Madrid mandates masks, Germany discourages travel to Spain; human trials spur vaccine hopes


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:

  • Madrid officials stepped up coronavirus restrictions and plan to target prevention efforts at young people, while Germany advised against non-essential travel to Spain in a further blow to its tourist industry. Large-scale human trials began on coronavirus vaccines, prompting hopes of a safe and effective way to help bring an end to the pandemic.
  • Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez said the UK decision to impose fourteen days of quarantine on everyone returning from the country was “unjust,” the BBC reported. Tourists in most Spanish regions are at less risk from coronavirus than back home, it cited him as saying. On July 28, Germany, second only to the United Kingdom in visitor numbers to Spain, recommended avoiding non-essential travel to the Spanish regions of Catalonia, Navarra, and Aragon, Bloomberg reported.
  • QUOTE: “Clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant and we have to be very mindful,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters near Nottingham, central England, Bloomberg reported.
  • Madrid’s regional government has made wearing face masks compulsory in all public areas, and has limited the number of people allowed to gather in private to ten, The Associated Press reported. An information campaign will target young people, who are largely blamed for spreading infections through socializing, the news service added.
  • The pace of increase in new cases slowed in the United States on July 26 compared with a week earlier, CNBC reported. New cases in Arizona, Florida, and Texas seem to be slowing as more residents adhere to social distancing and state officials halt plans to reopen, CNBC added. US President Donald J. Trump’s national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, 54, has tested positive and has been self-isolating, CNBC said separately. Trump had not interacted with him in days and was not at risk, the White House said, Reuters reported.
  • The statistics say… There were an average of 65,809 daily new cases on July 26 in the US, 1.6 percent lower than a week before, based on a seven-day moving average, CNBC said.
  • “Let’s throw the kitchen sink at COVID-19 and get back to normal by October.” That’s the headline to a piece by the editorial board of The Washington Post.
  • Hong Kong posted 106 new cases on July 28, almost half of which with no known sources of infection, the South China Morning Post reported. Meanwhile, in Vietnam flights were suspended for fifteen days to and from Danang after at least twenty-two cases of coronavirus were detected in the coastal city and nearby, Reuters reported. In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut short a trip to deal with the coronavirus crisis in Victoria’s homes for older residents, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) asked lenders in the region neither to pay dividends nor to buy back shares until 2021, CNBC reported. The ECB also published its assessment of eighty-six banks in the euro area, which showed that they can cope with the challenges presented by the pandemic, CNBC said.
  • Search-engine giant Google will keep most of its 200,000 staff and contractors working from home until June 2021, in what The Associated Press calls a sobering assessment of the pandemic’s potential staying power. Google CEO Sundar Pichai issued the work-from-home directive on July 27, affecting other companies owned by Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent, The Associated Press added.
  • Consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser, whose brands include Dettol, Lysol, and Durex, had a surge in first-half sales as the coronavirus outbreak stoked demand for its hygiene products, The Guardian reported. Durex sales suffered because of “lower social interactions” during the pandemic, said chief executive Laxman Narasimhan, the newspaper added.
  • Quarterly sales at 3M suffered as many factories, offices, and dentists remained shut, despite high demand for N95 face masks and home-improvement products. The Wall Street Journal reported. The global economy seems to be recovering, the newspaper cited 3M as saying. 
  • EVENT: In an Atlantic Council FrontPage event, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee discusses topics ranging from Singapore’s response to COVID-19 to the importance of strengthening international cooperation and keeping global chains open. Lee further elaborated on the regional response to US-China tensions, featured in his recent Foreign Affairs essay, “The Endangered Asian Century.” A recording of the event which took place at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 28 can be found here.


  • From cars to Campari, company numbers took a hit. Nissan forecast its biggest-ever annual operating loss and said it expects vehicle sales to drop by 16 percent as the pandemic hurts its turnaround plans, Reuters reported. And motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson posted its first quarterly loss in more than a decade as the pandemic upended its restructuring plans too, Bloomberg reported.
  • Drinks group Campari said like-for-like sales fell more than 10 percent in the first half as coronavirus hit southern Europe and its home market of Italy, Reuters said separately. The luxury goods industry is suffering too. Sales and profit at LVMH, the owner of Louis Vuitton, both slumped in the second quarter, the newswire reported in another article. UK department store Selfridges plans to cut 450 jobs, or 14 percent of headcount, as sales slump, the BBC reported.


  • Moderna and Pfizer embarked on two 30,000-person vaccine trials that could lead to regulatory approval and widespread use by the end of this year, Reuters cited the companies as saying on July 28. That adds to hopes that an effective shot will help end the coronavirus pandemic, the newswire added.
  • “Mask Advocates Cite Plane Transmission Study in Call for Mandate” runs a headline on Bloomberg, which cites a recent study in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. That is adding to calls for government rules on masks and raising questions as to whether safety concerns will allow enough passenger demand to keep airline companies in business, the newswire added.
  • The head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said he’s been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine so as to encourage the public to do the same once the vaccine gets approval, The Associated Press reported. He was speaking during a webinar on July 26 hosted by Alibaba Health, and Cell Press, a US publisher of scientific journals, the news service added.
  • UK flag carrier British Airways faces the threat of strike action in a dispute over new contracts that follows a slump in demand for travel brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, Sky News reported, citing labor union Unite. Meanwhile, in France the government plans to reconsider plans for a fourth terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport as the global slump in travel puts its viability in doubt, Reuters said, citing Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari.


  • “Virus-linked hunger tied to 10,000 child deaths each month” runs an Associated Press headline. The pandemic and its restrictions have cut off farms from markets and isolated villages from medical aid and food, the news service said. Hunger linked to the virus is causing the death of 10,000 additional children a month, The Associated Press reported, citing an urgent call for action by the United Nations before its publication in the medical journal The Lancet.
  • QUOTE: “The food security effects of the COVID crisis are going to reflect many years from now,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, the World Health Organization head of nutrition, The Associated Press reported. “There is going to be a societal effect.”
  • Iran, the country hardest hit by coronavirus in the Middle East, recorded a record 235 deaths from the virus in the past twenty-four hours, Reuters reported, citing health ministry data on July 28. Infections and deaths have increased sharply since restrictions started to be eased in mid-April, the newswire added.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo started an investigation into charity concert featuring The Chainsmokers in the Hamptons on July 25 after video footage seemed to show fans ignoring social distancing restrictions, the BBC reported.