25 March 2020

Coronavirus : The need for a comprehensive Indian stimulus package to tackle health emergency, protect jobs and build a durable social security system for the future

Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF

Prime Minister in his addressed the nation on 19th March announced the setting up of an economic task force under the Finance Minister to formulate India’s response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Covid 19 crisis is being projected as a crisis bigger than the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Global can economic growth is likely to plunge sharply from its present rate of 3% per annum to 1.5 per cent or even less depending upon how long the crisis lasts. In the worst-case scenario, the world may tip into a recession or even an economic depression.

Millions of people are sitting at home fearing job losses. The virus has caused havoc with civil aviation, trade, tourism, entertainment, hospitality, travel, manufacturing, shipping and allied sectors. Job losses at large-scale are happening. Many companies are likely to go bankrupt across the world. Stock markets have plunged across the world. Oil prices have crashed more than a hundred per cent in the last few weeks. Liquidity in the economy is drying up.

Is India still the neighbourhood’s education hub?

Constantino Xavier, Aakshi Chaba, and Geetika Dang

India has long been an education hub for students from its neighbourhood.[2] Besides economic benefits, India’s capacity to attract students from neighbouring countries has helped it to form closer political ties and spread its cultural influence and values to the surrounding region. India’s ability to provide quality higher education is a form of soft power that, subtly but surely, enhances India’s connectivity with its neighbours. Some of the South Asian leaders who have benefited from an education in India include Nepal’s former Prime Minister B.P. Koirala, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi and Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai. In 2018, however, only three serving world leaders had studied in India, compared to 58 in the United States.[3]

This policy brief maps the current status of India as a higher-education hub for students from South Asia. For a comparative analysis, mapping of outgoing students from the region to China has also been included.


The Terrorist Who Got Away

By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

With its snow-capped mountains and its emerald valleys, teeming with apple orchards and fields of saffron, India’s northernmost province of Jammu and Kashmir can sometimes resemble an enchanted kingdom. But for decades, this patch of ground has instead felt cursed, as the center of a bloody and seemingly never-ending conflict between India and Pakistan. Although 70 years have passed since the area became a part of India, it remains a flash point between the two nations.

This August, India moved to cement Jammu and Kashmir’s place in the Indian union by revoking the autonomy it was granted at the time of its accession. While the change was largely welcomed in Jammu, which is predominantly Hindu, it sparked anger in the overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir valley, where a separatist movement has simmered since the late 1980s. To pre-empt large-scale protests and anticipated violence, the Indian government enforced a security clampdown across the valley, shutting down mobile-phone and Internet services and placing dozens of political leaders and activists under house arrest. Seven months on, Kashmir remains tense. Only in the last month have restrictions on internet use been lifted and mobile internet speeds restored to full capacity.

Indian officials say these tough measures were necessary not only to prevent civic unrest but also to guard against the threat of terrorism from across the border. They point to a long history of attacks inflicted upon Kashmir and other targets in India by groups based in Pakistan. Just a year ago, the Jaish-e-Muhammad — a terrorist organization led by a 51-year-old Pakistani cleric named Masood Azhar — directed a deadly car bombing against a convoy of troops in Pulwama, near Srinagar, killing at least 40 members of the Central Reserve Police Force. The attack was carried out by a 22-year-old Indian man who left his village in Kashmir a year earlier to join the ranks of the Jaish. Within an hour of the bombing, the group claimed responsibility for it on social media and circulated a video of the young attacker, dressed in fatigues and holding an assault rifle, declaring that the Jaish had thousands of soldiers like him who were ready to undertake suicide missions to free Kashmir from India.

Israel vs. Hezbollah: The Third Lebanon War

By Dr. Ehud Eilam

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Ever since the 2006 war, Israel has preferred to contain Hezbollah rather than fight it directly. So determined was Israel to avoid going to war with the terrorist group that it tolerated its significant military buildup. Since 2012, however, the IAF has carried out hundreds of sorties inside Syria aimed at stopping the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. Israel can continue to delay the arming of Hezbollah, but it has already become quite strong, and a war could occur even if neither side wants it.

Tensions between Israel and Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, have reached the point where war might well ensue. Neither side wants this, at least not right now, but it could still occur, either as a result of miscalculations and or of a rapid escalation that got out of control.

