China delayed coronavirus information, reports Associated Press; Hong Kong cluster concerns


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Please note that there will be no Coronavirus Alert editions June 3-5; the Atlantic Council will resume with the June 8th edition.

In top stories today:

  • China dragged its feet on giving the World Health Organization (WHO) the information it needed on coronavirus in January, The Associated Press reported. Hong Kong extended restrictions after a cluster of new cases raised concerns, while the death toll in the United Kingdom approached 50,000.  
  • “China delayed releasing coronavirus info, frustrating WHO,” The Associated Press said. The WHO  praised China throughout January for Beijing’s speedy response to the outbreak but behind the public words, frustration mounted as the WHO struggled to get the timely information they needed to fight the spread of coronavirus, the newswire said in an exclusive report.  
  • The news service also published a fact-check article with the headline “Trump’s move to quit WHO cites flawed facts.”
  • Hong Kong extended restrictions on gathering in public by at least two weeks as four new cases on the same housing estate raised concerns about so-called “super spreaders” of coronavirus, the South China Morning Post reported. Regulations around the operation of restaurants and bars, originally due to expire on June 4, will also stay in place until June 18, the newspaper added.
  • READ MORE: “A NATO strategy for China alone will be not a sufficient solution to the West’s increasingly tense relationship with Beijing,” writes Ian Brzezinski of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative. “A coherent and effective transatlantic strategy for China will have to be comprehensive, one that leverages the full complement of diplomatic, economic, technological, social, and military capabilities and dynamics that define geopolitical power.”
  • The UK death toll from coronavirus approached 50,000, making it among the worst affected countries in the world, Reuters reported, citing its own tally. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism for delays in imposing a lockdown, protecting the elderly in nursing homes, and building a system to test and trace, the newswire added. While the government acknowledges it’s made some mistakes, it also says that it ensured the public health system wasn’t overwhelmed, Reuters added.  
  • Thousands of people in Moscow say they have been fined in error by a coronavirus app, citing flaws and glitches in a quarantine tracking device that sometimes demands selfie photos in the middle of the night, The Associated Press reported. During just over a month authorities issued 54,000 fines, for a total of three million dollars, to the app’s 70,000 registered users, who say it wasn’t clear how to use the app nor what actions would lead to a fine, The Associated Press added.  
  • The statistics say… Moscow, with a population of 12 million, has recorded in excess of half of Russia’s cases of the virus, The Associated Press said. Russia posted a daily increase of 8,863 new cases on June 2, taking the tally to 423,741, the third-biggest total worldwide, Reuters reported.  
  • “Explainer: Can you catch COVID-19 from delivered packages?” That’s the headline to a Reuters article, following a coronavirus outbreak at a logistics center run by one of South Korea’s biggest online shopping companies. It covers issues from contaminated services to speedy delivery.  
  • QUOTE: “The virus can last up to 24 hours on cardboards and over three days on hard surfaces like stainless steel,” said Kim Woo-joo, a professor of Infectious Diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital, Reuters reported. “There is no research on bubble wraps yet, but it could be between a cardboard and a stainless steel.” 
  • READ MORE:  In the inaugural event for the Atlantic Council’s newly-established Forward Defense practice area, General James Jones, General James Cartwright, Max Brooks, August Cole, and Valerie Jackson join us for a contemporary exploration of narrative and the future of warfare, to be held on June 2 at 3:30 pm ET. Details are here.


  • The coronavirus pandemic may cost the United States economy $7.9 trillion over the next decade, according to a June 1 projection by the Congressional Budget Office, The New York Times reported. That equates to 3 percent of gross domestic product, The Wall Street Journal reported. Without adjusting for inflation, that figure rises to $16 trillion, The New York Times added.  
  • QUOTE: ““[A]n unusually high degree of uncertainty surrounds these economic projections,” said Phillip L. Swagel, the director of the budget office, The New York Times reported. 
  • As nations in Europe mull how to pay the bill for the trillions they have spent to protect companies and jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, France will not raise taxes to boost revenue, Bloomberg reported, citing Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who spoke on French radio RTL.  
  • QUOTE: “Today we have taxation that is very heavy, among the highest of all developed economies so good sense is not to increase pressure on French people,” Le Maire said on RTL, Bloomberg reported. “Yes, debt will have to be paid back, but not by raising taxes⁠—by raising growth.” 
  • The coronavirus pandemic has hit Europe’s market for the securitization of bad loans, a key part of the cleanup operation after last decade’s debt crisis, The Wall Street Journal reported. Italy’s Banca Popolare di Bari SCpA tapped a government plan to package nonperforming loans (NPLs) in 2017 and sell securities backed by them to investors, then other lenders followed suit, the Journal said. Loan recovery will be challenging as Italy enters a deep recession, the newspaper added.  


