Excluded from participation in international governance mechanisms, states with limited recognition are responding bravely, but alone, to COVID-19. Marginalized at home, unrepresented people are struggling without the support others receive.
The current global crisis offers a new perspective on the challenges of unrepresented peoples around the world. With more-and-more government decision-making happening behind closed doors, the voices of these nations and peoples are increasingly marginalized. States with limited recognition are excluded from mechanisms of international public health governance and development aid, limiting effective global coordination and their own abilities to respond. Sub-national governments and people living in national systems that discriminate and exclude their voices face increased exclusion from public health systems and poorer levels of funding.
Around the world, peoples denied equal representation in national and international governance structures are being particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. With the world battling its most challenging crisis since the Second World War, the United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued an urgent appeal for an action calling on politicians to “forget political games” and come together for a “strong and effective response”. However, responses from heads of governments worldwide have been divisive and incoherent, in some cases exposing the many facets of the populism that has taken the political landscape by storm over the last years. In response to the spread of the coronavirus, countries of the EU have closed national borders while most member states of the UN have adopted a “self-help” doctrine to the public health issue, putting multilateralism as a whole to an ultimate test.
In this new series Coronavirus: Unrepresented & Alone, UNPO will be documenting how unrepresented nations and peoples are being treated both internationally and nationally in order to understand and inform how the world’s most marginalized peoples can be better protected. We are working towards a comprehensive study on the matter with our academic partners. In the meantime, we will be publishing relevant news and information about ongoing situations, collecting evidence, and raising the alarm with policy-makers.
This page will be regularly updated, serving as a digest and repository of this work during the crisis, with some of the most noteworthy cases summarized below.
States with Limited Recognition
Beyond the media headlines, states with limited or no recognition are operating on the fringes of the international system to overcome the pandemic. Their exclusion from international institutions has been detrimental to their ability to respond to the public health emergency. This is particularly acute in their lack of access to international funding due to their lack of recognized statehood.
While Abkhazia has only a few cases of COVID-19 confirmed, this is not to say that it has not been strongly affected by events happening outside its borders. The state with limited recognition shares a land border with Georgia and Russia, the former being completely closed and the latter remaining open, albeit with greater restrictions. Since the economy of Abkhazia is based primarily on trade and tourism, the lack of visitors and large numbers of people canceling their trips to Abkhazia pose a serious risk to the Abkhaz economy.
Between 18-20 March 2020, a World Health Organization (WHO) delegation visited Abkhazia to examine laboratories and to meet with the Ministry of Health and at the Sanitary and Epidemiological Station. At the occasion of the visit, UN agencies facilitated the shipment of aid containing medical equipment and medicines to the country. The funding was provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, setting a positive precedent for Western aid to be delivered to Abkhazia through UN channels.
As of 17 April 2020, there have been 3 reported cases of coronavirus in Abkhazia, one of whom is a 95-year-old man currently in self-isolation and is in a positive condition. The other two are at the Central Regional Hospital of Gudauta, also in a positive condition. Moreover, the Abkhaz diaspora in Moscow has played a large role in helping Abkhazia combat the virus, having funded the transport of a load of medical supplies from Moscow to Abkhazia, including medical and protective equipment, and disinfectants.
A new report published by the International Crisis Group (ICG) has assessed the response of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali Region) to the coronavirus crisis. In it they note that both regions are “plagued with medical supply shortages, ailing economies, and international isolation” and Abkhazia, while seeking aid and supplies from abroad (unlike South Ossetia), “lacks infrastructure, medical professionals and has an aging population, with nearly 20 % of residents over 60 years of age”. Moreover, it noted that Abkhazia’s healthcare professionals are at particular risk, with over 80% of them being over 60 years old.
