No new deaths in China, signs of slowing virus buoy investors


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:

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, suffering from coronavirus, remains in intensive care after a night in the hospital. Japan declared a partial state of emergency and is readying a massive stimulus package. That, together with no new cases in China for the first time and some hopeful signs of a slowdown in the pace of new cases in Europe and the United States, reassured investors.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, suffering with persistent coronavirus symptoms, remains in intensive care after being admitted in the evening of April 6, the Financial Times reported. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, is covering some of his duties, although it’s not clear to what extent, UK media including the FT reported.
  • Johnson, fifty-five, has had oxygen but is not on a ventilator, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said in a BBC radio interview. There was no change to his condition overnight, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the situation.
  • Gove is self-isolating because a family member has coronavirus symptoms, Reuters reported. Health minister Matt Hancock is now back at work after testing positive for coronavirus, the newswire said.

China first, cases slowdown

  • There were no new deaths from coronavirus in China for the first time since the outbreak started, while Italy, France, Germany, and Spain recorded lower numbers of new cases, Bloomberg reported. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said deaths were showing signs of reaching a plateau, the newswire said.
  • The apex of new cases in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut may be approaching, following two days with fewer deaths, The New York Times reported, citing officials.
  • Stocks jumped by the most in almost two weeks on April 6 after Italy posted the lowest number of new cases of coronavirus in almost three weeks and new cases in France continued to level off, Bloomberg said. Global stocks extended those gains on April 7, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • QUOTE: “You can’t say that we’ve definitely turned the corner for certain but it does appear as though that is a good sign,” said Mark Heppenstall, chief investment officer at Penn Mutual Asset Management, Bloomberg reported.
  • Deaths from the virus are still expected to reach their apex on April 16 in the United States, but the total number was revised downwards to 82,000, from 94,000 less than a week ago, Bloomberg said, citing the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). The projections assume “full social distancing through May,” IHME says on its website.
  • Not so fast, France says. The country is still in a “worsening phase of the epidemic,” The Washington Post cited French Health Minister Olivier Véran as saying in a TV interview. France reported 833 deaths on April 6, the highest daily toll so far, the newspaper said. The current lockdown will be extended for as long as the situation demands, Véran said in the interview.
  • What’s more, IHME is not the only model in town, the newspaper reported. Among state leaders, who are steeling themselves for grim weeks to come, some are increasingly concerned that the federal government is using the IHME estimates to fend off states’ desperate pleas for equipment and help, The Washington Post added.
  • QUOTE: “It’s unclear exactly what the White House is doing on this front,” said Dylan George, who helped the Obama White House develop models to guide its Ebola response in 2014, The Washington Post reported. “As a result, you have every state trying to create their own models to anticipate their needs. And you have one model like IHME being adopted as the national guide.”
  • The statistics say… Fatalities in Spain increased for the first time in five days on April 7, Reuters reported. Some 743 people died overnight compared with 637 the day before, taking the total death toll to 13,798, the newswire said.
  • QUOTE: “Africa can’t and won’t be a testing ground for any vaccine,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the BBC reported. That followed a suggestion in a television debate by two French doctors that a vaccine for coronavirus be tested in Africa. “We condemn this in the strongest terms possible, and we assure you that this will not happen.”
  • In the United States, the data on race and coronavirus are too limited to make sweeping conclusions, The New York Times reported, citing experts. Even so, disparate rates of sickness and death have emerged, the newspaper said, such as in Louisiana, Milwaukee, and Chicago.
  • Black residents, who comprise 30 percent of Chicago’s population, account for more than half of the city’s coronavirus cases, the Los Angeles Times reported. Of the dead, 72 percent were black, the newspaper cited the city’s Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady as saying. That reflects pre-existing inequities, Arwady said.
  • Other US cities with large black populations—Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and New York among them—have become hotspots for coronavirus, the BBC reported.