  • “UAE caught between US and China as powers vie for influence in Gulf,” reads a Financial Times headline. The United States turned down the United Arab Emirates’ offer to supply its embassy with hundreds of coronavirus tests because of the involvement of Chinese technology and concerns over privacy, the newspaper said.  
  • The Metropolitan Opera, the biggest US performing arts organization, canceled its fall season because of the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported. That leaves many of its artists, who haven’t been paid since March, in a dire financial situation, the newspaper added. The Met now hopes to return with a gala performance on New Year’s Eve, the Times said.  
  • South Korea expects human trials of Celltrion’s experimental treatment for coronavirus to start in Europe in July, laying the ground to secure sizeable supplies of the drug by the first half of 2021, Reuters said, citing Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Celltrion said on June 1 that the treatment showed up to a 100-fold reduction in viral load of the disease during animal testing, Reuters added. 


  • Japan has allowed saliva-based coronavirus tests, offering a simpler and safer way to determine infection than nasal swabs, Reuters reported. The saliva-based tests can be administered to those who have had symptoms for up to nine days, although it’s unclear to what extent the change will boost overall testing capacity, the newswire added.  
  • UK government ministers are looking at ways around 14-day quarantine measures for arrivals following criticism by businesses and some legislators, the BBC reported. That may include exempting more workers and setting up travel corridors to countries with lower rates of infection, the BBC added.  
  • “The new era of quarantine: a muddled set of travel rules” reads the headline to a long-form article in the Financial Times, which cites examples from Australia to Myanmar and Samoa. The contrast is especially acute in Europe, where Italy, Spain, and Greece plan to loosen quarantine measures while the United Kingdom introduces them, the newspaper reported.  
  • Deutsche Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest airline, has overcome most of the hurdles to getting a nine billion-euro bailout from the German government, Bloomberg reported. The carrier has sought out the help after the coronavirus pandemic ruptured a decades-long boom in aviation, the newswire added.  
  • Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has canceled the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this year because of coronavirus concerns, Reuters reported. Authorities in Saudi Arabia have said the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, which draw millions of foreign travelers, will be suspended until further notice, the newswire added.  
  • Foreign travelers arriving in Thailand can opt for luxury 15-night quarantine stays at five hotels in and close to Bangkok, the Financial Times reported. Although relatively unaffected by coronavirus cases and deaths, Thailand has seen its tourism industry collapse because of the pandemic, the newspaper added.


  • Foreign investors in Brazil withdrew a record $11.8 billion from its stock market in the four months from April to May, while bond investors pulled $18.7 billion between February and April, the Financial Times reported. President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro has given fright to investors, even as investment returns to many other emerging markets, the newspaper added.  
  • QUOTE: The outflows “reflect investors’ fears regarding the evolution of the pandemic but, most importantly, the fear of Bolsonaro as an agent of economic, political, institutional and health crises himself,” said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, the Financial Times reported.
  • Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people, has seen the number of coronavirus cases top 150,000, with the WHO describing the region as the world’s least affected by the pandemic, The Associated Press reported. More than 4,300 deaths have been confirmed in Africa, where testing equipment and medical supplies are in short supply in many places, the newswire added.  
  • A pledging drive on June 2 by the United Nations and Saudi Arabia for Yemen, which faces the spread of coronavirus and severe famine, aims to raise $2.4 billion as a shortage in funding jeopardizes the world’s biggest aid operation, Reuters reported.
  • The 2020 Formula One season will begin on July 5 in Austria, the first of eight races across Europe, the BBC reported. All events will be held without spectators and participants will follow measures to minimize the spread of coronavirus, the BBC added.