While Kosovo has so far received aid donations totaling nearly €70 million from the EU, as well as smaller sums from many other countries and thousands of donated coronavirus tests from the UN, the partially recognized state of Kosovo has experienced political turmoil as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. On 18 March, Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, dismissed Agim Veliu from the position of Minister of Internal Affairs and Public Administration. In a press release from the office of the Prime Minister, it is stated that Veliu acted against the position of the Prime Minister that there should be no declaration of a state of emergency. Veliu stated publicly that the number of people infected with the Coronavirus in Kosovo is increasing by the hour, which had not been confirmed by the Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Public Health. Declaring a state of emergency would give power to the Kosovo Security Council, which is chaired by the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi.
A week later, on 25 March – just 52 days into its rule – the Kosovo government, led by Albin Kurti, was overthrown by a no-confidence motion initiated by the ruling partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo, due to its reluctance to declare a state of emergency. The motion had 82 votes in favor, 34 against and 1 abstention. While the review of the motion of no-confidence was requested to be postponed due to the virus, this did not happen.
The recent presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh – a breakaway territory of Azerbaijan – took place in spite of the outbreak of coronavirus and calls that the election should be postponed. Questions about the legitimacy of the election result have been raised, however, after the leading contender for the presidency, Foreign Minister of the de-facto state Masis Mayilyan encouraged his supporters not to vote due to health concerns and the other candidate, businessman and former PM of Karabakh Arayik Harutyunyan, swept to victory with 87% of the vote, despite an overall voter turnout of just 45%. Moreover, the closed borders meant that international electoral observers were unable to reach Karabakh to observe the election, further diminishing the legitimacy of the election result.
Somaliland is taking a very proactive approach to combating the virus. The government has established a national task force to coordinate efforts in early detection, surveillance, risk communication, and infection control. Moreover, in cooperation with religious authorities, they have been able to use mosques as a platform to disseminate information to the public about the virus and prevention measures. This effective response, however, cannot make up for the lack of international cooperation and support. The virus also coincides with the locust swarms, which have the potential to disrupt agriculture significantly and could prove catastrophic in combination with a national epidemic. More recently, with the support of UNICEF, Somaliland has started broadcasting free radio and TV lessons to give children the chance to keep learning during the school closures.
Another key issue with Somaliland’s lack of recognition is that while some countries are trying to provide aid to Somaliland, they are seeking to do so by offering aid to the government of Somalia, which maintains their appearance of giving aid to Somaliland. However, in doing so, all the aid that goes through Somalia will not reach Somaliland, as has been the case since 1991. According to one expert, the US Ambassador to Somalia “has sought to channel all aid through Somalia’s deeply-flawed government in order to help build its power”, even though the Somali government holds little sway throughout the country. Thus, all the aid disappears through corruption and does not reach its intended Somaliland.
The Republic of China, known internationally as Taiwan, has also taken very proactive measures against the pandemic, which has worked to its credit given the current situation worldwide. The number of cases on the island is currently at 440 (as of 12/05/2020), which is remarkable given its proximity to mainland China. Its relative success in this regard is thanks to it being one of the first countries to implement stringent restrictions on border controls and ban the export of surgical facemasks. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 is a successful model the rest of the world should learn from,” a US State Department spokeswoman said, adding that “Taiwan is not just a democratic success story, but a true friend in times of need”.
It is also suggested that Taiwan’s previous experience with the SARS virus outbreak, which originated in China, also contributed to Taiwan’s preparedness. Despite its effective response, Taiwan continues to face challenges internationally due to efforts by the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s efforts to exclude Taiwan diplomatically from international forums such as the World Health Organization (WHO). This is impeding the effective global response to the crisis. Notwithstanding this exclusion, Taiwan is unilaterally helping in line with its international campaign “Taiwan Can Help, and Taiwan is Helping.” This includes providing support to places such as Palau, a former UNPO member, and donating 10 million surgical masks to the USA, EU, and others.
