CORONAVIRUS ALERT 3/19/2020
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.
The number of coronavirus cases worldwide topped 220,000, with a new study showing that it’s not just older patients that have become seriously ill from a pandemic that is shutting down economic and social life worldwide. More economic stimulus packages were launched, leading some analysts to question how much debt the US government can sustain.
There are now in excess of 220,000 cases worldwide in nearly 160 countries and territories; more than 9,000 people have died.
QUOTE: ““Take it seriously,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a televised address, The New York Times reported. “Since German reunification—no, since World War II—our country has never faced a challenge where we depended so much on our collective actions and solidarity.”
HEALTH AND SCIENCE:
- US President Donald J Trump signed into law a $100 billion package of coronavirus measures that includes emergency paid leave and guarantees free testing for the virus, CNBC reported.
- Adults of all ages are becoming seriously ill because of coronavirus, The New York Times reported, citing a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Out of the 508 coronavirus patients known to have been hospitalized in the United States, 38 percent were between ages twenty and fifty-four, the report said. Almost half of the 121 sickest patients studied were adults under sixty-five, the CDC study shows, the newspaper said.
- Italy recorded 475 deaths from coronavirus in one day, bringing the total to almost 3,000, the BBC reported. That’s the biggest increase in a day since the outbreak began, with 319 of the day’s dead in Lombardy, Italy’s worst hit region, the BBC said. France also recorded its highest number of deaths from the virus in one day, Sky News said. The eighty-nine deaths there took the total to 264, Sky News reported. “We have an epidemic that is rapidly becoming more serious,” RFI cited the country’s top health official, Jerome Salomon, as saying.
- The death toll from coronavirus increased in Spain too, rising to 767 from 598, Bloomberg reported. Iran recorded 149 new deaths in the past twenty-four hours, taking the total to 1,284 deaths, the news service said.
- The UK government denied that it plans to lock London down and confine the capital’s residents to their homes, Bloomberg reported. The country has put 20,000 military personnel on standby, closed dozens of Underground stations in London, and will close schools across the country from March 20, Reuters reported.
- Beijing had a record number of so-called imported cases of coronavirus, whereas new local transmissions in China fell to zero for the first day since the outbreak took hold late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Reuters reported. Beijing recorded twenty-one new infections from overseas, mostly Spain and the UK, the news service said.
- Hong Kong recorded sixteen new cases of coronavirus yesterday, taking the total to 208, with four deaths, the South China Morning Post reported. Health officials said they will investigate the possible spread of new cases in the entertainment neighborhood of Lan Kwai Fong, the newspaper reported.
- Trials of an inhaled drug to treat critically ill patients may start as soon as next week at the UK’s Southampton General Hospital, Sky News reported. The experimental drug SNG001 is a formulation of beta-interferon, a naturally occurring protein, Sky News said.
- Jordan used the army to lock down its capital Amman, with a population of 3 million, from the rest of the country in an attempt to check the spread of coronavirus, The Washington Post reported, citing the Xinhua News Agency.
- The outbreak is imposing financial burden on Latin American economies, with the underserved population likely bearing the brunt. To address this, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama have taken actions to extend the tax filing/payment deadline, extend the membership of social programs, and implement targeted cash transfers, among other actions. President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador went further and announced on March 18 a three-month suspension of utilities’ payment for Salvadorans who test positive.
- Two additional members of President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet tested positive for COVID-19: Bento Albuquerque, minister of Mines and Energy and General Augusto Heleno, minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet. On March 18, Senate President Davi Alcolumbre (DEM-AP) also tested positive.
- BrewDog, an independent brewer based in Scotland, has started producing sanitizer at its distillery in Aberdeenshire, The Guardian reported. Luxury goods company LVMH switched production at a factory that usually creates fragrances to produce hand sanitizer for Paris hospitals within seventy-two hours of the French government issuing a call to industry, the Financial Times reported.
QUOTE: ““I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” said Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, The New York Times reported. “It’s not just going to be the elderly.”
FINANCE AND ECONOMICS:
- Asian stock markets fell sharply on March 19, European markets declined, and US markets are poised to follow suit, The Washington Post reported. The US Federal Reserve is setting up a special backstop for money market mutual funds, the central bank said late on March 18, the newspaper also reported. That’s another measure that the central bank used during the financial crisis of 2008 and the seventh major emergency action the Fed has taken this week, the Post said.
- US lawmakers are also working on an emergency package of as much as $1.3 trillion, much more than the gargantuan recession-fighting measures that Congress passed during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Reuters reported. The package may include two lots of payments to Americans, the news service said, citing a proposal by the Treasury Department that it’s seen. The pandemic and the measures taken will test the limits of how much debt the US government can withstand, The Wall Street Journal said, citing analysts.
- The European Central Bank launched a 750 billion euro emergency bond buyback program following an unscheduled meeting yesterday in an attempt to stem the economic and financial crisis prompted by coronavirus, France 24 reported, citing Reuters.
- The economy of Germany, Europe’s largest, may contract by between 4 and 5 percent this year because of the coronavirus crisis, Reuters cited Deutsche Bank as saying. Industrial output may shrink by 10 percent. The US economy will contract by 0.8 percent, compared with a 1.7 percent drop and world economic growth of 2 percent, Deutsche Bank forecast.
- The European Union’s most senior Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, sixty-nine, has tested positive for coronavirus, The Washington Post reported. US Representatives Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) have done so too, the first confirmed cases of the virus in Congress, the newspaper said.
- “The sheer amount of information on the outbreak means that government and business leaders need to take specific actions to ensure that their citizens and employees receive important credible information,” writes The Atlantic Council’s David A. Wemer.
QUOTE: “[B]ig” is irrelevant or worse if it’s aimed at the wrong solution because you’ve misdiagnosed the problem,” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board writes. “The market has figured out that American commerce is shutting down right before our eyes with no end in sight.”
BUSINESS AND TRAVEL:
- Australian airline Quantas plans to ground all international flights from late this month and lay off two-thirds of its workforce temporarily, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Australia and New Zealand will ban entry to all non-residents from March 20, the BBC reported.
- Reuters has an updated listing of automakers that have cut back or suspended production in Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic.
- India has barred all international flights from arriving in the country for a week from March 22 and asked federal states to impose working from home for all except essential and emergency services, Bloomberg said.
QUOTE: “The nationalization of the airline industry could not only deliver travelers from the horrors of air travel, but also forge new thinking when it comes to public intervention in the market,” Alexander Sammon writes in The New Prospect.
- 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 18, 2020
How the coronavirus will impact Panama’s economy
By Cristina Guevara
Panama’s economy—currently precarious and stagnant—depends on infrastructure megaprojects, international trade, and financial services, making it especially vulnerable to external changes like coronavirus.
New Atlanticist Mar 18, 2020
The global economic policy response to coronavirus takes shape
By Bart Oosterveld
Governments and central banks globally have been engaged in an initial round of measures to blunt the anticipated economic impact of the spread of the virus, including making funds available, lowering key interest rates, intervening in funding markets, and supporting emergency lending.
New Atlanticist Mar 19, 2020
Azerbaijan’s strongman senses opportunity in coronavirus pandemic
By Doug Klain
While many countries are scrambling to protect the public from COVID-19, authorities in Azerbaijan are using the virus as a pretext to continue their harassment of opposition groups.