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Iceland reopens; Singapore says zero infections in top three colleges; Bolivia postpones elections due to COVID rate rise

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

by Stranger’s Guide

Iceland

Iceland has raised the number of people allowed to gather together from 10 to 20, and has reopened gyms and ski resorts after showing the lowest incidence rate of coronavirus infections among all countries reported on by the European Centre for Disease Control. Its total number of active cases have stood at around 150 for some weeks and the country’s chief epidemiologist said it was time to relax domestic restrictions. These include the performing arts: Up to 50 people may rehearse and perform together for up to 100 adults and 100 children watching. Funerals are allowed up to 100 guests. Masks are still mandatory in shops and on public transport. (Iceland Review)

Singapore

So far there have been zero cases of COVID-10 at Singapore’s three major universities, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University, which many attribute to a triumvirate of technology to enforce social distancing, obedience and tough penalties for anyone contravening rules implemented to stem the tide of the coronavirus. At National University of Singapore, the country’s flagship college, the strategy has been to contain, decongest and trace contacts. (Study International)

Bolivia

Bolivia’s regional elections may be postponed for 60 days due to a surge in coronavirus infections in the country. Andronico Rodriguez, president of the Bolivian Senate, confirmed that the date will be reassessed. Bolivians were due to vote for the governors of the nine departments and mayors of the 337 municipalities on March 7. But rates of COVID-19 are increasing, with 1,641 new infections daily. (Prensa Latina)

Turkey

Turkey aims to launch a mass vaccination rollout against the coronavirus by the end of the week. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also announced a gradual easing of restrictions, imposed in the autumn to stem the rising tide of infections. Three million doses of China’s SinoVac Biotech vaccine arrived in the country at the end of December but Erdoğan said Turkey ultimately aims to develop its own vaccine. A sharp rise in cases in the autumn of 2020 led authorities to imposing new restrictions it had lifted in the summer. (Daily Sabah)

Philippines

In a comment piece for Nikkei Asia, Richard Heydarian, an Asia-based academic, columnist and author of a book on Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, doesn’t mince words. He writes that the president has “foolishly shunned Western pharmaceutical companies until the last minute, naively over-relying on vaccines from the likes of China and Russia.” Heydarian says Duterte has been “asleep at the wheel” and his inaction has effectively extended the public health crisis that has ravaged the country’s economy. (Nikkei)

CONTRIBUTOR

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DID YOU KNOW?

The Nutmeg War

In 1667, under a treaty that brought to a close the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the British got to keep the island of Manhattan (then essentially just a swamp that no one wanted but which it had captured from the Netherlands a few years before), and the Dutch got to keep Pulau Run, an island in the so-called Spice Islands chain. According to the Financial Times, the Dutch had “finally realized their dream” of securing a monopoly on nutmeg, which grew exclusively in the Spice Islands, and thought they’d walked away with the better deal. But history is a cruel beast, and before long the British had worked out how to cultivate nutmeg elsewhere.