India COVID crisis; Jerusalem clash; Belarus sanctions

In today’s episode, we revisit India’s COVID situation as scientists work to ascertain whether a mutated coronavirus strain, first reported from the country last year, is responsible for the record number of COVID cases being reported by New Delhi every day, examine escalating tensions in Jerusalem even as world leaders call for both Israel and Palestine to de-escalate immediately and discuss the possibility of the European Union placing more sanctions on Belarus over last year’s controversial elections.

Today on The Leaders' Brief -
  • The World Health Organisation classified four variants of the 2019 coronavirus, including one first reported from India, last year, as a “variant of global concern.” The other three variants include those reported from the UK, South Africa and Brazil. According to preliminary investigations, the B.1.617 mutation first reported from India spreads more easily and has already been reported from 30 other countries. India, itself, has become the epicentre for the 2019 coronavirus and is reporting anywhere between 300-400,000 cases every day. 

  • Jerusalem, for the past one week, has been experiencing what is being termed its worst violence in years. Tensions flared up between Palestine’s Hamas group and Israeli forces this Monday after the former fired rockets towards Jerusalem in retaliation to clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at a compound hosting Islam’s third holiest site, the al-Aqsa mosque. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent over 700 Palestinians were injured in clashes. 

  • The 27-member European Union is readying a fourth round of sanctions against senior Belarus officials in response to last year’s controversial presidential elections that saw Alexander Lukashenka win a sixth term in office with over 80% of the vote share. Thousands of protestors have been arrested since last year, after the country’s first and only president Alexander Lukashenka won the August 9th Presidential polls with an improbable 80% vote share. The country’s opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who enjoys large popularity in the erstwhile Societ republic, continues to exile herself in Lithuania. 

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