Friday news roundup August 21, 2020
Millions of women around the world are unable to access sexual and reproductive health care as a result of Covid-19. As a result of coronavirus lockdowns, nearly two million fewer women across 37 countries received such services between January and June than in the same period last year, according to a report from Marie Stopes International. India has been hit especially hard, with 1.3 million women affected. The organization expects an additional 900,000 unintended pregnancies worldwide as a result, along with an additional 1.5 million unsafe abortions and more than 3,000 additional maternal deaths. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, supply chain disruptions, the huge shift of health resources to combat the virus, and fear of infection continue to prevent many women and girls from accessing care.
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern delayed the country’s general election over coronavirus fears. The election has been delayed by a month after the country’s largest city went back into lockdown amid a spike in coronavirus cases this week. The vote, previously due to take place on September 19, will now be held on October 17. Ardern said the delay would give “all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Electoral Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead.” The opposition National Party agreed with the delay, believing that restrictions on campaigning meant Ardern’s Labour Party would otherwise have an unfair advantage. New Zealand—which has a population of nearly five million—has reported 1,665 infections and 22 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The EU has rejected a British plan for the post-Brexit return of asylum seekers. The UK government will lose the right to transfer refugees and migrants to the EU country in which they arrived, a cornerstone of the European asylum system known as the Dublin regulation, when the Brexit transition period expires on December 31. The UK government was seeking to replicate the European system once it leaves the bloc. The plan would have allowed the UK to return “all third-country nationals and stateless persons” entering its territory without the right paperwork to the EU country they had traveled through to reach Britain, with a reciprocal obligation for the UK government to take in undocumented migrants arriving in the EU via the UK, excluding airport arrivals. However, southern Europe has nearly ten times the numbers of refugees and migrants arriving by sea, leading to the UK’s plan being described in Brussels as “very unbalanced.”
Sweden recorded its highest number of deaths in 150 years in the first half of 2020. According to the country’s official statistics office, between January and June, 51,405 deaths were registered—6,500 more than for the same period in 2019. The last time Sweden recorded such a high number was in the first half of 1869, when the country suffered a famine and 55,431 people died. Sweden chose not to lockdown when the coronavirus pandemic spread across Europe, instead emphasizing personal responsibility. With a population of 10.2 million, Sweden has reported 85,810 cases and 5,805 deaths from Covid-19. Despite not locking down, the economy has still taken a hit as hospitality and tourism have been badly affected and manufacturers have been cut off from international supply chains. Almost 50% of Sweden’s economy is built on exporting goods overseas, and the global crisis has destroyed international demand. The economy is predicted to contract by more than 5% with hundreds of thousands losing their jobs.