The two sides confronted each other in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s, and their 34-day war in the summer of 2006 ended in a tie. According to the IDF’s strategy document of 2018, the next time Israel and Hezbollah go to war, the IDF will be eager to strike the group hard in order to achieve a fast victory.

Peace Is Easier Said Than Done in Afghanistan

By Ankit Panda

Along with much of Central Asia, Iran, and parts of the Middle East, Afghanistan celebrates the Nowruz New Year festival this week. Nowruz is a time to celebrate springtime, rebirth, and new beginnings. In the aftermath of the historic February 29 U.S.-Taliban deal, it certainly has felt as if Afghanistan is due to see the start of a new era in its history. Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sat down next to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. peace envoy, in Doha, Qatar, that day and the two signed an agreement that appeared to hold the key to ending almost 19 years of continuous war.

If you missed it, the contours of the deal are fairly straightforward, even if the details are not. The United States has agreed to gradually withdraw its forces in Afghanistan over a period of 14 months provided that the Taliban prevent terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, from using territory under their control to stage operations or attacks.

The Afghan government, which wasn’t party to the deal, has assented to its existence, but what has become clear in the three weeks since the signing ceremony is that implementation won’t be easy. While the United States might be able to leave Afghanistan, the Afghan people themselves might not find the peace they seek too easily.

We’re not going back to normal

by Gideon Lichfield
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To stop coronavirus we will need to radically change almost everything we do: how we work, exercise, socialize, shop, manage our health, educate our kids, take care of family members.

We all want things to go back to normal quickly. But what most of us have probably not yet realized—yet will soon—is that things won’t go back to normal after a few weeks, or even a few months. Some things never will.

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It’s now widely agreed (even by Britain, finally) that every country needs to “flatten the curve”: impose social distancing to slow the spread of the virus so that the number of people sick at once doesn’t cause the health-care system to collapse, as it is threatening to do in Italy right now. That means the pandemic needs to last, at a low level, until either enough people have had Covid-19 to leave most immune (assuming immunity lasts for years, which we don’t know) or there’s a vaccine.

Taiwan's New 'Electronic Fence' for Quarantines Leads Wave of Virus Monitoring

TAIPEI — Taiwan, which has won global praise for its effective action against the coronavirus, is rolling out a mobile phone-based "electronic fence" that uses location-tracking to ensure people who are quarantined stay in their homes.

Governments around the world are combining technology and human efforts to enforce quarantines that require people who have been exposed to the virus to stay in their homes, but Taiwan's system is believed to be the first to use mobile phone tracking for that purpose.

"The goal is to stop people from running around and spreading the infection," said Jyan Hong-wei, head of Taiwan's Department of Cyber Security, who leads efforts to work with telecom carriers to combat the virus.

The system monitors phone signals to alert police and local officials if those in home quarantine move away from their address or turn off their phones. Jyan said authorities will contact or visit those who trigger an alert within 15 minutes.

Officials also call twice a day to ensure people don't avoid tracking by leaving their phones at home.

Planning for the World After the Coronavirus Pandemic

David Steven, Alex Evans 

Editor’s note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here.

In just a few months, the tightly connected systems of a globalized world have transformed the novel coronavirus from a handful of cases in China to a global pandemic. But we have yet to see an international response that matches the scale of the threat.

The contrast with the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic crash is stark. Then, governments vastly upgraded the G-20 from a somewhat obscure forum of finance ministers to a new global decision-making bloc in order to steer the world to safety. Don’t hold your breath for a similar response to COVID-19. The outbreak has hit at a time when the international order’s immune system is badly compromised.

China is winning the coronavirus propaganda war

As Europe struggles to slow the spread of coronavirus and China begins to show signs that it has put the worst of the outbreak behind it, Beijing is engaging in a not-so-subtle PR campaign.

China’s main strategy is to show that the country that gave birth to the virus (and then covered it up for weeks, allowing it to spread across the globe unhindered) is on the front lines trying to save humanity, while the EU can’t get its act together and the world’s other superpower is busy pointing fingers.

Over the past few days, China has sent planeloads of masks, teams of doctors and even ventilators around the world to help battle the crisis. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma donated one million masks and hundreds of thousands of testing kits to the U.S., with the first load arriving in Seattle on Monday.

