News Timeline: April 2021

April 1 – World

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

France begins a third national lockdown in a desperate move to halt a new deadly wave of coronavirus.  The lockdown that covers about one-third of the country’s population will last four weeks.  Although this time people can go outside without filling out forms, they are limited to a six-mile radius from their homes, are not allowed to travel between regions and have to observe a nighttime curfew.  In Italy, about three-quarters of its population is barred from going outside except for work, health or other essentials.  Germany is also on a partial lockdown, while Poland closes all nonessential shops and switches most of its schools to remote learning.[1]

(Apr 9): The number of daily cases in Chile reaches a new record high of over 9,000 for the first time since the pandemic began.  Hospitals are again overwhelmed, and for the second time, the country announces another lockdown and closes its borders.  Critics accuse President Sebastián Piñera’s government of loosening the Covid restrictions and opening the economy too early considering that the vaccination campaign in Chile has been fast, but started only in late December.[2]

(Apr 10): Russia reports that as of mid-April the country’s official coronavirus death toll is 102,649, which is, when adjusted for the population, far lower than that of the United States and most of Western Europe.  At the same time Russia saw a jump of more than 400,000 deaths from other causes overall above normal during the pandemic (from last April through February of this year), 28 percent higher than normal, an increase in mortality greater than in the United States and most countries in Europe.[3]

More on pandemic numbers in Russia

(Apr 28): Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, orders a three-week lockdown closing nonessential businesses and moving schools to remote learning as the country struggles to contain the new surge in coronavirus cases.  On April 16, Turkey reported 63,000 new cases, its highest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic.  So far, only about 16 percent of Turkey’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.[4]

India is struggling with a violent second wave of the coronavirus with the official death toll of over 200,000, but the official number is assumed higher as many fatalities are not being reported.  Hospitals are overstretched and many people are dying waiting for beds and oxygen.  Crematoriums are operating around the clock, with makeshift pyres in parking lots.  There have been at least 300,000 new infections every day in the past week, with more than 17.9 million cases registered overall.  Also, the new Indian variant of the virus is said to have a higher growth rate than other variants in the country, suggesting increased transmissibility.  India is carrying out the world’s biggest vaccination drive, but with population of 1.3 billion less than 10 percent has so far received it.[5]

Why has the situation been allowed to escalate so much?

(April 28): According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were about 5.7 million new coronavirus cases globally last week, the highest number since the pandemic began.  India accounts for 38 percent of them.[6]  Covid-19 has killed more than 3 million people.  In some countries, the pace of the pandemic is accelerating.  It took nine months to reach 1 million deaths, four months to reach 2 million and three months to reach 3 million deaths.   As more and more adults are vaccinated, with new highly transmissible variants and economies opening up, infections and hospitalizations among younger people are increasing.[7]  

Are pandemics the new normal? (Video 01.54 min)

Covid map: Coronavirus cases, deaths, vaccinations by country

April 1 – East Asia: Hong Kong

Pro-democracy opposition

A court in Hong Kong finds several prominent pro-democracy activists guilty of unauthorized assembly.  They face up to five years in prison.  The verdict is part of a China-led campaign to suppress opposition in the Hong Kong territory.  So far more than 2,400 people have been charged since massive antigovernment demonstrations started in 2019 as the authorities are trying to crush the movement.[8]

April 9 – Europe: United Kingdom

Death of Prince Philip

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99. As consort to the Queen, Philip’s powers were largely ceremonial.  He supported his wife in her duties, accompanying her on royal visits abroad, to ceremonies such as the State Opening of Parliament in various countries, and state dinners.[9]

More on the life of Prince Philip

In pictures: announcement of death of the Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip: A life in pictures

April 12 – North America / Latin America:

United States / Mexico / Honduras / Guatemala


The United States comes to a deal on immigration, which makes Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala commit more troops to tighten their borders and keep down the flow of migrants crossing into the U.S.  US Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 172,000 people attempting to cross the US-Mexico border in March, a 71 percent increase from February.  They also detained a record number of unaccompanied minors, with 18,890 in March, twice as many as in February.  The Biden Administration is engaging with the leaders from countries in Central America to address the root causes of the migration by improving job opportunities and living conditions in their region.[10]

