CORONAVIRUS ALERT 08/27/2020
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.
We are very excited to announce that we’re launching a new weekly format of the Coronavirus Alert that will bring you the latest and most significant expert insights and international news about where the world is headed during the pandemic era and beyond. The Atlantic Council will end its daily news summary on Friday, August 28 and send the first edition of our new weekly update on Friday, September 4. We hope you’ll enjoy it. Thank you for reading!
In top stories today:
- Face masks could soon be compulsory in all public places in Paris after infections increased in France, while Europe faces a “tricky moment” in its transition from summer, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. An additional one million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.
- The statistics say… there are now about 24.2 million cases worldwide in 188 countries and territories; in excess of 820,000 people have died.
- EVENT: In 2020s America, public attitudes are in flux. How do Americans see the future of US foreign policy? Join us for a discussion on how the next presidential administration can re-energize support for US international leadership on Thursday, August 27 at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Details are here.
- Authorities in European countries including France, Spain, and the United Kingdom are imposing mask rules, building new desks en masse, and hiring extra teachers, determined to get pupils back into classrooms despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases, The Associated Press reported. They want to narrow the attainment gap between the haves and have-nots and get parents back to work, the news service added.
- Europe faces a “tricky moment” as summer turns to fall, said Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, CNBC reported. Schools reopening, the flu season, and excess mortality among elderly people during the winter are causes for concern, he said. While classrooms haven’t played a major role in spreading infections, there is growing evidence of young people infecting others at social gatherings, Reuters cited Kluge as saying.
- QUOTE: “There’s also more and more publications that add to the body of evidence that children do play a role in the transmission but that this is, so far, more linked with social gatherings,” Kluge said, CNBC reported.
- South Korea, Italy, and France recorded the highest number of new cases in several months, Bloomberg reported. The outbreak in South Korea has been linked to a mega-church in the area of Seoul, the capital, and anti-government protests, The Washington Post said.
- Face masks could soon be compulsory in all public places in Paris following a recent surge in infections, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on August 27, The New York Times reported. His office later said a final decision will be made in coming days, the newspaper added. Castex sought to reassure the public that France is now much better able to cope with the virus than it was in the spring, the Times added.
- QUOTE: “Sounding the alarm doesn’t mean we are in a dire situation,” Castex told reporters, The New York Times said, although he warned that “the growth of the epidemic can be exponential if we don’t react quickly.”
- European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she had “respect” for the decision of Phil Hogan to resign as trade commissioner following a controversy about his attendance at a golf dinner during a trip home in Ireland amid coronavirus restrictions, the Irish Times reported.
- QUOTE: “Playing a round of golf in the middle of a pandemic is hardly a good look for a politician,” Lionel Laurent wrote on Bloomberg. “But playing two games and attending a formal dinner with around eighty guests, as swathes of the Irish political establishment did earlier this month, is bound to provoke outrage—not least in a country where official COVID-19 guidelines limit most indoor events to six people.”
- A two-person team from the WHO that has just finished a three-week trip to China did not visit Wuhan, the city where the first cases of coronavirus were detected in December 2019, the Financial Times reported. That has added to concern by western governments about China’s commitment to identifying the source of the pandemic, the newspaper said.
- READ MORE: “Stagnant defense spending levels and the prospect of lasting economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic could handicap the United States’ ability to match Russia and China’s modernization efforts,” writes the Atlantic Council’s David A. Wemer.
- About one million people applied for unemployment benefits last week for the first time, a slight drop on the 1.1 million claimants the previous week, The Washington Post reported. While the numbers have declined since highs in March, they are still well above historic records, the Post added. A total of about 27 million people are getting some form of unemployment pay-out, the newspaper cited the Department of Labor as saying.
- About 460 million children worldwide have been cut off from remote learning during the pandemic, Unicef, the United Nations agency for children, said in an August 26 report. Children in sub-Saharan Africa were the worst affected, The New York Times said, while a separate report by Human Rights Watch, also on August 26, said many schoolchildren in the region have had no classes at all since March.
- QUOTE: “The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” said Henrietta Fore, the executive director of Unicef, The New York Times reported. “The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.”
- Seventeen dollars (thirteen pounds) a day: that’s what low-paid workers will receive if they have to self-isolate during the pandemic, the UK government said. The payments will start on a trial basis on September 1 in Blackburn, Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham, areas in northwest England that have extra social-distancing restrictions in place to contain outbreaks, Bloomberg reported, citing the Department for Health.
- QUOTE: “I am pleased they have at last acknowledged this issue but am sorry to say this move goes nowhere near far enough,” said Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the BBC reported. “The health secretary [Matt Hancock] has already said that he couldn’t live on Statutory Sick Pay at £95 a week. So how can an announcement like this work?”