More recently, Taiwan has been strongly advocating to attend an important WHO meeting on 18 May 2020. However, China is objecting since it considers Taiwan as one of its provinces and therefore not legitimate to be represented in international institutions. According to the Minister of Health of Taiwan, the country can provide valuable information on how to contain the coronavirus. Even though the country is close to mainland China, Taiwan only counts 440 cases and 7 deaths so far, despite having never imposed a lockdown.
The US territory of Guam has recently issued a resolution in support of Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and “commending them for their successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” In the resolution, the Legislature of Guam concludes that the “people of Taiwan deserve the same level of public health as citizens of every nation on earth and that we support them in their efforts to achieve its objective to become an observer of WHO; and commend them on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Governments in Exile
In Dharamshala, home to the government of Tibet in exile, the Central Tibetan Administration has created a Task Force to fight the spread of the virus. As of 24 April 2020, door-to-door pilot test have been conducted on 1031 people, including CTA officials and employees around Ghanchen Kyishong and nearby monasteries and school. Four of the tested people showed mild symptoms of the virus and were immediately sent for further tests at Delek hospital. CTA has also issued guidelines to respective settlements in India to follow. In the guidelines, it is notified that each settlement has to maintain a register recording the names and related detailed information of all outsiders entering the settlement. Similarly, they are to be tested for the infection before entering the settlement.
Addressing a press briefing on 31 April 2020, the Sikyong (President of the Tibetan-government-in-exile) has called for Tibetans in India to continue to observe lockdown in schools, monasteries, old age homes and settlements across India as the official lockdown is set to be lifted on May 3. He reinforced that the risk of transmission will be greater than ever, given India’s densely packed population. The Sikyong has also urged those currently outside Dharamshala not to visit the city in the month of May, keeping in view the safety of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration.
An interesting phenomenon suggests that Tibetans may be at an advantage when it comes to combatting the coronavirus. New research published in the journal Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology has suggested that peoples who are native to extremely high altitude climates may be less prone to infection and the effects of coronavirus. Such peoples included are the Tibetans living in the Himalayas, who have reported a much lower infection rate than the rest of China. Although the scientists have warned that the pattern of lower infection rates may not last, they are intrigued by the findings and are starting to focus on the relationship between the virus and altitude. Specifically, the researchers suggest factors including the people living at high altitudes’ ability to cope with Hypoxia, dry mountain air, and high levels of UV radiation could all be playing a part in protecting high altitude communities from the virus.
Unlike states with limited recognition, most members of the UNPO are unrepresented peoples who have little or no recognition, both nationally and internationally. These peoples are often marginalized within their own countries and are excluded from the majority. In the context of the coronavirus, this translates into the disproportionately low amount (or sometimes complete lack) of aid and resources they receive from their national governments, as well as in some circumstances stigmatization and increased persecution.
Indigenous peoples from different corners of Bangladesh, including those in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are suffering from severe starvation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Engaged in low-income occupations and working at family houses, as house guards or drivers, most have lost their jobs. Moreover, public and non-governmental development programmes have been limited and many villages are no longer receiving any relief. This is one example of a trend of indigenous peoples worldwide suffering disproportionately during the COVID-19 crisis; one reason a UN panel of experts called for additional protections for indigenous peoples.
A widely celebrated festival of the Jumma peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has been postponed to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Thousands of Jumma workers in other parts of Bangladesh have had to return to the CHT to look for work, in spite of road closures forcing them to travel the hazardous route by foot and face harassment by regional border authorities. Furthermore, April 2020 has seen farming lands confiscated and burned, and people abused by both army-backed land robbers and Bengali authorities in the region, continuing the trend of increasing human rights violations in the CHT during the pandemic.
