This is a live blog of brief accounts and stories by writers who are documenting the Coronavirus outbreak with issues and happenings from around the world. We hope this collection helps you relate, reflect, and gain new understandings of the global pandemic.
Global Voices, the Critical Knowledge Podcast
Episode 4: Environmental Impact of COVID-19: Crisis and Opportunity in the Antropocene with Tamara Steger and and T Jayaraman.
May 20, 2020
The ecological impact and implications of the coronavirus have been a topic of interest for many environmentalists. Global carbon emissions have fallen substantially – giving us an insight into, as some say, what the world would look like without fossil fuels. The unprecedented restrictions on travel, work and industry due to the coronavirus have ensured good air quality in many otherwise choked cities. Wildlife has returned to habitats. Pollution is considerably down across continents, in comparison to the pre-pandemic normality. Is this just a fleeting event, or could it lead to longer-lasting changes? We discuss this today with Prof. Tamara Steger, and Prof. T Jayaraman.
Prof. Tamara Steger researches on environmental and social justice and currently teaches in Budapest, Hungary, at CEU (Central European University). She holds a Bachelor of Science (cum laude) from State University of New York, a Master of Marine Studies from University of Washington, and a Ph.D. (with distinction) from Syracuse University. T Jayaraman is a Senior Fellow of Climate Change at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai in India. He used to work as a Professor at School of Habitat Studies in Tata Inst. of Social Sciences, Mumbai. TJ is trained as a theoretical physicist, and his current interests include climate change and policy, economics of climate change, climate change and agriculture. He also looks at science policy, and the history and philosophy of science.
The Disgusting Asian is a Dangerous, Racist Myth
May 12, 2020
By Aphinya Jatuparsakul, Laura Na Blankholm and Elisabeth Bruun Gullach (From Denmark)
Throughout the Global North, people of East Asian and Southeast Asian heritage are being attacked and abused, and many have been thrown off public transport by fellow passengers because of their appearance, but we have yet to hear the story of the 40-year old white man with a ski goggle tan-line who was attacked because he’s spreading corona. Or, for that matter, any Italian. The fact that the coronavirus in the Global North was mainly spread by white, well-off tourists becomes irrelevant when the mechanisms of racism are at play.
As a result of the Corona pandemic, we’re currently experiencing an increase in global anti-Asian racism. This growing number of racist incidents is rooted in a historical trend of linking dangerous diseases with Asians.
Aphinya is on the 4A bus. Somewhere between two Copenhagen neighbourhoods, Valby and Frederiksberg, a woman sits down next to her. The woman looks at Aphinya, frowns, and drags her scarf up to cover the lower part of her face. Aphinya gives her a reassuring smile, to no avail. From the woman’s point of view, the damage is already done – she sat next to an Asian person. When looking at Aphinya’s face, she clearly didn’t see a fellow human being, but a virus-infested time bomb waiting to explode. If nothing else, Aphinya is relieved that she didn’t have her daughter with her. How could she have explained to her child that this woman turned away in disgust because she sees Asian people as dirty because of their race? What if the woman’s reaction had been more than just disgust; what if she had resorted to violence, something Aphinya had personally experienced in the past?
Aphinya Jatuparsakul, Laura Na Blankholm and Elisabeth Bruun Gullach write more about such incidents from their life in Denmark in this article.
Global Voices, the Critical Knowledge Podcast
Episode 3: the Socioeconomic Implications of the Lockdown with R. Ramakumar and J Mohan Rao
May 13, 2020
Joined by two experts on economics, R. Ramakumar, Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and J. Mohan Rao, Professor Emeritus at University of Massachusetts, we discussed the socioeconomic implications of the lockdown on the regional and global level. COVID-19 is causing severe economic problems around the world. Global food supply chains are affected by lockdown measures and other problems caused by the outbreak. It becomes clear that many of the goods that we take for granted are in fact dependent on many factors that are vulnerable to the impacts of a state of unexpected crisis. Departing from the issue of food security, and with a special focus on India and the US, we talked about the economic-epidemiological dilemmas for policymakers, and their disproportionate global impacts. If you want to read more, here is an article by R. Ramakumar.
