Our editors give us a breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories
United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice
Boris Johnson announced the lifting of some lockdown measures in England: people will be allowed to exercise multiple times per day, and those who cannot work from home will be encouraged to go back to work. The Welsh and Scottish governments are also allowing people to leave the house to exercise more than once a day. Northern Ireland is keeping their lockdown measures in place.
Boris Johnson announced the government’s new lockdown slogan, “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”. The slogan has faced criticism from the meaning of “stay alert” being unclear. The UK Government also did not consult the devolved nations on the new slogan, and they have emphasised that they are sticking to the “stay home” message.
The UK Government released its first coronavirus contact-tracing app, and then promptly ordered work to start on a second app. Fears have been raised that the first app has privacy and data protection issues that would make it illegal under UK law. The first app is still being used to test the government’s contract-tracing approach in the Isle of Wight. Wales may use the app. Scotland and Northern Ireland are developing their own contact tracing systems. The Republic of Ireland’s health minister has also said their contact tracing app may be extended to Northern Ireland.
The UK Government has also failed to meet their 100,000 tests target repeatedly over the last week.
Europe: Lucy Wright
Just days after Germany eased its lockdown restrictions, the number of coronavirus infections is rising. According to official data produced by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s reproduction rate has risen above 1, meaning the number of infections is rising in the country. Thousands of Germans gathered on Saturday, calling for a total end to the lockdown, following the announcement by Chancellor Angela Merkel of a broad relaxation of national restrictions on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are to establish a Batlic ‘travel bubble’ as the three countries begin to ease restrictions. The respective prime ministers have agreed to open their borders to one another’s citizens from 15 May, agreeing that each had successfully managed the spread of Covid-19 and citing trust in each other’s health care systems as vital to the viability of such an agreement. Some have predicted that Finland and Poland may be able to join the travel bubble at a later date. A similar proposal has been discussed between Australia and New Zealand and may be realised later on in the year.
Africa: Lucy Wright
Lockdown restrictions appear to be easing up on the continent, as Ivory Coast has reopened bars and restaurants in all provinces except from the city of Abidjan. While announcing the easing of restrictions, President Alassane Ouattara said there had been “satisfactory results” so far but warned that “we have not yet won the battle”. Gatherings of up to 200 people are now allowed but social distancing has to be ensured.
Yet the easing of restrictions has appeared to have negative results in Nigeria. The governor of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, has warned that coronavirus lockdown measures may need to be reinstated if its citizens continue to flout social distancing rules. On Monday, Nigeria decided to ease restrictions, following a five-week lockdown in Lagos and the country’s capital, Abuja. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, wrote on Twitter that it was disappointing to see crowds of people at banks and markets across Lagos state ignoring the ban on public gatherings.
Across the continent, there has been concern for the welfare of African wildlife, as levels of poaching have increased following the collapse of the tourism sector. Safari guides and tourists are said to act as eyes and ears, helping to prevent and report the poaching of animals, but with the collapse of the tourism sector combined with a decrease in donations to animal welfare charities, cases are unfortunately surging.
Americas: Lucy Wright
The Paraguayan President, Mario Abdo Benítez has argued that the spread of coronavirus in Brazil threatens his country’s success in containing the virus. This comes as more than half of Paraguay’s 563 cases were people who had entered from neighbouring Brazil. While Paraguay has spent the last two months under a strict lockdown, with many victims of the disease being quarantined in guarded shelters, Brazil has become the worst-hit country in South America, perhaps as a result of the actions of President Bolsonaro.
Meanwhile, in the United States, it appears that President Trump’s handling of the virus may be costing him votes in the senior demographic. President Trump and the Republican party have traditionally relied on older Americans, the largest voting bloc, to offset the Democrat’s advantage with younger voters. Yet, with seniors most vulnerable to the negative health consequences of coronavirus, internal polls have shown his support amongst voters over the age of 65 soften to a concerning degree.
Asia: Lucy Wright
Li Bin, Director of China’s National Health Commission, has admitted to Chinese media that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed weaknesses in China’s public health system, following a period of sustained criticism abroad of China’s early response. He says that the country will now improve its disease prevention, public health system and data collection. This kind of admission is rare in China, where public policy is seldom scrutinised by senior officials.
Meanwhile, South Korea has managed to avoid the peaks and fatalities seen elsewhere due to the government’s implementation of an aggressive test, trace and contain policy. A tracking app using GPS on mobile phones paired with CCTV footage has successfully managed to identify Covid-19 carriers and notify people in recent contact and at risk. As other nations seem to be increasingly turning towards technology to help combat the virus, the measures taken by South Korea may constitute a potential model for emulation.