EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 08/04/2020

Financial Times – Sun Yu and Don Weinland / Wuhan’s liberation greeted with anger and anxiety

  • Seventy-six days after severing links with the outside world, the Chinese city at the centre of the global coronavirus outbreak has lifted its official ban on travel, ending the world’s largest mass quarantine. The “liberation” of Wuhan marks an important step in President Xi Jinping’s plan to declare an early victory over the crisis just as western countries are struggling to contain the outbreak.
  • Some 55,000 people on Wednesday alone are expected to leave Wuhan, the railway administration said. But for many of Wuhan’s 11m residents, the formal lifting of restrictions on movement is just the start of a long recovery for a city in severe economic distress and a population fearful of a second outbreak.
  • Many people eager to leave the city are still waiting for permission to do so and will end up in quarantine when they eventually arrive at their destination. Even more worrying, locals fear asymptomatic cases are spreading without detection as more people emerge from their homes.
  • Activity has picked up on the streets of Wuhan but many businesses remain shut. Scores of residential districts around the city are still sealed off, barring free movement. Locals in Wuhan have welcomed the opening of their city but point out that complete victory is still far off. On Wednesday morning, car horns blared across downtown Wuhan while on the outskirts of the city, traffic increased by 10 times overnight and authorities stopped checking temperatures of passengers.
  • New York Times – Raymond Zhong and Vivian Wang / China ends Wuhan lockdown, but normal life is a distant dream

Politico – Laura Greenhalgh / EU science chief resigns, slamming bloc’s coronavirus response

  • The president of the EU’s top science funding agency stepped down Tuesday, issuing a damning indictment of the bloc’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Mauro Ferrari, an Italian-American scientist who has led the European Research Council since January, said he had resigned following a dispute over the EU’s approach to the crisis — stating he has “lost faith in the system.”
  • As well as a failure to fund scientists to tackle the crisis, Ferrari cited a “complete absence of coordination of health care policies among member states, the recurrent opposition to cohesive financial support initiatives, the pervasive one-sided border closures, and the marginal scale of synergistic scientific initiatives” by the EU.
  • A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed the resignation. Ferrari’s criticisms were disputed by German MEP Christian Ehler, the European People’s Party coordinator for the Parliament’s industry and research committee, who has also led negotiations over the next EU research program, Horizon Europe.
  • Ehler said in an emailed statement that Ferrari’s proposal to deviate from the council’s usual approach “was seen more as a window-dressing public relations stand on the coronavirus crisis and it was a contradiction to the legal basis of the ERC, which can and does in many ways contribute to the fight against COVID-19.”
  • Euractiv – Jorge Valero / Eurogroup fails to progress on economic response to pandemic

The New Yorker – Eric Lach / Why is Wisconsin holding an election during the coronavirus pandemic?

  • The situation in Wisconsin is this: with an assist from conservative judges at the highest levels of government, local Republican leaders are forcing their state to participate in an Election Day that will exacerbate a pandemic. The consequences that this will lead to have been apparent for weeks.
  • Citizens will have to choose between their health and their vote; tens of thousands will be disenfranchised; and, inevitably, people who go out to vote on Tuesday, and people who work the polls will get sick. The election forecasters and polling gurus might consider crunching the numbers on the likelihood that people will die.
  • This unfolding electoral tragedy is the product of a standoff between the politicians who run the state government there. On one side is Tony Evers, the Democratic governor. On the other are the Republicans who control the state legislature—who have resisted every step Evers has attempted to take to address the crisis.
  • On Monday, with more than twenty-four hundred confirmed cases, Evers ordered the election postponed in the name of public health. Vos and Fitzgerald ran to the state’s conservative Supreme Court, which overruled Evers hours later. The five conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court then stepped in to undo some of the relief the federal judge had earlier granted election administrators in the state.
  • The Washington Post – Ruth Marcus / Wisconsin’s debacle may be the most infuriating of the coronavirus failures

Bloomberg – Marek Strzelecki / Poland moves to force its first election by mail amid lockdown

  • Poland’s ruling party is pushing ahead with a plan to force the nation to hold an election by mail for the first time ever, steamrolling over calls to delay the May 10 presidential ballot as the country remains in lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The increasingly authoritarian government is betting that turning to an untried method of voting will help its ally Andrzej Duda remain president for another five years, with the lockdown having kept the opposition from campaigning. The last-minute changes and the uncertainty over the process also increase the risk of fraud, according to Poland’s human rights commissioner.
  • Lawmakers of the Law & Justice party approved the measure in the lower house of parliament late Monday. The upper chamber, controlled by the opposition, is expected to slow the process, but the government can override objections — meaning the changes could become law just a few days before the election.
  • The upper house said it would use the full 30 days it has to debate the legislation, meaning it would send the draft law back to the lower house just days before the election is due. With the legislation not fully approved, authorities can’t start printing ballots or launch other preparations. The state-run post service’s 27,000 delivery personnel will have just days to ensure ballots reach 30 million Poles eligible for the vote.
  • Politico – Zosia Wanat / Polish government rams through electoral system changes

Today’s flash news:

Further reading for the Easter holidays:

Note to our readers: the EsadeGeo Daily Digest will be next curated and published on 14 April 2020. Until then, we will be selecting the most important news during the holidays and sharing them on our Twitter profile. We invite you to follow us there!

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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