Our editors give us a breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories
United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice
Health secretary Matt Hancock falsely claimed that the government had reached its 100,00 tests a day target, by including in the figure 39,000 test kits that had been sent out to households but not yet returned to a laboratory. Excluding these kits, the government is testing approximately 80,000 per day.
The UK government announced the five requirements that will influence when it eases the lockdown. The transport secretary Grant Shapps also suggested that working hours could be staggered to make commutes less crowded and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. However, the government has still given scant details of its lockdown exit strategy.
Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds have named their baby son Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson. The names are from their grandfathers and two doctors who treated Boris Johnson for coronavirus. Boris Johnson has said he will take some paternity leave later this year.
Nigel Farage drew fierce criticism after travelling over 100 miles amid the lockdown to film a “video rant about migrants.”
Europe: Charlie Whiteley
Belgium is currently leading the world in Coronavirus deaths per capita. Unlike other European countries, however, the Belgians are adding both deaths and suspected Coronavirus deaths in care homes to their official count. Within Belgium, 53% of Coronavirus deaths have occurred in care homes, a further reminder of the dangers the virus poses to the elderly.
Spain is finally emerging from its weeks-long lockdown, and loosening some restrictions. For the first time, Spaniards have been able to leave their homes and exercise outside. This is just one of the freedoms reintroduced by the government, who plan to start Phase One of reopening. Spain will offer hope to those countries still stuck in lockdown.
Americas: Lucy Wright
Like many economies across the world, Mexico’s economy is shrinking under the pressure of the coronavirus outbreak. Contracting sharply in the first quarter, there are growing fears that the government’s timid fiscal response will prolong the economic pain. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s President, has so far resisted taking on debt to fund a stimulus package, despite forecasts predicting the worst recession in almost a century.
Amidst the global economic collapse, a top UN Official has warned that nearly 29m more people will fall into poverty this year in Latin America and the Caribbean, setting the region back more than a decade in its struggle to reduce inequality. A combination of weak commodity prices, the oil market crash, a sharp drop in remittances and a collapse in tourism has prompted forecasts that the pandemic will damage Latin America’s economies more than those of any other developing region.
Asia: Max Dowden
This week, the enigmatic leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, caused an international frenzy by suddenly reappearing after a mysterious multiple-week absence (believed by many to have been dead). His death was reported to have been the result of a botched heart surgery, but the leader appeared to be in good health as he inspected a state-run factory.
Below the 38th parallel, South Korea has reported the continuation of a promising month-long trend of sub-100 daily COVID cases (just six this Saturday), giving hope that the country’s aggressive containment measures have begun to turn the tide. The government has begun tentatively lifting social distancing guidelines, maintaining the strictest policies only for specific at-risk groups.
Meanwhile, the government of Singapore has announced plans for a tentative re-opening of certain businesses starting on May 12th, after a hasty two-month lockdown aimed at containing a surge in COVID cases. The majority of positive tests have been from the (mostly isolated) population of foreign workers which resides on the island, giving the regime cautious hope that further mass-lockdowns may be unnecessary.
Africa: Lucy Wright
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has illuminated the large gap in testing rates between nations. Some of Africa’s smaller nations have achieved significantly better rates of testing than their larger neighbours, with Mauritius and Djibouti both achieving high rates of testing per capita. Meanwhile, there are concerns that Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is not testing enough – although the government insists it’s focusing on “clusters” of positive cases. There are some countries on the continent where testing data is not available, such as Eritrea and Algeria.
The response from some nations has been far from ideal. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, has delegated the fight to God, encouraging people to gather in churches and mosques. In Kenya, at least 12 people have been shot by police for defying curfew, nearly as many as the 14 confirmed dead from Covid-19 itself.
Yet, in much of Africa, and in spite of worrying budgetary constraints, policy has been well co-ordinated and, so far, surprisingly effective. While it could be that the continent is only at the start of a pandemic that turns out to be much nastier, the low death toll raises hopes that Africa may be spared the worst. It is plausible that certain factors, including youthful populations, may reduce the number of fatalities.