Eye on the World 2/3/20

UK officially out of EU as Brexit deal passes EU Parliament

At 11 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union (EU) after three and a half years of political turmoil that has paralyzed much of the British political system. The House of Commons finally passed a withdrawal agreement in late December, and the European Parliament approved the bill on Thursday, Jan. 30. The U.K. has seen two seperate Prime Ministers in the time it took to negotiate Brexit, three if you count David Cameron, who resigned after the referendum became the first to oppose the government in power’s stance in British history.

Current PM Boris Johnson promised “the dawn of a new era” for the British people and has encouraged his cabinet to “go full steam ahead” in the upcoming trade talks that the U.K. will have to make with every nation that the EU had a deal with. In a more reflective light, French President Emmanuel Macron called Brexit “a historic alarm signal” for the 27 remaining countries in the EU. Macron went on to call for a more unified Europe that could prepare to combat the issues of climate change, migration and technological upheaval.

China’s handling of coronavirus

As the death toll from a coronavirus strain that began in China reaches 259, multiple nations, including the U.S., Russia and Australia, have begun trying to evacuate their citizens from the country. Inside China, the government has locked down much of the Hubei province where the strain was reported to have begun spreading in late December 2019. With 50 million people barred from leaving the Hubei capital of Wuhan and surrounding cities, the challenge is now on Beijing to keep the central province functioning.

Other than trucks transporting disinfectant or food, travel into and out of the greater Wuhan area has ceased. The 17 cities under this restriction makeup over three quarters of Hubei’s population with Wuhan alone boasting two and a half million more people than New York City. The industrial center city has also closed schools, restaurants and theaters in an attempt to reduce the kind of contact that spreads the virus. The World Health Organization has commended these preventive measures by saying that the lockdowns will help to minimize the international spread of the virus. However, worrying reports of Wuhan’s suburbs developing independent cases of the virus cast doubt on whether the lockdown is working.

American response

On Jan. 31, President Trump officially declared a public health emergency in regards to the coronavirus. The most important implication of this designation is that it allows the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) to impose quarantine restrictions on citizens that have been exposed to the virus. A quarantine of this type has not been used in nearly sixty years, when a smallpox epidemic ravaged the global community in the 1960s and 1970s.

Although the coronavirus has not yet reached the same level of severity, granting the CDC the ability to enforce a quarantine is expected to act as a significant barrier to the continued spread of the disease in the coming months. This announcement from the Trump administration will potentially prompt similar actions from other affected countries in both Europe and Asia as more forceful actions are undertaken against the coronavirus.