Current Affairs Digest: World Affairs

Catch up on international affairs articles you may have missed in May 2020, including Germany’s approach to tackling coronavirus and plans to reopen the US economy.

100 days of coronavirus in Germany

The German approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic has been largely viewed as a success by global commentators. This article considers the actions that Germany took in the first hundred days of the virus; analysing what the country did well, what might be put down to luck and good timing, and what challenges it faced.

The author discusses the positive role that Angela Merkel played in keeping the public informed about the pandemic. The author evidences Ms Merkel’s success by stating that the period before the pandemic had been difficult for both the leader and her party, but that the chancellor’s popularity rating has recently increased to as much as 80%.

The article puts the discovery of the virus in Germany down to good luck, stating that the first case of coronavirus was found “by accident” when a hospital decided to test any patient with flu-like symptoms for the virus. It is also noted that the virus “hit young people earlier”.

Turning to the challenges, the article states that the federalist structure of Germany meant that measures to enforce the eventual lockdown were applied unevenly across regions. Whilst these challenges were lessened by an overall “comprehensive strategy”, the article ends by questioning whether differences in states’ plans to re-open could cause a second wave of the virus.

Read the full article: William Noah Glucroft, ‘Coronavirus in Germany: 100 days later’, Deutsche Wells, 5 May 2020.

Reopening the US economy

Reports have emerged that various US states are looking to reopen their economies sooner rather than later. This blog post considers the importance of viewing the US economy alongside that of its North American partner, Canada.

The article begins by criticising the US executive’s response to the pandemic. The authors state that “in the absence of federal leadership and direction”, individual state governors have started to make pacts with one another along regional lines. The authors raise concerns that these pacts will not be enough to save local economies, especially in western states, unless further cooperation is sought from across the border in Canada.

Of particular concern to the authors is the virtual closure of the US–Canada border at Peace Arch, between Washington and British Columbia. They note that travel across the border has decreased by 98% during the pandemic, affecting businesses in both areas. The article states that reopening the border must be agreed by both President Trump and Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau. The authors express concern that the US president’s insistence to start reopening state economies before the virus is under control may mean that Trudeau keeps the border shut for some time.

The article ends by urging close working between US states and Canada to ensure economic prosperity is preserved. They hope that any cross-border cooperation in North America may also encourage similar measures globally.

Read the full article: Edward Alden and Laurie Trautman, ‘The states and reopening under covid-19: Why we need North American co-operation’, Council on Foreign Relations, 24 April 2020.

Coronavirus in Brazil

Frida Ghitis argues that the case for impeaching the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, is increasing. The author states that the deciding factor for impeachment has been the president’s handling of coronavirus, which she argues has shown “his incompetence and demagoguery in full view”. Reports suggest that Brazil could be the next epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking at Bolsonaro’s handling of coronavirus, Ghitis draws comparisons between the Brazilian president and US president, Donald Trump. She states that both leaders have said that measures against the virus cannot be worse than the illness, and both have publicly supported the use of malaria drugs to fight coronavirus despite no scientific backing for this claim. The author states that Bolsonaro has also rejected quarantine measures and social distancing, calling coronavirus a “measly cold”.

Ghitis argues that the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated concerns already present about the president’s suitability for office. For example, she highlights an allegation that the president replaced the head of the national police to stop the police opening an investigation into the president’s sons. The country’s supreme court is now looking at that allegation . The article states that such investigations, against the backdrop of a poorly managed health crisis, could mark the end for Bolsonaro’s leadership.

Read the full article: Frida Ghitis, ‘Brazil’s Bolsonaro is writing his political obituary with Covid-19’, World Politics Review, 30 April 2020.