CORONAVIRUS ALERT 08/03/2020
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:
- Melbourne in Australia extended coronavirus measures still further, while the United States entered a new phase, with infections “extraordinarily widespread” in towns and rural areas. Latin America reached grim milestones but Pakistan presented grounds for optimism.
- The statistics say… there are now more than 18 million cases worldwide in 188 countries and territories; almost 690,000 people have died.
- Melbourne, the second-biggest city in Australia and already under a night curfew, set new restrictions on industries including retail and construction as part of a six-week lockdown as it tries to halt the spread of coronavirus infections, Reuters reported. The new measures, which take effect from the night of August 5, will keep 1 million people from moving around for work, said Daniel Andrews, premier of the state of Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, the newswire reported.
- QUOTE: “The best we could hope for if we didn’t make these changes is that we could get ourselves to a low number in four to six months,” Andrews said on August 2, The Wall Street Journal reported. “We can’t have a six-month strategy. I’m not prepared to accept days and days of more cases and deaths.”
- The United States has entered a “new phase” in the battle against coronavirus, said Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, The New York Times reported. Birx also urged people living with someone vulnerable to consider wearing a mask at home, the Times said.
- QUOTE: “We are in a new phase,” Birx said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Reuters reported. “What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread” in rural as well as urban areas.
- Early August is decisive in fighting the coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam, where new infections have emerged in four factories in the city of Danang, Reuters reported, citing Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on official broadcaster Vietnam Television. Vietnam is battling infections in several clusters linked to Danang after going three months without detecting any local cases, the newswire added.
- Manila, the capital region of the Philippines with a population of more than 12 million, and five densely populated provinces will go back under lockdown for two weeks from August 4 following an alarming surge in infections, as The Associated Press puts it. The country is waging “a losing battle” against the virus, the news service said, citing leaders of almost one hundred medical organizations who held a rare online news conference on August 1. The organizations also warned that the health system has been overwhelmed and may collapse as health workers fall ill or resign from fear and exhaustion.
- The statistics say… The Philippines reported 5,032 new cases, taking its total to 103,185 with 2,059 deaths, The Associated Press reported on August 2.
- Coastal towns in France and Spain are contending with coronavirus outbreaks after young people ignored social distancing, crowded into beach bars, and got infected, The Wall Street Journal said on August 2. Younger Europeans, who spent most of the spring under lockdown, say they are tired of sticking to rigorous measures on social distancing, the Journal added. Authorities in Europe have chided Generation Z and Millennials for behavior that’s putting older generations at risk, the newspaper said.
- Authorities in Greater Manchester, northern England, declared a major incident after an increase in coronavirus infections, the BBC reported. That’s standard practice to help agencies respond as effectively as possible, including with extra resources, and is not a cause for alarm, Manchester City Council said, the broadcaster reported. The area is one of those in northern England subject to new lockdown restrictions announced on July 30, the BBC added.
LOGGERHEADS ON STIMULUS
- Democrat and Republican negotiators remained at loggerheads over a new coronavirus relief package, including measures to replace the federal six hundred dollar weekly addition to unemployment benefits that expired on July 31, The Wall Street Journal reported on August 2. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said, also on August 2, that he was not optimistic about reaching an agreement soon, Reuters reported.
- QUOTE: “We are witnessing the biggest governance failure in modern US history,” wrote Edward Luce in the Financial Times. “This nightmare does not need to be happening.”
- Get a grip on the virus—that’s the warning that the dollar is flashing to US policymakers, Bloomberg reported, citing a 10 percent decline in its value, accelerating in recent weeks as infections increased nationwide. It’s a rapid reversal in fortune after the greenback reached an all-time high in March, the newswire added.
- HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, said second-quarter net profit plunged by 96 percent to $192 million due to lower interest rates and the downturn caused by coronavirus, The Associated Press said. The London-based lender does most of its business in Asia, where the pandemic first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the news service added. HSBC will now speed up plans to cut 35,000 jobs via a restructuring first announced in February, CNBC reported. HSBC lifted its estimated charge for bad debts to a range of $8 billion to $13 billion for the year, Bloomberg reported.
- French lender Societe Generale took a 200 million-euro hit in the second quarter on equities trading as companies canceled dividends because of coronavirus, Bloomberg reported.
- Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, saw a gradual recovery following coronavirus lockdowns in April but uncertainty over the pandemic’s future impact left the Dutch company unable to give an outlook for the rest of 2021, Reuters reported.
- Corporate leaders are getting a better grip on what a world transformed by the epidemic looks like, allowing them more confidence to develop new strategies in response, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing examples from hamburger chain McDonald’s, oil company Chevron, and snack maker Mondelez among others.