Why We Need More Women Entrepreneurs from Rural India
May 9, 2020
Krishna Ballabh Chaudhary (From India)
Despite all the negative effects of COVID-19, there is also the possibility of having some positive ones. The current situation has brought an opportunity to focus on household-based production of soaps or hand sanitizers. Krishna Ballabh Chaudhary analyzes the effect that has on women entrepreneurs in rural India, and shows that it is an opportunity for them to step forward because production at home is becoming increasingly essential and there is a huge demand for that in certain markets, like soap and hand sanitizer production, masks and other home produced goods. He highlights both future possibilities and the need to address embedded structures of patriarchy to effectively achieve the full participation of women entrepreneurs in the economy.
Read the article here.
The Shadow Pandemic – A Statement by Students, Scholars and Professionals about the Increasing Global Domestic Violence during the Lockdown
April 29, 2020
Chandrayee Goswami, Aditi D. Zade and Shreya Urvashi
As the lockdown for containing Coronavirus across the world has been imposed, reports suggest that there is a tremendous surge in cases of domestic violence across different countries. In this regard, many students, scholars and professionals were disturbed by the issue and the relative apathy of the governments and media towards it. We have come together and written a statement on domestic violence in pandemic.
Can you stand along with us to support the fight against Domestic Violence? Please fill out this form to extend your solidarity to the cause.
Global Voices, the Critical Knowledge Podcast
Episode 2: The Future of Democracy and Civic Intelligence
April 27, 2020
For the second episode, we go more pragmatic and try to answer some questions that hold immense relevance today. The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have made us all reflect on our dependence on technology. Though the most obvious use is online learning and work from home, the significance of technology is entrenched much deeper in our lives. We are in the anthropocene, but we are also, in a society filtered by media. A discourse on this leads to more underlying questions: what does citizenship of the future mean? What do emancipation and democracy entail in the 2020s? How can civil society organise in times dominated by digital communication technology?
We discuss what democracy, emancipation, activism, and civic engagement entail in light of COVID-19, and go on to a discussion about the public sphere of the future with our two guests: Doug Schuler, a Professor Emeritus at the Evergreen College in USA, who co-founded and runs the Public Sphere Project- which aims to create and support equitable and effective public spheres all over the world; and Siddesh Sarma, an alumnus of education and psychology of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in India, who co-founded and presently heads the organization Leadership for Equity, that aims to work towards a more inclusive and equitable society by empowering public education systems.
Here is a suggested reading list provided by Doug Schuler, to help gain more insight:
- How civic intelligence can teach what it means to be a citizen
- The Green New Deal is the Real Deal
- Liberating Voices
- Community Inquiry
- Demystification and Reenchantment
- Community Building Journalism
- Citizenship Schools
- Democratic Political Settings
- Digital Emancipation
- International Networks: Alternative Media
- Experimental School
- Teaching to Transgress
- Power Research
Is the Missing in Action of the Private Healthcare System A Call to Abandon Neoliberal State Policies?
April 19, 2020
By Deepak Kumar Nanda (From India)
After the New Economic Policy in 1991, the private healthcare system in India was encouraged and given the utmost priority while the public sector and its expenditure was cut and reduced. International neoliberal politics had highly influenced this move. These international policies recommended and believed in the ideas of “individualism” and “the efficiency of the market”. Therefore, the market had replaced the collective forms of planning by reducing public expenditure at the time of a health emergency. But if you see the current scenario during the pandemic, it is the public health care system taking the burden of COVID19, while the private health care system is missing from the frame. This way, COVID-19 disproves the myth of individualism and its efficiency of the market—the basic premises of neoliberalism—because during this pandemic no one is safe or secured, which contradicts the idea of individualism.
There needs to be a rise in the realization that health is not an individual’s responsibility but a public matter which needs collective planning vis-a-vis public health care system. In this article, the author explains how neoliberalism and neoliberal state policies are no more reliable to be undertaken as a universal model to make state policies. The author hopes that this realization and awakening could make us take a turn away from the international neoliberal policies that has highly influenced and has control over state policy making.
Read the full article here.
Global Voices, the Critical Knowledge Podcast
Episode 1: Understanding the COVID-19 Pandemic
April 17, 2020
Global Voices, the Critical Knowledge Podcast, brings together experts and activists from different backgrounds to foster forward-thinking, cross-boundary and interdisciplinary conversations. The first season sheds light on important aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic as a historical, political, psychological, and scientific event. Moving from the most basic and individual concerns to the global picture, we wish to generate insights and discussions that can help us free ourselves from the atomized realm of their rooms and consider the implications of the historical moment we are living.
