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COVID blamed for 25% drop in Mexico cigarette sales; Turning ocean plastic into face shields in Thailand.

A look at how COVID-19 is impacting life around the world.

by Stranger’s Guide

Mexico
The pandemic has been blamed for a 25 percent drop in cigarette sales in Mexico. An estimated 15 million Mexicans smoke but according to the country’s national statistics agency, Mexicans bought just under 2.02 billion packs of cigarettes in the first 11 months of 2020, compared to 2.67 billion packs in the same period the year before. The decline in sales was the largest on record. It’s thought some have quit smoking completely, or cut back over concerns that smokers could be disproportionately at risk from the coronavirus. Others could have stopped smoking due to having less disposable income after the pandemic and lockdowns caused millions of Mexican to lose their jobs or see their income take a hit. (Mexico News Daily)

Thailand
A community project in Thailand dedicated to cleaning up the oceans is turning discarded nets from the country’s lucrative fishing industry into protective face shields to aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. So-called “ghost nets” are a devastating source of plastic pollution that ensnare turtles and damage delicate coral reefs. In 2019, Stranger’s Guide ran a photo essay on the Moken people of the Mergui Archipelago, designed to document their disappearing way of life. The seafaring, semi-nomadic people depend on those coral reefs for their survival. (The Star)

New Zealand
New Zealand has confirmed its first case of community-spread COVID-19 months after a 56-year-old woman who had traveled in Spain, the Netherlands and passed through Singapore, tested positive. The country’s health ministry said of 16 people who were identified as close contacts of the infected woman, 15 people had tested negative, adding that there was no evidence of a further positive case in the community. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country’s borders are likely to remain closed to most of the world for the rest of the year. “We either need the confidence that being vaccinated means you don’t pass Covid-19 on to others – and we don’t know that yet – or we need enough of our population to be vaccinated and protected that people can safely re-enter New Zealand.” (New Zealand Herald)

The Netherlands
Riot police have taken to the streets across the Netherlands to deal with a third night of rioting by those protesting a new curfew introduced to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The Dutch government had imposed a strict lockdown which included the first nighttime curfew since WWII, but didn’t foresee the response: the worst riots the country had seen in 40 years. In Amsterdam, protesters blew up a pedestrian bridge, while elsewhere they burned bikes, and looted and vandalized property. (DutchNews)

Bangladesh
Authorities in Bangladesh preparing to launch the country’s coronavirus vaccination campaign fear that disinformation and rumors spread on social media could lead to large numbers of people refusing to get the shot. Health communication experts say there is a low level of information literacy in Bangladesh, which contributes to skepticism and belief in rumors not based on science. Boom Bangladesh, Facebook’s fact-checking partner in Bangladesh, have debunked at least 40 false claims about the vaccine, flagging around a million posts that spread misinformation in January alone. (DW)

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North America

Mount Auburn

Mount Auburn in Cambridge, MA was the first rural cemetery in the US, and, as a result of that distinction, one of the first hot tourist destinations in America. Fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson was one of those visitors, writing: “It seems as if Nature had formed the spot with a distinct idea in view of its being a resting place for her children, where wearied & disappointed they might stretch themselves beneath the spreading cypress & close their eyes ‘calmly as to a night’s repose, or flowers at set of sun.’”