“We'll do whatever we can to help other countries in fighting the COVID-19” — Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the U.N. 

The Coronavirus Could Reshape Global Order

By Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi 

With hundreds of millions of people now isolating themselves around the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic has become a truly global event. And while its geopolitical implications should be considered secondary to matters of health and safety, those implications may, in the long term, prove just as consequential—especially when it comes to the United States’ global position. Global orders have a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once. In 1956, a botched intervention in the Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. Today, U.S. policymakers should recognize that if the United States does not rise to meet the moment, the coronavirus pandemic could mark another “Suez moment.”

It is now clear to all but the most blinkered partisans that Washington has botched its initial response. Missteps by key institutions, from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have undermined confidence in the capacity and competence of U.S. governance. Public statements by President Donald Trump, whether Oval Office addresses or early-morning tweets, have largely served to sow confusion and spread uncertainty. Both public and private sectors have proved ill-prepared to produce and distribute the tools necessary for testing and response. And internationally, the pandemic has amplified Trump’s instincts to go it alone and exposed just how unprepared Washington is to lead a global response.

Regaining Lost Ground: Defense Support in the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the United States grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, discussion of the military’s potential contributions to a more robust federal response have taken center stage. In the absence of effective federal action, hopes of containing the virus have given way to an increased focus on slowing its transmission through measures like social distancing and belatedly filling critical health care gaps. Given its size and capabilities, it is both appropriate and unsurprising that many have called upon the Department of Defense (DoD) to assist these efforts. Indeed, in recent days, we have seen such calls from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Although there is no modern analog to the current coronavirus pandemic, there are many examples throughout U.S. history of military assistance during disasters both man-made and natural. In the past 15 years, three stand out for their scale. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, DoD mounted a massive response, involving an estimated 70,000 troops. However, that response was, broadly, uncoordinated, delayed, and insufficient. Learning important lessons from this experience, the Defense Department stepped up its response measures for Hurricane Sandy. While not perfect, when Sandy made landfall in October 2012, the Department was prepared and the response was far more proactive and unified.

How the US can promote affordable non-Chinese 5G in Asia

As the US races to build an innovative 5G network to compete with China’s rapidly-expanding global rollouts, partnering with Japan could offer the US an advantage in winning over India and the Southeast Asia region, argues Yuka Koshino.

Since early 2020, the Trump administration and the United States Congress have been bolstering support to develop and promote a non-Chinese fifth-generation wireless network (5G) with its allies and partners in the world. To outperform Chinese vendors in technologies, the Trump administration has suggested investing in industries’ R&D efforts to develop a software-based virtualised 5G network on open hardware. To help make non-Chinese 5G affordable, the US has gathered resources to help countries finance the infrastructure. The newly established public­–private development finance agency, the US Development Finance Corporation (US DFC), has started to prioritise investments in 5G projects. Congress has proposed a bipartisan bill to allocate US$750 million to promote R&D in 5G and an additional US$500m to help countries finance non-Chinese equipment for their 5G networks.

Some have dismissed these efforts, claiming that the US is too late to the game. China’s largest wireless network supplier, Huawei, has rapidly expanded its digital footprint in the world, especially in Europe. In February 2020, Huawei announced that it had secured 47 commercial contracts with European operators and revealed plans to build a factory in France for its customers. The decision by the United Kingdom’s government to give a limited role to Huawei in its 5G network was a major blow for the US and its efforts to prevent the spread of Chinese 5G in the region. The recent coronavirus outbreak in the US could further delay its efforts as more cities are put into lockdown and the government postpones 5G forums.

Parterning with Japan in Asia

China’s coronavirus crisis: a long political tail

Robert Ward

The coronavirus crisis in China is the biggest threat yet to the leadership of President Xi Jinping, argues Robert Ward. Despite the initial failures that aggravated the situation, Xi is unlikely to change his course and will use the crisis to reinforce his political position. 

The economic impact on China of the coronavirus crisis is already severe. Mass population quarantine and extended business shutdowns pushed China’s manufacturing and services purchasing managers’ indexes − important gauges of economic activity − down to record lows in February. China’s first-quarter GDP could even contract year-on-year. At well under 6%, China’s GDP growth in 2020 is also likely to be the slowest for some 30 years. But the economic downturn will be temporary, even if, as looks likely, recovery is slower than it was after the country’s 2002−03 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. More important is the political and institutional impact, as it is here that the main legacies of the crisis will be felt. 