In Brazil, unrepresented tribal peoples in the Amazon are particularly at risk to coronavirus exposure. Already under threat from illegal loggers, indigenous groups have gone under lockdown to try to stem the virus’s spread. Tribal leaders fear that coronavirus could have devastating effects on their communities. When looking at Brazil’s macabre history of genocide and death by preventable disease, these fears are not without reason. Historically, a large part of Brazil’s indigenous population was wiped out by diseases like common flu, and today many uncontacted tribes are at particular risk to external disease due to their lack of immunity. Currently, communities are already under threat from illegal gold miners, falling environmental protection and cuts and restructuring of the national health system. This has left indigenous communities in an extremely fragile situation.
In the English-speaking regions of Cameroon (known as Ambazonia), the conflict between the Anglophone minority and Francophone majority rages on as government forces have refused to agree to the ceasefire unilaterally declared by the Anglophone side due to the coronavirus. Around 3000 people have died and nearly a million displaced since violence broke out in 2017, caused by protests against the increasing use of French in the courts and education system in the English-speaking regions. Although soldiers have been seen wearing protective masks and using hand sanitizers on their patrols, there is little evidence that armed militias are taken similar precautions or are prepared to deal with infections in their hideouts. The severe restrictions placed on movement in the region also means that medical and general supplies, as well as health professionals, cannot enter the region. Moreover, many health facilities in the region have been destroyed and healthcare professionals have been forced to flee, thus enormously affecting the region’s ability to treat the virus.
Beyond the pressure, discussed above, being leveraged internationally to exclude Taiwan from the international response to the COVID-19 crisis, there is significant concern that China has been using the COVID-19 crisis in other ways to pursue its foreign policy goals. Details have emerged regarding a European Union report into disinformation around COVID0-19 that was, apparently, greatly softened as a result of pressure leveraged by China. In addition, during this period, China has taken on an enhanced role within the UN Human Rights mechanisms, with significant concerns being raised about how it will use this position, and the COVID-19 crisis, to further restrict the access that unrepresented nations and people have to the institutions of international governance.
Domestically, concerns are being raised as to the use of the crisis to further suppress China’s already embattled minorities. In East Turkestan, for example, the Chinese Communist Party has counted officially only 76 coronavirus cases and three deaths. However, Uyghurs living abroad have been concerned about the fate of the million or more Uyghurs who have been held in a barbaric network of indoctrination camps across the region. Although a spokesman for the regional government called suggestions that the new coronavirus had taken hold in the camps or that the authorities were hiding the extent of infections “fabricated slanders and attacks”, there are no reasons to believe the CCP is disclosing the true numbers. In addition to the complete information blackhole about the detained Uyghurs, their families abroad fear the that the lockdown in the region drove many to hunger.
It has recently come to light that large brands in the UK, such as H&M, Uniqlo and IKEA have been importing cotton goods from China made by imprisoned Uyghur people forced into labor by the Chinese government, while China sends home ethnic Chinese people because of the virus.
The Chinese Communist Party is also using the COVID-19 outbreak to introduce legislation in Tibet, which further limits Tibetan and Uyghur rights and is enforcing a Chinese-centric way of life in Tibet and Xinjiang. The new legislation has many fearing that the move will likely exacerbate discrimination against religious minorities in China.
In Ethiopia, the COVID-19 crisis is causing the fragile peace process to unravel with the government increasingly using coronavirus as an excuse to target unrepresented communities and generally unravel the steps agreed with the Oromo and Ogaden people to bring a sustainable transformation to the country after years of persecution and conflict. The government has, for example, imposed a communications blackout impacting the ability for people to access information at such a critical time. This move has been criticized by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Planned elections have been unilaterally canceled at a time when the government is stepping up its military and police efforts to target opposition members, especially those from the Oromo people. However, it has been suggested that due to the postponement of the scheduled August election, the government may have to form an interim government, which would mean incorporating opposition parties, such as the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federalist Congress.
