Coronavirus tinderbox in the developing world

The recent flare-ups of protests and unrest in South Africa, Cuba, Colombia, Brazil, Lebanon and other places have specific causes but there is also a common thread that suggests a systemic failure – a pandemic that refuses to abate and is ripping societies apart

South African police officers on alert amid continuing protests over the imprisonment last week of former president Jacob Zuma. PHOTO: REUTERS

(NYTIMES) - The images flooding out of riot-torn South Africa are horrifying. On Tuesday, a woman in a high-rise building apparently set alight by looters tossed her child to the hoped-for safety of a crowd far below. Emergency workers have been attacked in several places; one medical service began transporting the injured in an armoured ambulance. In much of the central district of the port city of Durban, the police were overwhelmed and shopping malls and stores were gutted.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned against ethnic conflict, a threat his critics called groundless and that only increased tensions. But as I swiped through the pictures and videos flying across my South African relatives' group chats this week, I was struck by the many posts that suggested an even bitterer flavour of doom - a kind of psychological crack-up.

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