Asia records record cases and deaths, US-China tensions rise; US outbreak will get worse

CORONAVIRUS ALERT 07/22/2020

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In top stories today:

  • Coronavirus is hitting Asia with a record increase in infections in Hong Kong and deaths in Indonesia, while the Australian state of Victoria posted a record increase in infections and Tokyo warned its residents to stay home over a long weekend. US President Donald J. Trump said the outbreak will get worse in the United States before it gets better.
  • Coronavirus will get worse before it gets better, Trump said of the pandemic that has claimed 140,000 American lives in five months, The Associated Press reported. Trump, who kept to scripted remarks, spoke during a daily coronavirus briefing resumed on July 21 after a gap of three months, the news service added.
  • QUOTE: “It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better,” Trump said, encouraging Americans to wear masks when social distancing is not possible, The Associated Press reported. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.”
  • READ MORE: As the Atlantic Council negotiates the historic disruptions of 2020, our Annual Report for 2019 shows how our past year’s performance was preceded by a dozen years of growth and innovation.
  • Nevada, Oregon, and Tennessee posted record daily increases in infections, The New York Times reported. At least 1,120 deaths were reported on July 21, the first time in July that figure has exceeded one thousand, the newspaper added. Meanwhile, more than twenty thousand members of the US military have contracted the virus, with the rate of infection tripling in the past six weeks, the Times reported.
  • The Trump administration committed to spend $1.95 billion on 100 million doses of a potential vaccine developed by BioNTech of Germany and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the Financial Times reported, citing an announcement by BioNTech. The deal allows the purchase of an extra 500 million doses if the shot gets regulatory approval, the newspaper added.
  • Hong Kong is described as a “cautionary tale” by The Washington Post. The financial hub reported a record increase in infections on July 22, even after it earlier made huge progress in suppressing the virus, the newspaper said. More than half of the 113 can’t be traced, and 105 of them were transmitted locally, the Post cited health officials as saying.
  • A complicated system of quarantine in Hong Kong that includes letting executives of listed companies come and go as they please has been blamed for the increase in infections, the Financial Times reported. Low testing rates and the easing of social distancing are other factors, the newspaper added.
  • Australia had a record day of infections, as the state of Victoria said numbers could increase even more after it reported almost five hundred new cases, Bloomberg said. Deaths increased by a daily record in Indonesia, Bloomberg reported, while officials issued a warning against going outside in Tokyo during an upcoming four-day holiday, the BBC said. If conditions continue as they are now, the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics may not go ahead next year, the president of its organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, told national broadcaster NHK, The Associated Press reported.
  • READ MORE: Atlantic Council experts react to the July 21 agreement and what it means for the future of the European Union: Benjamin Haddad: Europe acts decisively; Josh Lipsky: The European project is alive and well; Julia Friedlander: Europe created the framework for fiscal stability and recovery; Olivier-Rémy Bel: A compromise that focused on the big picture.

NONCHALANCE SPREADS

  • It’s unclear how much access a team of experts, sent to China by the World Health Organization to probe the cause of the coronavirus pandemic, is getting as they are in quarantine for fourteen days, The New York Times reported. The investigation will likely take months and could face delays, the Times added.
  • “Russia races for vaccine as COVID nonchalance spreads,” the Financial Times said in a headline, reporting on people in Moscow seeming to take few precautions including crowding rush-hour trains and packing bars. The capital records about six hundred new cases a day, or 10 percent of the nationwide total, the newspaper added.
  • The coronavirus pandemic and a prolonged trade war between the United States and China make this a “moment of reckoning” for global supply chains, but that’s yet to result in a wave of factory jobs returning to America, The New York Times reported. Most businesses in question chose to remain global amid higher US wages and the attraction of foreign markets, according to the newspaper.
  • Battered by a deep slump in oil prices, the UK oil and gas industry wants all workers tested, whether or not they have symptoms, to avoid an outbreak offshore – but the government has so far refused to make that happen, Bloomberg reported. Cruise ship infections were the first sign of the threat that the pandemic caused, and conditions on offshore rigs are similar, the newswire added.
  • United Airlines and British Airways are among carriers that are calling for a joint testing regime so that travel can resume between Europe and the United States, the BBC reported. The European Union doesn’t yet allow visits from US residents, and the United Kingdom requires US arrivals to spend fourteen days in self-imposed quarantine, the broadcaster added.  
  • Stop accusing us of cybercrimes, China asked the United States on July 22, Reuters reported, citing Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. The US Department of Justice charged two Chinese hackers with targeting American companies carrying out coronavirus research, the Financial Times reported. That’s part of a broad, decade-long effort aimed at stealing trade secrets, the newspaper said.

