Germany, urging EU support deal, suffers local outbreak; Beijing cases slow


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.

Please note that in recognition of Juneteenth, there will not be a Coronavirus Alert edition on June 19. The Atlantic Council will resume the alert on June 22.

In top stories today:

  • Germany suffered its worst local outbreak of coronavirus after opening up its economy in mid-May. The rate of new cases in Beijing slowed, while in Europe Germany’s Angela Merkel urged fellow members of the European Union to press ahead and agree on coronavirus support measures.
  • Thousands of people in Germany have had to enter quarantine following an outbreak of coronavirus in an abattoir in Gütersloh, in the north-west of the country, the BBC said. More than one thousand workers have been tested, with thousands more waiting, the broadcaster added. It’s the largest local outbreak since Germany reopened its economy in mid-May, The Wall Street Journal said.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is working on a plan to help decide who should get first access to a coronavirus vaccine once a shot gets approval, Reuters said, citing WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. Meanwhile, the WHO said dexamethasone, a cheap steroid that’s shown promise as a coronavirus treatment, should be reserved for serious cases, the newswire said in a separate article.
  • Beijing reported twenty-one cases of coronavirus on June 18, down from thirty-one a day earlier, in an outbreak first detected in a wholesale market in the Chinese capital, The Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met the Communist Party’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Hawaii, urged China to reveal what they know about the pandemic, the news service added. The talks took place on June 16 and 17, The Wall Street Journal said.
  • QUOTE: “The epidemic in Beijing has been brought under control,” said Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of China’s Center for Diseases Prevention and Control, Reuters reported. “When I say that it’s under control, that doesn’t mean the number of cases will turn zero tomorrow or the day after.”
  • Salmon has been absolved of any blame in the Beijing outbreak but consumers are avoiding it all the same, The New York Times reported. “A first-person view inside Beijing’s virus tests” reads the headline to an Associated Press photo story.
  • EVENT: In advance of World Refugee Day on June 20, the Atlantic Council will host a dialogue among experts to better understand the increasing risks refugees face and explore solutions that foster their resilience. Details of the event on Thursday, June 18 at 10:30 am ET are here.


  • Russia revised the number of medical workers who have died from coronavirus to almost five hundred, compared with 101 on May 26, Reuters reported, citing the TASS news agency. That shows the heavy toll the disease has taken on the country’s frontline doctors and nurses, the newswire said.
  • The statistics say… Russia, with a population of 145 million people, has recorded more than 500,000 coronavirus infections, the third-highest in the world after the United States and Brazil. Its death toll of 7,660 is much lower than in other countries, leading critics to question them and the government to say they are accurate, Reuters reported.
  • Prison officials across Europe—led by Turkey, Cyprus, and Slovenia—released more than 118,000 prisoners in the first weeks of coronavirus in an effort to halt the spread of the virus, Bloomberg reported, citing a study commissioned by the Council of Europe.
  • German chancellor Angela Merkel has urged fellow members of the European Union (EU) to reach a deal on the EU’s future budget and a coronavirus recovery fund before the summer break, the Financial Times reported.
  • QUOTE: “The pandemic shows us how vulnerable Europe is,” Merkel told legislators on June 18, the Financial Times reported. “Therefore I want to stress to you that cohesion and solidarity in Europe were never as important as they are today.”  
  • The Bank of England will pump an extra one hundred billion pounds into the UK economy through its bond-buying program, while keeping rates at a historic low of 0.1 percent, the Financial Times reported.
  • READ MORE: “While some in Washington may doubt the EU’s ability to take firm foreign policy action, those best placed to execute a cohesive China policy on behalf of the EU are the economic and regulatory experts in Brussels who understand the complexity of the tools necessary to address Beijing’s rise,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Julia Friedlander.


  • The UK’s track-and-trace app, which was meant to be ready in mid-May, isn’t a priority any more, Bloomberg reported, citing Health Minister James Bethell. England’s track and trace system identified almost 45,000 coronavirus contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in its second week, up from nearly 32,000 the week before, Reuters said. Much promised, little delivered: that’s how The New York Times sums up virus-tracking efforts in England.
  • QUOTE: “There is a danger in being too technological, and relying too much on text and emails, and alienating or freaking out people because you’re sending them quite alarming news through quite casual communication,” Bethell told a committee of lawmakers, Bloomberg reported. “Apps around the world have been challenging. We’re seeking to get something going for the winter, but it isn’t a priority for us at the moment.”
  • “Volunteers Are Lining Up to Be Infected With the Coronavirus” reads a Bloomberg headline. Almost 30,000 volunteers are prepared to expose themselves to the virus to test a potential vaccine, if that’s an approach researchers want to take, the newswire said. The controversial route is gaining attention, with a project led by the University of Antwerp and the Free University of Brussels getting twenty million euros funding from the Belgian government, Bloomberg reported.


  • Australian airline Qantas has cancelled all international flights, except those to New Zealand, until late October, while the Australian government said its borders will stay closed into next year to control the spread of coronavirus, the BBC reported. Qantas and its Jetstar unit are increasing domestic services as national travel restrictions ease, the BBC added.
  • Spain announced a 4.35 billion-euro package to support the country’s battered tourism sector following a 3.75 billion-euro package for its auto industry earlier this week, Bloomberg reported. New measures include support for cleaning and safety, also loans to modernize tourism facilities, the newswire added. “Welcome to Covid-Era Irish Pubs: Please Drink Swiftly and Eat” reads the headline to another Bloomberg article.


  • Pakistan’s Punjab province, including the city of Lahore, has imposed so-called “smart” lockdowns following a spike in coronavirus infections, the BBC reported. Pakistan is focusing on local lockdowns in hundreds of places nationwide in an attempt to halt the virus while minimizing the economic impact, the broadcaster added. Punjab, home to more than 100 million people, has recorded nearly 60,000 cases of the virus, the BBC said.
  • Mexico’s drug cartels are exploiting a security gap, caused by the fight against coronavirus, to step up efforts to control the drug trade in the country, Reuters reported, citing security officials and analysts. As members of the police fall sick, security forces guard medical centers, and barracks are converted to clinics, the murder rate has risen to a record nationally, the newswire said.
  • “In Peru, coronavirus patients in need of oxygen resort to the black market and its 1,000 percent markups” reads a Washington Post headline.
  • Paulinho Paiakan, chief of the Kayapó people, and among the best known defenders of the Amazon rainforest, has died from coronavirus, the BBC reported. Paiakan came to international attention in the 1980s for his opposition to dam-building in Brazil, where indigenous communities have been hit hard by the pandemic, the BBC added.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland has reopened after a sharp drop in coronavirus cases in the territory, home to 7.5 million people, The Associated Press reported. Visitor numbers will be limited and advance booking necessary, the news service added.