- Shoppers in the United States are cutting spending on groceries, data show, in a sign that Americans are strapped for cash as federal stimulus payments are still on hold for most recipients, The Wall Street Journal reported. That’s also prompted more discounting in stores, which consumers haven’t seen much of during the pandemic, the Journal added.
- “Is this the end for America’s mom-and-pop stores?” asked the Financial Times in its magazine, leading with the example of The Dragon’s Nest, a toy store in Newburyport on the north coast of Massachusetts, which was modeled on Charles Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop. Later this month it will close down after thirty-eight years, amid competition on price from Walmart and Amazon, also the prospect of another coronavirus lockdown if cases reemerge in the fall and winter, the article said.
- Engine maker Rolls-Royce said it plans to raise at least two billion pounds from selling off parts of the business and is looking at other options to raise cash, Bloomberg reported. The pandemic has had a brutal impact on revenue from the maintenance of wide-bodied planes, contributing to a loss of 5.4 billion pounds in the first half, the company’s biggest ever loss, the newswire reported.
- Video game makers are thriving during the pandemic, while Hollywood suffers and the travel industry contends with the biggest crisis in its history, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Second-quarter US sales in the industry jumped 30 percent to $11.6 billion, according to researcher NDP Group, the news outlet said. People stuck at home eased the lockdown blues by hunting zombies or planting trees in villages full of talking animals, supercharging what was an already lucrative business, the article said.
- Deposits held by eurozone banks increased by 10.3 percent in the year to July as companies and households across the region responded to the pandemic by saving more money, the Financial Times reported. Non-financial companies increased their deposits by 20.4 percent and households by 7.4 percent, the article said. Economists differ in their interpretation: pent-up demand to be spent as lockdowns are eased, or a safety net put aside for an uncertain future, the Financial Times added.
- SAIC Motor Corp, China’s biggest carmaker, posted a 39 percent drop in first-half net profit as the pandemic kept buyers away from showrooms, Bloomberg reported. Performance at the Chinese partner of Volkswagen and General Motors improved in the second quarter though, with profit up 32 percent from the year-earlier period as the car market started to recover, the newswire added.
- Ford, the second-largest US automaker, asked about 30,000 workers to clear out all of their personal belongings from its Dearborn, Michigan headquarters as the company plans to reconfigure the space for an era that will partly involve remote working longer term, The Wall Street Journal reported. The exercise has nothing to do with layoffs, but rather in preparation for when most employees will not go into the office every day, the Journal cited Jackie Shuk, a global director at Ford’s real-estate arm, as saying.
- Abbott Laboratories got emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for a five-dollar COVID-19 antigen test that gives results in about fifteen minutes, The Wall Street Journal reported. It can be used in a doctor’s or nurse’s office using similar technology to home pregnancy tests, the Journal added.
- Meanwhile, Moderna said its experimental vaccine led to immune responses in people aged 56 and above that are comparable to the response spurred in younger adults, citing a preliminary study, the newspaper said separately. That’s a promising sign for a vulnerable demographic, as the immune system tends to weaken with age, making it harder for a vaccine to provoke a strong enough immune response, the article added.
- “Coronavirus in Vacant Apartment Implicates Toilet in Spread” runs a Bloomberg headline, the most read among the newswire’s recent articles. The discovery in the bathroom of a vacant apartment in Guangzhou, China suggests the virus may have wafted through drainpipes, an echo of a big SARS outbreak in Hong Kong seventeen years ago, Bloomberg said. Traces were detected in February in the long-empty apartment directly above a household confirmed a week earlier to have COVID-19, researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a paper published this month in Environment International, the newswire reported.
- Nine more coronavirus cases in two areas of the Gaza Strip, the coastal enclave of nearly two million people, were discovered on August 26, signaling a wider outbreak in the impoverished Palestinian territory, The Washington Post reported. Authorities imposed a forty-eight-hour lockdown on August 25 after the first four cases were confirmed, with the first death reported the following day, the Post added.
- An endangered tribe in India’s Andamans and Nicobar archipelago has been hit by coronavirus, the BBC reported. Four of the Greater Andamanese tribe living on a far-flung island tested positive last week, while six people living in a city did so a month ago, out of a population of fifty-three, the broadcaster added.
- The statistics say… India recorded 75,760 new infections in the past twenty-four hours, a new record compared with the previous high of 70,488 on August 22, The Associated Press reported. The additional 1,023 deaths take the total of fatalities to 60,472. The country has had more than 60,000 new cases every day for the past two weeks, taking the total to 3.3 million infections since the pandemic started.
- The Israeli health ministry postponed a Europa League soccer game on August 26 because visiting players from Bosnia-Herzegovina tested positive for COVID-19, The Associated Press reported. It’s the fifth time this month that a Europa League or Champions League qualifier has been postponed, in each case because of infections in teams from eastern Europe, the news service added.
- 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 and interim guidance on company policies.
- The World Health Organization daily situation reports.