Coming at you from all media angles, COVID-19 commonly known as the coronavirus, is a global pandemic that has truly taken the world by storm. Dominating all forms of media, with this unprecedented spread of the virus, comes a three stage reaction of sorts. At first, mainstream news informs us about the disease and its symptoms, but mainly focusing on how to prevent it spreading further. All the while, a growing sense of unease lingers in the tone of articles and press reports, illustrating these feelings of anxiety, fear and depression which extend to those self-isolating and as far as those still commuting to work and school. All stages of this pandemic have had extensive air-time coverage, which is why it is unsurprising that global current affairs have been overshadowed by the virus. For that, this article will outline a handful of the most recent political events that may not have been made known to us in the last week.
On 16 March, the Constitutional Court of Russia approved constitutional amendments that would see Putin stay on as President until 2036, the longest a ruler has ever held office in modern history. This came after the Kremlin-dominated lower house encouraged this reform with the aim of essentially resetting Putin’s term count provided that the provisions were enacted. As predicted, the amendment passed through the chamber 383-0, then to the upper house 161-1, with only three abstentions in the Federation Council but 43 in the State Duma.
For many, New Zealand’s decriminalisation of abortion signalled the country’s entry into an era of progressive values. The New Zealand House of Representatives passed its third reading on the Abortion Legislation Bill 2019 68-51 on Wednesday 18 March. The bill was originally introduced by Andrew Little, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party from 2014-2017.
In other news on 17 March, North Macedonia, formerly known as Macedonia, gained accession into NATO. Spain was the last of NATO’s 29 pre-existing members to formally recognise the country as a member state.
Last week, two women became the first female national leaders of their countries. On Tuesday 17 March, Sophie Wilmès was sworn in as Prime Minister of Belgium. Likewise, on Friday 13 March, Katerina Sakellaropoulou was sworn in as the first female President of Greece. Just over a week after the celebrations of International Women’s Day, both leaders are paving the way for female representation in politics.
Across the pond, the US democratic primary shows close results between former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders. Currently (18:20 GMT 19 March) Joe Biden has 1181 delegates, while Bernie Sanders has 885. 1991 delegates is the benchmark to win the nomination. Tulsi Gabbard quit the Democratic presidential race and declared her backing for Joe Biden.
On the scientific front, it was reported on 19 March that a PhD student from Cambridge proved one of Darwin’s hypotheses using data modelling nearly 140 years after his death. Darwin’s hypothesis set out to prove that ‘a species belonging to a larger genus should also include more subspecies.’ Laura van Holstein revealed to CNN that she believes her discovery will have “big implications for evolutionary biology.”
We must remember to stay optimistic and to not lose sight of the bigger picture, despite the mono-thematic news broadcasts at present.
If you believe that you might be exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus, or want further information on COVID-19, consult the NHS guidelines for staying protected: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Image: Shelly Prevost via Flickr