Unresented people in India are having a mixed impact in the country’s response to Coronavirus. On the one hand, in North East India, largely populated by rural, often very isolated indigenous communities such as the Naga, some positive measures have been noted, such as the proactive closure of borders to domestic tourists. Furthermore, these communities appear to be well structured to deal with the crisis given traditions that have helped encourage quarantine and other positive practices. Similarly, as discussed above, the Central Tibetan Administration has been able to use its powers to help further protect the Tibetan community in India. On the other hand, significant concerns are being raised about widespread targetting and discrimination of minority and indigenous communities residing elsewhere in India, with consistent troubling reports of targetting of and blame being placed on supposedly “Chinese-looking” Indians.
Muslim minorities have also been subject to repeated discriminatory attacks. Since Indian authorities linked dozens of cases of COVID-19 to a Muslim missionary group that held its annual conference in Delhi in early March, videos falsely claiming to show members of the group spitting on police and others quickly went viral on social media, exacerbating an already dangerous atmosphere for Muslims. Since March 28, tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times and potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter
The region of West Papua has begun to initiate a lockdown in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in a region that is seriously unprepared for a health epidemic. As of 6 April, there have been 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Papua, yet while the population is very widespread and thinly populated, remote tribes are particularly at risk due to the lack of access to healthcare. Thus far, “The [Indonesian] government has designated just five hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients in the region — an area double the size of Great Britain and home to 4 million people. Between them, the hospitals have access to a combined 60 ventilators”, which would be woefully inadequate should the situation worsen.
The Indonesian government has been using the virus to justify its increased militarisation in West Papua. According to reports, some natives have been imprisoned and tortured, with some being denied. Moreover, in response to the crisis, West Papua released over 30,000 Indonesian prisoners to avoid spreading the virus, while Indonesia has not reciprocated any prisoners’ release.
There have already been over 9,500 confirmed cases in Indonesia as a whole, with 773 deaths so far. However, it has been reported that Indonesia has been severely underreporting cases of coronavirus and not conducting enough testing, such that the true number of cases is likely far higher than official reports suggest. The region is also being prospected for large-scale coal mining, which will have devastating consequences for the local environment.
In the Acheh province, authorities are continuing to execute corporal punishments in public according to Sharia, despite the government introducing a ban on mass gatherings. The authorities say the virus will not stop them from carrying out the floggings, which is widely condemned by human rights groups, while people are still allowed to attend in close proximity, posing a health risk.
In Iranian Kurdistan, the COVID-19 crisis has caused an increasing disconnect between medical professionals and the Iranian government. Medical staff are being punished for reporting information that is not in line with the government’s own figures, suggesting the number of cases in the region is in fact much higher than is being reported. In response, the authorities in the region have punished those medical professionals who report their opinions, causing them to lose their jobs, or worse face a prison sentence.
In the Al-Ahwaz (or Khuzestan) province of south-western Iran, recent prison riots at the Sepidar and Sheiban prisons in the city of Ahvaz resulted in the deaths of an estimated 35 Ahwazi Arab inmates. Protests in the prison began reportedly because the prison authorities “reneged on earlier promises to release prisoners who the authorities do not have specific security concerns about as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” This continues the trend of the Iranian authorities failure to protect prison populations during the coronavirus crisis.
Assyrians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Northern Iraq fear the spread of COVID-19. While the consequences of the atrocities committed by ISIS are still being felt by the local minorities, NGOs have warned that COVID-19 has the potential for disaster in the area. The Governorate lacks a solid infrastructure system, thus impacting health care access. The main referral hospital for COVID-19 patients in Nineveh is al-Shifaa Hospital in Mosul. The expense of traveling to medical facilities is already a significant burden for families impacted by ISIS. Another challenge, reported by Reuters, is that Iraq is significantly underreporting confirmed COVID-19 cases and is making attempts to restrict whistleblowing efforts. Moreover, COVID-19 has effectively stalled much of the fieldwork of UNITAD, the United Nations team investigating the genocide of ISIS.