April 15 – North America / Europe:

United States / Russia

Sanctions on Russia

U.S. President Joe Biden announces extensive new sanctions on 32 Russian entities and individuals in return for cyber attacks on U.S. government agencies and companies, and for disinformation efforts and interference in the 2020 presidential election. Ten Russian diplomats, most of them identified as intelligence operatives, are expelled from the Russian Embassy in Washington.  The Biden administration also bans American banks from purchasing newly issued Russian government debt.  The U.S. has also sent diplomatic messages to Russia expressing concerns about intelligence reports that Russia had paid bounties to encourage Taliban attacks on American troops.  The United States also joins its European partners to impose sanctions on eight people and entities associated with Russia’s annexation from Ukraine and occupation of Crimea in 2014.  Russia promises retaliation.[11]

Do Sanctions Work?

April 15 – Europe:

European Union / United Kingdom

Post-Brexit trade deal

The European Union approves the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the post-Brexit trade deal between the European Union and United Kingdom.[12]

More on the post Brexit EU-UK trade deal

April 16 – Latin America: Cuba

Raúl Castro resigns as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, ending more than 62 years of rule by the Castro brothers in Cuba.  The Castros have been in power since 1959 when Fidel Castro toppled the Cuban government and took over the country’s leadership. His brother, Raul Castro took over from him in 2008.  The change comes in the midst of Cuba’s serious economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, financial reforms and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.[13] 

(Apr 19): TheCuban communist Party nominates Miguel Díaz-Canel to take over as first secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from Raúl Castro. In 2018, Díaz-Canel succeeded Castro as Cuba’s president. He is seen as loyal to the Castros and their economic model.[14]

In pictures: Raúl Castro’s career over six decades

About Miguel Díaz-Canel

Cuba’s digital revolutionaries (video)

April 20 – Africa: Chad

Change in leadership

Idriss Déby, Chad’s president for the last 30 years and just reelected for the sixth term, dies from his wounds sustained in clashes with advancing rebels.  An army officer by training, Déby came to power through an armed uprising, and later faced numerous coup plots and rebellions himself.  Although an autocrat, he made Chad more stable than its other country-neighbors.[15]  Still, despite Chad’s great wealth of oil deposits, the country’s main export commodity, 40 percent of Chad’s population still lives below the poverty line.[16]

Immediately after Idriss Déby’s death, the government and parliament are dissolved, while his son, General Mahamat Déby is named the leader of the Transitional Military Council.  The Council will stay in charge for the next 18 months followed by elections.  The move is unconstitutional as it is the speaker of parliament that should take over when a sitting president dies in office.[17]

About Idriss Déby

April 21 – Global / North America:

Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate

During the Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate with 40 world leaders, U.S. President Joe Biden pledges to cut carbon emissions in the United States between 50 and 52 percent by 2030, below 2005 levels.  The United Kingdom also announces climate change commitments to cut carbon emissions to 78 percent of 1990 levels before 2035.[18]

What is climate change

What do American kids think about climate change

April 27 – North America: United States

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population has grown only 7.4 percent between 2010 and 2020 and is at 331.5 million people.  This is the smallest increase since the 1930s.  One cause of slow population growth is declining birthrate, with 17 percent fewer children than in 1990, or 50 percent fewer than in 1960.  There are now more Americans 80 and older than 2 or younger.  The second reason is a decline in legal immigration.[19]

More about the findings about the U.S. population growth

One solution to lower population growth in the U.S. according to Forbes

Birth rates in United States, years 1950–2018

April 30 – North America / South Asia:

United States / Afghanistan

After 20 years of military engagement in Afghanistan, the United States begins the withdrawal process under the President Biden’s orders, which is supposed to be completed by September 11.  This includes 2,500 US troops, several hundred special operations forces, as well as US contractors and government workers.  While the U.S. lawmakers express concerns that the U.S. withdrawal will allow the Taliban and other rebel groups reverse the gains made for Afghan women, democracy, and civil society, President Biden argues the original purpose of going after al Qaeda terrorists and Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks has been achieved.[20]

Timeline of U.S. war in Afghanistan: 1999-2021

Progress in women education in Afghanistan

Progress in democratic process in Afghanistan

More on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

April 30 – East Asia: Kyrgyzstan / Tajikistan

Clashes over water dispute

At least 31 people are killed and more than 10,000 are evacuated after a dispute between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over water facilities led to major clashes.  When people on both sides started throwing stone at each other, border guards and then military units stepped in.   A ceasefire is agreed between the two countries.

