CORONAVIRUS ALERT 3/20/2020
The Atlantic Council’s Coronavirus Alert is a regular summary of policy, economic, and business events around the emergency. To stay updated, sign up to the Coronavirus Alert here.
California’s governor ordered 40 million residents to stay at home in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus. The number of deaths in the United States has more than quadrupled in the past week, while the pace of infections has accelerated worldwide. Governments from India to the UK stepped up measures to contend with the crisis.
There are now in excess of 240,000 cases worldwide in 160 countries and territories; more than 10,000 people have died.
QUOTE: “Alarmist is not a word anyone has ever used to describe me before,” Cornelia Griggs, a pediatric surgery fellow in New York, writes in The New York Times. “We are living in a global public health crisis moving at a speed and scale never witnessed by living generations.”
HEALTH AND SCIENCE:
- California ordered 40 million people to stay at home in an attempt to check the spread of coronavirus, Reuters reported. The unprecedented measure takes effect straight away, with Governor Gavin Newsom predicting the virus could affect half of the state’s population within eight weeks, Reuters said. Exemptions apply to “sixteen critical infrastructure sections,” CNN reported.
- Deaths from coronavirus in the United States have more than quadrupled this week to reach 205, The Wall Street Journal reported. More than 13,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus as testing increases, compared with a few thousand on March 15, CNN said.
- The World Health Organization said it took more than three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, compared with just twelve days to reach the next 100,000, The Washington Post reported. The US State Department warned Americans not to travel overseas and for those outside the country either to return home or stay put indefinitely, the newspaper said.
- Big increases in the death toll this week in Italy, Iran, and Spain add to the urgency for governments worldwide to contain the spread of the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal said. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his confidence that the country can “turn the tide” on coronavirus in the next three months, the Financial Times reported. Johnson has urged the public to avoid pubs and restaurants but without imposing restrictions, CNBC said.
- A new study into the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus is thought to have originated, shows that about 1.4 percent of those who became ill died, NBC News reported, citing the journal Nature. Influenza kills only about 0.1 percent of the millions of people who get the infection each year, NBC said. The fatality rate in Wuhan was 2.6 percent for those aged sixty and above, The New York Times reported, citing the same research.
- Hong Kong recorded its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases, which rose by forty-eight to 256, the South China Morning Post reported. Among those forty-eight, aged between four and sixty-nine, thirty-six had travelled in the past few days, the newspaper cited The Centre for Health Protection as saying. “When one patient passes the virus to two people in the community to form an unknown number of hidden transmission chains, then it’s very likely that we will have 400 to 600 cases in the next two weeks,” said microbiologist Ho Pak-leung of Hong Kong University, the paper reported.
- Pharmaceutical companies including Roche, Sanofi Pasteur, and Johnson & Johnson will join forces in an attempt to find treatments and a vaccine to treat coronavirus, the Financial Times reported. All members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations signed a pact to share resources and clinical trial data with each other and governments, the newspaper said.
- India ordered 1.3 billion people to observe a curfew on March 22 from 7am to 9pm, Al Jazeera reported. The daytime curfew will test the country’s ability to take action against a growing coronavirus “crisis,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a televised address.
- “Will nations stay closed? Will touch become taboo? What will become of restaurants?” asks Politico, which has garnered the predictions of thirty-four thinkers in an article headlined “Coronavirus Will Change the World. Permanently. Here’s How”
QUOTE: “It is now hard to imagine a world that isn’t permanently changed by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” H. Holden Thorp writes in the journal Science. “On so many fronts, this is a battle of a lifetime and a test of our responsibilities for each other and the strength of our compassion.”
FINANCE AND ECONOMICS:
- Stocks and bonds rose worldwide and US futures climbed on March 20, a sign that investors are mulling widespread stimulus measures governments have taken to protect jobs and economies from the accelerating pandemic, Bloomberg said.
- The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in jobless claims in all US states, The Wall Street Journal reported. In Ohio, 78,000 people filed a claim in the week through March 17 compared with about 3,000 in the week-earlier period, the newspaper said. New Jersey registered 15,000 new claims on March 16 alone, the Journal reported.
