Italy curbs nightlife, Korea sets quarantine, New Zealand postpones poll to slow virus


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:

  • From curbs on Italian nightlife to quarantine for churchgoers in South Korea and a postponed election in New Zealand, authorities worldwide stepped in to slow the spread of coronavirus infections. Japan’s economy suffered and in France, riot police will help impose mask restrictions in Marseilles.
  • Italy will close nightclubs from August 17 until next month and require people to wear face masks at outdoor venues on concerns that relaxed attitudes, especially among young people, could lead to a rise in infections, the Financial Times reported. A series of videos from tourist resorts showing thousands of partygoers crowded together and without masks sparked public outrage last week, the newspaper said.
  • Meanwhile, Greece restricted hours for bars and restaurants and in Hong Kong, authorities extended social distancing measures by a week, Bloomberg reported. Australia had its deadliest day of the pandemic, with twenty-five fatalities in the state of Victoria on August 17, the newswire said.
  • South Korea warned of another wave of cases after it reported the highest number of cases since early March. Most of them are linked to Sarang Jeil church in the capital Seoul, Bloomberg also reported. The government asked thousands of people who went to an illegal rally held by the church at the weekend to self-quarantine, the BBC reported. About 3,400 attendees have been identified so far, it said.
  • QUOTE: “Young people must help us,” said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza, the Financial Times reported. “[W]e cannot fail the reopening of schools in September and risk a new lockdown.”
  • The French government is sending 130 riot police to the city of Marseille to help enforce the wearing on face masks, as more towns and neighborhoods impose mask rules from August 17, The Associated Press reported. Marseille extended rules on August 14 to include all farmers’ markets and more areas of the southern port city, the news service added.
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern postponed the country’s election by a month, from September 19 to October 17, because of a recent spike in coronavirus cases, the BBC reported. Almost a week after the outbreak, the first in more than three months, the origins of the new cases remains a mystery, Reuters said in an explainer article. Genome testing has shown the outbreak is a new strain, probably from Australia or the United Kingdom—raising the question of how it spread in a country that was mostly closed off for months, the newswire added.
  • Southeast Asia has detected the mutated strain of coronavirus that’s sweeping the world, as Bloomberg puts it. The D614G strain, seen earlier in other parts of the world, was found in a forty-five-case cluster in Malaysia that began when someone returning from India breached his fourteen-day quarantine, it reported. The Philippines is studying the strain to see if the mutation makes it more infectious, Bloomberg added.
  • China’s southern coastal city of Guangzhou ordered a halt to the import of frozen seafood and meat after nearby Shenzhen detected the virus on chicken wings, Bloomberg reported on August 17.
  • EVENT: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discusses the key foreign policy priorities for the next presidential administration and the future of US leadership. Join us for this Atlantic Council Front Page event on Monday, August 17 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Details are here.


  • Japan’s economy had its worst performance in forty years in the second quarter as the pandemic hit consumer demand and exports, Reuters said in a video report. That maintains pressure on policymakers to take bolder action to prevent an even deeper recession, the newswire said. Meanwhile a hospital visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, aged sixty-five, on August 17 generated renewed concerns about his health, even though Japanese media said it was a regular check-up, The Associated Press reported, adding that his office declined to comment.
  • The United Kingdom’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department is trying to offer loans to debt-laden private equity groups as a way of rescuing a large section of the retail and leisure industry, the Financial Times said, citing unidentified people. Merlin, which owns the Legoland theme park, and PizzaExpress are among those that employ large numbers of workers; the government is trying to find a solution that adheres to European Union rules on state aid, the newspaper said.
  • UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is jeopardizing two million viable jobs by not extending his furlough support program, Bloomberg said on August 16, citing the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank. Some three million workers will still depend on the program when it ends in October, and two-thirds of those posts are sustainable if the help continues into next year, according to IPPR estimates, the newswire added.
  • European insurers are feeling the pain of coronavirus claims and restrictions, reflected in a decline of more than 20 percent in The Euro Stoxx Insurance index so far this year, The Wall Street Journal reported. That compares with a drop of more than 10 percent for the Euro Stoxx 600 index, the newspaper added.
  • QUOTE: “COVID-19 has thrown up many questions about asset allocation, and as investors rethink their portfolios they will have to weigh up whether exposure to real estate will protect, or erode, their wealth,” Dambisa Moyo wrote in the Financial Times.
  • EVENT: Join us for this online discussion about the challenges facing US and European policymakers to avoid an ISIS revival, as well as ways to support local partners and communities to ensure their protection against the Islamic State. Tuesday, August 18 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Details are here.