Background:  The collapse of the Soviet Union turned Soviet republics into independent countries with hard borders, which created border claims and disputes.  Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan dispute a third of its 600-mile border. Restrictions on access to land and water that communities regard as theirs have often led to deadly clashes in the past.[21]

Map of Tajik-Kyrgyz border clashes

Kyrgyzstan profile

Tajikistan profile


[1] Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Méheut. “Macron Returns France to Lockdown as Vaccinations Lag.” The New York Times. March 31, 2021. Updated April 2, 2021. Accessed May 18, 21.

[2] Jane Chambers. “Chile sees Covid surge despite vaccination success.” BBC News. April 16, 2021. Accessed June 1, 2021.

[3] Anton Troianovski. “You Can’t Trust Anyone’: Russia’s Hidden Covid Toll Is an Open Secret.” The New York Times. Published April 10, 2021. Updated May 22, 2021. Accessed May 23, 21.

[4] The Coronavirus Outbreak. “Turkey orders a three-week lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and other news from around the world.” The New York Times. Published April 28, 2021. Updated May 6, 2021. Accessed May 26, 2021.

[5] “India Covid: Hospitals overwhelmed as deaths pass 200,000.” BBC News. April 29, 2021. Accessed May 23, 21.

[6] “India Covid: Hospitals overwhelmed as deaths pass 200,000.” BBC News. April 29, 2021. Accessed May 23, 21.

[7] Rob Picheta. “Covid-19 deaths are accelerating, WHO warns, as world records most cases ever in a single week.” CNN. April 20, 2021. Accessed June 1, 2021.

[8] Austin Ramzy. “Hong Kong Court Convicts Democracy Leaders Over Protest March.” The New York Times. March 31, 2021. Updated April 7, 2021. Accessed May 18, 21.

[9] “Prince Philip: Tributes after Duke of Edinburgh dies aged 99.” BBC News. April 9, 2021. Accessed May 11, 21.

[10] Priscilla Alvarez. “Biden admin secures agreements with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to secure borders, official says.” CNN. April 12, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021

[11] David E. SangerAndrew E. Kramer. “U.S. Imposes Stiff Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hacking Operation.” The New York Times. April 15, 2021. Accessed May 14, 21.

[12] “Brexit: Euro MPs’ vote bolsters EU-UK trade deal.” BBC News. April 15, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.

[13] “Raúl Castro steps down as Cuban Communist Party leader.” BBC News. April 16, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.

[14] “Cuba leadership: Díaz-Canel named Communist Party chief.” BBC News. April 19, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.

[15] “Chad’s President Idriss Déby dies after clashes with rebels.” BBC News. April 20, 2021. Accessed May 18, 21 and “Idriss Déby obituary: End of Chad’s ‘Great Survivor’.” BBC News. April 20, 2021. Accessed May 18, 21.

[16] Central Intelligence Agency.  “Chad.” World Factbook. May 19, 2021. Accessed May 18, 21.

[17] Ibid 15.

[18] “Biden pledges to half carbon emissions by 2030.” BBC News. April 22, 2021. Accessed May 10, 21.

[19] Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff. “U.S. Population Over Last Decade Grew at Slowest Rate Since 1930s.” The New York Times. April 26, 2021. Updated May 5, 2021. Accessed May 10, 21.

[20] Barbara Starr, Veronica Stracqualursi and Oren Liebermann. “US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun.” CNN. April 30, 2021. Accessed May 11, 21.

[21] “Deadly fighting on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border kills at least 31.” BBC News. April 30, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.