© Financial Times

This is an audio transcript of the FT News Briefing podcast episode: Afghanistan’s president flees his country

Lauren Fedor
Good morning from the Financial Times, today is Monday, August 16th, and this is your FT News Briefing. Afghanistan’s president has fled the country as the Taliban advances on Kabul. In Haiti, the death toll is rising from Saturday’s earthquake and now a tropical storm is on the way. Plus, the Delta variant is spreading and governments are using all kinds of tactics to get people vaccinated.

Clive Cookson
The problem with all these incentives and all these mandates is that although they seem to work in the short term, it’s further intensified the people marching at weekends in protest. The anti-vaxxers may be a small minority, but they’ve been revitalised by this.

Lauren Fedor
I’m Lauren Fedor, in for Marc Filippino. And here’s the news you need to start your day.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled his country yesterday as the Taliban poured into Kabul. They’re on the verge of regaining control of the capital nearly 20 years after they were ousted by an invasion led by the US. Panicked Afghan citizens also tried to flee and there was chaos at Kabul airport. Meanwhile, the US and European governments raced to evacuate their citizens. Many Afghans expressed fury at the US focus on evacuating its own citizens and leaving the local population at the mercy of the Taliban.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

And Haiti is reeling from the massive earthquake that struck this weekend. By Sunday night officials had counted more than twelve hundred people dead and nearly 6,000 injured. Now there’s a tropical storm headed towards the island. Here’s the FT’s Gideon Long.

Gideon Long
The US National Hurricane Center is warning that it will bring heavy rainfall and then it could lead to flash and urban flooding. So it could be flooding in the affected area by the earthquake. That’s why rescuers in the area are trying to get as many people from the rubble as they can as quickly as possible and to also treat the injured. The hospitals in the area that’s been hit by the earthquake are apparently overcapacity. So there’s an urgency because of the imminent arrival of Tropical Storm Grace.

Lauren Fedor
Gideon, the earthquake comes at a terrible time for Haiti. The country’s president was assassinated last month. There’s so much political uncertainty, not to mention widespread gang violence. Are there security concerns affecting the relief effort?

Gideon Long
There are if you look at the map of Haiti, the worst affected area from the earthquake is a peninsula. The whole of the south of Haiti is a long peninsula, and the worst affected areas are right at the end of that peninsula. There’s one road which leads from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to the peninsula, and it’s been blocked in recent weeks by criminal gangs. Now, it’s unclear if those gangs are allowing aid to go through or if they’re hampering the relief efforts. So there is some uncertainty. I’ve been talking to aid workers in Port-au-Prince and they’re just not sure that they can actually get the aid through because of the security situation.

Lauren Fedor
Gideon Long covers Haiti for the FT.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Many countries thought they were winning the race against Covid, but now they’re confronting another spike in cases, so they have to keep pushing people to get vaccinated. Officials are using all kinds of carrots and sticks, but both those approaches have their own risks. I’m joined by our science editor, Clive Cookson. Hi, Clive.

Clive Cookson
Hi, Lauren.

Lauren Fedor
So we should probably start out by saying this is a rich country problem. What do you mean when you say that?

Clive Cookson
It’s a problem for countries that have plenty of vaccine supplies and are now trying to get the reluctant adults, young adults in particular, to take them up. And those are countries in Europe and North America in particular. Of course, poorer parts of the world, especially in Africa, are very, very short of vaccines. They’d love to have this problem. But if we look at Europe and North America, I think they’re doing pretty well in terms of numbers vaccinated. Their figures are above 70 per cent of adults almost everywhere.

Lauren Fedor
So, you know, that 70 per cent threshold, it seems that’s not good enough though, right? Policymakers want to bring that number higher. What are they doing in terms of stick when it comes to convincing the unvaccinated to get vaccinated?

Clive Cookson
Well, the stick approach is really gaining traction now. There are two sorts of sticks or mandates, as they’re now being called. One is that you need proof of vaccination, a health pass or a vaccine pass to go into restaurants, places of leisure and entertainment. So that’s one sort of compulsion. The other is you need to be doubly vaccinated to work. And an increasing number of employers, particularly in the states, are saying if you’re not vaccinated by so typically, I think mid-October to give people time, then you’re not gonna work with us any longer.

Lauren Fedor
Are there risks with these approaches? You know, could they backfire, whether it’s the carrot or the stick?

Clive Cookson
I think that the carrots risk annoying people who’ve already been vaccinated, doubly vaccinated willingly. And if you then see someone else being offered a 100 or 300 dollars to do the same thing as you did without any carrot, that’s annoying. And I’ve already seen that in social media. When it comes to the stick, there’s a real risk of alienation. I think the problem with all these incentives and all these mandates is that although they seem to work in the short term, it’s further intensified the people marching at weekends in protest. The anti-vaxxers may be a small minority, but they’ve been revitalised by this. So I would say it’s the sort of increasing divisions that is the real downside of this.

Lauren Fedor
Are there other tactics that public health experts and policymakers are suggesting as an alternative?

Clive Cookson
What public health experts and vaccinologists would love is to do away with the carrots and the sticks and use the power of persuasion. It’s thought that the vehemently anti-vax feeling is quite a smallish hard core and there are probably more people who are reluctant. They may not have time to take an hour or two to go to a vaccine centre. So if you can persuade them that it really is worth doing that the benefits of vaccination for them personally as well as their sort of social responsibility outweigh the very small risks of side effects, then that will help. You also need, I think, to make it more convenient. So there’s increasing emphasis on mobile vaccine clinics, vaccine busses, taking the vaccines to where people are so that you can very, very quickly get your jab and get out again.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lauren Fedor
Despite the Delta variant, in Austria, officials have gone ahead with the world famous classical music festival in Salzburg.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

The city hosted a scaled-back festival last year, but this year it’s in full swing. Streets are filled with concert goers and performances are packed. That’s even though Covid cases are creeping up in the country and about half the population there is vaccinated. There is a Covid safety strategy and it’s been shared with over 50 institutions worldwide as an example of how to stage cultural events safely.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

You can read more on all of these stories at FT.com. This has been your daily FT News Briefing. Make sure you check back tomorrow for the latest business news.

This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error please send the details for a correction to: typo@ft.com. We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.

Get alerts on Transcript when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section