Tavleen Singh, journalist, in her column in The Indian Express (April 19, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes
On Twitter daily, there are tweets so filled with hatred and venom against Muslims that it is as if the twits who post them truly believe that there would be no pandemic in India if it were not for our Muslim citizens.
Now, it has never been more important for the religious and political leaders of the Muslim community to come forward and stop Muslims from inviting hatred by attacking doctors and nurses. On April 15 in Moradabad, healthcare workers were assaulted when they were checking on people suspected of having the coronavirus. That was sickening.
If there is one good thing that this virus has done, it is that it has put an end to the problems created by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It has to stay that way. Never before has India more needed to come together to fight a common enemy. If the Muslims have lost trust in Narendra Modi’s government, and they have, it is time for the prime minister to go out of his way to win back this trust. The battles that lie ahead will not be won if we are distracted by violence, hatred and communal tensions.
All over the world today, prime ministers and presidents face the ultimate test of their leadership. Narendra Modi is no exception. His problems are bigger because he is forced to rely on a bureaucracy devoid of both compassion and competence.
Lean Hooi Hooi, Professor at the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Oriental Daily News (April 19, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: esfera / Shutterstock.com)
From the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan to the time when China was actively battling the epidemic, people from all sectors of Malaysian society contributed money and support by providing healthcare equipment and materials for China. Malaysian private enterprises delivered these items through various channels, while citizens came together to cheer on the Chinese people.
In mid-March, when the number of confirmed cases in Malaysia also started to rise, the government had no choice but to launch their own measures to control the epidemic. Now, Malaysia is facing its own shortage of medical supplies. China has responded by sending necessities including test kits, ventilators and protective personal equipment, while Chinese enterprises have made donations through the embassy. China also sent a team of medical experts to share their experiences with local counterparts.
This crisis has helped demonstrate the deep friendship between Malaysia and China. President Xi Jinping said that "the friendship between nations lies in the mutual love between the people and the mutual love of the people lies in mutual communication." Establishing common ground is the fundamental purpose of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). There are three levels of people-to-people exchange: mutual understanding, trust and friendship to build a community of common destiny. The BRI enhances not only mutual understanding and friendship but also economic cooperation.
The Covid-19 virus presents a crisis and an opportunity to bring Malaysia and China closer. After the crisis, the people of the two countries will continue to work together to promote the movement of people, logistics and capital. This will ensure that the heavily damaged Malaysian economy can recover as quickly as possible.
Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar, columnist, in The UB Post (April 20, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes
This is the first time that online lessons are being offered due to pandemic prevention in Mongolia. Students have been complaining that e-learning is not effective and some of them have asked for a refund of their tuition.
A student at the Mongolian National University for Science and Technology said: “The courses provided by teachers are ineffective, and most of the materials are searchable on the internet. We lack information on how to register our lesson attendance, when to complete assignments and ways to ask questions from teachers about the things we don't know. Everything is unclear. Provincial students cannot attend classes and drop out. Many students work to earn their tuition fee. Ineffective online lessons are a waste for them.”
A student at the Mongolian National University of Education complained: “It was not possible to attend online classes because of the poor network. When my phone connects with the slow internet, it takes a long time to load. The government's decision neglects provincial students. How can provincial students make up for lost time if they miss classes? We need to be given that opportunity.”
No one was ready for this situation. However, it is a shame that students complain that they don’t want or can't adapt to online classes. Some students are demanding too much – government stipends, free public transportation, and free access to the internet. Students need to understand that they are adults and are responsible for their own welfare. Understanding that the crisis has impacted all of us, not just them, and working with others to find the best way to resume their learning will be a much more effective attitude for achieving their goal. Distance learning itself is not the problem; it is an opportunity that has benefited millions of learners around the globe.
Huma Yusuf, journalist, in Dawn (April 20, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes
As Covid-19 rips through the global population, governments are trying to suppress the news for various reasons — to keep public order and minimize panic, to burnish state credentials for crisis management, to score political points, or to seize control of the press and strengthen authoritarian control.
