Illustration by Ben Beechener
The Oxford Blue’s Global Affairs team bring you another summary of global current affairs for the week commencing Monday 7th February.
Sri Lanka bans healthcare worker strikes
Sri Lanka’s President has banned strikes in the health and electricity sectors, following Trade Union action that has affected public hospitals for the past week. The unions have been campaigning for a restructuring of pay scales, higher allowances and better promotional prospects. The action left emergency services running but various routine services stagnated. Those found to violate the ban, announced on Saturday 12th February, will face punitive measures, including up to five years jail time and confiscation of assets. This comes after trade unions ignored a court order to suspend the strikes on Thursday. Although the measures for those refusing to heed the ban are severe, the Unions are yet to call off the strikes.
Canadian trucker protests escalate
On Friday 11th February, Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, declared a state of emergency in the Canadian province in response to the increasingly severe trucker protests. The self-styled ‘freedom convoys’ of Canadian truckers have been blocking key routes into Ottawa for two weeks, damaging supply chains. They have since moved on to blockading key entry points to the US, including the Ambassador Bridge which links to Detroit. The new measures, enacted in response to US pressure to take action, will impose fines of up to 100,000 Canadian dollars and prison time for blocking the movement of goods and people along critical infrastructure routes. The truckers began their protest against the vaccine mandates upon entering Canada from the US, but many now say they won’t move until all Covid-19 restrictions have been removed.
US to reopen embassy in the Soloman Islands
On Saturday 12th February US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the reopening of the US embassy in the Solomon Islands to counteract China’s influence in the Pacific Islands. As part of the Biden administration’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific islands, Washington has promised to provide more diplomatic and security resources to the region’s allies, to help counter China’s growing influence. This move comes after riots across the islands in November 2021, sparked by opposition to the Prime Minister who has recently recovered from a failed no-confidence vote. The US operated an embassy in the Solomon Islands until 1993, after which US diplomats from Papua New Guinea acted as US representatives for the Islands. This move comes at a time when the US risks losing its sturdy ties with the Solomon Islands as China continues to engage with elite politicians and business people across the country.
US, UK and Germany tell their citizens to leave Ukraine
In a sign of escalating tensions between NATO and Russia over Ukraine, several Western countries have advised their nationals to leave Ukraine as soon as possible. On Saturday 12th February, the US State Department said that it was ‘past time’ for private Americans to depart, while the US also began evacuating virtually all of its Kiev embassy staff. They have moved to a smaller diplomatic presence in Lviv, in the west of the country. On the same day, the UK Foreign Office changed its advice to British citizens in Ukraine, telling them to leave by commercial flight within 48 hours. Germany followed suit, but with slightly more moderate language, asking Germans in the country to leave shortly, unless they have a pressing reason to stay. The Netherlands, Japan, Israel and South Korea have issued similar statements.
China to help Hong Kong contain Covid outbreak
Hong Kong is in the middle of a particularly severe Covid outbreak and has sought China’s assistance. The country is struggling with a record high of 1514 cases reported on Saturday and hospital beds at 90% capacity. Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee and other senior officials travelled to Shenzhen on Friday to request help, and the mainland government has agreed to provide extra capacity for testing and quarantine, including sending test kits and potentially building a temporary hospital, as well as more resources for treatment. The Hong Kong administration has so far ruled out a full lockdown, although is reportedly considering district-based lockdowns.