The World This Week

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

United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice

Boris Johnson was briefly placed into intensive care for coronavirus at St Thomas’ hospital in London. He has since left hospital, but will not return immediately to work.

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, resigned after flouting her own lockdown rules by twice visiting her second home in Fife.

The government was criticised by doctors for failing to provide adequate protective equipment, putting them at high risk for coronavirus. 19 NHS workers have died so far from the virus.

Economic forecasts painted a grim picture for the UK economy under lockdown. An average of forecasts predicted that it would shrink by 14% in the second quarter.

Europe: Charlie Whiteley

Despite infighting among European member states, the EU passed economic relief packages worth 500 billion euros. Finding emergency funding had been difficult, with Southern European countries like Italy and Spain needing immediate help to quell financial worries. The agreed deal represents only a temporary fix, with EU states hoping to achieve a long term spending plan soon.

 On Wednesday, Denmark will reopen schools to children aged 11 and under, helping the country’s plan to return to normalcy. Along with other Northern European countries, Denmark is embracing a less restrictive lockdown model, hoping to keep the economy running through the pandemic. With the epidemic seemingly well managed there, the world will be watching for how effective the lifting of lockdown rules may be. 

In Belarus, society is still going on as normal, even the country’s domestic football league. However, with citizens largely unwilling to attend matches, some teams have placed mannequins in the stands to act as “virtual fans”. In Europe’s last dictatorship, there are worrying signs that the lack of measures may spiral the epidemic out of control.

Asia: Max Dowden

Despite widespread fears surrounding its continued COVID-19 outbreak, the government of South Korea has announced that it will be going ahead with the planned General Assembly elections on April 15th. Strict health protocols have been put into place to attempt and avoid a mass of new infections centered on polling stations, and many believe that the electoral contest, normally viewed as a litmus test of the popularity of the presidency, could serve as a useful benchmark for assessing public perception of President Moon Jae-In.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has been using global distraction at the global health emergency to step up its aggressive pressure on Taiwan, holding a swath of new military drills and stepping up bomber flights in the South China Sea. In reaction, Taiwanese military forces held a major exercise in Taipei, explicitly mimicking a prospective Chinese invasion. 

Even farther to the south, Australia has more and more vocally attempted to force cruise ships docked at Sydney harbor to leave the country, amid concerns about infected passengers or crew. However, some cruise lines have retaliated, stating that certain infected ships are too distressed to set sail.

Africa: Max Dowden

This week, a notable paper published by the Brookings Institute (a left-leaning American think tank) has caught headlines for its advocacy for the IMF and World Bank to step in and offer debt forgiveness African governments, in the hopes of freeing them to more directly fight the effects of COVID-19. Many continental regimes are heavily indebted to other governments or international financial institutions, which has severely limited their ability both to fight the actual human damage of the virus, as well as step-up fiscal-stimulus measures to restart sluggish or shut-down economies.

Meanwhile, despite a lack of fiscal aggressiveness on the part of African governments, many have been greatly stepping up security aggressiveness to attempt to contain the spread of the virus. Police crackdowns have become commonplace in many urban areas across the continent, with South African security forces going so far as to reintroduce the use of infamous ‘sjambok’ whips favored by apartheid-era riot police (which were banned in 1989) to help enforce stay-at-home orders. 

Finally, pioneering research has come out of the University of Rochester which suggests that the earning power of migrant urban workers in Kenya is significantly underestimated by rural inhabitants in the country, a narrative that may be severely hampering development and urbanization. The article highlights the need for African governments to do more in terms of encouraging the free movement of labor around domestic markets, and further encourage the development of rural-urban resettlement. 

Americas: Alex Watt

In recently compiled data by Johns Hopkins University, American COVID-19 deaths have overtaken Italy as the world’s highest. The data – showing that the deaths have exceeded 20,000 – comes shortly after the US became the first state to report over 2,000 deaths in one single day, as the virus gains momentum. 

As many businesses worldwide have redirected their production efforts to help fight the virus, one Pennsylvania-based athletic apparel company, Fanatics, has begun to make basic PPE out of material normally used for baseball uniforms.

The partner of Julian Assange has revealed he secretly fathered two children while living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Stella Morris, a South African-born lawyer, has been in a relationship with Mr Assange since 2015, and spoke out over fears of the virus spreading in prisons such as Belmarsh Prison where Mr Assange is being held.

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