Highlights of the Week

Our editors give us a breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories 

United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice 

Amid the spread of coronavirus in the UK, Boris Johnson warned that everyone should avoid social contact to help slow the spread of the virus. Schools were shut in both England and Scotland with exams also being cancelled. The government also called upon firms to mass produce ventilators with fears that the NHS would not have enough to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases.

As part of its economic response, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government would guarantee £330 billion in loans to help businesses. In addition, the government said they would pay up to 80% of worker’s wages (up to £2500 a month) if they are at risk of being laid off due to the virus.

The Bank of England complemented these measures with a further rate cut from 0.25% to 0.1%.

Nonetheless some firms still laid off staff and received public criticism for doing so. Meanwhile, supermarkets were under pressure to hire more staff to cope with the surge in demand from panic buying.

Europe: Charlie Whiteley 

Europe continues its struggle against the Coronavirus, with countries trying new measures each day to stop its exponential spread. In Italy, which now has the most deaths from the virus, the government has imposed stricter quarantine measures, including the closure of public parks. Other European countries are studying Italy’s strategy, hoping to gain crucial insight into curbing further infections.

Netflix has been forced to lower its streaming quality in Europe due to a surge in demand. With millions under strict quarantine measures, Europe’s internet usage has gone up 50%. As the Coronavirus pandemic edges closer to its peak, major websites will need to find ways to cope with and take advantage of this trend. 

Africa: Camille Capelle

African economies are bracing themselves for the detrimental effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Uganda has adapted its growth forecasts to take into account travel restrictions and trade disruptions, which will negatively impact key sectors of its economy such as tourism and industry.

Nigeria has decided to transform its exchange rate from the multiple exchange rate for local currencies to a single rate for the naira. While the old system was criticized for its inefficiency by the IMF, the new system hopes to simplify transactions and to reduce the effects of reduced oil prices on national income. 

Other countries are taking gradual measures to help halt the spread of the virus. South African announced a ban on travel to “high-risk” countries and South African Airways have suspended all international flights in response. Private jet bookings in Nigeria, on the other hand, are experiencing a significant surge in bookings. 

Generally, however, response has been slow as social distancing measures have not yet gained popularity. If a true outbreak is to be contained, African countries will have to act more quickly and decisively to protect their populations and potential high-risk patients. 

Americas: Alex Watt 

In the Democratic Presidential Nomination race, former Vice President Joe Biden has taken the latest three states to vote – Florida, Illinois, and Arizona – in another huge blow to Senator Bernie Sanders’ second-placed campaign. With nearly sixty percent of all delegates allocated in the race, Mr Biden stands on 1,201 delegates to Mr Sanders’s 896 delegates, with fellow candidate Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard having dropped out recently. Mr Sanders and his campaign are rumoured to be evaluating their place in the race, as Biden gains momentum and looks ever more likely to win the nomination.

Countries in Latin America are gearing up to fight COVID-19, as cases – while nowhere near European levels – are beginning to rise. Venezuela has declared the whole country to be under quarantine as of Tuesday, as cases rose from 16 to 33 in one day, while Peru has already closed its borders and Chile is seeing a sharp uptake as cases go into the hundreds. But, in some countries the response has been more muted; while certain large cities in Brazil have been shutting down large gatherings and closing schools, Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro has faced criticism for dismissing concerns over the virus as “hysteria” and “fantasy”.

Asia: Max Dowden

This week, as with many regions of the world, all eyes have fallen on the economic and political responses of national governments to the COVID-19 crisis. Much of the fear surrounding the virus has gone from the prospective infection and death toll to larger concerns about the lasting regional economic impact of its spread.

In Japan, with interest rates already in the negative and other aggressive monetary policies stalling, the government has now turned towards emergency fiscal stimulus to attempt to prop up faltering Japanese businesses.

China is stepping up a program to inject trillions of yuan into the country’s infrastructure projects in the form of local government bonds. And even Australia, long seen as a bulwark of economic stability in the region, is now widely expected to have to contend with its first recession in over twenty-eight years. As the virus continues to spread and the global economy continues to sputter, only time will tell if Asian governments are able to buoy their troubled markets through the storm. 

Middle East: Ali Drabu

COVID-19 continues to trouble many Middle Eastern states – Suspension of Friday prayers, border closures and nationwide lockdowns are becoming commonplace across the region.

Iraq recently announced a nationwide lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, called for support from the army and security forces to enforce social distancing and ensure people stay within their homes to prevent further infections. Turkey has also closed its borders with two of its European neighbours, Greece and Bulgaria.

Palestinian officials recently announced the first two cases of COVID-19 in Gaza, both of which were from individuals returning from Pakistan, whilst the West Bank city of Bethlehem remains under lockdown. Authorities in Gaza have also decided to shut down restaurants, cafes and reception halls in response to the outbreak.

Turkish Airlines announced that 85 percent of its passenger aircraft are not being used due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker has also said his airline will carry any donated medical supplies and equipment from all around the world to Iran on its aircraft “free of charge.” Iran has been the worst-affected nation in the region, with over 20,000 cases and the death toll now standing at 1,685.

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