply chains.
In sum, opportunities are always reserved for those who are prepared. The epidemic will pass, but we must take a long-term perspective and prepare for the post-epidemic era.
Fu An-tang, senior aviation industry executive, in Liberty Times (April 27, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Michel Teiten)
Taiwan’s China Airlines recently delivered Covid-19 medical supplies to Europe. This story prompted some confusion among the international media which incorrectly reported that China rather than Taiwan made the donation. This error has prompted a heated discussion over whether the airline should change its name to “Taiwan Airlines”.
Practically speaking, changing the name would be a huge, time-consuming, labor-intensive and costly project. Not only would it require changes to the centralized reservation system and transportation supply networks, but it would also require a lengthy rebranding process. Furthermore, changing the name would likely result in the airline facing a ban from flying to mainland destinations. Nevertheless, the decision must still be carefully considered.
One feasible solution could be to change the name of Mandarin Airlines, a subsidiary of the China Airlines Group. As China Airlines holds nearly 94 percent of the shares of Mandarin Airlines, the decision would be practical. In addition, only a small number of mainland destinations are served by this subsidiary. Even if they were banned by the mainland, it would have minimal impact on the China Airlines Group.
Potential steps could be as follows: Mandarin applies to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other international bodies to change its name to “Taiwan Airlines”. The fleet is rebranded, and Taiwan Airlines begins to negotiations with countries around the world to serve existing air routes. China Airlines could gradually transfer more of its fleet to the renamed carrier. If some countries should refuse to accept the new entity due to pressure from Beijing, China Airlines could continue to serve those routes.
Park Hwee-rhak, professor of politics, Kookmin University, in Seoul Economic Daily (April 26, 2020)
Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Victoria Borodinova/Pixabay)
Lately, there has been much speculation on the health of the North Korean leader. Despite the strong denial from Pyongyang, the uncertainties surrounding Kim Jong Un’s condition remain. While there may be hopes that his demise could improve North-South relations, this is unlikely as we saw in 1994 and in 2011 when the two previous DPRK leaders suddenly died. North Korea will again secretively select a new leader and any likelihood of the new leadership having a different attitude towards peace is unlikely.
In the international community, South and North Korea are regarded as two independent countries that separately and simultaneously joined the UN. Despite the aspirations for reunification, it would be the UN Security Council rather than South Korea that would handle a sudden collapse of DPRK. There have even been reports that back in 2009 the Americans reviewing divide-and-control scenarios in preparation of a North Korean meltdown. If the North were to disintegrate, it is unlikely that our ally the US would respect South Korea’s Constitution and refrain from dividing the DPRK among China, Russia and itself.
What South Korea needs at the moment is not speculation and gossip about the DPRK leadership but solid preparation for how realistically to achieve reunification when such an opportunity might appear. According to the Republic of Korea Constitution, reunification may only be achieved through peaceful means. Only such a reunification would legitimize a unified Korean peninsula in the face of those that may prefer to divide the current DPRK territory. South Korea has a successful model: West Germany encouraged the East to choose reunification and then saw the German reunification legitimized when the East voted on the measure. If the two Koreas follow in the footsteps of the Germans, the international community would have no choice but to accept their reunification.
Karma Pedey, Professor, Norbuling Rigter College, in Kuensel (April 25, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gelay Jamtsho)
The Bhutanese national character and the personality that sets us apart; the national consciousness and identity that so distinctly has become our own today, is the result of the unbending resolution and sharp vision of our kings.
Each era gave birth to a Dragon King as an antidote to the ills and adversities of the time. Each Druk Gyalpo has served a purpose higher than self; each answered the daunting calls of the nation.
When our Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck took over the helm, he embodied the continuity of the great Wangchuck legacy. With his all-embracing love and compassion, His Majesty personified our hopes and dreams.
Today, as the icy hands of Covid-19 grips the world, our king once again struck a deep chord in both the young and the old, as he rushed out to answer the country’s toughest call. Even as many mighty countries lie staggering and broken, we once again stand tall, unafraid and confident, daring to face this Covid-19 storm together.
