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Don’t Touch Your Face

Don’t Touch Your Face: The Southeast Asia Conundrum

A man, wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus, poses for a selfie in front of a Buddha painting during the Visak Bochea Buddhist celebration in Phnom Penh on May 6.
A man, wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus, poses for a selfie in front of a Buddha painting during the Visak Bochea Buddhist celebration in Phnom Penh on May 6. TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images

On this week’s episode: The infection numbers have been low, but that hasn’t stopped some leaders from using the pandemic to restrict freedoms.

The question of why some countries and regions have been worse hit by the coronavirus than others will likely puzzle scientists for years to come. Despite high rates of poverty and fragile health care systems, Southeast Asia has so far reported comparatively few cases of the coronavirus, with Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia reporting no deaths at all. Despite this, leaders in the region have seized on the pandemic as an opportunity to crack down on freedom of speech. 

This week’s episode looks at how the coronavirus has affected Southeast Asia. Don’t Touch Your Face hosts Amy Mackinnon and James Palmer are joined by Tikki Pangestu, a visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, and Mu Sochua, a board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and a former Cambodian member of parliament.

Further Reading

Coronavirus ‘Fake News’ Arrests Are Quieting Critics,” Foreign Policy

The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others?The New York Times

Why has eastern Europe suffered less from coronavirus than the west? The Guardian

About Don’t Touch Your Face:  On the last day of 2019, China reported an unusual outbreak in Wuhan, a port city with a population of 11 million. Within two months, the disease would spread to almost every continent on the globe and kill thousands of people. From Foreign Policy, a podcast about the extent of the COVID-19 contagion, the threat it poses, and what countries are doing to contain it. Join FP’s James Palmer and Amy Mackinnon as they track the spread of the virus and explore what it means for people’s everyday lives. Have a coronavirus question for us to explore? Email it to donttouchyourface@foreignpolicy.com.  See All Episodes

More Don’t Touch Your Face episodes:

Don’t Touch Your Face: What the AIDS Epidemic Tells Us About COVID-19

On our final episode (for now), we examine an older public health crisis and the lessons it offers.

Don’t Touch Your Face: Dating During Covid-19

On this week’s episode: How the pandemic is changing the way we meet people.

Don’t Touch Your Face: Pandemic Within a Pandemic

On this week’s episode: How the world may see more protests as lockdowns lift.

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