House of Commons
In recess until 1 September
Covid-free and paying the price
Written by Sabina Kadić-Mackenzie, associate partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
4 August 2020
As we count the human and economic cost of Covid-19, with over 200 countries and territories collectively reporting over 18 million individual infections and almost 700,000 deaths, it’s understandable to think that every single country in the world has the virus.
While nations continue to struggle against the global pandemic, and as the World Health Organisation warns there may never be a “magical cure”, there are, in fact, a handful of nations yet to report any cases at all.
Tuvalu is one of them.
A country with a population just shy of 12,000, Tuvalu has one hospital serving its nine islands. It’s easy to understand, then, the heightened levels of anxiety as, thanks to advanced connectivity investment, previously disconnected residents now watch the outside world as it tackles an invisible virus.
But even in Tuvalu, life is not what it once was as the government seeks to balance (unsuccessfully it could be argued) the need to keep the country Covid-free, while allowing some semblance of normal life to continue in a country unaffected, in health terms anyway.
Tuvalu is, thus far, free of the pandemic, with preparations for the first positive test seven months in the making.
In January, the government established the Covid-19 health taskforce, at the same time as an existing national emergency, declared in response to Cyclone Tino, which raged on the people and landscape.
In the coming months, while still rebuilding from Tino, strict border controls came into force, with supplies for the rebuild dwindling, along with the number of non-residents on the islands. A Covid-specific state of emergency followed, triggered in part by the first confirmed case in Fiji, the main point of departure for those travelling to Tuvalu.
Borders were closed, armed patrols began, restrictions were placed on public gatherings, and Tuvalu’s one hospital sought dozens of volunteers in preparedness for the virus.
And now they wait.
Tuvalu’s government has so far declined most offers of international assistance, despite being one of the most impoverished nations in the world. Instead, it says it intends to implement martial law if and when the first case is confirmed.
But even before martial law, Tuvalu’s Covid-free existence has come at a cost. Saved from the devastating health impacts of coronavirus, so far, its people are paying the price of food and fuel shortages as the government now controls the pricing, sale and supply of essentials, including medicine.
Under its emergency powers, the government can now also order compulsory relocations from the capital, Funafuti, displacing large numbers to outer, less densely populated areas.
Whether Tuvalu ever gets a case of the coronavirus, one thing is certain: its people are already, once again, in the eye of a storm.
John Hume, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and prominent Northern Ireland politician, has died aged 83 following a long period of illness. Hume was one of the highest-profile politicians in Northern Ireland for more than 30 years, helping to create the conditions that brought an end to the Troubles.
Juan Carlos, the former King of Spain, announced in a letter that he will be leaving the country, although he did not specify where or when is he leaving. Nonetheless, he said he would be available if prosecutors needed to interview him, given that in June Spain’s Supreme Court opened an investigation into the potential involvement of Juan Carlos in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia.
Reuters reported that documents on UK-US trade talks were stolen from an email account belonging to Liam Fox MP potentially by Russian hackers ahead of the 2019 general election. The papers were published online and used by Labour in the 2019 campaign to claim the NHS would be put at risk.
Business and economy
Hays Travel, the firm which bought Thomas Cook shops in October last year, announced that up to 878 employees (out of 4,500) may lose their jobs because of the latest travel restrictions, especially to those arriving from Spain. After taking on more than 2,000 Thomas Cook employees last year, Hays was looking forward to the summer, where they could capitalise on their new strength. Nonetheless, the firm regretted the job losses, explaining that they made “every possible effort” to avoid them
Twitter revealed that it is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for improperly using its users’ phone numbers and email addresses to enhance ad targeting, something that could cost the company up to $250m in fines.
HSBC announced its quarterly earnings yesterday, reporting an almost seven-fold jump in reserves for bad loans and a fall in second-quarter profit of nearly 96%. As a result, the bank announced it will be accelerating its plans to cut as much as 35,000 jobs and consider further restructuring measures to trim costs.
Columns of note
In the Financial Times, Sarah O’Connor argues that sustainable funds need to work harder to vet their investments. Rather than falling on obscure KPIs and pseudo scientific scoring systems, their approach should be underpinned by thorough research.
In the Telegraph, Nick Timothy argues that encouraging self-restraint and personal responsibility will be key to tackling Britain’s obesity crisis, among other things.
What happened yesterday?
Equity markets finished higher on Monday as stimulus talks in the US encouraged investors around the world.
What’s happening today?
Brave Bison Grp
Gulf Marine Services
UK economic announcements
(09:30) PMI Construction
Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(07:00) Current Account (GER)
(10:00) Producer Price Index (EU)
(15:00) Factory Orders (US)
Italy sells more Italian olive oil than it can produce.
House of Commons
In recess until 1 September
House of Lords
In recess until 2 September 2020.
In recess until 10 August (with the exception of 30 July and 6 August 2020, on which dates business may be programmed by the bureau)