The harsh measures imposed to fight the virus have only intensified the social exclusion and discrimination the Haratin already face. Living day to day, the strict curfew and the financial squeeze felt even at the top of Mauritanian society means that many people are now out of work. Mauritania’s President Ghazouani promised to care for 30,000 families for three months through a 12m euro ($13m) fund. However, after more than two months the cash is yet to materialize.
Just a day after the start of Ramadan, President Ghazouani declared his country to be virus-free. However, local human rights organizations, question the official count. The reason for distrust lies in the fact that there hasn’t been mass testing, and even those people who were in quarantine are back in the community without being tested.
In Pakistan, we are witnessing the COVID-19 crisis being used to further stigmatize ethnic and religious minorities and to attack those who seek to represent them. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has highlighted that Shi’a Muslims in Pakistan have faced increased stigmatization in recent weeks because some of the earliest patients to test positive for COVID-19 in those countries came from these communities. Sindh province has seen a spate of arrests being made using the COVID-19 lockdown as a pretext. Moreover, in Sindh, the Pakistani government has disregarded local quarantine measures by reopening roads and allowing Pakistanis to return from abroad to enter the province without any quarantine or isolation measures.
In Balochistan, much criticism has been leveled at the government’s ineffective response to the crisis, particularly with the spread of the disease in neighboring Iran and at the abject lack of infrastructure available to deal with the crisis in Balochistan. Protests by Baloch doctors at the lack of investment and support from the Pakistani government has led to arrests of those doctors, rather than an effective response from the government. Moreover, allegations by political activists in the region suggest that secret state agencies are supporting criminal gangs and providing them with weapons to target civilians and activists in Balochistan, all while the government is failing to properly implement the COVID-19 outbreak containment system.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, the territory struggles with poor healthcare infrastructure and is ill-equipped to tackle the pandemic, as it lacks testing laboratories, medical staff, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, and ventilators. Marginalized from effective governance structures and deprived of constitutional rights since 1947, the unrepresented people of Gilgit-Baltistan have accused Pakistan of not giving the region its share of aid received from the U.S., the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) to fight COVID-19.
The World Bank has announced the allocation to Pakistan of a $200 million aid package for coronavirus relief through its Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project. However, minority religious groups have expressed concern that funds made available to the government of Pakistan will be solely, or primarily, distributed to the affected populations through local Muslim NGOs to the exclusion of Christian NGOs which, in ordinary times, are often the victims of government-based discrimination.
The Russian border with Azerbaijan, a region where the majority of the Lezghin population live, was supposed to be reopened on the 20th of April. However, Azerbaijani authorities have refused to reopen the border until at least 4 May due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, which has left many Azerbaijani citizens stranded in Russian territory. A key issue is that many of those stranded do not have the means to support themselves for a continued stay in Dagestan and need to return home. The tough measures already taken by Russia to prevent the spread of the virus have already complicated the situation for these people. Currently, around 150 foreign citizens remain in the border region of Magaramkent District, while a further 155 have been placed at the Chaika campsite near Derbent, who are being assisted by local authorities.
As the coronavirus spreads in Russian-occupied Crimea, Crimean Tatar activists are being warned not to cover their faces by the Russian authorities in the name of counter-extremism, which conversely comes at a time when Russia has made it mandatory to wear face masks in public. Some activists have been targeted by authorities and given warnings not to protest, despite having done nothing wrong. Members of the initiative Crimean Solidarity, in particular, have been warned and bothered, which some have taken as a warning to the whole group to dissuade any activists from protesting or demonstrating.
The autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain has faced a number of challenges during the coronavirus crisis due to the contentious issue of devolved power and the response to the virus outbreak. Healthcare, under normal circumstances, is a devolved responsibility, with regional governments having their own policy. On 18 March, the Spanish authorities halted a shipment of thousands of face masks bound for Catalonia. As the Spanish central government tried to centralize power during the crisis, the Catalan leadership resisted, with Catalonian leader Quim Torra stating that the region needed “support, not more centralization”, having previously pushed for additional restrictions, calling for the closure of airports and train stations, and checkpoints on roads across the region. Moreover, Spain’s decision to centralize the purchase of supplies, which resulted in the purchase of hundreds of thousands of faulty virus tests from China, has been strongly criticized because the regional authorities already had the technical skills and experience to deal with these markets. The result has been a severe delay in the provision of medical supplies to the regions, in one of the worst-hit countries in the world.
These important measures, which were strongly called for by regional authorities, were initially rejected by Madrid. Only since the virus began to worsen did the center agree to more stringent measures being taken. When it did, the Spanish police took control over the regional police and Madrid deployed the Spanish army to Barcelona and other Catalan towns. Towards the end of April, the Spanish government announced that its deconfinement process will be based on provinces and not on regions – a system devised in the 1830s to make Spain a more centralized country, like France and is associated with a less democratic time in Spain. This means that the old system of Spain’s 50 provinces, directed by the central government, will be used instead of allowing the regional authorities in Catalonia to do it themselves.
Most recently, the Spanish government has been trying to arrange a deal with minor political parties to extend the lockdown and retain central control in combatting the coronavirus outbreak. At every stage of the coronavirus crisis in Spain, the Spanish central government in Madrid has sought to undermine the regional authorities and centralize power, even when such measures are not in the interest of the country and risk worsening the crisis.
The United Kingdom has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. As it stands there are over 250,000 cases in the UK, with the highest concentration in English cities, such as London and Birmingham. However, due to the UK’s structure of 4 nations, each with their own health authorities, the response to the crisis has not been consistent across the whole country. The devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all expressed different views towards ending the lockdown from the UK central government in Westminster. While Boris Johnson’s government is gradually easing lockdown restrictions across England, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP-led Scottish government announced it will continue with the restrictions, a view shared by Welsh First Minister Mark Drayford.
The fringe region of Cornwall has also struggled with the COVID-19 outbreak. Early on during the crisis, many people from the larger cities flocked to Cornwall, a very popular tourist destination due to its quaint villages and seaside location, where many wealthier people own second homes. These people flocking to Cornwall to avoid having to stay in the cities bring with them the overwhelming risk of spreading large amounts of the virus to the small rural region. As such, people seeking to travel to Cornwall have been strongly advised to avoid doing so by both local and national authorities.
The District of Columbia seeks to be recognized as a US state with the same privileges and rights as the other 50 US states. The capital territory’s lack of statehood, despite its federal taxation, means that it is ineligible to receive the same support as the states regarding the fight against the coronavirus. As such, while the states were granted $1.25 billion of funding each, the 5 federal territories (including D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam) must split $3 billion between them, resulting in $500 million for the district. Thus, D.C. is losing out on the extra $750 million it would receive, were it a recognized state. Washington, D.C., is a majority-minority area of the U.S.A. with large socio-economic disparities between the white and minority populations, African Americans in particular. These disparities are playing out in real-time with the COVID-19 crisis, with African Americans, already less able to receive quality health care, being diagnosed at twice the rate of the white population.
The US territory of Guam has also faced a number of challenges in the combat against the coronavirus. Like Washington, D.C., Guam is also forced to receive fewer funds from the US government due to its lack of US statehood. Moreover, Guam’s economy depends massively on tourism, an industry that has been decimated by the virus, which means that it will suffer the consequences of the virus even more deeply than other states and territories with more diversified economies. The connection to the island, too, has been deeply affected. Since airlines are struggling so much, many have canceled operations connecting Guam to its largest tourist markets – Japan and South Korea.
A number of US State authorities do not recognize native American populations in their demographic data on the Coronavirus, despite taking into account the Black and Hispanic communities. While not more susceptible to the virus, these communities have experienced much higher underfunding in their health services and diseases such as diabetes and asthma, and are at greater risk of facing complications should they catch the virus.
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