Newspaper publication across the Middle East has been suspended. Iraq withdrew Reuters’ licence for suggesting that the country was concealing the extent of the outbreak. Russian media outlets have been ordered to remove content critical of the state. In Pakistan, medical staff have been discouraged from speaking to journalists.
News suppression can be fatal. If it had not been for media censorship in China, news of the coronavirus would have surfaced earlier, saving lives and potentially avoiding the current pandemic. Governments have to strike a balance between allowing a free flow of information and regulating media content to ensure accuracy. This is tricky. And in countries like ours with authoritarian tendencies, the specter of fake news provides a convenient cover for rampant censorship.
In Pakistan, the crisis could lead to intensified media censorship. But such action would backfire. Lack of accurate information will breed complacency, impatience with lockdowns, and the inevitable spread of the virus. As the full economic impact of the pandemic becomes apparent, censorship will make obvious a discrepancy between the official narrative and what people are experiencing that will damage government credibility and produce resentment among the public.
Our government should support quality reporting by making information — and protective equipment — available to journalists. The media needs to get coverage of the pandemic right, keeping it timely, factual and in proper context. This will rebuild trust with the public, which has been lost in recent years.
Azyumardi Azra, Director, Graduate School, and rector (1998-2006), Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, in Kompas (April 16, 2020)
Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Denis Moskvinov / Shutterstock.com)
The struggle against the Covid-19 virus is going to be a long one, especially in Indonesia. The worst scenario is if attempts to enforce social distancing fail or regional lockdowns are not able to control an undisciplined population that continues to move from hot zones to other areas. If that happens, the number of coronavirus cases could climb to over two million.
What is clear is that there are already many victims. These include those who have died but also those who have been affected economically. In the Jakarta area, it is estimated that since a lockdown was introduced on April 4, as many as 5.28 million people have been affected in addition to the 7.05 million already unemployed.
Indonesia is lucky to have a long tradition of philanthropy. Yet very few officials have been willing to donate all or part of their wages to help those affected. There is no political empathy among senior officials or the political elite. Meanwhile, the parliament and government are going ahead with discussions of the highly controversial work-creation bill.
Kevin Wong Tze-wai, Research Associate, and Victor Zheng Wan-tai, Assistant Director and Director of Research, Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (April 17, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
There has been a marked reduction in social conflict since the spread of Covid-19. Does this mean that society has just temporarily paused their political disputes to fight the epidemic – or have the government’s measures to counter the epidemic successfully restored public opinion?
According to a recent opinion survey, the Chief Executive approval rating and the level of public trust in the government have stopped declining. While her popularity remains low, the Chief Executive ‘s score increased marginally to 25.0 percent from 23.4 percent.
Nevertheless, the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has clearly failed to restore public confidence. A survey in March found that 60.5 percent of respondents believed that the administration’s performance was “quite bad” or “very bad’, while 71.5 percent felt that their response was “insufficient” or “very insufficient”. The data suggests a correlation between those who already had a favorable opinion of the government or are pro-establishment and those who view its handling of Covid-19 crisis positively.
There is consensus across the political spectrum on the issue of controlling the spread of Covid-19. Supporters of social movements understand the importance of control measures and so there has been a temporary shift from protesting to battling the virus. Ultimately, society has no choice but to stay at home. The social divides revealed through the anti-extradition law amendment bill action have remained unresolved.
Today’s social calm is no doubt only temporary. The Chief Executive and the government's popularity have not yet picked up significantly. Protests will resume. As such, the government should also focus on repairing divisions within society. While handling of Covid-19 is putting pressure on an exhausted government, this should be seen as an opportunity to take a breath and then deal with the serious social conflict.
Wu Ge, Chief Economist at Changjiang Securities, in Caixin (April 16, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
While a threat remains from imported cases and asymptomatic infections from abroad, China's Covid-19 epidemic situation has now been effectively controlled. With the country gradually returning to work, what will the economic recovery look like and what are the limitations?
China's important industries such as real estate and automobiles are starting to show signs of recovery from the stark lows reached during the first quarter. Services such as the food-and-beverage sector continue to struggle, with demand at around only half what it was at the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, there are still some positive signs of recovery. Furthermore, while domestic demand remains sluggish, there are signs that a broader slow-but-steady recovery is underway.