For the first episode of Global Voices, we were joined by two experts on epidemiology: Catalina Gonzalez Uribe, a professor in Epidemiology and Public Health from University of Los Andes, Colombia; and Maarten van Wijhe from Roskilde University, Denmark, postdoctoral researcher on epidemiology, who works with the historical and statistical aspects of infectious diseases.
With the aim to understand the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of its historical context, we explored past, present, and future together: what makes this pandemic different from those in the past? Why and how did this pandemic catch so many completely off guard? What are the present challenges and future implications of COVID-19? Together with Catalina, an epidemiologist with an interdisciplinary orientation having also studied psychology and anthropology, and Maarten, who contributed historical insights, we crossed boundaries and found a means to connect using our computers and critical minds, we created something larger than the sum of its parts: a shared understanding of what makes our present meaningful and historical.
The Quarantine Subject and the Pandemic Spectacle – Metaphors for Our Historical Condition and the Politics of Staying at Home
April 10, 2020
Alexander Jacob Husenbeth (From Germany, curently in Denmark)
COVID-19 is a disease with peculiar social side effects: it exposes and problematizes systemic vulnerabilities via an extraordinary media spectacle. In an age in which the diversity of human cultures has been in the process of submission to neoliberal market forces, this spectacle allows for real-time comparison: which political, economic, and cultural assumptions are suitable for a precarious future? The ‘quarantine subject’, a metaphor for the current reality of most human beings with an access to media technology, has little choice but to observe a fragment of this global stream of information.
Sascha attempts to put a finger on a historical moment by deliberately reducing reality to two concepts: the Quarantine Subject and the Pandemic Spectacle. The essay encourages overcoming passive spectatorship and provokes active reflection of how we have gotten here, where to go from here, and how to relate to modern information technology when perception is nearly completely filtered and managed through it. Read the full article here.
The Handwashing Syndrome: Coronavirus, Ph.D., and Life
April 2, 2020
Rituparna Patgiri and Ritwika Patgiri. (From India)
“The idea that we had to avoid public places became deep-rooted in our minds. The very thought of going to a hospital was especially scary. The fear of catching or getting infected by the virus was real. The ‘going-home’ that we eagerly look forward to, became an anxiety-inducing journey.”
This article is a first-person account of two Ph.D. researchers on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their lives. How do Rituparna and Ritwika deal with a global pandemic? What are the levels of anxiety that can grip young people? What influence does it have on their academic pursuit and universities?
Read here to learn about the two students’ stories.
Reflections on Kashmir during COVID-19: Life in A Siege during Lockdown
March 31, 2020
Wajid Abbas. (From India)
For a very long time, Kashmir has seen an infrastructural breakdown in the form of communication blackouts, as a result of the people’s aspirations that are seen unaccommodating and subversive. The current communication blackout devastated the state’s economy and made people suffer severely. Although relaxation was given in the form of mobile phone services after six months, the essential internet service is yet to be restored to high speed. This unmodernised situation in the times of COVID-19 is pushing life to its boundaries. Precautions are essential and must be taken to curtail the transmission and to assure safety, but 2G speed and a prolonged earlier siege make life difficult and more prone to the spread of the virus as well as rumours.
Kashmiri people are religious in nature for their unique history and their contact with central Asia. On 27th March, there was a rumour about giving Adhaan (call for Prayer) that will end the epidemic. The Mu’azzins (those reciting the call for prayer) recited the call for prayer throughout the night and wept bitterly. This was followed by people in large numbers going to mosques and Dargahs (Shrines) to pray for salvation, despite the guidelines of staying home by the local police. Some were saying that these are signs of the end of the world. Such a kind of incident is likely when access to information is denied.
Our university administration in Delhi notified us to vacate the hostels and closed the classwork. Generally, classwork is continued in most of the departments online. Professors find the use of online platforms a bit difficult, yet we managed to continue classes; however, my friend who left for Kashmir couldn’t join any class because of the internet. He was even stopped, and his belongings were searched by the military men because, in Kashmir, lockdown isn’t the way it is in the rest of the world. It is a different one; I can’t help but call it a siege.
