Saturday, April 4, 2020

Coronavirus: Russia, India, Nigeria… these large, very discreet nations

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The Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the globe: according to the United Nations, 195 territories are affected. We have heard a lot about China, where the disease comes from, Italy, the most affected country in the world, or the United States, due to its international power. But until then, great nations have been more discreet on the subject. Russia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria … These countries are among the ten most populous and, however, information related to their management of coronavirus arrives in drops.

Since the beginning of the week of March 24, the first strong measures have been taken: the nation led by Vladimir Putin has thus closed schools and declared a week off; the approximately 1.3 billion Indians have been confined to their homes since Wednesday; and Nigeria, where 200 million people live, recorded its first official Covid-19 death on Tuesday March 23.

Fewer flights between China and Africa

Despite the large population of these territories, they remain far in the “rankings” of the number of contamination cases. There are several reasons for this. In Africa, “it is normal for the pandemic to start later” than in Asia or Europe, notes Natalie Roberts, head of emergency operations at “Doctors Without Borders” (MSF).

With fewer direct air links to China, the Covid-19 passed several stages before reaching the second most populous continent. Fears are now multiple, especially in a country like Nigeria.

“Their main problem comes from big cities like Lagos (Editor’s note: the country’s economic capital) that are overcrowded, says Natalie Roberts, who worked there. They know they will have to face the pandemic but not how to manage it. There are many, many people, with houses that sometimes house 20 people. How to isolate these people? This is a problem in these areas, in Africa or in cities like Mumbai (Editor’s note: in India) ”.

“Private areas of Internet access”

The speech of the local authorities may have been delayed. Access to information is “a priority to limit the spread of the virus,” says Amnesty International on the situation in India, where everything accelerated in a few days. The NGO denounces “private Internet access areas”, a restriction “contrary to WHO recommendations”.

“We are living in a pandemic in the age of smartphones and social networks,” recalls Natalie Roberts. Everyone uses Facebook, WhatsApp … Which generates a lot of rumors, false hopes. To get the real messages, the real information, it can be very difficult. In Nigeria, there is a real problem, with fake medicines. You have to inform ”. The lack of means to test the sick is also an even greater reality than in France. This partly explains the absence of proven cases.

Russia suspected of misinformation

The example of Russia remains apart. “Everything is under control,” said Vladimir Putin a few days ago. According to UN figures, the Russian Federation has only 438 cases (total stopped on March 24) out of the 125 million inhabitants. This ratio 82 times lower than that of France convinces few experts. Moscow also admitted Tuesday not to have a “clear picture” of the situation in the country. Before announcing Wednesday the deaths of two elderly people, the first in the country.

A disinformation campaign is said to have taken place, particularly on social media. In mid-March, the European Union said so, assuring that the source was “either in Russia, or perhaps attributed to entities identified as pro-Kremlin. A month earlier, US officials said they had identified thousands of accounts linked to Russia on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, doing the same. “False”, “gratuitous” and “unfounded” accusations according to Moscow.

“What is happening today in many western countries, in Europe as on the other side of the ocean, can become our immediate future”, however, recognized on Wednesday Vladimir Putin, highlighting the “effectiveness” of measures taken upstream such as the closing of the borders with China from mid-February.

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