Coronavirus restrictions ramp up from US to France, Iran to Latin America


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.


Worldwide restrictions increased as authorities from the United States to France, and Iran to Latin America tried to contain the spread of coronavirus. Governments embarked on economic measures to limit the economic impact of the pandemic, including a reported $850 billion sought from Congress by the Trump administration.


There are now in excess of 185,000 cases worldwide in more than 150 countries and territories; more than 7,300 people have died.  

QUOTE: “We are at war—a public health war, certainly but we are at war, against an invisible and elusive enemy,” French President Emmanuel Macron, quoted in The Guardian.


  • Americans were urged to avoid non-essential travel and gatherings of more than ten people, The Wall Street Journal cited US President Donald J. Trump as telling reporters. People should work from home if possible and avoid restaurants and bars, The New York Times reported. The coronavirus emergency could last until the end of the summer or longer, the BBC cited him as saying.
  • Officials ordered millions of residents to stay at home in seven San Francisco Bay Area counties, the Associated Press reported, affecting almost 7 million people. AP outlined worldwide restrictions on movement in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, from Canada to Switzerland, to Russia and Malaysia.
  • More than 3,800 people had died from coronavirus in countries including Italy, France, and Iran as of March 16, compared with 3,200 deaths in China, The Wall Street Journal said, citing data from John Hopkins University.
  • Polling in primary elections will not take place in Ohio today, CNN reported. Primaries in Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana were postponed, The New York Times said.
  • Canada has closed borders except to US citizens and urged people in Canada to stay at home, Reuters cited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as saying from outside his house, where he is in quarantine because of coronavirus.
  • Washington asked Beijing not to shift blame for coronavirus to the United States, the South China Morning Post reported, citing the State Department. President Trump drew criticism for using the term “Chinese Virus” to describe coronavirus on Twitter, NBC News said.
  • The European Union presented an unprecedented plan to ban non-essential travel into most of the bloc, The Wall Street Journal said. “EU-wide efforts face dwindling support among members more focused on national welfare,” the Journal reported.
  • France’s President Emmanuel Macron, declaring “we are at war” against coronavirus, ordered residents to stay at home for two weeks except for essential trips to buy food and medicine, CNBC reported.
  • More than 180 people have died from coronavirus in Spain since March 16, with almost 2,000 new cases, the Financial Times reported. The country has been in lockdown since March 14, the FT said.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has advised people against socializing, urging them to avoid bars and restaurants and to work from home if possible, as the number of deaths from coronavirus reached fifty-five, the BBC reported. Those at most risk of contracting the virus will be asked to stay at home for twelve weeks, the BBC said. While 1,500 people have tested positive, the real figure is estimated at between 35,000 and 50,000, the report said.
  • The toughened approach on coronavirus by UK authorities was informed by a study that painted a worst-case scenario of hundreds of thousands of deaths and an overwhelmed health service, Reuters reported. Imperial College London conducted the study, based on data from Italy, the news service said.
  • On St. Patrick’s Day, when crowds usually celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, the country’s pubs and bars are closed, Sky News reported. 
  • 698 cases have been confirmed in Latin America and the Caribbean as of March 16, nearly doubling March 13’s head count. Brazil alone confirmed 234 cases. Community spreading is confirmed in numerous countries. In this context, the presidents of Prosur member countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, and Peru) had a virtual meeting on March 16 addressing the need for regional coordination with regard to air transportation bans and agreements to close borders. They also highlighted the importance of cooperating around public procurement for equipment against the pandemic and to begin coordinating an economic and employment re-activation plan along with the Inter-American Development Bank and the CAF-Development Bank of Latin America. Similarly, Central American countries also met virtually on March 13 and released a joint declaration.
  • Iran, where the number of deaths from coronavirus has reached 853, has freed 85,000 prisoners temporarily as it tries to contain the spread of the virus, Sky News reported.
  • “Behave like you have coronavirus,” runs a headline in Quartz. Two-thirds of infections could be spread by people who have gone undetected as having coronavirus, Quartz said, citing research in the journal Science. Or as The New York Times puts it: “Coronavirus is hiding in plain sight”

QUOTE:Italy’s plight has rapidly become a test of European solidarity,” the Financial Times said in an editorial. “In times of emergency, national self-interest is understandable. But without co-operation and burden-sharing, the principles of an ever closer union are meaningless.”


  • The Trump administration has asked Congress for about $850 billion in emergency stimulus to confront the economic impact of the virus, The Washington Post reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. That includes $50 billion to support the airline industry, the newspaper said.
  • It’s been another hectic day of trading so far on global stock markets, the Financial Times reported. The S&P 500 tumbled 12 percent on March 16, taking the index almost 30 percent lower than its record peak reached less than a month ago, CNBC said. Volatility is expected to remain high after stocks tumbled by the most since 1987 on two occasions in recent days, Bloomberg reported, citing opinions from a range of investment professionals.
  • Developing countries’ revenue from oil and gas could reach its lowest level in more than twenty years if the current state of the energy market continues, according to a rare joint statement from the International Energy Agency and OPEC, CNBC reported. Revenue for developing countries is expected to fall by between 50 and 85 percent this year, CNBC cited the energy groups as saying.
  • Oil fell below $30 a barrel, close to its lowest in more than four years, Reuters reported. “There is simply nothing, neither a fundamental nor technical development, that implies that the rot we are experiencing will come to a halt any time soon,” Reuters cited Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM as saying.
  • Investor confidence in Germany fell to the lowest level in March since the 2008 financial crisis, the Financial Times reported, citing the Zew survey of financial market experts.
  • France set out a 45-billion euro economic rescue plan, with possible measures to include nationalization of companies, the Financial Times reported. Italy unveiled a 25-billion euro package on March 16 to support the country’s health system and shore up jobs, the FT said. The UK is expected to set out a series of measures later today, the newspaper reported. 
  •  “While the world is focused on the spread of a pandemic, the conflict between Iran and the United States is heating up,” writes The Atlantic Council’s Kirsten Fontenrose. “In the case of Iran, the risk is high that a regime facing what must look like an existential threat in the form of a virus will be more venturesome.”

QUOTE: “We’re calling the recession,” said Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, The New York Times reported. “We have the three elements to make that call—a profound, pervasive, and persistent contraction in economic activity.”


  • The Kentucky Derby race has been postponed until September, CNN reported, citing local media in Louisville. In the UK, all horse-racing has been suspended until the end of April, the Racing Post reported. That includes the Grand National, the newspaper said.
  • Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “turns vague on timing of Tokyo Olympics,” Bloomberg reported. Following a video conference among Group of Seven (G7) leaders about coronavirus, Abe avoided comment about the timing of the summer games.
  • Amazon said it plans to hire 100,000 full- and part-time workers in the United States to keep up with online orders prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.

QUOTE: “People don’t have reserves, they live hand-to mouth,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist, The New York Times reported. “People won’t be able to pay their rents, landlords won’t be able to pay their oil bills, the whole system could break down.” 


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