Some of the people also hide their travel history while screening at the airport and put a whole population at risk. Some cases were later detected to be positive, and even FIRs (First Information Report) were lodged. This was very irresponsible of these people. I was wondering why they do it? Is it because of social stigma or they have little trust in our health services? Health services in Kashmir aren’t up to mark. Doctors are calling for personal protective gears and ventilators. But how can this justify hiding travel history? I believe it has more to do with social stigma. People are afraid of being isolated and pointed out in the society. There are various cases of incidents such as a lady escaping from screening at the airport because she was the mother of a police officer. She was later diagnosed as COVID-19 positive. This shows Kashmir’s VIP Culture, which has become part of Kashmir’s cultural heredity.
There is also police brutality, which is somewhat more than the disciplinary action. It seems like police forces, and their high-ups have more than saving ordinary people in their minds, such as the exclusion or the inclusion of people for being important and less important. This was also apparent for workers who work in other states. They were left with no work during the lockdown, and they had no option but to return to their respective states. There were no arrangements for them, and they had to reach there by their feet. They should’ve been given equal treatment as those living in other countries. Another group was evacuated in special aircrafts… Maybe the poverty of these workers was so heavy that these aircrafts couldn’t lift. Similarly, in another case, cops opened a container truck and found 300 workers.
These examples show the hierarchies and the priorities of the state machinery. The rate of infection is increasing. There are a lot of stories as well as unjust age-old social patterns taking the lid off; all it needs is an eye to see and ear to hear.
How Italy Faced the COVID-19: An Insight into the Five Stages of Italy’s Grief
March 30, 2020
Claudio Urciuolo. (From Italy)
Claudio analyses the five stages of Italy’s gradual reactions to the COVID-19 crisis. While most citizens denied the impact of the epidemic in the beginning, Italy fastly became the European centre of the coronavirus. Reacting to the fast spread of the virus, Italy eventually became the first European country to lockdown. The pandemic led to quick reactions, even though Italy usually holds a prudent attitude. The reactions to the virus in Italy shed a light on the ambiguity of the economic system, the taken for grantedness of the healthcare system and public freedom, but also solidarity and imagination for a future society.
A more detailed analysis and access to the full article can be found here.
How Is India Fighting It?
March 29, 2020
Aditi D Zade, Sakshi Deulwar and Krishna Ballabh Chaudhary. (From India)
Can you imagine your lives being completely changed because of a small virus you can’t even see?
No wonder the world has come to a standstill because of this newly emerged pandemic, COVID19. The WHO termed COVID19 as an “enemy of humanity” in a press conference conducted on 19th March. This virus has become a challenge for India, which is home to nearly 17.7% of the world’s population. Considering the population size and density (464 per km²) of India, the outbreak of COVID19, if not controlled, can lead to major fatalities. And you would not want to face it without being aware of all that is going around. So here we have everything pooled in for you… All you need to know about COVID19!
India and the world
A total of 198 countries and territories are affected by COVID19 at this time. China, being the epicentre of this pandemic, has about 81,394 cases whereas the United States has reported the highest number of cases as of 28th March taking the number of COVID19 affected people to more than 100,000. In such a dire situation, the international community has called for solidarity.
Major takeaways from India
India has attempted a nationwide lockdown, which is definitely a huge step, especially with this size of the population. Other than essential services, all other places are shut. On Saturday, India reported a total of 944 active cases, with the death toll being 20. This is definitely the initial period of COVID’19 in India, and no doubt it still has a lot to achieve. However, what one can learn from India is the importance of quick response and decision making on the part of the central and the state governments in the country who informed citizens to keep away from mass gatherings and unnecessary travels to the affected areas. The Universal Health Screening of all the incoming international passengers was also helpful in limiting the transmission. The cooperation most citizens are showing is the key. Lockdown involves major curbs on various freedoms, and citizens are willing to put community welfare above individual welfare, which is praiseworthy. There are willing defaulters though who are worsening the situation for society as a whole.