- Nearly half a million swab and DNA tests to detect coronavirus and influenza within ninety minutes will start in UK care homes and laboratories from August 10, the BBC reported. Millions more of the tests called LamPORE will follow later in the year, said the BBC, adding that three quarters of current tests give results within twenty-four hours, the rest in up to two days.
- “Debate begins for who’s first in line for COVID-19 vaccine” runs an August 2 headline on The Associated Press. US health authorities hope to have draft guidelines ready by the end of September on how to allocate initial doses; health workers and those most vulnerable to the disease are usually first in line, but geography and the severity of outbreaks are other possible factors, the news service said.
- QUOTE: “Not everybody’s going to like the answer,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently told one of the advisory groups the US government asked to help decide, The Associated Press reported. “There will be many people who feel that they should have been at the top of the list.”
- Hopes for a coronavirus vaccine may be running too high and might lead to resistance to simple strategies that can help counter the spread of infections, The Washington Post said on August 2, citing public health experts. Depictions by politicians and companies that a shot is inevitable and imminent may also make people unrealistic about how quickly the world will return to a pre-pandemic normal, the Post added.
- QUOTE: “It seems, to me, unlikely that a vaccine is an off-switch or a reset button where we will go back to pre-pandemic times,” said Yonatan Grad, an assistant professor of infectious diseases and immunology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The Washington Post reported. “It’s not like we’re going to land in Oz,” said Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen.
- Scientists are researching how mink at farms in Spain and the Netherlands got infected, and whether they can spread the disease to people, The Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, one million animals have been culled in both countries as a precaution, the news service added.
- Three days of treatment with RLF-100, a therapy given fast-track approval in the United States, helps critically ill COVID-19 patients recover quickly from respiratory failure, Reuters reported, citing Geneva-based Relief Therapeutics Holdings and US-Israeli NeuroRx, the drug’s developers.
- About 15,000 people marched in Berlin to protest against coronavirus restrictions, The Washington Post reported, citing police tallies that appeared in German media. Querdenken 771, a group based in the western city of Stuttgart, organized the protest on August 1, despite recent warnings from health officials about an increase in infections in Germany, the newspaper said.
- QUOTE: “Limited testing gives a limited picture of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths,” wrote Philip Setel, vice president at Vital Strategies, a global health organization, on news service Stat. “While many deaths show fairly clear evidence of COVID-19 infection even without testing (and so may be tallied as ‘suspected’ COVID-19 deaths), even adding confirmed and suspected deaths together risks a significant undercount of the true magnitude of the epidemic’s toll.”
- Singapore will make some arrivals wear a monitoring device to ensure they comply with quarantine measures as it reopens borders, Reuters reported, citing authorities on August 3. Meanwhile, Cyprus will start compulsory testing for all arrivals from Greece starting from August 6 following a spike in infections there, the newswire said separately. And in Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn said travelers returning from countries with a high risk of COVID-19 infections will be tested starting later this week, Reuters reported in another article.
- At least thirty-six crew members aboard one of Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten’s ships have tested positive for COVID-19, with all further cruises on hold and recent cruise passengers told to self-quarantine, The Washington Post reported. The company restarted cruises along Norway’s coast in early June, adding trips from Germany later that month, the newspaper said. The Roald Amundsen ship has 164 crew members, the newspaper added.
- “Iran cover-up of deaths revealed by data leak” reads a BBC headline, citing a BBC Persian service investigation. Nearly 42,000 people died with COVID-19 symptoms through July 20, according to the government’s own records, almost triple the tally of 14,405 reported by its health ministry, the broadcaster reported.
- The statistics say… Latin America is reaching grim milestones on coronavirus, as Reuters puts it, as Argentina breached 200,000 cases on August 2 and Colombia set a daily record. The world’s worst affected region is approaching a total of five million cases and exceeded 200,000 deaths on August 2, the newswire said. Brazil recorded almost 26,000 new cases and more than five hundred deaths in the past twenty-four hours, the health ministry said that day too, the newswire said separately.
- The coastal Indian state of Kerala, home to 35 million people, has been praised for its strong public health response to the pandemic, but the return of hundreds of thousands of Keralans from the Gulf this year exposes weaknesses in the local economy, the Financial Times reported, citing S. Irudaya Rajan, a professor at the Centre for Development Studies.
- “Why Youthful, Conservative Pakistan Is a Coronavirus Bright Spot” reads a Wall Street Journal headline. The average age in Pakistan is twenty-two, where authorities have used hyper-local lockdowns as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus, the newspaper said.
- EVENT: Extreme heat threatens people across the globe—what can be done to stop this “silent killer”? Join us for this event on Tuesday, August 4 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. Details are here.
- Johns Hopkins University interactive web-based dashboard to visualize and track reported cases in real-time.
- CDC provides frequent updates and background information on coronavirus and interim guidance on company policies.
- The World Health Organization daily situation reports.