The National Resilience Fund has provided shelter, created employment, relieved the burden of loan payment and touched the lives of each Bhutanese deeply, lifting their morale and optimism. If the country’s economy doesn’t serve the purpose of its people in times of their need, why have a strong economy, our king reasoned with compassion.
The battle is not over yet. We have heard the emotionally charged words of His Majesty, reassuring us yet cautioning us to remain alert to the possible pitfalls and dangers that can simply come from a careless person’s mistake which can undo everything we have achieved so far. This bids us to gather our heads and hearts to make a personal pledge to take full responsibility to align our efforts and behavior to our king’s efforts to beat Covid-19.
Hansen Yang (杨瀚森), business leader, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 24, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: observingeye)
Singapore has gone through four stages of the crisis; imported cases, community transmissions, a second wave of imported infections, and control measures to control the spread of the virus. During the first stage, due to the sudden emergence of cases and the Chinese New Year holiday, many Singaporean people donated a large number of masks to China and their frontline health workers, who were in greater need at that time. As a result, local supply became tight. The Singaporean government had to decide whether to violate international trade rules and restrict the export of masks while taking control all mask production. The government did not take this option. As an open economy, Singapore adhered to international law and trade rules.
National unity helps Singapore overcome difficulties and disasters. Throughout the first three stages, citizens came together to support the government by not stockpiling food and other basic necessities while ensuring medical masks remained available to frontline medical staff who were more in need.
Now Singapore faces a more dangerous fourth stage. Now all citizens have a mask. In addition to the four masks issued to each family, the government has produced a washable and reusable mask for each Singaporean. Meanwhile, medical masks are reserved for frontline medical staff. On online platforms and in retail stores, there is sufficient supply of masks.
When the circuit breaking measures were enforced, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong finally told people that they must wear masks. Implementing this could only be achieved through the joint efforts of government ministers, civil servants, enterprises and citizens. The fierce battle against the virus is still raging, and Singapore will face challenges ahead. Regardless, 2020 is destined to become an important moment in the history of Singapore. Everyone living on this small island is writing Singapore’s story together.
Roberto R Romulo, Chairman, Philippine Foundation for Global Concerns, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (1992-1995), in his column Filipino Worldview in The Philippine Star (April 24, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nurses Uniforms and Ladies Workwear)
Our overseas workers are modern-day heroes because of the sacrifices they make while working abroad. Their remittances have sustained the Philippine economy. Two sectors – health workers and seafarers – are not only heroes of the country but also of the world, particularly when the coronavirus pandemic has the global community reeling.
Our overseas health workers – estimated at 254,000 – are at the frontline of the fight to save lives of the victims of the pandemic – the US, the UK and the EU in particular. In the UK, 20 Filipino nurses have to date, perished after contracting the disease while on duty.
Our seafarers man the ships that move the global supply chains that feed the world, fuel vehicles, supply the raw materials for manufacturing and deliver the finished products to consumers. They are crucial to the country’s economic recovery with their remittances.
Ninety percent of global trade is carried on ships. Filipino seafarers – some one million of our citizens – account for 25 percent of global seafarers. They rotate in and out of the country in the course of a year, with some 400,000 out across the seas at any one time. They sent home close to US$7 billion in 2019, representing approximately 23 percent of total estimated remittances to the Philippines.
Returning seafarers need suitable accommodations where quarantine and testing will be administered. The plight of the seafarers deserves the support of all, they are the backbone of the global maritime industry: in their own way, they are the frontliners for all of us, providing the medicines and other products we consume.
Healthcare and logistics remain vital as the world emerges from the devastation that the virus has wrought on human lives and their livelihood. So it is crucial that the deployment of these workers be as friction-free as possible.
黄瑞泰, teacher at The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), in Oriental Daily News (April 25, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Olga Ozik/Pixabay)
There are more than six million migrant workers and refugees in Malaysia. They live among us and often work in jobs that Malaysian citizens refuse to do. As such, they are an important source of labor for the overall economic development of the nation. Yet, throughout Malaysia’s Covid-19 crisis, foreign workers including refugees have become the targets of criticism.
