Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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30 Mar 2020 : Bigger than The Bachelor

There are 700,000 confirmed infections worldwide today, and that is confirmed. We have probably easily surpassed the 1 million mark, if not more. Zimbabwe has abandoned its currency and switched perhaps other currencies and to the US$. I read a very good article on ZeroHedge (an investment site). There has been a huge dollar spike as people are getting out of emerging markets and getting their money into the us. There are real fears lurking of a liquidity crisis, and the dollar price is so high that higher-priced exports from that country will add to economic gloom. How long can the dollar be this high? In many countries the lock-down are being badly bungled and people are panicking. India is just one case in point but a Lagos goes down people panic buy in Africa’s largest city. On a positive note, air pollution is falling everywhere, more than half of comparable levels to last year in some cases, like Madrid. Yet Spain also has more than 6500 deaths as of today, which is really just savage. We clearly have to deal with the environment in more efficient ways than by having pandemics. At present, more than 1,000,000 Indians die from air pollution each year and those figures are slightly higher in China. WHO publishes these statistics annually and they have almost zero impact to date.

Oxfam has asked for over $160 billion in aid for the world’s poorest countries, to address the particular needs of health systems, refugee camps and slums. They are right, but I fear the West is looking inwards at the moment. I think these countries will be left to struggle or crash, and the people at the bottom will suffer most. It is worrying that it has now reared its head in some Pacific countries: French Polynesia (tourists surely), Guam, Fiji. I am fearful for friends and colleagues there. I know Colin has been quite on message about the responsibility to protect the regions, and I am sure Paula and team are working flat out for SPC. Tonga is isolating the entire archipelago.

Two horrible stories amongst all the others underscore the mental health impact of this crisis. Tragic story of a COVID positive patient committing suicide in in hospital Serdang, Malaysia. The level of fear and hopelessness must have been awful, clearly. Messaging from the Malaysian government has also apparently been disastrous. Levels of stigma and self-stigma could also have been factors, but I am clearly just speculating now. Another sad case was a German state-level (Landau) finance minister, who committed suicide facing the uncertainty and strain of COVID and his position. As I write this, I feel sad that I did not record his name. Clearly the mental health toll will grow as isolation and fear grow, interacting with existing conditions, lack of access to services and support. Domestic violence is spiralling in many countries. Reported cases up 25% in France.

Only 2 months ago Australia was burning. It certainly has been a long year of fundamental crises. There is something about these vital systems, already at breaking point, finally fracturing: health, the climate. And last night one house near to me in isolation holds a party, yes a party. No idea how many people were there, but there were more than just 2 or 3 people. People really are just acting in the most terrible ways; I hear laughter as people depart for home.

I will now quote at length from a Twitter thread put together by Aaron Rupar (@atrupar). It regards Trump’s Rose Garden press conference conducted on the 29th. I could honestly conjure myself no better a summary of the mendacious depravity and witless, reckless self-regard of Trump (quotes are from the POTUS):

"How do you go from 10 to 20 to 30,000, to 300,000 [masks] -- even though this is different. Something is going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going?" -- Trump suggests that there is some sort of New York nurse conspiracy to steal masks. "Many of the states are stocked up. Some don't admit it. But we have sent so much." -- Trump paints governors who are asking for more federal help as complainers. One can't help but think that Trump devotes so much time to talking about what private businesses are contributing to the coronavirus response because the federal government is doing so little. Trump proposes tax relief for restaurants that might be a good idea but also represents self-dealing, since it would likely also benefit the business he still owns and profits from. "The modelling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in 2 weeks. I will say it again. The peak, the highest point of death rates, remember this, is likely to hit in 2 weeks ... Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread."

"There is something going on. I don't know if it is hoarding. It is maybe worse than hoarding" -- Trump again suggests that de Blasio, Cuomo and New York nurses are somehow conspiring to make unreasonable demands on the federal government for masks and ventilators. Trump claims he didn't realize until today that 2.2 million Americans might have died if people didn't start social distancing (the study that number is based on was widely publicized and published nearly 2 weeks ago). Trump now says the hope he expressed for packed churches on Easter was just "aspirational" "That's why you used to work for the Times and now you work for somebody else" -- Trump unloads on Yacmiche Alcindor for asking him a question about his attacks on blue state governors. Before attacking Alcindor, Trump took umbrage and questioned the integrity of a Bloomberg reporter who asked him about public statements he made the day before.

REPORTER: Florida has reportedly had 100% of their requests for supplies from the national strategic stockpile filled but Massachusetts has not. Why is that?

TRUMP, dodging: "I was on the call yesterday with the governors & they were happy with the job we are doing."

"The biggest problem was the test didn't work. That was not from us. That has been there a long time" -- here's Trump trying to blame Obama for faulty coronavirus tests that were developed by the CDC earlier this year. "You will see drugs being used like nobody has ever used them before, and people are going to be dying all over the place"  -- Trump on what would happen if the economy remains largely closed down for too long. "Your statement is a lie" -- Trump attacks a CNN reporter for asking him to explain his direct quotes from Friday about how he wants Democratic governors to be more "appreciative". Trump brags about how his press briefings about a deadly pandemic that is killing Americans get ratings comparable to "The Bachelor" or "Monday Night Football"

"We heard people saying maybe we should not do anything [about the coronavirus]. Ride it like a cowboy. Ride that sucker right through. That is where the 2.2 million [deaths] come in ... That is not acceptable." The enemy is death," Trump says in conclusion.

Extraordinary. Thank you Aaaron for managing to watch this.

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