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Syria, India, South Africa, Iran : The forgotten countries in the corona crisis

The fear of Corona has not brought anyone back to Kagdi. The place with its three inhabitants today is one of around 1700 "ghost villages" in the north Indian city of Uttarakhand. Because there are no roads, electricity, schools or work here, the villages have been deserted for years.

But none of the roughly 200,000 migrant workers from the state has returned there. For most people, poverty is worse than the virus.
On May 17, India extended its lockdown a third time, until the end of May - with devastating effects on the economy and the country's nearly 40 million migrant workers.

In the first few days after the curfew was imposed on March 24th, thousands returned from the metropolises to their rural villages on foot. Hundreds of thousands continue to endure without work, food and accommodation in the cities. They live from hand to mouth.

A lockdown for 1.3 billion people

India's government still sees the world's largest lockdown for 1.3 billion people as a success. Only: While cities reopen, the number of new infections continues to rise. India reported 119,400 infections on Friday. 3,585 people died of the disease.

While India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a strict lockdown without caring about the fate of millions of poor, the government in neighboring Pakistan adopted a different stance. Prime Minister Imran Khan said a complete lockdown was not possible in a country where a quarter of the population lived below the poverty line.

In the end, Pakistan responded with a multitude of chaotic, varied restrictions imposed by the local authorities. On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed all shopping centers to open and declared store closings unconstitutional. Pakistan reported 50,694 Covid-19 infections and 1,067 deaths on Friday, and the number of new cases is rising. Millions are threatened with poverty.

Face masks, hand washing, distance - what is part of everyday life in most countries because of the corona pandemic is an unattainable luxury for people in the crisis regions of the Middle East. Millions are struggling to survive in refugee camps and war zones. The virus is likely to rage there far more than official figures suggest.

In Yemen, 80 percent of the 28 million residents are dependent on aid supplies. Even without Corona, the health system is hopelessly overwhelmed. According to the Red Cross, a clinic in the capital Sanaa counted 500 new cases of cholera on a single day in April.

There is no reliable information on the spread of the coronavirus in the country torn apart by the war between the Houthi rebels and the government.

According to the aid organization Doctors Without Borders, 173 corona patients were counted in a clinic in Aden in the first two weeks of May alone, of whom at least 68 died. Officially, however, the government only reports 193 cases and 33 deaths in its entire sphere of influence. The Houthis are also accused of covering up the true extent of the illness.

In Idlib, people camp close together

The victims of the war in Syria are also at the mercy of the virus. There, too, there is a suspicion that many cases are not known. More than six million Syrians have become refugees in their own country, and another 5.6 million live in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The official numbers of 58 corona infections and three deaths for all of Syria are likely to be a gross understatement. In refugee camps like those in the embattled province of Idlib, people camp close together. Refugee camps were hermetically sealed in Lebanon and Jordan. The refugees lose their jobs as day laborers and can no longer earn money for their families.

Around 700,000 people who want to go to Europe are stuck in Libya. Many refugees are crammed into camps where hunger, disease and violence prevail. Outside the camps, the war is raging between the government in Tripoli and General Haftar's troops. In view of these conditions, there are likely to be significantly more corona cases in Libya than the reported 71 infections and three deaths.

Even scientists are surprised at what is currently going on in Africa in terms of the corona epidemic.

While apocalypticists initially predicted millions of dying slum dwellers and smallholders, the data at least so far point in a completely different direction: with around 3,000 of more than 330,000 deaths worldwide (less than one percent), the continent is well below the rate that is given in its share in the world population (a good 16 percent) would have expected.

Experts explain the surprise differently: Some blame the “African conditions”, for example the warm climate, the young population or the fact that many Covid-19 victims are not even diagnosed. The giant state of Nigeria has so far only reported 200 corona deaths, although grave diggers in the city of Kano are reporting an unprecedented boom in their profession.

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More often, the thesis is expressed that the continent will by no means be spared, the pandemic will only reach its peak there much later. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the continent was only confronted with the pathogen weeks later because of its limited flight connections. And that many governments took advantage of this delay to impose strict lockdowns earlier than anywhere else.

Is the pandemic still to peak?

This earned most of the African heads of state worldwide praise. Without a doubt, the rapid imposition of curfews has at least slowed the spread of the virus. Only a few bigoted state leaders believed they could do without scientific advice. The consequences will soon be seen in Tanzania or Burundi.

In South Africa, the continent's corona hotspot, even a hard lockdown could not contain the number of new infections. After a two-month curfew imposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the quota is rising faster than ever before. Scientists do not foresee the peak of the pandemic until August or September.

The pessimists say that up to 50,000 deaths must be expected at the Cape of Good Hope by the end of this year. So far, however, only slightly more than 360 South Africans have fallen victim to the virus.

Denial, appease, cover up - this is how the country's leadership reacted when the first corona cases were reported at the end of February. At this point in time, the virus had even infected the government.

Bathed in sweat and coughing, the Vice Minister of Health declares that the situation is stable. One day later it is said that he has Corona. Shortly afterwards the authorities declared: The Minister has happily recovered. The pandemic is already spreading massively at this point.

[All current developments as a result of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here in our news blog. We will keep you up to date on developments in Berlin in particular.]

But those responsible for a long time downplayed the seriousness of the situation. Only when cover-ups and conspiracy theories make the regime ridiculous do the mullahs change direction - the Islamic Republic is shut down. Even the mosques are closing, against the fierce opposition of the influential clergy. This is noticeable: the number of infections is falling.

However, the first easing exercises will begin in Iran as early as mid-April. Shops open, government employees go back to work. One part of the rulers emphasizes that it is a command of common sense to take these steps. There are millions of people who suffered from the crisis and are struggling to survive. They desperately needed income.

Leadership rivalries prevent a uniform course

Indeed, many Iranians have been suffering from great economic hardship for years - which is due to the US sanctions, but also to mismanagement and corruption. People become impoverished and don't know how to make ends meet. So the pandemic hits the country with full force. Nevertheless, there are not a few among the rulers for whom the opening goes far too far. They insist that people's health must be a priority.

The latest figures seem to prove them right: the infection curve is rising again, a second wave is emerging. Regardless of this, the regime is not finding a unified approach - and the government under President Hassan Ruhani clearly does not have enough power to put a stop to it.

A good 131,000 cases have been confirmed and more than 7200 people have died of Covid-19. But even Iranian health experts question the official numbers. The full extent of the pandemic is being covered up.

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