As we near the end of the first month of 2021, it’s safe to say it’s been a tumultuous start to the year. This week, protestors in Poland have hit the streets again to fight a national abortion ban, WHO experts have headed to Wuhan to investigation the origins of COVID-19 and one Texan video game store found itself in the middle of a heated Wall Street battle.
Here are five notable stories from across the globe in Lovin Malta’s international news roundup in case you missed them.
1. The GameStop Saga.
An unlikely Texan video game retailer has found itself in the middle of historic investment trends, after Reddit users empowered small investors to buy stocks of the company on the verge of shutting down.
GameStop’s stocks went from cripplingly low to unbelievably high overnight this week. Hedge funds had bet that it would lose a lot of value because the franchise was hit severely by pandemic lockdowns. Cue a swath of Reddit users who bought shares in GameStop, raising its share price massively.
While Wall Street investors were left fuming, the three largest shareholders in Gamestop have made more than €2 billion. However, this short squeeze of stocks doesn’t mean the future of the gaming store is certain.
2. The World Health Organisation has begun its investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Experts from the World Health Organisation have begun a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 virus. The new group has met Chinese scientists in Wuhan, before embarking on a set of visits to hospitals and the infamous, now-closed Huanan market which is linked to the patient zero back in November 2019.
Life in the Chinese province has mainly returned to normal after a total lockdown virtually eradicated the virus. However, a rising death count and economic turmoil felt across the globe are adding pressure to understand where the COVID-19 virus came from and how it was transmitted to humans.
China has tried to deflect the narrative over where the virus originated from and has censored journalists and doctors in Wuhan who tried to speak out. The Asian state has even suggested it was circulating in Europe before the first case was reported in Wuhan in 2019. The health agency has called for transparency and cooperation to understand the origins of COVID-19.
3. Protestors in Poland are on the streets to fight its strict abortion ban.
A constitutional ruling which effectively bans legal abortion has come into effect Wednesday night in Poland. Outraged activists have taken to the streets in protest again and have declared war against the draconian law.
When the ruling was first announced in October, it sparked a month of massive protests akin to ones seen in the 1989 collapse of communism. It is unclear why the conservative government pushed to implement the ruling so abruptly, after months of delay in light of the nationwide backlash.
The Eastern European state already had some of the strictest abortion laws worldwide, but even with this latest restriction, their laws are more liberal than the complete abortion ban that exists in Malta.
Around 1,000 legal abortions happen in Poland each year.
Around 98% of those terminations are related to severe foetal disabilities, so this ruling effectively bans abortion. The court decision comes after the state’s governing party, Law and Justice, presented a legal challenge to the 1993 law that permitted exceptions for abortion.
4. Two Indonesian men were ‘medievally’ tortured for being gay.
Two gay men in Indonesia were publicly caned 77 times each after they were reported to police by people who raided their apartment.
The men, both in their late 20s, were arrested in November after a crowd broke into their apartment in Aceh and allegedly found them having sex. They were sentenced to 80 flogs by a Sharian court but were whipped 77 times because they had spent time in prison.
Flogging is still a legal form of punishment in Indonesia and is used to punish things like extra-marital relations, drinking alcohol or gambling.
The action was denounced by human rights groups who accused the state of being guilty of torture. While being gay is not illegal in other parts of Indonesia, activists warn discrimination against LGBT people, especially by police, is worsening over the years. They also accused the president of ignoring on the issue.
5. New COVID-19 vaccine shows 89% efficacy in UK trials.
Some good news in the fight against the pandemic.
The Novavax vaccine has proven to be 89% efficient against a new COVID-19 variant in the UK. This was found after large-scale UK trials. The British government welcomed the news and is now looking to assess its safety for the market.
They have secured 60 million doses of the jab.
It could become the fourth vaccine to be approved. Others include one produced by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, one by Pfizer and BioNTech and a third by Moderna.
Across the world, around 78,63000 people have received the first dose of the vaccine against the virus, while 1% of Europeans have been inoculated as of 27th January. Leaders hope mass vaccination programmes will help achieve herd immunity within a year.
Which international news stories do you think we missed? Comment below