The topics selected for discussion in the first edition of 2022 after our holiday break were: the new COVID-19 variant, IHU, the instabilities in Kazakhstan and the Boris Johnson public scandal.
In September 2021, a new COVID-19 variant was detected in France, named after IHU, and there isn’t much information about it, mostly all that was released to public was the fact that the variant has 46 mutations, and it might be worrying, but so far it hasn’t been confirmed if this variant is dangerous or more lethal. Also, the first confirmed patient with the IHU variant had been in Cameroon days before the diagnosis. T
he variant is still being monitored and studied by specialists, mainly the IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute which gave the new variant its name; however, the main concern is about the number of mutations of the spike protein and how it can turn the virus more contagious, which is the case of the Omicron variant. The WHO claimed that the Omicron variant shouldn’t be categorized as “mild” even appearing to result less complications than Delta and it’s rapidly spreading all over the world, causing countries to adopt more restrictions to contain the virus, since the world is experiencing a record number of COVID-19 cases nowadays.
In the very beginning of 2022, protests rose in Kazakhstan because of the fuel price and escalated to a massive dissatisfaction towards the government. The protests were handled with violence by the authorities, claiming that they could “shoot to kill” and so far, at least 164 people have died during the riots and almost 10.000 were detained. It is important to remember that Kazakhstan was a former member of the USSR, and its independence is only 30 years old, which makes Russia still a major player in the area and Russian military troops were sent to Kazakhstan to help restore de order, according to Putin, they will only leave after Kazakhstani authorities confirm the situation is now stable. Also, the country’s largest city, Almaty, had a 5 day-long blackout, cutting Internet connection to the population that was only restored on January 10th. The current situation is still unclear, some speculate that this is mostly a conflict between the government and national elites, but there isn’t any confirmation of it. Kazakhstan is fragile and we can definitely expect further international interference for the next weeks, specially from Russia, and perhaps an increase of arrests and deaths of protesters.
Boris Johnson is under pressure to abdicate the Prime Minister position since the news of his participation in parties during the pandemic emerged recently. The PM was seen in a gathering in the Downing Street Garden with his staff in May 2020, and again in a party at the same place with another 30 people, while the pandemic restrictions prohibited such events in order to avoid contamination. There were other gatherings with Johnson’s presence twice in November, six times in December, and two parties in April 2021, one of them being the most polemic, held the night before Prince Philip’s funeral, however Johnson wasn’t in any of these two parties in 2021. The public opinion is very firm when it comes to irresponsibility and lack of consideration from the PM, since many people were infected and dying in the UK while these events happened. The PM formally apologized to the Queen because of the party before the funeral, but there is a lot of pressure from other political parties for him to resign his role as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.