Germany extends stimulus, France hints at future help; schools grapple with return to classes


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In top stories today:

  • Germany extended a program to help keep workers on companies’ books, while France hinted at details of a 100 billion euro stimulus plan next week. Educators in Germany, the United Kingdom, Myanmar, and the United States contended with how to keep students safe as classes start again.
  • China’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, started a weeklong tour of five European countries aiming to counter growing weariness of Beijing’s assertive foreign policy, The Wall Street Journal reported. His first overseas trip in months is billed as pushing cooperation on rebuilding the global economy and fighting coronavirus, the Journal added.
  • US First lady Melania Trump ended the second night of the Republican National Convention by offering sympathy about the death of more than 178,000 Americans from the pandemic, calling for national unity in response, Bloomberg reported. Her warm tone contrasted with the harsh rhetoric evident during the convention otherwise, Reuters said.
  • 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.
  • Illinois had a surge in infections, led by rural areas, but new cases nationwide remained lower than in recent weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported. Meanwhile, US islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the state of Hawaii, are among the country’s most alarming virus spots, as The New York Times put it. Restrictions are confusing in Hawaii, where restaurants are open but residents are not meant to have visitors at home, and gyms are still open but hiking trails are closed, the Times added.
  • Serious concerns about coronavirus declined in the past two weeks in six US states that are key to the elections in November, while approval of how US President Donald J. Trump had handled the pandemic rose, according to a new CNBC/Change Research poll, CNBC said. The share of respondents with “very serious” concerns about coronavirus dropped to 45 percent from 49 percent, the news outlet added.  
  • Ukraine barred most foreigners from entry until September 28 and extended lockdown restrictions until the end of October, Reuters reported. Lebanon is at risk of losing control over its outbreak, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said, the newswire also reported. Iran urged its citizens to avoid unnecessary travel following a surge in infections in recent weeks, Reuters said in another article.
  • Urumqi, a city in China’s northwest, started large-scale virus testing of its residents again on August 26 to halt a coronavirus outbreak, although it’s not known how many people the testing covers, The Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, northern Shanxi province is banning the buying, selling, and use of shrimp from Ecuador as part of its efforts to control the epidemic, after coronavirus was detected on the inner packaging of imported Ecuadorian shrimp, Reuters reported.
  • READ MORE: “This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Saudi Arabia,” writes Jonathan Fulton of the Rafik Hariri Center. “Over the past three decades, the bilateral relationship has transitioned from one of marginal importance for both countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership, largely on the back of a trade relationship founded on energy.”
  • Authorities in Australia are trying to understand what allowed a new outbreak despite its decision to close borders and quarantine returning residents, initially helping to contain infections, The Wall Street Journal reported. Officials have traced 99 percent of recent cases to two hotels used for quarantine in Melbourne, in Victoria state; testimony so far to a government panel investigating the quarantine program has pointed to inconsistent use of masks, inadequate training and poor record-keeping as possible factors behind the outbreak, the Journal said.


  • Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, allocated about ten billion euros to extend a program that’s allowed millions of people to keep hold of their jobs, Bloomberg reported. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition agreed to extend the measure—whereby the bulk of paychecks is subsidized, allowing companies to keep workers on their books—until the end of 2021 at a meeting in Berlin late on August 25, the newswire added.
  • Early signs from Germany’s decision for teachers and students to return to classes look hopeful several weeks in, The New York Times reported. While individual infections have happened in dozens of school, there have been no major outbreaks; Berlin, for example, had forty-nine infections in schools by the end of last week, but thanks to speedy testing and targeted quarantines, just six hundred students out of 366,000 have had to stay at home on any given day, and only thirty-nine out of 803 schools are affected, the newspaper reported.
  • QUOTE: “It’s messy and imperfect and I would have liked to see more precautions, but the main takeaway so far is: It’s working,” said Sandra Ciesek, a virologist at the University Hospital of Frankfurt who, with leading German virologists, supported the reopenings, The New York Times reported.
  • France dropped more hints about the 100 billion euro stimulus measures it plans to announce on September 3, Bloomberg reported. The measures will include two billion euros for the cultural industry, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in an interview on France Inter radio, the newswire reported.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson changed tack on face masks in schools, with masks now compulsory in communal areas and corridors in towns and cities that are subject to stricter coronavirus measures, Sky News reported. The change in policy followed pressure from headteachers, labor unions, and medical experts, Sky News added.
  • Just days after classes started, US universities and colleges that have brought students back to campuses are alarmed as coronavirus cases emerge, The Washington Post reported. There are more than five hundred cases at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and almost 160 at the University of Missouri in Columbia, the Post said. University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld criticized local businesses after students without masks packed bars over the weekend, the Post said in a separate article.
  • Myanmar ordered that all schools be closed after the Southeast Asian nation posted seventy new cases on August 26, a daily record, Reuters reported. In India, more than two million students will take admission tests for medical and engineering schools next week, despite concerns that could lead to new infections, the newswire said separately.
  • American Airlines plans to cut 19,000 jobs on October 1, lower than the 25,000 potential cuts it warned were possible last month, The Wall Street Journal reported. It’s the first wave of the tens of thousands of job cuts that pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and other airline workers face this fall as protections tied to federal aid expire, the newspaper said.  
  • QUOTE: “COVID-19 will not kill globalization,” Ian Goldin, a professor of globalisation and development at the University of Oxford, wrote in the Financial Times. “Rather, it will accelerate underlying trends, compressing into 2020 a transformation in flows across national borders that would have taken years to emerge. As individuals and companies move online, national borders become less relevant.”
  • Fifty of the biggest UK employers have no plans to bring all workers back to the office on a full-time basis anytime soon, the BBC reported. Almost half have no plans in place for workers to return, while 20 have reopened offices to accommodate those unable to work from home, the broadcaster added.
  • Most UK public servants will continue to work from home until the end of the year at least, officials and labor unions say, a blow to Johnson’s ambition that they set an example to company workers by going back to the office and, in the process, help revive city centers emptied out by the pandemic, the Financial Times reported.


  • An international meeting of Biogen managers in February probably helped to spread infections from Boston to thousands of people in states from Michigan to Virginia and as far as Australia, according to researchers’ genetic analysis, The Wall Street Journal reported. Among almost 12,000 virus samples analyzed from the United States, the Biogen strain represented 2.7 percent of cases, and 1.7 percent of more than 56,000 global samples, the Journal said, according to a paper posted online on August 25 in a database of early versions of research, sometimes known as a pre-print server. Knowledge about coronavirus was limited in February, and the company took all steps to limit infections, Biogen told the Journal.   
  • A study published in the journal Nature on August 26 finds that men produce a weaker immune response to coronavirus than women, The New York Times reported. That helps explain why older men are twice as likely to get very sick than women of the same age, the Times said. The findings suggest that men, especially those above age sixty, may need to be more dependent on vaccines, it added.
  • The University of Cambridge aims to begin clinical trials of its possible coronavirus vaccine in the fall after getting 1.9 million pounds in backing from the UK government, Reuters reported. Meanwhile European officials said the European Union (EU) offers only partial protection to drug makers against legal risks from side-effects of their potential vaccines, which is hampering deals and contrasts with US policy, the newswire reported separately. The European pharmaceutical industry has lobbied the EU, seeking protection from lawsuits, the Financial Times reported.
  • A product called Citriodiol contained in insect repellent can kill the strain of coronavirus that causes the illness COVID-19, research by the United Kingdom’s defense laboratory has shown, Sky News reported. Scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory are sharing their early findings so others can do more research, Sky News added.
  • Princess Cruises canceled sailings in early 2021 in part because of uncertainty around air travel, The Washington Post reported. Hundreds of passengers on ships operated by the cruise line, owned by Carnival, got infected with coronavirus earlier this year, the Post added.