DOLLAR CHALLENGE

  • Coca-Cola said the pandemic’s biggest challenges are behind it, and expects sales in China, Southeast Asia, and Western Europe, which have managed the worst stages of the pandemic, to continue to improve, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an interview with finance chief John Murphy. Coca-Cola generates about half its sales from venues including restaurants, bars, sports stadiums, and movie theaters, the newspaper added.
  • Worrying infection trends are emerging in southern Europe and the Balkans, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said in a July 21 interview on Newstalk radio in his native Ireland, Reuters reported.
  • QUOTE: “Obviously the Americas is clearly still the major hot spot, North, Central, and South America, but we have disease beginning to accelerate in Africa,” Ryan said, Reuters reported. “Also, even in Europe, while certainly in Western Europe the disease has come under control, we still have some worrying trends in southern Europe and the Balkans so we’re not out of the woods just yet in the European environment. It requires sustained vigilance.”
  • The dollar risks losing out to the euro as the global primary reserve currency after European Union leaders agreed on a 750 billion euro stimulus package, Bloomberg reported. That deal adds to the appeal of the bloc’s shared currency as well as assets denominated in euros, the newswire cited analysts from Credit Agricole and Mizuho International as saying. More than 60 percent of the world’s reserves are held in dollars, the most widely used currency for international transactions, Bloomberg said.
  • Lebanon’s hospitals are struggling to pay healthcare workers, keep equipment going, and even stay open amid a spike in coronavirus cases, The Associated Press reported. Private clinics say they may have to close while across the country, doctors and hospitals report shortages of supplies including anesthesia drugs, the news service added. Meanwhile Iran said 138 healthcare workers have lost their lives so far to coronavirus, The Associated Press reported separately, citing the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

VIRUS SPREAD?

  • Researchers from Germany’s University Medical Center Halle will hold an indoor concert for four thousand people in Leipzig next month to study how viruses spread, The Washington Post reported. They will simulate three scenarios: a concert as in pre-pandemic days; a concert during which the crowd uses eight entrances, not two, with every other seat blocked off; and a concert with strict social distancing and a cap of two thousand concert-goers, the Post said. Attendees will wear contact-tracing devices and use fluorescent hand sanitizer to show which surfaces are touched most frequently, the newspaper added.
  • Measures including the use of face masks have allowed Europe to keep cases of coronavirus in check even as economies reopened in the region, The Wall Street Journal said in a video report.
  • Regular and open communication by a handful of prominent scientists played a key role in quashing misinformation and rumors during the outbreak in Germany, which has among the lowest mortality rates in Europe, CNBC reported. Chancellor Angela Merkel, a scientist herself, broke down complex scientific information for the public, and the status of health minister Jens Spahn rose, CNBC said.
  • Zimbabwe ordered a curfew from dawn to dusk as infections almost doubled to 1,713 on July 21 from a week earlier, Bloomberg reported. Deaths increased 40 percent to twenty-six, as authorities said stiff penalties will apply to those who break quarantine measures, the newswire added.
  • India canceled a historic Hindu pilgrimage, the Amarnath Yatra, to a cave in the mountains of contested Kashmir, Reuters reported, as infections continued to increase. More than 37,000 cases were reported in the past twenty-four hours, the newswire said. Kashmir imposed a strict lockdown on July 12 following a large spike in infections and deaths, Reuters reported.

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