Around New Year’s Day, huge pro-democracy protests closed down Hong Kong. Wildfires in Australia destroyed 18 million hectares of forest and left at least 34 people dead. And an American missile killed Iran’s top general, leading to the accidental downing a Ukrainian airplane.
At the time, the outbreak of a then-unknown coronavirus in China was notable, but by no means the top news story. Several months later there seems to be only one story in the world.
But despite the virus, those other stories and many more have continued.
Within weeks of the January 1 protest, Hong Kongers turned to “social distancing” to fight the coronavirus from Wuhan, China. By February and March, smaller protests centered on the Hong Kong government’s decision not to fully close its border with mainland China.
A Reuters opinion study shows that demonstrations have slowed due to the spread of the coronavirus. Yet the study also showed support for the protesters has grown while support for the government’s answer to the COVID-19 crisis is low.
Heavy rain in February halted the spread of most of Australia’s fires. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service called it the “most devastating” wildfire season. Scientists studying the effect of the fires on threatened animals have had to shut down their research due to the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was criticized for his performance during the fires. But his stronger response to the pandemic has improved his standing with Australians.
The January 2 missile strike, which killed Iran’s top military leader, heightened tensions in the Middle East. It led to Iran bombing bases housing United States troops in Iraq and accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian plane, killing all 176 people onboard.
Within weeks, Iran had become the first country outside China to see large numbers infected with the coronavirus. The Iranian government has since asked the U.S. to lift sanctions while refusing America’s offer of aid.
The trial to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump began on January 16. Voting mostly along party lines, the U.S. Senate declared Trump innocent of two impeachment charges on February 5. Trump blamed the impeachment trial for harming his efforts in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.
The airplane-maker Boeing spent months working on the 737 MAX airplane to address issues believed to have caused two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The crashes killed 346 people within five months. Since the coronavirus outbreak, airlines have reduced service and cut orders for the plane. In March, Boeing followed stay-at-home order and suspended its operations across the U.S. The company says it plans to return to work in some areas this week.
On January 31, Britain officially ended its membership in the European Union, or EU. However, the move, known as Brexit, has not progressed as smoothly as the British government might have hoped. Negotiations on a trade deal between Britain and the EU have been delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier have both tested positive for the coronavirus.
I’m Pete Musto.
Pete Musto adapted this story for VOA Learning English using materials from Reuters. Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.
Words in This Story
outbreak – n. a sudden start or increase of fighting or disease
devastating – adj. causing great damage or harm
response – n. something that is done as a reaction to something else
pandemic – adj. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world
tension(s) – n. a state in which people, groups, or countries disagree with and feel anger toward each other
sanction(s) – n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country
impeach – v. to charge a public official with a crime done while in office
address – v. to give attention to something
positive – adj. showing