Xi’s most serious crisis yet

China’s President Xi Jinping has been beset by crises since consolidating power in March 2018 when the National People’s Congress (NPC) − China’s rubber-stamp parliament − approved the abolition of presidential term limits. These crises include the trade war with the United States, which started in mid-2018 with the imposition of the first tariffs on Chinese exports to the US; the outbreak of African swine fever in late 2018, which forced the culling of millions of the country’s pigs and pushed up the price of pork; the outbreak of prolonged protests in Hong Kong in early 2019, which overshadowed the 100th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic later in the year; and the decisive victory in Taiwan’s early 2020 presidential election of incumbent Tsai Ing-wen, who opposes Taiwan’s unification with China.

Keeping the Coronavirus from Infecting Health-Care Workers

By Atul Gawande

The message is getting out: #StayHome. In this early phase of the coronavirus pandemic, with undetected cases accelerating transmission even as testing ramps up, that is critical. But there are many people whom the country needs to keep going into work—grocery cashiers, first responders, factory workers for critical businesses. Most obviously, we need health-care workers to care for the sick, even though their jobs carry the greatest risk of exposure. How do we keep them seeing patients rather than becoming patients?

In the index outbreak in Wuhan, thirteen hundred health-care workers became infected; their likelihood of infection was more than three times as high as the general population. When they went back home to their families, they became prime vectors of transmission. The city began to run out of doctors and nurses. Forty-two thousand more had to be brought in from elsewhere to treat the sick. Luckily, methods were found that protected all the new health-care workers: none—zero—were infected.

But those methods were Draconian. As the city was locked down and cut off from outside visitors, health-care workers seeing at-risk patients were housed away from their families. They wore full-body protective gear, including goggles, complete head coverings, N95 particle-filtering masks, and hazmat-style suits. Could we do that here? Not a chance. Health-care facilities don’t remotely have the supplies that would allow staff members to see every patient with all that gear on. In Massachusetts, where I practice surgery, the virus is circulating in at least eleven of our fourteen counties, and cases are climbing rapidly. So what happens if you are exposed to a coronavirus patient and you don’t have the ability to go full Wuhan? My hospital system, Partners HealthCare, has already sent more than a hundred staff members home for fourteen days of self-quarantine because they were exposed to the coronavirus without complete protection. If we had to quarantine every health-care worker who might have come into contact with a covid-19 patient, we’d soon have no health-care workers left.

What Is a Greater National Security Threat to the US: North Korea or Iran?

By Timothy S. Rich and Madelynn Einhorn
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Though North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since 2017, the regime continues to test short-range ballistic missiles and rockets systems, with two new weapons tests in March alone. Diplomatic efforts between North Korea and the United States, defunct for months, have failed to deescalate tensions.

Similarly, U.S.-Iran relations have deteriorated since the Trump administration withdrew from a deal designed to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike killed Iran’s top military commander, General Qassem Soleimani, and Iran vowed revenge. Iran maintains a nuclear program, but Iranian officials insist the program is purely for civilian uses. However, this month the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported concerns that Iran has undeclared nuclear materials and is conducting unregistered nuclear activities.

Both nuclear programs threaten U.S. interests and regional stability, even though there are clear differences between the programs. Both Pyongyang and Tehran emphasize their right to possess nuclear weapons, while North Korea’s more developed program, one that has already produced nuclear warheads, presents the clearer challenge in the short term. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program remains a civilian one and it’s estimated that conversion for military purposes would take approximately a year, further suggesting that North Korea should weigh more heavily as an explicit, rather than potential, threat. Yet it is unclear if the American public views these programs similarly. With longstanding bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang and multiple nuclear tests, the public may have been conditioned to not expect further escalation. In contrast, Iran’s program lacks the track record to properly evaluate the associated rhetoric.

You Can’t Practice Social Distancing if You’re a Refugee

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BEIRUT—To Khaled Abdul Razaq al-Dasher, the call for “social distancing” amid the coronavirus pandemic is a cruel joke. 