The economic impact of the Covid-19 virus spans both supply and demand. With the steady resumption of economic activity, labor and other supply factors have subsequently improved. In contrast, the sharp drop in the number of orders combined with the rise in the unemployment has resulted in a contraction of demand, leading to a wider economic recession. Falls of both China’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index PPI support this trend.
The speed of the economic recovery will depend largely on the success of countercyclical adjustment efforts. It is, however, also inevitable that other major economies will attempt to address their respective economic shocks. As such, to hedge against the severe challenges stemming from a drop in external demand and a broader global economic downturn, an expansion of China’s domestic credit will need to take place. Based on the evidence so far, the economic recovery will be an unbalanced process as domestic demand will be higher than external demand, while capital-intensive industries continue to recover faster than labor-intensive ones.
Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 15, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: huntergol hp / Shutterstock.com)
During the first stage of epidemic, after the first case of Covid-19 was reported on January 23, 2020, Singapore’s approach was seen as the "gold standard”. The second stage started after the epidemic had rapidly spread across the globe, prompting many infected citizens to rush back home. While strict quarantine measures ensured these returnees would be isolated, there were still signs of community spread within nursing homes, preschools, construction sites and offices, while the number of people infected from an unknown source also increased.
After the number of returnees had decreased, the number of imported cases also fell sharply. Community transmissions, however, have now soared, particularly within dormitories housing foreign workers. This has triggered a dangerous stage of the battle – a third "circuit breaker".
How can countries can remain under lockdown for so long, with a vaccination still potentially 18 months away? Singaporeans must dutifully comply with the new circuit-breaker measures and be mentally prepared for a long battle. The question now is: What to do next?
First, Singapore must quickly control the epidemic in the dormitories housing foreign workers. There are as many as 43 such accommodations across the whole island, housing tens of thousands of guest workers. The government has already set up a working group to control this problem.
Second, the government must do everything in its power to halt community infection. As the number of cases where no association can be found is increasing, this stage of the battle is challenging and entails high risks. If we lose, it will be difficult to manage the consequences.
If the epidemic is under control by May 4, we can gradually resume economic activity. This is a deadly battle, and everyone must cooperate. The consequences of failure must be emphasized, and society must remain vigilant.
Randy David, sociologist and journalist, in his Public Lives column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (April 12, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: PCOO EDP/King Rodriguez)
The Inter-Agency Task Force on the coronavirus has confirmed that the government is extending the lockdown across Luzon till the end of April. In a speech the night before, President Rodrigo Duterte had appeared reluctant to do so not because he thought an extension was unnecessary but because he was concerned that prolonging the shutdown would not be sustainable. The government, he acknowledged, would run out of funds to feed those most in need.
For the first time, the president sounded helpless in confronting a problem. He admitted that he is waking up at three o’clock in the morning and pondering what to do. He ended by requesting citizens to join him in prayer that the nation may survive this pandemic.
It must be difficult for Mr Duterte to moderate his default rhetorical swagger. He was struggling to contain the virus of narcissism and arrogance that seems to prod him to pontificate on any issue. He thinks that a president must know everything.
If I were he, I would say only a few heartfelt words to comfort the nation and then step aside and let those with adequate knowledge explain the situation and clearly tell us what to do. A leader must have enough humility to admit that we still know little about the virus. When to lift the lockdown and how to relax precautions are the most important questions to which those in charge need the answers. Yet nobody knows how this will end so it is hard to know what to do. Right now, clarity is needed no less than courage.
TJS George, journalist, in his Point of View column in The New Indian Express (April 12, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Khabar Uttarakhand ki)
These days, I feel insignificant as a citizen, looking to politicians as parents and obeying them. We should be happy to do so but they speak in so many tongues. One wants me to do yoga, which will somehow cure all the nation’s ills. Another wants me to know that the coronavirus panic is just a ruling party plot to divert attention away from the riots in Delhi in February.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, says it is important to tackle the spread of pessimism, negativity and rumor. He convened a videoconference with 20-plus editors and print-media owners and asked them to act as a link between the government and the people. But he did not spell out a policy plan or speak in reassuring tones.
