From new opportunities for dictators and the quarantine ways of the obnoxiously wealthy to genuinely desperate measures to keep people at home in the United States, militant peace in Colombia and a failed attempt to keep women from “nagging” in Malaysia, the coronavirus lockdown is playing out very differently around the world.
Another Opportunity for Putin In Moscow, coronavirus has proven a great opportunity to roll out a massive network of surveillance cameras and implement facial recognition software to keep tabs on those violating lockdown measures.
Facial recognition is being used to identify individuals who have been ordered into quarantine for 14 days.
According to the BBC, there’s more to the plan as well: The Kremlin is eyeing the implementation of digital passes on mobile phones, as well.
What worries any Russian still holding on to a notion of basic freedoms is what happens after the virus, when facial recognition is used to identify protesters and suppress criticism of the government.
Coronavirus In The Last Dictatorship
Even though it suffers in the face of quality compared to European standards, Belarussian soccer has never been so popular. That’s because it's the only country in Europe still playing professional games with fans in the stands.
The belligerent country’s long-time president, Alexander Lukashenko, the last dictator in Europe, isn’t buying into the coronavirus panic. He could be using COVID-19 to further crack down on dissent, but he doesn’t have to. He is already in full control.
Speaking to a TV reporter at a packed ice hockey match on March 28th, Lukashenko, insisted that the stadium’s cold temperatures would prevent the virus from spreading, noted that he saw no virus “flying around”, and labeled global concerns over COVID-19 a "mass psychosis”.
The ever-colorful Lukashenko also cited drinking vodka and regular trips to the sauna as ways to ward off the virus.
As such, Belarus hasn’t imposed any movement restrictions. Even the country’s health ministry--part and parcel of the dictatorship--rejects the idea of restrictions and quarantine. According to government figures, the country has only 152 cases with one mortality, a well-known theater actor.
The only dissent has been that of a single journalist in mid-March who was arrested after criticizing the government’s approach to the pandemic and casting doubt on official infection figures. Syarhey Satsuk was charged with “receiving a bribe”, which carries a possible 10-year prison sentence.
Watch Your Gender in Panama
In Panama, a trans woman has reportedly ended up in court as a result of the country’s unusual quarantine rules in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. With some 1,000 confirmed cases, Panama has announced strict quarantine measures separating people by gender. Men and women are allowed to leave their homes for only two hours at a time, and on different days. No-one will be allowed to go out on Sundays.
Last week, police detained a transgender woman alleging she was male and ‘out on a wrong day’.
Living The Quarantine High Life in Switzerland
If you’re wealthy, amid a disease believed to have been spread in fair measure by the wealthy, the Le Bijou Hotel and Resort in Switzerland is offering up luxury quarantine rooms for $12,000-$14,000 per night. Or, you can pay more for in-room coronavirus testing--apparently $500--and even in-room medical staff.
1950s in Malaysia
It was a pyrrhic victory for women in Malaysia after the government was forced to apologize and remove all of its “Dress up, Don’t nag” posters that it found necessary to digitally plaster the country with as part of quarantine measures.
The population has the country’s Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development to thank for the government-sponsored online cartoons instructing wives to dress up, wear makeup and avoid nagging their husbands during the partial lockdown.
One of the campaign posters shows a man sitting on a couch and asks women to refrain from being sarcastic if they need help around the house.
Needless to say, the campaign was met with an angry backlash.
Shaming in India
The Indian authorities are reportedly taking draconian measures to new, albeit non-technological heights. Here, it’s not about facial recognition or other invasive methods of this Century; rather, according to Bloomberg, it’s about police with batons beating curfew violators or forcing them to perform military-style public squats or crawl around on the streets in a form of shaming. Some are even locked in cages.
Left-Wing Peace in Colombia
Perhaps one of the most positive effects of the coronavirus is a unilateral ceasefire agreement by the Colombian left-wing ELN (Ejercito de Liberación Nacional, National Liberation Army) rebel group, for reasons of COVID-19 humanitarianism.
The ceasefire will last until April 30th, and ELN does reserve the right to defend itself “against attacks carried out by state forces, paramilitaries and drug gangs”.
The Isolated Dictatorship Advantage
In North Korea, which still stubbornly claims it has no coronavirus cases, measures were extreme from the outset, with Pyongyang reportedly threatening to shoot anyone who even thought about approaching the frontier the minute China announced the outbreak. That was in January. The next month, the extremely high-profile People’s Army anniversary celebration was cancelled, and thousands of people have been forcibly quarantined to prevent the spread, according to the Washington Post.
Back In the Good Old US of A
Russia is frightening. Belarus even more so, and for very different reasons despite the ‘dictatorship’ leanings.
But what about the United States?
At least 38 states have now issued state-wide stay-at-home orders that are effective to varying degrees.
In some states where residents aren’t heeding the call to stay at home, more drastic measures are afoot, quite literally.
In the State of Kentucky, residents aren’t following orders, and Louisville is a particular problem. In fact, the problem is so acute that a circuit court judge is ordering ankle monitors for individuals exposed to the coronavirus who refuse to stay at home.
The difference is that this isn’t a widespread system such as facial recognition that would never be rolled back once the virus subsides.
But Americans should still be concerned because it wouldn’t just be the government trying to slide through a privatization-wrecking facial recognition program: The greedy arm of capitalism also sees a huge opportunity here, around the world.
One German biometrics company called Dermalog, for example, is eyeing a major payday by offering up technology that not only identifies individuals, but takes their temperature ostensibly to determine whether they might have coronavirus and pose a risk.
By Michael Kern for Safehaven.com
More Top Reads From Safehaven.com: