It can be hard to keep up with the news. Even for those of us who try to follow the endless headlines, it’s even harder to track the important topics. Thats why we do the hard work for you, making sure everything is written up each Sunday ‘For The Record’.
The big story in St Andrews this week has undoubtedly been the return of thousands of students to the University for what would have, in any other year, been a time of wild and reckless abandon – Freshers Week. This year, due to coronavirus, things have been quite different. As Scotland recorded a rapid rise of cases and introduced new, stricter rules, police were forced to shut down countless breaches of the rules here in the bubble. An email from the Proctor warned against such behaviour – did it come too late? The University confirmed two cases of COVID-19 in St Andrews this week; the effects of Freshers Week on that total remain to be seen in the weeks ahead.
There was happier news in town, too. Research from our University made local headlines throughout the week – celebrating developments in research relating to COVID-19 and how it survives on different surfaces, new funding to study the effect of art on the imagination, and even a project using lasers to authenticate whisky! Stunning aerial photographs showed the progress being made on the new Madras College, and St Andrews Rotary Club celebrated (in groups of less than 6) after the WHO certified the Africa region free of polio.
In national news, the week started with tragedy following a spate of stabbings in Birmingham city centre in the early hours of Sunday morning. A 27-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and several counts of attempted murder on Monday.
The largest national stories continued to focus on the response to COVID-19. This week the governments in both England and Scotland announced a new rule – no meetings of more than 6 people, inside or outside. The rule change represents a return to stricter regulation following a spike in cases nationally – even children are not exempt, now. As the economy recovers – Primark says it’s doing very well, thank you – MPs pressed for an extension to the furlough scheme in an effort to save ‘thousands’ of jobs, but no promises have been made by the Treasury.
The coronavirus story the government has been trying to avoid this week is the failing of the COVID testing system in England. The government was forced to apologise early in the week, although Matt Hancock did attempt to pin the blame somewhat on people taking tests when they weren’t eligible. He’s had a tough week – hospital waiting list numbers were published which show an increase threefold on last year.
Also having a tough week: the police in Greater Manchester, who were accused of ‘significant flaws’ by experts in an inquiry investigating the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena in 2017; Oxford researchers, trying to develop a vaccine against coronavirus, who had their trial stopped this week after a participant became unexpectedly ill – thankfully the study has resumed; British Airways, desperately trying to avoid cash refunds and cut flights; and defence secretary Ben Wallace, who denied reports that the army is scrapping its tanks.
Having a lovely week? Soon-to-be-retired teacher Donald Fear, who just won the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire for the first time in 14 years. Lucky bugger.
This week, international headlines in the UK were dominated by the EU – or more specifically, the UK government’s plans to renege on the international treaty agreed with the EU. The government tabled legislation this week which it said would break international law – by overriding parts of the Withdrawal Agreement which Boris Johnson called ‘oven-ready’ during the 2019 General Election. This prompted outcry from many corners – the EU itself, Labour, US Democrats, Tory backbenchers, and even the resignation of the government’s most senior lawyer. The government is claiming that the new legislation is necessary to protect the integrity of the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – former PMs Tony Blair and John Major dispute this.
The UK did manage to sign its first major post-Brexit trade deal this week with Japan, too.
There were a number of other significant international stories this week:
The biggest story from America this week was the wildfires in Oregon, which have caused over 500,000 people to flee the area and left dozens of people missing, and continued wildfires in California covering a record area. Also in the US, Trump continued to campaign for the November election after a number of missteps; the military announced their intention to withdraw thousands of soldiers from Iraq in September; and an autistic teenager was shot in Utah after his mother called the police for help calming him down.
In Europe, opposition leaders in Belarus faced continued threats to their safety. Maria Kolesnikova resisted expulsion to Ukraine by destroying her passport and received death threats from security officers. Maxim Znak was arrested by masked men at her office in Minsk. Also, fires destroyed Moria migrant camp in Greece, endangering nearly 13,000 asylum seekers. Other European countries including the UK were urged to take in the refugees.
In Asia, India hit the second highest total number of coronavirus cases in the world. Also, China clashed with Australia after Chinese authorities said Australian journalists working in China ‘endangered national security’. Hong Kong police were criticised online following the violent arrest of a 12-year-old girl, a fire erupted in Beirut port weeks after a huge explosion damaged swathes of the city and led the government to resign, and peace talks began in Doha between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Finally in South America, a Brazilian expert was killed by an isolated indigenous tribe from the Amazon, dangerous protests against police brutality took place in Colombia, and in Peru, lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against President Martin Vizcarra.
Quiet week around the world, really.