Dasher shares a tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley with nine family members, all of them refugees from the Syrian civil war. Around 500 people live in the informal camp. The next tent over is just 5 feet away, a foot or so short of what’s recommended by public health experts. They have sheets of tarpaulin and plastic that make the walls between them, but so much as stepping out of the tent puts them at unadvisable risk. The drum that feeds their tents running water is shared with a neighboring family, and sometimes it runs out. Instead of the frequent hand-washing being recommended globally, Dasher and his family are wiping their hands with alcohol and cleaning with chlorine. 

“But supplies are running a little low,” he said.

And the coronavirus pandemic is drawing nearer. “Social distancing is a privilege,” said Sahar Tawfeeq, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. “There is a hashtag trending: #StayHome. They can’t do that. They don’t have a home to stay in.”

U.S. COVID-19 Cases on the Rise: Q&A with RAND Experts

A woman visits her mother who has tested positive for coronavirus at a Seattle-area nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, March 11, 2020

COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has now been detected in all 50 states. More than 6,000 cases and 100 deaths have been reported so far in the United States. With local orders to close schools, stores and restaurants going into effect in cities around the United States, we asked several RAND researchers to answer some questions about the crisis:

Jennifer Bouey, the Tang Chair in China Policy Studies at RAND, is an epidemiologist whose research focuses on global health strategies and the social determinants of health.

Courtney Gidengil is a senior physician policy researcher who also practices infectious diseases at Boston Children's Hospital.

Laura Faherty is a physician policy researcher and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine.

They spoke on a conference call with RAND media relations director Jeffrey Hiday on March 16. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation, with some updates made the following day to reflect changing information.

Russia’s Shift from “Greater Europe” to “Greater Asia”

By Emil Avdaliani
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Though analysts tend to portray Russia’s foreign policy as truly global (that is, independent of Europe, the US, and China), the country is plainly tilting toward Asia. The Russian political elite does its best to hide this development, but the country is accumulating more interests and freedom to act in Asia than in Europe or anywhere else.

When the Ukraine crisis broke out in 2014, political analysts pointed out, quite rightly, that Russia without Ukraine would become more Asian. With the country’s borders now more in Asia than in Europe, Moscow would inescapably focus more on the Middle East and China. The latter would become Russia’s primary ally in global politics, but there would also be fears that Beijing would overshadow Moscow’s role in their bilateral relations. In other words, analysts believed Russia would turn into a Chinese appendage that provided energy resources to the Asian giant.

Russian Counterinsurgency Doctrine During The Second Chechen War 1999-2009

By Krystel von Kumberg
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Before the Russian people became a nation, Russia was an empire. This has severe implications for the Kremlin’s counterinsurgency doctrine, as Russia can best be described as a state-nation rather than a nation-state. Given Russia’s unique identity, the very legitimacy of the Kremlin’s actions can be put into question, fueling Russian insecurity, which in turn caters to an inherently offensive mindset. This tendency for aggressive action quite clearly emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union, as the fear of disintegration became a reality. This offensive mindset had perverse effects, however, as Russia progressively destroying the Republic of Ichkeria as “an autonomous political community,”[i] feeding corruption and criminality rather than extinguishing it, and catering to economic uncertainty and insecurity. The result was the growth of increasingly potent anti-Russian sentiments. This left Chechens with nothing, leading many to support the oppositional identity provided by the insurgents in Ichkeria. Russia’s short-sighted historic approach means that the Chechen insurgency is never fully extinguished in the region. Conflict recurs because of the repressive and coercive measures outweighing any real move toward winning the “hearts and minds” of the locals. Because the use of repression is so entrenched, it is unlikely that Russia will ever be able to fully vanquish insurgent elements in the North Caucasus. 

Unlike the typical Western approach, Moscow focused on the “hearts and minds” of the Russian people rather than the Chechen population and took a hard-core, enemy-centric approach to eliminating the perceived threat emanating from outside its borders, emphasizing the foreign elements instigating the insurgency. In May 2008, for example, Vladimir Putin declared that the Chechen insurgency had never been an attempt to achieve independence in the mid-1990s, stating that the conflict was instead instigated by foreigners designed to “loosen Russia’s place in the world stage.”[ii] Moscow sought complete control over information flows, targeting and manipulating the Russian population and the international community more broadly by highlighting the infiltration of foreign terrorists infiltration into Russian territory. 