Everyone who lives in this country is indeed part of our society. We must not get all tangled up in the issue of nationality as we live through this serious global pandemic. Everyone has their own story with regard to nationality, identity or why they came to Malaysia. Yet what we must focus on right now is whether they can maintain the basic requirements for their dignity and survival.
Malaysia's unique political system has caused society to recognize the concept of "citizen" in the narrow sense of nationality. But anyone who lives in a society is a citizen. In this Covid-19 epidemic, we can all become infected and spreaders of the virus. In this crisis, we are all equal.
The stigmatization of and discrimination against migrant workers and refugees create psychological pressures that we cannot understand. If we continue to ignore, condemn, abuse and show prejudice against them, particularly at this critical time, it will not only fail to solve the problems caused by the public-health crisis but could also lead to a more serious situation that we cannot handle.
If we want to maintain the stability of Malaysian society, everyone should take care of and help each other. Throughout this crisis, no one can be alone. Only with mutual understanding and solidarity can we maintain a stable and secure life.
Muhammad Rajab, Director of Islamic Studies, Tazkia International Islamic Boarding School, Malang, East Java, in Media Indonesia (April 22, 2020)
Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Gunawan Kartapranata)
Conducting the requirements of Ramadan this year will without doubt have to come within a different environment. The opportunity to take part in practices such as the evening tarawih prayers will be disturbed, if not cancelled. In previous years, it has always been a problem for mosques to accommodate all the people who want to take part in these prayers but this time around mosques will be less than full, and perhaps even empty.
Nevertheless, the spirit to fulfill religious practice this month should not be allowed to weaken. Tarawih can be performed with your family at home. Indeed, if this is done to avoid damage to the public, the benefits are doubled. We need to understand that the spirit of Islam in blocking all forms of damage is extremely high. This provides the opportunity to make Ramadan this year more meaningful, weighty and perfect if it is combined with a strong “social jihad”.
Ali Riaz, Distinguished Professor, Department of Politics and Government, Illinois State University, in The Daily Star (April 21, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Andrea Hanks/The White House)
President Donald Trump's decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global pandemic is not only reckless and irresponsible, but will also exacerbate the threat to global public health.
Domestic considerations, precisely his focus on his support base, as the driver of his policies—domestic and foreign, have brought disastrous consequences for the United States in the past years. That he and his supporters seem to have very little regard for data, science and diplomacy is on display here, once again. The decision is consistent with Trump's previous actions and his contempt for multilateral institutions. The so-called "America First" policy, which has essentially become the "America Alone" policy, is behind the decision and will further isolate the US from its allies.
In past years, the global standing and influence of the US has eroded, thanks to the changing global political landscape, the rise of China and Russia, the failure of leadership of the Trump administration on global issues, the distance with allies through unilateral foreign policy, and withdrawals from various multilateral arrangements. The failure to contain Covid-19 has revealed a serious weakness not just in public health infrastructure but also in the entire US political system. By contrast, China has been engaged in an aggressive diplomacy since the epidemic began, taking active measures to rewrite the narrative, absolving its responsibilities in the spread of the virus, and remaking its image as a "friend in need".
The US decision to defund the WHO shows the absence of empathy and a disregard for the people of the world. The global pandemic and economic crisis will require global cooperation among countries. The myopic policy of the Trump administration sends the message that the US is abdicating its claim to global leadership.
An editorial in Daily Mirror (April 24, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes
The COVID-19 pandemic poses many questions regarding school education. One is why should students return to school at all if technology was used effectively in providing knowledge during this break?
Students have enjoyed using devices to download tutorials sent to them by teachers. One of the advantages is that the students can pick the time of learning. But experts warn that still parents must have some control over their children in the use of learning devices due internet use.
Parents must still make children have a set time to get up and go to sleep. They must also ensure children have regular meal times. Experts also recommend regular breaks and time for children to engage in physical activities.
