Sami Jaber - March 1st, 2021
Far from uneventful, these past two weeks have witnessed a flurry of major events, with vaccination attempts gaining speed, the aftermath of Myanmar’s coup becoming apparent, and many more headlines. With so many news and such a high degree of connectedness, it’s easy to be swept away by the constant flow of information and to lose track of what news are significant, which are anecdotal, and which aim to misinform. The inaugural edition of this new fortnightly newsletter helps you understand the news, removing emotional responses to focus solely on meaningful analysis.
These past few weeks, election fever has taken over the Netherlands as the country nears the 17th of March when the General Elections will take place. Despite the childcare benefits scandal which tarnished PM Rutte’s reputation, his party – the VVD – remains in the lead, with an estimated 40 seats in Parliament (significantly up from its current 32 seats). This, however, is still quite a long way from the 76 seats required to hold an absolute majority meaning that it is virtually certain the Netherlands will be governed by a coalition government. Other parties which are likely to join the governing coalition include the CDA, D66, and the ChristenUnie – which are all in the current coalition, as well as newcomers such as the GroenLinks party and the PvdA. While the government could maintain its centre-right orientation or swing to the centre-left, the traditional nature of the parties most likely to join the governing coalition means no significant policy shifts are to be expected.
In a dramatic turn of events, a Dutch judged ruled earlier this month that the government-imposed curfew did not rest on a sufficient judicial basis, and was thus null. On Friday, however, The Hague Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the government, arguing that the current circumstances are indeed extraordinary, justifying the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of 28.02, the seven-day moving average for new COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands was at 4,580, showing an upwards trend from 3,360 on 14.02, with a slight decrease in averaged daily deaths from 59 to 49 over the same time period. A large share of new infections is still attributed to the so-called British variant, warranting continued cautiousness. Despite a slow start, the Dutch vaccination push is gaining speed, with more than 1.3 million doses administered as of 27.02.
In the EU, France and Italy are the two only countries still reporting more than 15,000 new cases daily, with new measures expected. Vaccinations are well underway in most of the continent’s countries, with the UK in the first position, having administered more the 20 million people with their first dose. Struggling to control the progression of the pandemic, the Czech Republic has announced it will not wait for the EMA’s approval before administering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, while Hungary has already begun using China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
In world news, violence continues to escalate in Myanmar, where a deposed Aung San Suu Kyi faces four charges, and at least 18 protestors were killed by the junta yesterday.
This fortnight was also marked by the USA’s passing of the grim milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Meanwhile, Trump continued to spew his lies of electoral fraud in a much-awaited speech yesterday, where he also floated the idea of a new presidential bid and recycled his usual populist rant.
The European Commission is toying with the idea of a vaccination passport, allowing inoculated individuals to travel freely, at the behest of countries such as Spain and Greece who largely rely on tourism for their national incomes.
In Italy, Mario Draghi was sworn-in as the new Prime minister. Draghi is a highly-respected failure, notably for his leadership in the economic recovery following the European sovereign debt crisis, in his capacity as President of the ECB (2011-2019).
Today marks the entry into force of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive Enhanced Partnership Agreement, as a high-level UN meeting convenes to discuss the famine which is expected to leave half of all Yemenis under the age of five acutely malnourished.
Frank Creations is an NGO that seeks to bridge the gap between young talent and experienced professionals by educating them outside of the academic realm. Founded by Boy Frank in 2018, it is currently composed of students from Leiden University and Zuyd University.