Yet the media chiefs were enamored by the PM’s gesture and agreed to publish only “inspiring and positive stories”. Said one owner of the opportunity to interact with the prime minister: “We were privileged.” In which other country could the media be more cooperative?
Some are predicting that the US will suffer its worst recession in history. When the US economy goes into recession, everybody is affected. One estimate has the global economy shrinking by 1.5 percent in 2020. The negative impact on economies will be prolonged. This will require social adjustments. But how many societies are ready?
Religion has been a factor in this crisis. Crowds have defied common sense. I hope God blesses the careless and careful equally.
Industries are reeling. The entertainment sector has come to a halt. Retail shopping has been disrupted. Experts warn of an unforeseen consequence – mental health problems – mainly because of the strain of unemployment, especially if people are without a job for a long time. For the poor, the future is grim.
Sulema Jahangir, Honorary Executive Director, AGHS Legal Aid Cell, in Dawn (April 12, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: mariwara)
The discrimination against women belonging to a religious minority has become worse. Women are becoming victims of rape, abduction, forced marriage and forced conversion. That largely underage girls are “converting” to Islam speaks volumes of their vulnerability.
In 2016 and last year, the government of Sindh attempted to outlaw forced marriages and conversions but religious parties objected both times, insisting that women of religious minorities convert willingly. While there are cases of forced conversion, there are also instances of influential men preying upon vulnerable young women, enticing them to convert and marry. Could enticement without the threat of violence become punishable?
Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that the right to freedom of religion includes the right to change one’s faith and that no one shall be subject to coercion to do so. Exploiting a position of power to entice vulnerable people or subordinates to convert amounts to coercion, which should be outlawed.
Once women convert, there is no going back, as apostasy would mean a death sentence. In many cases, women are also told that their families are infidels and they cannot meet them. This impedes their access to justice as they remain in the clutches of powerful men.
Pakistan has failed to comply with its international obligations to protect non-Muslim women and girls from exploitation by powerful groups and criminal elements. Even worse is the psychological impact on families of minorities who worry when their daughters venture out, and the culture of intolerance that is promoted when local leaders celebrate another conversion and marriage as a victory for the Muslim faith. This sends a chilling message to our most vulnerable people – that their girls are not safe.
Dr Arisina Ma Chung-yee, President of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association (the union for public-sector doctors), in Stand News (April 12, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Studio Incendo)
There are exactly two months until the first anniversary of "6/12" (June 12, 2019, the date of the first major demonstration against the government’s extradition amendment bill that led to months of protests in Hong Kong). It remains unclear, however, whether Hong Kong people will be able to take to the streets once again on this day. While society remains angry and deep divides have yet to be repaired, the Hong Kong government is unlikely to permit marches in light of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The second wave of the virus has slowed down somewhat, with the daily amount of infections falling from two digits to under 10. This trend, however, only reflects the drop in the number of workers and students returning from overseas and fails to indicate whether the virus is continuing to spread in the community. There have been sporadic cases with no obvious source. In addition, there are still 616 people in public hospitals for treatment, 13 of them in critical condition in intensive care units.
As the number of local infection cases and the age of infected persons rise slowly, there will inevitably be an increase in patients with critical illnesses and admissions to intensive care. There are already signs that Hong Kong’s intensive care services are inadequate and unevenly distributed.
In light of this danger, the logic of some citizens is odd. They expect people returning from overseas to comply with quarantine rules while they themselves still accept the risks associated with going out and potentially standing shoulder-to-shoulder with invisible carriers of the virus. We are facing a conflict between controlling the spread of the virus and protecting human rights and freedoms. To solve this public health crisis, citizens must be self-disciplined. Failing to do so will only give excuses to those in power to extend restrictions over our freedoms further.
Da Wei, Assistant President and Professor, University of International Relations, in The Global Times (April 8, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: US Department of Defense/Glenn Fawcett)
The Covid-19 pandemic has become the "first global crisis" in human history. Four major factors distinguish this crisis from previous events.
