The World This Week

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

United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice 

The government faced criticism for being disorganised and giving mixed messages on the roll out of coronavirus tests. As a result few NHS staff have been tested for the virus. Ramping up mass testing will also take longer than expected, making it more difficult to gauge the true extent of the virus within the country.

The NHS Nightingale finished construction. Its 4,000 beds will help the NHS cope with the increasing number of coronavirus cases. Other NHS Nightingale hospitals in Birmingham and Manchester are still under construction. NHS Scotland and NHS Wales (separate institutions from the English NHS) are also building their own temporary hospitals.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the (English) NHS will have £13.4 billion of debt written off in a move to ease its financial strain amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Keir Starmer was elected the new leader of the Labour Party. He won a majority of the vote, coming ahead of his rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy.

A group of goats exploited the coronavirus lockdown by invading the Welsh town of Llandudno, wreaking havoc by roaming through the town’s streets and nibbling on hedges.

Europe: Charlie Whiteley

There has been a lot of talk about Sweden’s comparatively relaxed strategy to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Currently there are no strict quarantine measures in place, with schools, restaurants, and parks still running. Sweden has instead recommended guidelines to the public, relying on responsible behaviours from individuals. Thus far, Sweden has fared comparatively well against its European peers, with less than 10,000 recorded cases.

As countries scramble to obtain crucial medical equipment to fight the pandemic, competition in the international market place is changing attitudes towards resource sharing. 3M, a large U.S corporation that produces medical masks, has been ordered by the Trump administration to stop selling products to international buyers. Germany has felt the consequences of this decision, with 200,000 masks diverted away from Germany. Given the scarcity of supplies, the future of this competitive market will be interesting to watch.

The sports industry is set to feel the full brunt of the coronavirus shutdown. With many clubs and leagues in Europe dependent on ticket revenues, unprecedented measures are being taken across Europe. Under pressure from governments, professional footballers have largely agreed to take a wage cut, with Leo Messi and his Barcelona teammates leading the initiative. In the future, organizers will become more strict with expenses to lessen the risk of future pandemics.

Africa: Camille Capelle 

African countries are taking more widespread initiatives to battle coronavirus, to protect their populations and their economies. 

Some of the latest measures include:

– an extension of the curfew in several provinces in Algeria

–       Malawi’s redirection of 10% of government wages to urgent measures in the crisis

–       food donations to vulnerable residents in Kampala, Uganda 

–       Senegal officially declaring a state of emergency, as well as a curfew 

–       the pardoning of over 5000 prisoners in Morocco 

–       Nigeria committing $1.39 billion to the battle against covid-19

However, lockdown itself could have disastrous consequences where limited housing and severe levels of poverty means that social distancing measures in practice become “social compression” instead.

In countries like Tanzania, South Africa, and Nigeria, religious reasons have become an obstacle to effective social distancing as religious institutions have continued to hold mass gatherings, often against government advice. 

A shortage of funds from international institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank, means that no longer term financial aid can be given to those poorer countries that have been struck hard economically by the crisis. Even worse off are poorer countries that do not have access to international financial markets. More funds are being made available through special drawing rights (SDR), although allocation of these could take some time.

The threat of a coronavirus catastrophe on the continent looms large.

Asia: Max Dowden

This week, the United States military took the unprecedented move of furloughing half of its native South Korean workforce for its military bases in the country. The nearly 5,000 workers will be kept at home indefinitely without pay, in the first such layoff in the history of the US-South Korean alliance. The Republic of Korea has so far managed to keep large-scale viral spread at bay without resorting to a total country-wide lockdown, but widespread fears of increased infection rates may make that situation untenable in the near future. 

Meanwhile, in Japan, the death of the country-wide famous comedian Shimura Ken and the government’s decision to delay the Olympics by a year has increased called for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to take drastic action to contain the virus. So far, the government has not declared a formal state of emergency and has not imposed a lockdown, but the Abe cabinet may be pressured into doing so if the pandemic lasts into the Summer months. 

Five days ago, the World Bank published an official report warning that the COVID-19 pandemic will slam many developing economies in Asia (particularly the Southeast region), and could push several into major recessions. Many of these markets are highly dependant on their export and tourism sectors, both of which have been severely disrupted by the virus and subsequent border closures which came as a result.

Americas: Lucy Wright 

Fourteen Latin American and Caribbean countries have requested urgent help from the IMF as the region braces for its worst recession in 50 years. Latin American nations are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak, as the economies were already struggling with multiple shocks, from weaker commodity values, the oil price crash and capital flight. 

While the countries have not been named, Mexico and Colombia already had substantial credit lines from the Fund before the outbreak. Further, Ecuador had already requested rapid financing help from the IMF and is now discussing a broader new programme with the Fund, reflecting the reality of lower oil prices, low growth and higher health spending. Ecuador is one of the worst affected countries in the region. 

The IMF has previously said that it has up to $1tn available globally to help countries manage the financial effects of the coronavirus crisis. 

In North America, New York state now has almost as many coronavirus cases as the whole of Italy, one of the worst-hit countries. US President, Donald Trump, has warned Americans to prepare for the “toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic yet, predicting a surge in deaths. Seeking to reassure the worst-hit states, he has promised medical supplies and military personnel to combat the virus. 

The economic consequences of the coronavirus has led to a decade of job growth coming to an abrupt halt, as hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost across the United States. At 4.4%, the rising unemployment rate has witnessed the biggest one-month jump since 1975, according to data from the US Department of Labor, with leisure and hospitality industries accounting for more than half the job cuts. 

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