New coronavirus cases highlight post-lockdown challenge, UK unveils uncertain plan


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:

  • New cases of coronavirus in South Korea, China, and Germany outlined the complicated road ahead as economies in Europe and elsewhere take cautious steps toward reopening their economies. A plan to set out a phased easing of the UK lockdown was met with confusion.  
  • QUOTE: “When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending,” said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins, referring to when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes, The New York Times reported.  
  • New infections of coronavirus in South Korea, China, and Germany are hampering efforts to reopen the global economy, as millions of Europeans prepare for the cautious and phased reopening of their economies, the Financial Times reported.  
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to present a nuanced exit from the country’s coronavirus lockdown led to confusion, opposition, and even satire, Reuters reported. Johnson addressed the nation on May 10, urging those who can return to work to do so while avoiding the use of public transport if possible. Among those, low-skilled construction workers are some of the most vulnerable to the virus, Bloomberg reported, citing research from the Office for National Statistics.  
  • Authorities in South Korea are trying to locate three thousand people following a cluster of new coronavirus cases linked to clubs popular with the gay community in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, The South China Morning Post reported, adding that hostility against the LGBT+ community may make them hesitant to come forward. Authorities have tested four thousand people since May 8, when a 29-year-old man who visited clubs and bars in the area earlier in May tested positive for the disease, the newspaper said. 
  • QUOTE: “The [latest] infection cluster… has raised awareness that, even during the stabilization phase, similar situations can arise again anytime, anywhere, in an enclosed, crowded space,” said Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, the Financial Times reported. “It’s not over until it’s over.”  
  • Russia’s coronavirus outbreak may be approaching its peak after the pace of new infections slowed, Bloomberg reported, citing an interview with Melita Vujnovic, the head of the World Health Organization in Russia. The growth in infections slowed below the key figure of 7 percent on May 6 and has fallen steadily to 5.5 percent since then, the newswire said. 
  • Germany takes an increase in the reproduction rate—or R, the number of people each sick person infects—seriously, Reuters cited the health ministry as saying. R is now 1.1, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said, Reuters reported, adding that a figure above one means that the number of infections is growing.  
  • READ MORE: “While the coronavirus’ reach is global, nowhere is a common cause more crucial than among European countries,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Frederick Kempe. “The EU’s enlargement after the Cold War sealed its position as one of history’s great democratizing forces – and as well as one of the United States’ greatest foreign policy accomplishments.” 
  • The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged, reported five new cases of the disease on May 10, after confirming its first case since April 3 the day before, the BBC reported. The cluster of cases was from the same residential compound and is the first since the city’s strict lockdown was lifted on April 8, the BBC added. Shulan city in Jilin province, close to the borders with Russia and North Korea, also reported eleven new cases.  
  • France and Belgium on May 11 join the list of countries easing coronavirus restrictions, France 24 reported, publishing an Agence France-Presse report. Hair salons, clothes shops, florists, and bookstores open in France, with travel allowed up to 100 km (sixty miles) from home, while most businesses reopen in Belgium subject to social distancing. France 24 summarizes measures across European countries from The Netherlands to Switzerland, Spain to Italy via Germany, Austria, and Poland as well as the Nordic countries, Greece and the Balkans.  


  • Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, will donate 607,000 vials of the antiviral drug to treat about 78,000 coronavirus patients in the next six weeks, news service Stat reported, citing the US Department of Health and Human Services. Under a plan by the federal government, announced on May 9, the drug will be delivered to state health departments, allowing them to decide on how it’s allocated, Stat added.  
  • “Older Europeans Reject Calls to Remain in Isolation as Lockdowns Ease,” a Wall Street Journal headline reads. That risks jeopardizing a major element in health authorities’ strategy: to allow the young and healthy to resume activities while keeping vulnerable groups shielded, the newspaper said.  
  • The coronavirus outbreak in Japan had led to bullying and discrimination against the sick, their families, and health workers, the Associated Press reported. While an awareness campaign by the government appears to be helping improve attitudes towards medical staff, it is making limited progress against prejudice that may be deterring people from getting tested and seeking medical care, the Associated Press said.  


  • US President Donald J. Trump’s administration and US semiconductor makers including Intel want to strengthen domestic production of chips as the coronavirus pandemic highlights an over-reliance on supplies from Asian factories, particularly those in Taiwan, The Wall Street Journal reported.  
  • At least nine US lawsuits have been filed against China claiming that authorities failed to control the virus and lacked transparency about the course of the virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan and actions taken against it, the Associated Press reported. Eight of those are potential class actions that would represent thousands of businesses and people, and one by the attorney general of Missouri, the Associated Press said.  
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing to warn publicly that China’s most skilled spies and hackers are trying to steal US research into treatment and vaccines to fight coronavirus, The New York Times reported. More than a dozen countries have set military and intelligence hackers to find out whatever they can about the virus responses of other nations, the newspaper said.  
  • “How worried should investors be about rising US-China tensions?” asks the Financial Times in Market Questions, the newspaper’s guide to the week ahead, citing economists and analysts. 
  • READ MORE: “China is coming out ahead in the public relations narrative, in part because of its generous donations of essential and urgently needed medical equipment like masks, protective gear, and testing equipment that the United States does not have to donate,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Adam Schwarz. “But these efforts, although appreciated, aren’t on their own going to change the geopolitical equations of any Southeast Asian country.” 
  • QUOTE: “The economy’s not going to open no matter what we do, whatever we order, unless people have confidence. And we’re trying to give them confidence,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said on “Fox News Sunday,” Bloomberg reported. 
  • The Trump administration has started informal discussions with congressional Democrats and Republicans about what measures to include in a fresh round of coronavirus stimulus legislation, while predicting even more job losses in months to come, officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on May 10, Reuters reported.  
  • US life insurers are turning away some new business after the coronavirus outbreak led to a collapse in interest rates, The Wall Street Journal reported. The industry earns much of its profits by investing customers’ premiums in bonds until claims are due and makes assumptions based on investment income years into the future, the newspaper said in an exclusive story.  
  • Gulf trade hub Dubai, whose economy is especially vulnerable to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, is mulling a scaled-back future, the Financial Times reported. The emirate may need to get a bailout from its big brother, Abu Dhabi, as Dubai’s economic drivers of trade, transport, tourism, retail, and real estate are mired by worldwide lockdowns, the newspaper said.  
  • Avianca, among Latin America’s biggest carriers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as travel bans in the region forced the Colombian airline to ground its fleet, Bloomberg reported. It listed as much as ten billion dollars in liabilities and the same amount in assets, according to a filing in the Southern District of New York, the newswire said. Avianca will not make bond payments due May 11, Bloomberg reported.  


  • Algerian authorities are using the coronavirus outbreak as a pretext to target journalists, bloggers, and activists from the “Hirak” protest movement by using new laws against fake news and hate speech, The South China Morning said, citing analysts. The newspaper published a report by Agence France-Presse.  
  • Millions of Venezuelans who went to earn a living in countries including Peru and Colombia are now in dire straits as work dries up there because of the coronavirus pandemic, preventing them from sending money home to support family members, the Associated Press reported, citing humanitarian groups.  
  • QUOTE: “India must now help its people back to work,” reads the headline to an opinion piece by the Financial Times’ editorial board. “[P]olicymakers must reopen the economy quickly, while doing what they can to manage the health consequences. Enhanced testing, tracing and quarantine is the ideal system.”