This Week Around the World

March 29 Shanghai, China: A two-stage lockdown was enforced on a financial hub in China’s most populated city, Shanghai, amid a COVID-19 surge in China, according to Reuters. Bridges and highways were closed, and traffic was restricted to contain the spread of the virus. The lockdown was announced by the local government late on Sunday and divided the residents of Shanghai along the Huangpu River for a total of nine days, to allow healthcare workers in hazmat suits to conduct testing on each portion of the city’s population. This lockdown drove down prices on commodities including oil and copper, some worrying further curbs will lower demand. Residents confined to their homes had tests conducted early Monday morning around 7 a.m. The Public Security Bureau indicated that cross-river bridges, tunnels and highway toll booths on the eastside of the city would remain closed until April 1, though the two airports in the city remained open. Firms were also ordered to shut down—with the exception of those offering public service or supplying food—though factories continued to produce goods. Some hospitals across the city suspended services and began to release staff members to assist with testing and other COVID-19 safety measures. 


March 31 Pyongyang, North Korea: North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, claimed that the country will continue to develop its “formidable striking” capabilities, according to a state media reporter who visited during North Korea’s latest missile test. Kim was meeting with officials, scientists and technicians involved in the launch of the country’s largest missile, an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) called Hwasong-17, according to state-owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). “Only when one is equipped with the formidable striking capabilities, overwhelming military power that cannot be stopped by anyone, can one prevent a war, guarantee the security of the country and contain and put under control all threats and blackmails by the imperialists,” said Kim, according to the state media report. While witnessing Thursday’s missile test, Kim stated that the purpose of the ICBM was to avert any military operations initiated by the United States. The two countries technically remain at war, since the Korean War ended in armistice rather than a diplomatic, peaceful agreement. Japan and South Korea stated flight data showed the missile flew higher and for a longer period of time than any other missile North Korea has launched in the past. According to Reuters, some analysts claim the media coverage showed an older launch. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency stated intelligence officials in Seoul believed that North Korea actually tested a smaller and older version of the Hwasong-15. 

March 27 Anchorage, United States: Residents of a suburban neighborhood in Anchorage, Alaska were ordered to evacuate the mountainous area on Sunday after a large avalanche buried a road—and another massive slide was anticipated—as reported by Reuters. The mayor of Anchorage, Dave Bronson, issued the evacuation order citing “a grave and immediate threat to health, safety and welfare of the citizens” in an impacted area located in Eagle City, right on the outskirts of Anchorage. Shortly before midnight on Thursday, an avalanche roared down a mountainside and buried a main road with 80 feet of snow. Half of the snow’s unstable slide zone was released and another avalanche was predicted to happen, according to local officials. “If we have an uncontrolled release at an unknown time, that could result in the loss of life,” said Anchorage Municipal Manager Amy Demboski at a Sunday news conference. “We want to do everything we can to prevent that.” The avalanche blocked off access to about 100 homes, which remain without power, according to Demboski. First line responders dug a snow trail to help retrieve stranded residents and operated snowmobile shuttles, according to Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd, the incident commander. No injuries were reported at the time, and local officials continue to evaluate the damage of houses and other structures. “The size of this avalanche is massive,” Demboski said at a news conference. “It has been described by avalanche experts as a once-in-a-hundred-year event.” Demboski claims that without mitigation, there is a possibility the snow could block the road until summer.