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Press review: Why COVID-19 hardly touched Africa and keeps viewers glued to TV screens

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, March 24

Kommersant: Investors embracing global recession

Global markets opened on a negative note Monday but the declining figures were lower than early last week. Investors are concerned about the large-scale consequences of the global coronavirus quarantine but at the same time, they hope that unprecedented measures by central banks will help overcome the crisis, Kommersant writes.

The panic that reigned over the market for the past two weeks has faded but the threat of an economic downturn due to the coronavirus is steering investors away from risks.

According to Alfa Capital Analyst Maxim Biryukov, investors re-evaluate risks every day, and as long as the scope of the pandemic keeps increasing, risks will continue to grow, too, forcing the sales of various assets.

A slowdown in major economic fields will lead to a global recession, and a historic blow to economic activities will come in the second quarter of the year, Global Chief Investment Officer at Credit Suisse Michael Strobaek predicted.

The steps that central banks and governments are taking are partially helpful. The US Federal Reserve has particularly cut interest rates to zero. The European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and other regulators have also announced big quantitative easing plans.

According to Chief Analyst at BCS Premier Anton Pokatovich, Russia’s Central Bank seeks to support the ruble. The regulator’s daily sales did not exceed $80 mln at the beginning of last week but surged to reach $170 mln at the end of the week.

However, the global recession continues to influence the value of assets, and the risk remains high that oil prices will drop to $20-25 per barrel. "Under such circumstances, the ruble may show a tendency to weaken further," Pokatovich emphasized.


Media: Postponement of Tokyo Olympics seems inevitable

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stated that given the current situation, it would be impossible to hold the Olympic Games as scheduled. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), in turn, said that a decision on the dates of the Olympics would be made within the next four weeks. Meanwhile, a number of countries have announced that they would not send athletes to Japan if the Games took place on the scheduled dates, between July 24 and August 9, Izvestia reported.

According to Russian Wrestling Federation President Mikhail Mamiashvili, "given the scope of the problem, holding a comprehensive event such as the Olympic Games on the scheduled dates is out of the question." "It is not just about a two-week competition in the city of Tokyo. It is also about qualifying tournaments in many sports, which take place in different countries. And those have been cancelled. The training of athletes and their preparations for the competition have been disrupted. Besides, though the epidemic may end in Japan by the summer, thousands of athletes and sports fans from other countries will gather there, and in many countries, including Spain, Italy and the United States, the epidemic is at its peak," he pointed out.

Valery Kistanov, who heads of the Center of Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far Eastern Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Japan was frustrated by those developments for both image and economic reasons.

"The prime minister has bet a lot on the Olympics. It could have been the last big project during Abe’s term in office. The country expected foreign sports fans to flock there in large numbers, which would have helped Japan escape an economic downturn. If the Olympic Games are cancelled, Japan may lose 3.5-4.5trillion yen [$31.7-40.8 bln]," the expert noted.


Izvestia: Why COVID-19 has little impact on Africa

In Africa, popular tourist destinations such as Egypt, Algeria and Morocco have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic the hardest, while other countries of the region have hardly been touched by it at all. The number of coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent is a hundred times lower there than in developed European countries, Izvestia wrote.

According to experts, the reason behind Africa’s low infection rates is clear: African countries’ share of international passenger traffic is relatively small, which is why most coronavirus cases have been recorded in countries that are more integrated into the global economy and attract more tourists.

Technical Officer at the World Health Organization’s Africa Office Dr. Mary Stephen told the newspaper that the virus had been anticipated to enter Africa from China, but in fact, it had been brought to the continent later from European countries. According to the WHO official, African countries have a chance to prevent the virus from spreading but everything will depend on the authorities’ ability to identify those infected, isolate them and trace their contacts.

At the same time, it is too early to say that the continent has been spared from the COVID-19 pandemic. "According to the US-based Johns Hopkins University, African countries are the least prepared to cope with the coronavirus outbreak because healthcare coverage is limited in most of those nations and medical facilities are poorly equipped. In particular, there aren’t enough coronavirus tests, so the infection may be spreading in some African countries unnoticed," said Sergei Kostelyanets, Head of the Center for Sociological and Political Sciences Studies at the Russian Academy of Science’ Institute for African Studies.

However, there are some factors that could contain the coronavirus spread. As is well-known, COVID-19 poses the most danger to elderly people. The average age in Africa is 20 years, and only three percent of the population are older than 65. This gives reason to believe that the death rates in Africa will be lower than in other parts of the world.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Coronavirus pandemic denies Turkey leverage to pressure EU

The Erdogan regime continues to use the Syrian refugee crisis as blackmail against the European Union amid the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the refugees are a social group particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, which complicates attempts to capitalize on the issue, Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted.

A recent statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has clarified that Ankara seeks to make Brussels abide by an agreement that the parties reached in 2016, when Turkey closed its borders with the European Union to migrants, and the EU vowed to pay six bln euro to Ankara in return.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus situation has made migration from Syria impossible. The Turkish government has closed checkpoints on the Syrian border.

According to Ankara Policy Center expert Orhan Gafarli, the Turkish public fears that the migrants will bring the coronavirus with them. Apart from Syrians, it also concerns those coming from Afghanistan, who arrive in Turkey via Iran - a country deemed to be the coronavirus epicenter of the Middle East.

The Turkish expert admitted that given the unprecedented spread of COVID-19, the threat of another migration crisis was becoming less important as a tool of political pressure. "In the current situation, Europe has more reasons to keep refugees out," Gafarli emphasized. "It gives European countries a chance to stop the human inflow because now they have an official excuse to do it," he added.


Media: Coronavirus self-isolation keeps viewers glued to TV screens

Russia’s TV audience grew by four percent over the past week, and the biggest new viewers recorded were among children and young people who had lost interest in watching TV in recent years. This is part of a global trend that has emerged in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Kommersant wrote.

Self-isolation and telecommuting did not lead to a surge in daily TV viewing rates in Moscow on March 16-22, but changed the audience’s preferences, Director General of MediaHills TV analytics Andrei Boyarinov noted. He pointed to increased interest in content offered by most news channels, as well as channels specializing in feature films and educational shows, particularly those related to healthcare.

Online streaming services also saw a rise in views over the past week, with a two-to-four-fold increase in average traffic. Feature films about epidemics and documentaries on the coronavirus are particularly popular with viewers at the moment, said a spokesperson for the Okko multimedia service.

TelecomDaily Director General Denis Kuskov believes that online streaming services’ traffic may continue to grow, especially if the quarantine lasts for a long time. The surge in their audience is temporary but some of the new users will still be there after their self-isolation is over as they will realize the advantages of using legal streaming services and by then they will have gotten used to watching movies and TV series on those platforms, TMT Consulting Managing Partner Konstantin Ankilov noted. As a result, the quarantine will boost the online movie market, the expert emphasized.

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