By Julie Ngalle and Chloé Meley
The UK is making its first tentative steps to ease the lockdown, amid confusing advice from the government. Whilst the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are maintaining strict stay-at-home orders until at least the end of May, England has abandoned the ‘stay at home’ message for the vague and much-criticised ‘stay alert’ slogan. Lockdown was also slightly relaxed this week in England following Boris Johnson’s address on Sunday evening. Workers who cannot work from home were encouraged to return to work this week (although they were told to avoid using public transport to do so), people are allowed to meet up with one person from outside their household in outdoor open spaces, and there is no time limit on outdoor exercise. The government is also considering the potential reopening of primary schools from 1st of June, although nothing is yet guaranteed.
The contradictory character of those measures has left Britons perplexed, unsure about what they can and cannot do. Many have condemned the decision to lift the lockdown, which they consider irresponsible given the UK’s position as the world’s second hardest hit country and the strain that the NHS is still under. For some, lifting the lockdown despite the threat still posed by the virus also amounts to privileging the economy over the health of working-class and minority ethnic citizens, who are less likely to have jobs that can be conducted safely from home.
In more positive news, an antibody test, which can indicate whether someone was infected by the virus and is now immune, has been developed and could soon start being administered to health workers. Antibody tests up until now had not been reliable enough, but this one, developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, has been officially approved by Public Health England. Although the scientific community does not yet know how long immunity lasts in the case of coronavirus, antibody tests would nevertheless be of crucial help in the fight against Covid-19.
What happened to Belly Mujinga?
Belly Mujinga, a 47-year-old railway worker, died on 5th of April of coronavirus, which she very likely caught when someone spat on her whilst she was working at Victoria station in London on 22nd of March. Mrs Mujinga, who leaves behind an 11-year-old girl, had underlying respiratory problems. She fell ill with the virus within days of the incident, and was admitted to Barnet Hospital on 2nd of April, where she was put on a ventilator and died three days later. The man who assaulted her, along with another colleague, claimed he carried the virus. A police investigation has been launched, but her attacker remains unknown.
Transport workers in stations around London report feeling scared and anxious to interact with potentially ill-intentioned customers, especially now that lockdown measures have been eased. Mrs Mujinga’s employer, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), has faced questions from TSSA, the union for people in transport and travel, about their decision to put on the front-line someone who they knew fell within the “at-risk” category. TSSA have also called for a compensation scheme to be put in place for transport workers who died of Covid-19.
Who were the men killed in Burkina Faso?
In the night of Monday 11th of May, 12 men who were detained for their supposed involvement in terrorist operations died in their cells in the eastern town of Fada N’Gourma in Burkina Faso. An investigation into their deaths has been launched, which may have been caused by asphyxiation according to the AFP news agency.
Human Rights Watch have accused Burkinabe security forces of regularly executing suspected terrorists in their fight against Islamic insurgents. There is an ethnic component to the situation as well, as citizens belonging to the Fula ethnic group have been repeatedly mistreated by the government’s security forces, who believe the Fula have ties to jihadists. Earlier this month, a Fula teacher with alleged links to terrorist associations was found dead in a police station in Ouagadougou, the nation’s capital.
What does the resignation of the WTO’s president mean for the future?
On the 14th of May, to everyone’s surprise, Roberto Azevêdo, director-general of the WTO, announced his resignation. Many now wonder what this decision will mean for the global response to coronavirus. Indeed, this sudden departure does raise questions on how the unprecedented international economic downturn resulting from the pandemic will be handled, and who the WTO will side with in its pursuit of open trade and international cooperation. This resignation is indicative of an organisation in crisis, which is only worsened by President Trump’s unrelenting criticism of the WTO’s trajectory.
As we know by now, the trading system has been massively impacted by the pandemic and lockdowns that came with it. Having to find a new chief for the WTO is therefore a distracting process from this issue, which comes at a moment when the world cannot afford to lose time. However, it should be noted that although the announcement was made this week, Azevêdo will not be vacating his position before the 31st of August, which gives the organisation and world leaders time to fill this position and rethink the global strategy with regards to coronavirus.
What is this new disease infecting kids?
Covid-19 is a virus that did not seem to threaten children’s health, which many found was a reassuring silver-lining as they watched death counts and infection rates grow. However, in the past couple of weeks, in several countries such as France, Italy or the United States, many doctors and medical centres have noticed a disease linked to coronavirus being contracted by children. So far, this inflammatory disease seems fairly new to the medical field and therefore many questions remain unanswered. Symptoms include fever, sharp abdominal pain, rash, reddish eyes and swollen lymph nodes. One effect of this illness is it has sent a proportion of patients into toxic shock, with very low blood pressure and deregulated circulation causing organs to not be properly oxygenated.
The fact that in several cases, patients have needed additional oxygen, but also the fact it can have effects on patients’ lungs has got people thinking it could be another form of coronavirus. THis is fortunately not the case as many of the symptoms differ and so do the effects on the body. The only real link lies in the fact that children who contracted this had either tested positive for coronavirus or developed antibodies suggesting they might have contracted it at some point. Children seem to be more vulnerable to this simply due to their immune system not being fully developed. So far, it is not considered a massively fatal disease and it is still too early to evaluate how common and contagious it is. However, many doctors have recommended that if children start showing symptoms, they are brought to a paediatrician.