By Patrick Stephens
Malaysia Following the unexpected resignation of the previous prime minister, the king appointed a nationalist politician, Muhyiddin Yassin, to the role. The former ruling coalition, forced into opposition by the move, decried the appointment as an affront to the rule of law. Equally controversially, a man was arrested under colonial-era laws for criticising the king’s appointment. Minority groups have meanwhile voiced concerns about potential rising tensions between ethnic Malays, whom Muhyiddin vocally represents, and minorities to whom is he is strongly critical.
Afghanistan Despite Trump’s vocal espousal of the plan, local people across the country, especially women, have expressed deep concern about American withdrawal and the potential subsequent return to power of the Taliban. Despite a vague commitment to respecting women’s rights, the plan includes the caveat that such respect is conditional on it fitting with the Taliban’s interpretation of ‘Islamic values’. Female education has become far more prevalent in Afghanistan in recent years following the weakening of the Taliban, progress some fear is now under severe threat.
Taiwan Officials in Taiwan announced that adults will be able to purchase three face masks per week beginning March 5th. The masks were rationed to two per person last month after panic buying, but their production has since been dramatically increased.
Indonesia In a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus, Saudi Arabia suspended visas for Muslims wishing to celebrate the festival of umrah, which is especially popular in Indonesia. Usually, over a million Indonesian Muslims visit Mecca for the pilgrimage. The expense of the journey coupled with the limited number of visas annually issued by Riyadh mean that many people have to wait years for the chance to visit. They will be not be able to visit this year, and many remain stranded at airports.
China Max Brooks, the author of the famous book ‘World War Z’, pointed out this week that his novel predicted with considerable accuracy China’s response to coronavirus. The book is banned in China, and argues that authoritarian systems are especially ripe for the spread of plague.
North Korea State news focuses on the success of the official tree-planting day. Apparently, the sapling production capacity of one of the People’s Army’s tree nurseries was significantly increased, and now blazes a trail for the other regions. It is clear the North Korean state is investing hugely in greenhouses to grow more saplings which it can use for ‘scientific, industrial and intensive’ functions. Why a country with widespread poverty and food shortages is focusing its resources on the production of botanical plant saplings is unclear.
South Korea As the total number of coronavirus rises to 4,335, medical staff across the country have reported in sick with extreme fatigue. The health service simply is not equipped to deal with the crisis; nurses have quit en masse in the thousands citing mental health and acute fatigue such that they are unable to do their jobs properly.
USA A Harvard epidemiologist predicts that up to 70 percent of the world’s population could eventually contract coronavirus. Because of its low death rate, comparable to that of flu, he predicts the disease could easily infect far more people than SARS which had a relatively high death rate.
Middle East and Africa:
Israel On the final day before polls open for national elections, Netanyahu pledged to annex parts of the West Bank within weeks of being reelected. Facing allegations of corruption and embezzlement, his political platform is almost entirely focus on national defence and security. Placing annexation as the top of his priorities if re-elected, he also ranked among his top three priorities a defence treaty with the US and the ‘eradication of the Iranian threat’.
France Following the rise in coronavirus cases in France to 73, the authorities have ordered the cancellation of all gatherings of over 5,000 people to try to limit its spread. This includes the Paris half-marathon though, bizarrely, not football matches.
Greece Clashes took place at the Turkish-Greek border this week between Greek border forces and refugees trying to ‘illegally’ enter the EU. Greek authorities used tear gas and pepper spray against 4,000 fleeing war and persecution after Turkey allegedly opened its side of the border. Austria has said it will ‘protect’ its borders if this ‘wave’ of migrants is allowed to enter the EU.