Questions and pressure on Boris Johnson’s government increased this week over the handling of the Coronavirus crisis after he admitted to misspeaking when asked about the new range of Coronavirus restrictions that had been bought in across the North East. Mr Johnson incorrectly said that people from different households could mix in the pub. Rebel MPs, mostly conservative backbenchers, who had been demanding more parliamentary scrutiny and a vote on future changes to restrictions, leapt on the gaffe saying that it only proved their point.
Students in Lockdown
Thousands of students around the country were locked down after over 40 higher education institutions reported confirmed cases of COVID-19. There is a growing pushback with some suggesting students were tricked to returning to campuses due to universities reliant on fees and rent payments. The Office for Students has said it is launching an investigation into the quality of education provided by universities in the coronavirus crisis amid growing calls for a refund of tuition fees.
The EU Responds
In response to the UK Governments plans to break international law through the passing of the Internal Market Bill, the EU said that it would launch legal action. Although commentators observed that it was far more likely the two sides will reach a political solution before any legal action could be completed, it is none the less a clear statement that the EU has taken a dim view of the UKs actions.
Tax, Tests, and Tantrums
This week featured the first of the debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden as election day nears. The debate descended into little more than interruptions and squabbling, with Joe Biden turning to Donald Trump and saying “Will you shut up man!” (a line immediately snapped up by his campaign team who managed to have t-shirts featuring the line on sale before the debate was finished), and was described by CNNs Jake Tapper as a “hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a trainwreck” According to CNNs Jake Tapper. While there may have been little in the way of policy discussions, several key moments emerged including when President Trump failed to condemn white supremacists and far right groups, such as the Proud Boys, instead saying “stand back and stand by”.
Earlier in the week the New York Times published the presidents much sought after tax returns that showed that he had avoided paying any federal income tax in 10 of the last 15 years and, during his first year as president, had paid a mere $750. In any other week, that would be the headline and indeed it was thought that the release of those would stick with the president through to elections day. However, all that was slightly undone when…
Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday and would later end up in hospital as a result. On Saturday, Trump’s doctor said the president had made substantial progress but was not out of the woods yet – this was in response to a flurry of confusion that had been raining for most of the day over contradictory reports. In a video posted on Twitter ahead of his second night in hospital he said he was doing well but that the “real test” will come over the next few days.
Mr Trump and his team have regularly been seen without masks with a lax approach to social distancing and ramming the campaign message home that the pandemic was more or less over. Now, not only the president but also the first lady, the chair of the RNC, aides, advisors and others have tested positive. A crowded white house event last weekend attended to nominate Amy Coney-Barrett as Mr Trump’s pick as Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s successor on the Supreme court is being scrutinised as a possible “super-spreader” event.
An Enclave on the Edge
Fighting broke out in and around a disputed enclave within Azerbaijan which is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians and backed by Armenia. Over 100 people have been killed, mostly soldiers. The fighting was the worst since 1994 and the two countries have been fighting each other over the territory since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Turkey’s president Erdogan urged his fellow Muslims to regain control of the area. Russia meanwhile called for a ceasefire.
A Grim Milestone
Worldwide, the number of people who have been confirmed as having died from COVID-19 passed one million. It is thought that in reality that figure will be much higher for reasons such as testing inaccuracies and inadequacies, and those who die at home going underreported or unreported completely. There are also thought to be a large number of indirect deaths through situations such as people avoiding medical treatment for conditions in an effort to stay away from hospitals, and those whose treatments have been otherwise delayed and disrupted.
- The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah died at the age of 91. His successor has been named as his 83-year-old half-brother, Nawaf al-Sabah.
- Subway ran in to trouble in Irish supreme court after its bread was ruled to not legally be bread due to its high sugar content.
- Amnesty International has closed its offices in India saying its operation had now become untenable, accusing the Indian government of a witch hunt after, among other things, closing its bank accounts.
In local news, Royal Holloway confirmed its first case of COVID-19. It was not clarified whether the individual was a staff member or a student but a statement from the university said they were now self-isolating along with members of their household in line with government guidance.
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