Europe, Japan go big on coronavirus economic stimulus; cases increase in South Korea


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.

In top stories today:

  • The European Union (EU) and Japan went big on new economic stimulus measures in response to the coronavirus crisis, giving investors cause for cheer. Fresh cases in South Korea highlighted the complications of reopening economies as lockdown measures ease.  
  • The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, announced a plan to borrow 750 billion euros on the market and redistribute it in grants and loans to help member states recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported. Spain and Italy, the worst affected by the virus, will get 313 billion euros in grants and loans between them, the newswire added.  
  • QUOTE: “This is Europe’s moment,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Bloomberg reported. “Our willingness to act must live up to the challenges we are all facing.”
  • Japan’s cabinet gave the green light to more than a trillion dollars in stimulus aid, with measures including a combination of subsidies to people and companies, The New York Times reported. Parliament is expected to approve the package next month, the newspaper added.
  • “Spike in South Korea virus cases shows perils of reopening,” with forty newly confirmed cases, the biggest daily increase in almost fifty days, just as millions of children went back to school on May 27, said The Associated Press. The country may need to restart social distancing measures as it’s increasingly challenging to track the spread of the virus, said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Associated Press reported.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces intense questions by a group of legislators on May 27 over his support for his adviser Dominic Cummings’ decision to go against lockdown restrictions, the Financial Times reported. Cummings has not expressed regret or apologized for making a 264-mile trip from London to stay on his family’s property in County Durham, northern England, the newspaper added.  


  • So-called micro-lockdowns could shut down offices, housing estates, and schools if coronavirus cases flare up under Johnson’s plan to ease lockdown rules, Bloomberg reported. The measures include hiring 25,000 contact tracers to monitor the spread of coronavirus, the newswire added.  
  • France announced an eight billion euro plan to support its car industry, hard hit by coronavirus, of which one billion euros provides grants of seven thousand euros to encourage consumers to buy electric vehicles, the BBC reported. Renault and PSA promised to focus production in France in return for the help, the BBC added.  
  • QUOTE: “We need a motivational goal—make France Europe’s top producer of clean vehicles by bringing output to more than one million electric and hybrid cars per year over the next five years,” President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at the Valeo car factory in Etaples, northern France, the BBC reported.  
  • Concern about “silent hypoxia”—oxygen deprivation that doesn’t always cause shortness of breath and so can go undetected—has prompted health officials in Brazil to order mass monitoring of blood oxygen among coronavirus patients, the Financial Times said. A University of Washington study warned that Brazil’s coronavirus death toll could reach 125,000 by August, from the current 24,500, the BBC said.  
  • QUOTE: “Brazil must follow the lead of Wuhan, China, as well as Italy, Spain, and New York by enforcing mandates and measures to gain control of a fast-moving epidemic,” wrote Dr. Christopher Murray, one of the study authors, the BBC reported. 
  • Reports of fraud have proliferated in Latin America during the coronavirus pandemic as officials from Argentina to Panama have been forced to resign, amid allegations of the fraudulent purchase of medical supplies including ventilators and masks, The Associated Press reported.  
  • READ MORE: The Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina for an exclusive interview, moderated by Africa Center Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby. The interview covered issues including the Bank’s response to coronavirus, fiscal space, the informal economy, and innovations in the face of the pandemic.


  • “Victims of lockdown abuse struggle to speak out” reads a Financial Times headline. Officials in France and Spain are concerned that many women at risk of domestic violence weren’t able to access the help they need in spite of new initiatives, the newspaper reported.  
  • Plane maker Boeing will announce about 2,500 voluntary job cuts as soon as May 29, the first phase of layoffs as the coronavirus outbreak hit demand for air travel, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing labor unions. The cuts will focus on the commercial airplanes unit in the Seattle area, the Journal added.  
  • The coronavirus pandemic has led to an unprecedented decline in worldwide energy investment “staggering in both its scale and swiftness,” the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Investment report, CNBC reported. Spending is set to plummet in every major sector of the energy industry this year, the report said, CNBC added.
  • US passenger railroad service Amtrak plans to cut as much as 20 percent of its workforce in the next fiscal year after the coronavirus outbreak led to a massive decline in passenger numbers, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an internal memo. Ridership and ticket sales have fallen by 95 percent since the start of the pandemic, Chief Executive Bill Flynn said in the memo to workers, the Journal added.  
  • The euro-area economy faces a decline this year that’s in line with the European Central Bank’s more pessimistic forecasts, the bank’s president, Christine Lagarde, said in an online question-and-answer session for young people, Bloomberg reported. Economic output in the bloc will probably drop by between 8 percent and 12 percent, she said.  
  • QUOTE: “We’ll have a better sense in a few days as we publish our numbers in early June, but it’s likely we will be in between the medium and severe scenarios,” said Lagarde, Bloomberg reported.  
  • About half of Americans will definitely get vaccinated against coronavirus, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, The Washington Post reported. The 49 percent who plan to get the shot compares with 31 percent who are unsure, while the remaining 20 percent say they will not get vaccinated, the newspaper added.  
  • The work to extract, clean, and check medical records for a single patient who has tested positive for coronavirus can take eight hours before the data can eventually be shared with researchers worldwide, news service Stat reported. It’s a reminder of how much data wrangling still needs to be done manually despite the use of technology including artificial intelligence, Stat added. 


  • Cyprus has promised to pay all the costs of any vacationers who test positive for coronavirus while visiting the Mediterranean island, The Associated Press reported, citing a letter by government ministers for transport, tourism, and foreign affairs. International air travel begins to Cyprus on June 9, from nineteen countries to start with; passengers need to take a test for coronavirus three days before departure, a measure that will be lifted on June 20 for thirteen countries, The Associated Press added.
  • “Five ways the pandemic may change airports for the better,” runs a headline from CNBC, including more space, touchless technology, changes to security lines, and deep cleaning. Airports could eventually become places to check and contact diseases rather than spread them, said design strategist Devin Liddell, who works with aviation and travel clients, CNBC reported.