Infographic Of The Day: Global Pandemic Preparedness By Country

Today's infographic pulls data from the 2019 Global Health Security Index, which ranks 195 countries on health security. It reveals that while there were top performers, healthcare systems around the world on average are fundamentally weak - and not prepared for new disease outbreaks.

Russia Has New Tool For Massive Internet Shutdown Attack, Leaked Documents Claim

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Moscow’s latest cyber weapon would target a wider array of devices than previous denial-of-service tools: the growing internet of things

As the world hunkers down in coronavirus isolation and relies on the internet more than ever, a group of dissidents has revealed that Russia has new tools to shut down internet services by tapping internet-connected cameras and similar smart devices.

It’s a new version of an old weapon — a creator of botnets that can drive an internet service offline with floods of fake data — that puts to use a previously untapped source of computing power: the ever-growing “internet of things.”

The new botnet tool was revealed in documents that give instructions for using a suite of hacking apps called Fronton, Fonton-3D, and Fonton-18.

The Real Pandemic Danger Is Social Collapse

By Branko Milanovic

As of March 2020, the entire world is affected by an evil with which it is incapable of dealing effectively and regarding whose duration no one can make any serious predictions. The economic repercussions of the novel coronavirus pandemic must not be understood as an ordinary problem that macroeconomics can solve or alleviate. Rather, the world could be witnessing a fundamental shift in the very nature of the global economy.

The immediate crisis is one of both supply and demand. Supply is falling because companies are closing down or reducing their workloads to protect workers from contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Lower interest rates can’t make up the shortfall from workers who are not going to work—just as, if a factory were bombed in a war, a lower interest rate would not conjure up lost supply the following day, week, or month. 

The immediate crisis is one of both supply and demand.

Data Reveals the True Impact of the Coronavirus Outbreak

SOMETHING WAS WRONG with Malaysia’s internet. It was March 13, and the more Simon Angus looked at the data, the more he suspected that the country might be in the midst of a coronavirus crisis.

Angus is an academic at Monash University and the cofounder of Kaspr Datahaus, a Melbourne-based company that analyses the quality of global internet connection to glean economic and social insights. The company monitors millions of internet-connected devices to gauge internet speed across the world. For them, a sudden deterioration in a country’s internet speed means that something is putting the network under strain. In recent weeks Kaspr’s theory is that the “something” is linked to the Covid-19 epidemics – as people who are working from home, or quarantining, or staying home as a precaution start using the internet more intensely than usual.

“For people who are in lockdown, or in panic mode, or in self-isolation, the internet has become a fundamentally important part of their information source, and of their consumption of entertainment,” Angus says.

To put it bluntly, when millions more turn on Netflix, scroll through TikTok, start a Zoom call, play Fortnite, or simply scroll idly through Twitter, that has repercussions on the quality of the country’s internet. (That is why EU commissioner Thierry Breton asked Netflix to restrict high-definition streaming until the emergency is over.)

The Risks of Building Too Many Bio Labs

by K.L. Ricks

On weekday mornings, Kimberly Dodd, a virologist and veterinarian, drives to a marina in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She parks alongside her colleagues’ cars and, flashing her badge at the guards in a plexiglass booth, walks aboard a white passenger ferry. Inside, her co-workers recline in their seats, reading, listening to headphones, or napping. The ride to Plum Island, where they work, takes about thirty minutes.

Pentagon declares defense contractors ‘critical infrastructure,’ must continue work

By: Aaron Mehta  

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department has declared that defense contractors are “critical infrastructure” to national security, a designation that comes with an expectation to maintain a consistent, normal work schedule amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

In a Friday memo to industry, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord made it clear that she wants defense companies to continue to deliver their products and services to the Pentagon on time.

“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as designated by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,” Lord wrote. “We need your support and dedication in these trying times to ensure the security of this Nation. I understand that this national emergency presents a challenge and we are dedicated to working closely with you to ensure the safety of the workforce and accomplishments of the national security mission.”

Lord also spelled out large swaths of the industrial base for which this order applies, including the aerospace sector; mechanical and software engineers; manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security staff; security personnel; intelligence support; aircraft and weapon systems mechanics and maintainers; suppliers of medical suppliers and pharmaceuticals; and critical transportation.