We can take a cue from the planting community in tea estates. Most planters are alone and away from families; hence there is a tendency for them to go “wild”. Most trainee managers are advised to dress for meals even when they are alone in their bungalow. This is because a person with authority when alone can develop unhealthy or unbecoming habits. Dressing up is a reminder to these planters that discipline is important. Students locked down at homes during this pandemic must follow this habit of planters in maintaining discipline.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the educational authorities accelerate the development of the online learning process. This crisis will push educational authorities to demand more from technology experts and the latter will in return have to sweat to upgrade their devices. Home education using technology opened the eyes of teachers to new dimensions in education. But it also underscored the fact that the life lessons learned inside the boundaries of the school can never be offered by home education, even if the best of technology is used.
Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 22, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office Singapore)
The spread of Covid-19 within guest workers dormitories has become the main battlefield for the authorities. Yet the most dangerous place remains within the community owing to the risk of undetected cases that remain hidden.
There are inevitably people in the community who have been infected with the virus but have not been diagnosed. They may not even know that they have contracted the disease as they are asymptomatic or just have mild flu-like symptoms. These cases are all potential sources of infection and could pass the virus to family members, friends or even strangers. The speed at which the virus spreads from person to person is exceptionally fast and persons without symptoms can also be contagious. For this reason, it is important to wear a mask.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently warned about this danger. The problem is that many people do not understand the power and horror of this virus. They cannot appreciate the need for control measures and blame the authorities for the inconvenience of having to abide by restrictions on their movements and activities. Some have even expressed their dissatisfaction by ignoring these measures and using racial slurs such as the term “Chinese virus”.
The reason why China was able to control the epidemic in Wuhan within a few months is that, after determining the risks, they immediately adopted extremely strict measures to seal the city and Hubei province. This gradually cut off transmission of the virus. We must break the chain of community infection in Singapore. There seems to be no other effective or feasible alternative than the current regulations that have been imposed. For the small number of people who do not heed the advice and insist on breaking the rules, there is no choice but to hold them accountable under the law.
Kaiser Kabir, CEO of Renata Limited, in Dhaka Tribune (April 21, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Asian Development Bank)
Most people are aware of the exponential curve that tracks epidemics. It is only through mass testing of random populations that we can get an idea where the disease situation of a country lies on the curve.
Apart from random testing, testing of people showing symptoms of the disease can lead to accurate decisions about isolation or release back into the community. However, these two approaches require many more tests than the government is doing at the moment. There is a general distrust of rapid antibody test kits because of their unreliability.
Moreover, there are only a handful of laboratories carrying out the more sophisticated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. It is vital that testing is ramped up to from a mere 2,000 a day to, say, 100,000 a day. In this regard, the private sector can have a hugely supportive role.
We are all aware that a prolonged lockdown is unsustainable. However, financial distress cannot be the impetus to relaxing a lockdown. Prematurely opening up the economy would invariably lead to mass transmission of the disease forcing us back into lockdown. After all, the sick, dying and dead do not make good workers.
Science must be the only guiding principle in relaxing a lockdown, and hence there is no alternative to mass testing. The government cannot do it all. We in the private sector are ready to offer a helping hand. We appeal to the government to accept our support.
Raymund Narag, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Justice and Public Safety, Southern Illinois University, in Rappler (April 22, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com)
As the threat of Covid-19 knocks at the doors of jail and prison facilities, there are discussions on whether to release low-risk bailable and non-violent detainees and prisoners. The Supreme Court will address this issue soon.
One key segment of the detainee population that is seldom discussed is the "non-bailable" offenders, who account for at least 50 percent of detainees in jails and police detention centers. Persons charged with capital offenses may post bail if the evidence of guilt is not strong.
Given that all court hearings are suspended to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, courts cannot conduct hearings to determine the strength of evidence. Non-bailable detainees have no other recourse but to wait until the crisis is over. This is a very precarious state, compounded by jail congestion and the lack of medical resources.
A majority of the non-bailable detainees face drug-related charges and are non-violent first-time offenders. Some may have the capacity to post bail but cannot do so because judges have not ruled on whether the evidence of their guilt is strong or not. Given the threat of infections, being charged with a non-bailable offense, while still presumed innocent, can be a death sentence.
Our courts may adopt the following procedure:
If deemed a low public-safety risk, the accused can be released on bail, subject to conditions placed by the judge. When the crisis is over, failure to attend court hearings, commission of new offenses, and violation of release conditions may be grounds for re-arrest.