The Economic Situation of India
In the purview of an unprecedented global health crisis, the future of India, as well as the world economy, looks increasingly uncertain. The early estimates suggest that the global economy will contract by 1% this year. To put this in perspective, the last time the global economy contracted was in the 2008-09 global financial crisis with almost the same magnitude. It is also estimated that the Indian economy, which was already under crisis, will have to face a major slowdown. According to Dun and Bradstreet’s economic forecast, the probability of countries entering into recession and companies going bankrupt has increased, and India is not likely to remain unaffected from the global meltdown.
A more detailed analysis of the above article has been done here by the same authors.
Special Podcast from Tumult
March 23, 2020
Our colleague Regina Fisch has been running Tumult, a podcast platform on new issues on science, activism and art. In this episode, people from 19 countries talk about their lives during the Coronavirus outbreak. The interview captured moments from March 20 to 22. ■
Reflections on Citizens’ Attitudes towards Covid-19 in Finland
March 14, 2020
A Goose with Black Eyes. (From China, currently in Finland)
Today, I received a dozen emails; all related to events that are being cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus. From zero infection in Finland to more than 100 confirmed cases, the government and public institutions are becoming more cautious. For many reasons, such as the government limiting the number of people who can be tested for coronavirus, the actual number of patients in Finland may be much higher than the official number.
But people trust the government here. They believe what the government says, that by washing your hands frequently, you can be prevented from coronavirus. So even today, when I went out, I didn’t see anyone wearing a mask on the street, except me. People still hold the view that wearing a mask is only for people who are sick rather than using it as a tool to prevent coronavirus. I told a few colleagues about such a case in China, where one of the factors that led to the infection was by taking transportation without wearing masks. But they didn’t care.
I don’t know and can’t predict how the coronavirus will spread in Finland. So far, many supermarkets are almost empty, at least in Helsinki. Things like bread, meat, toilet paper, and other daily necessities were sold out. The reason for this may be that everyone is already preparing for possible food shortages caused by coronavirus or working from home.
Yesterday (13.03.2020), the University of Helsinki admitted an exceptional situation and decided to cancel all courses, exams or meetings with more than 50 people, and suggested working from home. Today, when I was chatting with colleagues, I asked them if they would choose to work from home. They said that unless it were clearly stated, they would prefer to go to work.
It seems to me, western countries (as Finland is nowadays positioned) focus more on theories, and believe that the practices they take should be evidence-based. The measures to contain coronavirus that China has taken and that have been proven to be effective through practice are only viewed as cases, and not seen as reliable reference for action. However, in my opinion, there is often a gap between theory and practice. Theory does not always guide practice effectively, and in many cases, the development of theory lags behind practice. This is especially the case in situations such as today when rapid decision-making is needed. The way the government reacts towards the Covid-19 crisis determines the fate of this country and everyone who lives in this country. The policy choices are difficult but necessary.
Different beliefs, values, cultures, and policy systems result in different choices and actions. However, we cannot only focus on the choice (different policies implemented in different countries) itself; rather, the reasons behind the choice may be worth more exploring. No choice can be perfect, and each choice may represent certain groups’ interests and sacrifice other groups’ interests. This relates to a moral dilemma: Imagine you are driving a train on a track, and you find that the train’s brakes do not work. You have two choices. The first is to continue driving on the current track; as a consequence, five people working on this track will lose their lives. The second choice is to steer the train and enter into another track, with the consequence that one person will lose their life. How do you choose? ■
This account has also been published in Chinese on the social media platform Weibo. Additionally, the author included a source for us to read about protection guidelines against covid-19 by Prof. Zhang Wenhong, leader of the Shanghai Novel Coronavirus Medical Treatment Expert Group. See page 11 for detailed suggestions on how to protect ourselves from getting infected.
About this blog:
The situation spurred by the spread of 2019 novel Coronavirus is fast changing, simultaneously occurring in multiple locations on several levels. Each day, there are new policy developments in different countries to control the COVID19 pandemic by locking down or controlling borders, closing public institutions. The death toll continues to roll and medical staff are struggling with treating an overwhelming number of patients while themselves being under-protected due to lack of supply and in some cases hoarding, of medical protective gear. More and more countries are being affected by the pandemic and everyday lives of people all over the world are changing. While some students and employees are working online, others are facing severe financial hardships due to lack of work.
We are making this live blog to present voices from across the world, read more here to contribute.
This blog does not claim to provide factual information about COVID19. The opinions and narratives in the articles are from the authors. For factual information on Coronavirus, please visit: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019