Global stimulus

  • Japan is expected to announce a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures on April 7 after the capital and other large cities saw a rapid spread of coronavirus cases, NHK reported. The measure will probably last about a month, NHK said.
  • The statistics say… Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet is finalizing a stimulus package of $990 billion, or 20 percent of Japan’s economic output, for the world’s third-largest economy, Reuters reported. That compares with 11 percent for the US stimulus package or 5 percent for measures by Germany, the newswire said.
  • Eurozone finance ministers hope to agree on an economic stimulus package of half a trillion euros on April 7, Reuters reported. “Fear and mistrust as eurozone ministers debate reconstruction,” a headline in The Guardian has it. The nineteen ministers hold a teleconference on April 7, the newspaper said. There’s no deal in sight on issuing joint debt, Reuters said.
  • Issuing so-called “coronabonds” is attractive to Greece and Italy because it will lower their borrowing costs as, backed by the entire eurozone, their credit worthiness improves, Sky News reported. For countries such as Germany, Finland, Austria, and the Netherlands, who take a more frugal approach to borrowing, the appeal is less obvious other than as an act of solidarity, Sky said.
  • In the United States, Congress has already begun preparing further stimulus measures for the economy, following approval of a $2 trillion package not much more than a week ago, The Washington Post reported, “as the needs for small businesses and individual Americans become glaringly obvious,” the newspaper said on its home page.
  • QUOTE: “At a minimum, we assume that it will include a bad recession combined with some kind of financial stress similar to the global financial crisis of 2008,” Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, said in his annual letter to shareholders, Bloomberg reported.

Open and shut case?

  • Shutting down schools is of limited use to contain the spread of coronavirus and must be weighed against the economic and social impacts, especially for vulnerable children, according to research by University College London, The Guardian reported. More than 90 percent of the world’s pupils are affected by closures, United Nations education organization UNESCO says, the newspaper reported.
  • Denmark will reopen nurseries and primary schools from April 15, with companies restarting operations gradually, The Washington Post reported. Smaller shops will reopen in Austria on April 14, with larger stores following suit on May 1, the newspaper said.
  • QUOTE: “It’s like walking on a line. If we stand still along the way, we can fall,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, The Washington Post reported. “If we go too fast, things can go wrong. Therefore, we must take one cautious step at a time. And we do not yet know when we have firm ground under our feet.”
  • READ MORE: “Although President López Obrador has acknowledged the pandemic as a public health crisis that will also have an impact on the country’s economy, he has consistently underestimated the importance of adhering to health authorities’ recommendations,” wrote the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “Mexico’s president has dismissed the possible consequences of the current outbreak.”  
  • News service Stat has an interview with the former global head of intellectual property at pharmaceutical giant Novartis, who wants to start a public benefit entity to repurpose generic drugs. Paul Fehlner’s plan is a step further than an idea suggested by officials in Costa Rica: that the World Health Organization creates a voluntary pool for patent rights and data to help develop treatments and vaccines for coronavirus, Stat said.  
  • READ MORE: “In the case of Iran, we can indeed do two things simultaneously: Tell the Iranian people that the United States is suspending sanctions to facilitate the ability of their medical professionals to deal with the pandemic; and warn the criminal class governing Iran that the military consequences of killing Americans will fall on them and on the institutions that sustain them,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Frederic C. Hof.
  • The statistics say… The death toll in Iran from coronavirus approaches 4,000, with more than 62,000 cases, Reuters reported, citing health ministry data released on April 7. A senior official puts the number of cases at “around 500,000” in the nation of 83 million, state news agency reported April 6, Reuters said.  
  • Easter travel plans? Make none and stay at home, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, saying the country “must hold the course” or risk undoing the  progress it’s made against coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.  
  • The UK’s Foreign Office updated its guidance on non-essential global travel. Previously set for a period of thirty days from March 17, it now applies “indefinitely,” the Independent news website reported.
  • READ MORE: “It falls upon the United States to pioneer a strategy that will set the global standard for public health with the goal of preventing future pandemics and outbreaks,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Michael Greenwald. “In a globalized world, a territory’s poor public health standards or purposeful concealment of information about pandemic activity is practically an act of war against the rest of the world.”