  • QUOTE: “We’re focusing too much on fatality rates and not enough on the people who don’t die, but don’t entirely recover, either,” columnist Megan McArdle wrote in The Washington Post on August 16.
  • Novavax’s experimental vaccine is starting the second phase of testing in South Africa, and the large final stage could begin by September, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing the company. That includes evaluating the vaccine’s performance on a set of HIV-positive adults whose health is well controlled by medication, the newspaper added.
  • QUOTE: “Because South Africa is experiencing a winter surge of COVID-19 disease, this important Phase 2b clinical trial has the potential to provide an early indication of efficacy,” said Dr. Gregory Glenn, Novavax’s president of research and development, the Journal reported.
  • Latina mothers account for almost half of COVID-19 cases among pregnant women, showing just how widespread infections are in their community, The Washington Post reported, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collected from January 22 until last week. Research about the disease’s impact on pregnant women is still limited, the newspaper added.
  • News service Stat published a round-up on August 17 of what we have learnt during the pandemic and some of the pressing questions that we still need to answer. Among them: why some people get very sick, and others don’t; how much virus it takes to get infected; and for how long infected people are protected from reinfection.
  • The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second biggest in the United States, will start a months-long program on August 17 to test almost 700,000 students and 75,000 staff as it waits on permission to restart face-to-face teaching, The New York Times reported, citing Austin Beutner, the district’s superintendent. That seems to be the most ambitious testing drive among major school districts, the Times added.
  • “‘A national crisis’: As coronavirus forces many schools online this fall, millions of disconnected students are being left behind” reads a Washington Post headline. In 2018 more than 17 million children lived in households without high-speed Internet, and more than 7 million had no home computers, the Post said, citing an analysis of census data that year by a coalition of civil rights and education groups.
  • A late-stage trial of a potential vaccine from CanSino Biologics has begun in Russia, as the Chinese pharmaceutical firm ramps up testing overseas to boost its chances of regulatory approval, Reuters reported, citing registration records. Further trials are scheduled in Mexico and Saudi Arabia, the newswire added.
  • The threshold for so-called herd immunity—when the virus can’t spread anymore because there aren’t enough vulnerable humans—may be 50 percent or even lower, compared with the 70 percent previously suggested, The New York Times reported, citing interviews with more than a dozen scientists.
  • QUOTE: “I’m quite prepared to believe that there are pockets in New York City and London which have substantial immunity,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the newspaper reported. “What happens this winter will reflect that.”
  • Medical officials called for a two-week lockdown in Lebanon on August 17 as the country faces a surge in infections following an explosion at the Beirut port killed about 180 people and injured more than 6,000 others earlier this month, The Associated Press reported.  As well as overwhelming the city’s hospitals, the blast, caused by the mass storage of ammonium nitrate, damaged two hospitals that had a key role in caring for COVID-19 patients, the news service added.


  • With global air travel down about 85 percent from a year ago, airlines are desperately trying to convince wary passengers that sitting in a plane is safer than many other places inside thanks to compulsory masks and hospital-grade air filters, The Associated Press reported. More people not fewer are becoming skeptical about air travel, the news service said, citing survey data.
  • “Back to the paddy fields. COVID smashes Indian middle-class dreams”—that’s the headline to a Reuters article. People in rural India have been increasing in prosperity and moving into what economists term a burgeoning middle class of consumers, and that’s been a cornerstone of the nation’s plans for economic development, the newswire said. At least 400 million Indian workers risk falling deeper into poverty because of the pandemic, according to the International Labour Organization, Reuters added.
  • South Africa started to ease coronavirus restrictions on August 17, allowing sales of cigarettes and alcohol to restart amid signs that case numbers may be stabilizing, the BBC reported. Domestic travel, small family gatherings will also be allowed, and businesses can reopen, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on August 16, the broadcaster added.
  • “Clowns suffer, adapt in Peru due to the pandemic” reads the headline to an Associated Press photo story from August 15. The country’s more than five hundred professional clowns were already struggling to compete with the internet and video games even before the pandemic hit, the news agency said.