International perspective on COVID and its impacts
By Cassandra Drumond
San Francisco. We are constantly reminded of COVID rates in our counties, states and in the US. However, looking at COVID-19 through a global lens, we can see the impacts on economies, labor markets, global mobility and migrations systems.
A new report from the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, illustrated the challenge of governments everywhere such as how to reimagine borders, and how to reopen society after the devastation of COVID-19. Demetrios G. Papademetriou, a distinguished Transatlantic Fellow and president emeritus at the Migration Policy Institute, author of the report: Managing the Pandemic and its Aftermath, explains: “We are close to having 1.4 million deaths around the world, during this pandemic, which has been the most-deadly in over 100 years. During the flu pandemic there were 1.1 million cases. The US lost fewer than 100,000 lives during that time. During COVID, the US death toll is approaching 260,000. I want people to understand we are not anywhere near getting the pandemic under control and it is not over yet. Also, we know people are fatigued, but most deaths happen in the second phase. Unfortunately, the biggest enablers of crisis are the people, regardless of failure of leadership. People who are not listening to experts and not following the rules.”
Papademetriou also points out, during the first phase of COVID, almost all countries in the world closed their borders and mobility came to a halt. After the first phase, over 77,000 countries decided to keep their borders closed. In about September many countries in Europe decided to begin phase reopening and unfortunately, they saw a lot of deaths as a result of that movement. In these past few weeks, however, most of these countries have had to tighten restrictions once again due to an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations. The challenge leaders are facing is how we go back to slowly reopening borders while also having safety measures to protect the population. However, Papademetriou points out that even with a new administration, if people don’t do their part, we are going to have the same result. He explains: “In order for travel to resume, although not to its original manner, we need adequate testing. A test prior to someone getting on board and then once again when the person gets to their location. We need results to come in within 8 hours, but it only works if people comply and follow the rules.”
Vicente Calderon, editor of Tijuana Press news media, journalist and producer located in Tijuana, Mexico, says the pandemic has affected migration to and from Tijuana. Calderon explains: “There are many asylum requests from people to go to the US. We have many people fleeing Mexico due to violence of drug cartels. These are people who have lived in their neighborhoods for 10-20 years that were once safe, but that is no longer the case. In the last years we have become a place of migration from other countries such as Guatemala and even from countries in other parts of the world, including people from different countries in Africa. However, now that borders are stricter, we are seeing people take more dangerous routes to get into the US. They are willing to take more risks that sadly do not end well.”
Krishnaraj Rao, a freelance investigative journalist from Mumbai, India, explains the situation in India: “One in ten Indians is a migrant worker of some kind. They see Mumbai as a place to make money and then go back to their original location. India is right after the US in terms of cases, but the mortality rate is much lower, which is very surprising considering the conditions. It is not possible to social distance. Sixty to seventy percent of people in Mumbai live closely packed together in slums where houses are not more than two feet apart. It would have been ravaging the slums as between two to three hundred people share one toilet. People in the slums typically do not wash hands or social distance. Also, in terms of transportation, people are definetely not practicing social distancing, while on buses and trains.” Regarding the overall sentiment around COVID, Rao explains: “I don’t see the respect for COVID anymore. There is an overall feeling in India that we have taken this seriously for far too long. I’m just voicing what is mainstream belief in India across many demographics. The feeling is it doesn’t hurt us all that much. We are not seeing mortality as high as expected. They are wearing masks, though. Other things like sanitizing and temperature checks are taken very lightly.”
The sentiments and conversation around COVID vary from person to person in the US and we can see these trends in other countries as well, as two journalists illustrated the reality on the ground in their respective countries: India and Mexico.