- Protests over coronavirus restrictions have broken out globally, and experts believe general unrest will continue to grow.
- In Brazil, President Bolsonaro, who has long-defied his government’s social distancing recommendations, joined a group of right-wing protestors calling for a military coup.
- Meanwhile, other countries have started to open up again.
Bolsonaro Joins Protests
Protests over coronavirus restrictions have been breaking out all around the world as economic uncertainties continue to grow.
Over the weekend, hundreds of people in major Brazilian cities held demonstrations against restrictions imposed by governors that have shut down businesses.
One of the most notable protests was held in the capital Brasilia, in front of the army headquarters. According to reports, around 600 demonstrators gathered, many of whom did not wear masks or protective gear.
In addition to calling for an end to the restrictions, the demonstrators demanded the closure of the Supreme Court and Congress, while also calling on the military to step in and handle the pandemic.
The protestors were mostly right-wing supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, who showed up and to give a speech supporting the movement. Like many of protestors, the president did not wear a mask or gloves. Video footage showed him coughing into his hands multiple times throughout his speech.
While Bolsonaro did not directly call for Congres to be closed or for there to be a military coup, his appearance was widely condemned. Brazil was under a military rule for over two decades from 1964 to 1985, and calls to give the military more power are highly controversial.
Former presidents, politicians, and newspaper editorial boards criticized Bolsonaro. Even top military officials reportedly told local newspapers they were upset with the move.
Bolsonaro and the Coronavirus.
However, Bolsonaro’s appearance was just one part of his continued efforts to downplay the coronavirus and actively defy his government.
Not only has the Brazilian leader openly opposed lockdowns imposed by governors, but he has also gone against social distancing measures advised by both the World Health Organization and Brazil’s health ministry numerous times.
In recent weeks, he has stepped up his public appearances, meeting with supporters and protestors as well as business owners and others.
Despite Bolsonaro’s attempts to downplay the virus and flout health recommendations, Brazil currently has the highest number of confirmed cases in all of Latin America, with over 39,000 cases and 2,400 deaths as of Monday.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro took his standoff with the government one step further when he fired his health minister, who had urged Brazilians to socially distance and stay inside.
But that decision did not seem to have pubic support. A survey from the first week of April found that a large majority of Brazilians— abut 76%— approved of how the health minister was handling the crisis.
According to reports, a poll published this Saturday also showed that a majority of Brazilians still approve the government’s regulations, despite the impact on the economy.
Other Protests Around the World
Brazil, however, is just one of several countries facing social unrest.
Anti-lockdown riots broke out in Paris over the weekend and continued Monday morning, where rioters reportedly threw fireworks at police who responded with tear gas.
Last week, tens of thousands of migrant workers who do not have work or a way to get home held demonstrations in Mumbai, India.
There have also reportedly been protests breaking out in Lebanon and Iraq, which is significant because both countries had been the sites of prominent, on-going protest movements that took place all over the world before the pandemic.
Leading up to the coronavirus crisis, there had been a surge of global protest movements with a common thread. People in numerous countries held weeks and months long demonstrations against government corruption, economic injustice, and demands for reforms.
When the pandemic hit, those protests largely died out. But now, many experts say these movements are likely to start up again or spread to other parts of the world for several reasons.
First is the economic downtown that the coronavirus has caused and is continuing to cause globally.
One reason for this is that numerous experts, including the UN Secretary General, have warned that the economic situation risks increased social unrest and violence. Some have said that this will disproportionately impact poorer countries that cannot afford subsidies for lost jobs or other similar social safety nets.
Another possible cause of future protests is the fact that some leaders are using the coronavirus to expand authoritarian measures. At the end of March, Hungary passed a law allowing the Prime Minister to rule by decree indefinitely, basically giving him the ability to rule the country however he wants.
Kenya also started crackdowns on people breaking curfew which have now reportedly killed more people in the country than the coronavirus.
Protests in Israel and Other Countries Open Back Up
Already, protests have broken out in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the weekend, more than 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Tel Aviv where they stood six feet apart.
The demonstrators accused Netanyahu of using the crisis to escape prosecution over corruption charges and form an emergency government with his rival, Benny Gantz.
Some reportedly held up black flags that have been featured at other recent Israeli protests, and which reportedly symbolize Netanyahu’s attacks on democratic institutions.
Earlier this year, Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, breach of justice, and accepting bribes.
On Monday, Netanyahu and Gantz announced that they had formed an emergency government. Under their agreement, Netanyahu will serve as Prime Minister until October 2021, then Gantz will take over.
The move further solidifies Netanyahu’s power after more than a year of political stalemate and three separate elections.
Meanwhile, a number of other countries have started to open back up again. On Monday, Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Norway all lifted some restrictions.
Outside of Europe, South Korea has also eased social-distancing rules. Australia and New Zealand have also said they are going to roll back some restrictions soon, despite the fact that New Zealand also said it is extending its lockdown for five more days.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Al Jazeera) (ABC News)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”