- The Bank of England scrapped this year’s planned stress test of the country’s eight biggest banks, Reuters said. That followed a decision by the European Union to cancel its own scheduled health check of lenders including HSBC and Barclays. The UK economy faces a steep downturn, typically leading to more loans turning sour, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported.
- The UK central bank cut interest rates to 0.1 percent on March 19, the lowest in its 325-year history, and set out a 200 billion pound emergency measure to buy bonds, the Financial Times reported. The UK government will lay out plans later on March 20 to back workers and avoid job losses, Bloomberg reported. It’s going to be a “massive rescue package,” the FT reported.
- “It is only the financial heft of the state that can help people through this,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a BBC radio interview, Bloomberg reported. “The only way to think about this is that it is a war against an invisible killer and that means we have to marshal the resources of the entire nation.”
- The Financial Stability Board, which coordinates financial rules for the Group of Twenty (G20), said national regulators should use the flexibility that’s built into financial rules so as to maintain the flow of money during the coronavirus crisis, Reuters reported.
- “An upside case to consider is a faster-than-anticipated development of a treatment drug and/or vaccine that would bring increased visibility to the ultimate path of the virus and radically improve clarity on the economic environment,” writes The Atlantic Council’s Bart Oosterveld.
QUOTE: “Given the sheer number of businesses and mortgage-borrowers in trouble, the damage to the economy would be made much worse if banks stopped or cut lending for prudential reasons,” Robert Peston, ITV’s Political Editor, writes in The Spectator.
BUSINESS AND TRAVEL:
- Inditex, which owns Massimo Dutti and Zara, may temporarily lay off as many as 25,000 of its store workers if Spain’s state of emergency lasts beyond April 15, Reuters reported. That would be among the biggest staffing responses to coronavirus in Europe, the news service said.
- Netflix will cut streaming quality for thirty days in Europe to lessen the strain on internet networks during the coronavirus crisis, Business Insider reported. YouTube will take the same action as more people work and study from home because of the pandemic, The Washington Post said.
- The Monaco Grand Prix has been canceled, while the Spanish and Dutch races have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC reported.
- The UK soccer season won’t start again until at least April 30 due to the pandemic, the Independent reported.
- Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific will operate 4 percent of its scheduled flights in April and May, while its low-cost unit HK Express suspended services for at least five weeks because of widespread travel restrictions, the South China Morning Post reported. Cargo flights will continue as usual, the newspaper said.
QUOTE: “No one knows the precise secret to sustaining good behavior in a pandemic of this scale and potential duration,” Clara Ferreira Marques writes on Bloomberg. “We’re just not built to sustain a state of high vigilance.”
- Johns Hopkins University interactive web-based dashboard to visualize and track reported cases in real-time.
- CDC provides frequent updates and background information on Coronavirus.
- The World Health Organization daily situation reports.
- Harvard Business Review guidance on managing the emergency for corporate decisionmakers.
- The Society for Human Resource Management resources on managing communicable diseases.
- The Wall Street Journal has a useful guide to travel and travel insurance.
- State Department Travel Advisory for China.
From the Atlantic Council
New Atlanticist Mar 19, 2020
Ambassadors call for global cooperation to meet coronavirus challenge
By David A. Wemer
While societies around the world struggle to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), political leaders must continue to collaborate on solutions to mitigate the public health and economic effects of the virus.
IranSource Mar 20, 2020
Iranian new year begins with a growing coronavirus crisis
By Mehrnaz Samimi
According to a Persian expression, “Springtime reveals what kind of a year we’d have,” meaning that should a year start well, it would continue and end well. If spring is unpleasant, however, one cannot hope for a good year.
UkraineAlert Mar 19, 2020
Saving Ukraine’s economy from the coronavirus crash
By Yuriy Gorodnichenko
The Ukrainian economy is facing a perfect storm of coronavirus pressures as exports plummet and the domestic economy grinds to a halt. How can Ukraine mitigate the worst of the unfolding global crisis?