News diary 13-19 April: Extensions anticipated for many coronavirus lockdown measures worldwide

Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week…

Monday

Monday marks three weeks since UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Government would be implementing isolation measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Johnson said the measures, which include orders for people to only leave their homes to shop for necessities, exercise once a day or to travel to or from work if necessary, would be reviewed in three weeks, leading to expectations of an announcement today. But with Johnson still in hospital, ministers are reportedly keen to wait until closer to Thursday’s legal deadline for the review, although it is widely expected that the measures will be extended.

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Italy’s month-long national lockdown is also nominally due to end. Despite some recent flattening of the curve for new cases of Covid-19 and rumours of shops being allowed to re-open, it appears likely that the lockdown will last at least another two weeks. In France, Emmanuel Macron addresses the nation, and will reportedly order an extension of France’s lockdown, which is due to expire on Wednesday.

Tuesday

As Europe’s worst-affected countries look at extending their containment measures, some of the smaller countries have started to take the first steps toward re-opening society. Austria becomes the second to do so, following the Czech Republic’s lead and allowing small shops, DIY stores and garden centres to open under strict social distancing conditions. Larger shops are scheduled to re-open from 1 May, while schools, hotels and restaurants remain closed for the time being.

The International Monetary Fund’s flagship spring meetings amount to a series of virtual press briefings this year, the first two of which launch its biannual World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability Report. The WEO contains the IMF’s projections and analysis for the global financial system, while the GFSR identifies vulnerabilities in the system and corporate debt burdens – both likely to be keenly watched following Kristalina Georgieva’s warning that the world is facing the “worst economic fallout since the Great Depression”.

Wednesday

Parliamentary elections take place in South Korea as the country continues to manage its coronavirus outbreak. The poll is expected to act as a referendum on the government’s response to the crisis, which has been praised by the World Health Organisation for its mass testing and contact tracing enabling the country to contain the pandemic more successfully than its European and American counterparts. The Democratic Party, which currently holds the majority in the National Assembly, will be hoping to benefit from this widespread approval.

G20 finance ministers and central bankers are set to hold another virtual meeting, with the economic fallout from Covid-19 once again set to dominate. In a 31 March call, Georgieva stressed that a G20 action plan was needed to facilitate recovery and stabilise the world economy, and urged members to work on debt relief for poorer countries.

Thursday

In what is likely to be a devastating set of figures, the British Retail Consortium publishes its latest Retail Sales Monitor. The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the sector has been stark – several global fashion brands are reportedly facing the prospect of bankruptcy in the immediate future, with a number of high street big hitters such as Cath Kidston and Debenhams having already run into financial difficulties. There should be better news for grocery chains, with February’s monitor already recording a rise in spending toward the end of the month as coronavirus concerns started to mount.

Further evidence of the havoc being wreaked on the US economy is also likely when the US Department of Labor releases its weekly unemployment claims data. A widely-shared visual representation of the scale of new claims gives some sense of the impact the crisis has had – 17m new jobless claims have been filed in the past four weeks, with unemployment now up to 13 per cent.

Friday

China releases its quarterly GDP and economic data for Q1 (January to March), which will provide clarity on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the world’s second largest economy. Forecasts are not pretty.

Wyoming holds its Democratic presidential primary. All in-person voting has been replaced by mail-in ballots in order to protect the health of Cowboy State voters. It’s hoped that this will result in a more successful primary than Wisconsin’s, where voters were forced to either abstain or risk their health by voting in-person when the state and US Supreme Courts refused to allow the Governor to postpone the primary or expand mail-in voting. Bernie Sanders remains on the ballot despite formally withdrawing from the race, leaving Joe Biden to face Donald Trump in November’s election.

Saturday

A global televised benefit concert takes place to raise funds for the fight against the pandemic. One World: Together at Home is curated by Lady Gaga in partnership with Global Citizen and the WHO. The concert includes performances by Elton John, Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Chris Martin, and Gaga herself, who recently announced that she had raised $35m with Global Citizen for the WHO’s efforts to protect healthcare workers and develop vaccines.

An anniversary which in the current global climate seems nothing short of blissful: it has been 90 years since a BBC news bulletin reported simply: “There is no news”. The scheduled 8.45pm bulletin on 18 April 1930 consisted of that single piece of dialogue, before piano music filled the remainder of the 15-minute segment. What we’d give for a time machine.

Sunday

Saudi Arabia chairs a virtual meeting of G20 health ministers. The G20 has been under pressure by world leaders from across the globe to declare $8bn in emergency health funding to stem the spread of the outbreak, citing the weak state of health systems in poorer regions such as Africa and Latin America. Ministers may also discuss a letter, signed by former leaders including Gordon Brown, John Major and Tony Blair, which calls for another $150bn for developing countries to tackle medical and economic challenges.

A variety of lockdown and social distancing measures in effect across the world are due to expire, though some or all of them are likely to be extended with the pandemic still in full swing. Look out for news on how long containment measures may still be in place in countries including Germany, Ireland, Belgium, South Korea, Tunisia and Haiti, as well as the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, where Governor Anies Baswedan has been at odds with President Joko Widodo about the need for an enforceable lockdown.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

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