First, unlike terrorist attacks or war, this crisis stems from nature rather than the decisions or actions of people. Second, unlike US-centered incidents such as 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the three major economic regions in the world: East Asia, North America and Western Europe, and spread to nearly 200 countries with more than 3 billion people now under lockdown. Third, in terms of duration, humans may have to coexist with this crisis before anti-viral drugs or a vaccine is successfully developed. Fourth, unlike the 1918-20 flu pandemic, this one has spread through modern societies that are highly globalized and interdependent. This interdependence has led to wider political, economic and social shocks resulting in an unpredictable "butterfly effect".
This pandemic is the first global crisis facing humanity, threatening not just countries but mankind as a whole. Some experts regard this crisis as a precursor to the looming climate crisis. How we deal with today’s global crisis will determine to a large extent how we respond to the next one.
Experts on Sino-US relations have often joked that only an alien invasion would prompt relations to return to its previous level of cooperation. Today, the "alien" has arrived in the form of a virus. At this historic juncture, China and the United States have no choice but to cooperate. Fortunately, Sino-US relations have already started to show signs of improvement with some positive momentum towards closer cooperation. Both China and the United States must urgently put aside politics and instead strengthen bilateral action. Cooperation is essential in tackling the first global crisis in human history.
Lim Fangbiao (林方彪), writer, in his 想太多 (Overthinking) column in Sin Chew Daily (April 8, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Ajai Arif)
The Minister of Health recently stated that the goal of the second phase of control measures would be to reach zero new cases of Covid-19 in a day. It is likely the current measures will be extended, as there have been more than 100 new cases daily. But if the Minister takes into consideration the specific regions with no increases, then it may be possible to strengthen quarantine rules in red zones (those with over 40 cases), while gradually relaxing them in green zones.
The number of red zones has increased to 21. The information provided, however, is not detailed enough. Officials should include data for those still receiving treatment, as it will let the public know more about the current situation. With this information, the situation in the red zones can be analyzed in greater detail. The zones can then be isolated effectively and quarantine controls strengthened, while ensuring sufficient supplies continue to flow into these areas.
In green zones, it will be possible to loosen restrictions gradually and allow normal life to resume. Before the entire country improves, however, those in green zones will have to continue to wear masks, wash hands and maintain social distance. Outbreaks in many countries have erupted after celebrations and large gatherings. Even if the number of newly diagnosed patients in Malaysia drops slightly, society should not get complacent.
This year’s fasting month of Ramadan (April 23 to May 23) and the ensuing Eid al-Fitr activities will likely be canceled or scaled down. Officials must try to communicate effectively with Muslim communities to gain support and understanding for these necessary measures. Ultimately, while the government must act to control the epidemic, these measures cannot lead to the collapse of the whole economy. People have to continue working to maintain their livelihoods.
Chow Hsing-yi, Professor, Department of Finance, College of Commerce, National Chengchi University, in United Daily News (April 11, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Alix Lee)
Taiwan's epidemic situation remains significantly better than the rest of the world, with only over 300 infections and fewer than 10 deaths, despite being geographically close to mainland China. We should thank the government and medical personnel at all levels for their efforts. Otherwise, we might have been caught in a difficult quagmire as Europe and the United States have been. Taiwan must appreciate its situation and strive to maintain it.
While the international media praises Taiwan, we risk becoming complacent. There were already signs of this over the recent Qingming holiday (April 4) with the media reporting a spike in vacations to Kenting. This highlights the fundamental contradiction in the fight against the virus: On the one hand, it is necessary to maintain social distance; on the other, it is necessary to keep up economic activity. China, too, is eager to resume work. Yet this risks the resurgence of the epidemic. In the US, President Trump's reluctance to declare a state of emergency may have made the virus harder to control there.
As Taiwan is an export-oriented economy, the world’s problems arising from the virus will inevitably become ours. When we face the economic crisis, it will be impossible to rely on the government alone. We must rely on some form of public-private partnership to overcome difficulties together and prepare for the recovery. The business community should quickly respond to workplace conditions and assist the government in recommending the direction and focus of relief policies, formulating strategies and practices to reduce the impact on employees.
Taiwan ’s performance has attracted worldwide attention. As long as the public and private sectors work together, we can provide key assistance when the world needs Taiwan. At the same time, doing so will benefit Taiwan economically.