Pace of US job cuts eases, Moderna gets go-ahead for coronavirus vaccine trial


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:  

  • US unemployment claims came in at the lowest level since coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Moderna got approval for the next phase in a vaccine trial. Russia overtook France and Germany as cases increased, while the United Nations (UN) appealed for billions more to help vulnerable nations cope with the disease and its impact.   
  • QUOTE: “One emerging theory is that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab. Beijing denies it, but the world deserves a full accounting of what China knew and when,” wrote the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. “The world has a responsibility to help prevent the next pandemic by understanding how this one started.” 
  • US unemployment weekly claims came in at more than three million, the lowest total since shortly after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, CNBC reported. That takes the total to 33.5 million in the past seven weeks, according to the Labor Department, CNBC said.  
  • China said it backs the World Health Organization in trying to determine the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of telling lies in attacks leveled at Beijing, Reuters reported. The US-China disagreement over the origins of the disease shows no sign of easing even though Pompeo on May 6 seemed to ease off from his claim that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab, the Financial Times reported.  
  • The Associated Press leads on its website with an exclusive story carrying the headline “Admin shelves CDC guide to reopening country.” The White House has not published the seventeen-page report, “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, the Associated Press reported, adding that it was scheduled for release on May 1. 
  • QUOTE: “Chinese officials have managed to offend Europeans across the continent who usually agree on nothing,” Andreas Kluth wrote on the website of Bloomberg. “At the beginning of the year, the calendar for 2020 was filled with Sino-European summits celebrating ever deeper ties. Instead, the pandemic is likely to be the occasion for Europeans to begin emancipating themselves from a bad relationship.”  
  • Russia posted a record daily increase in coronavirus cases, meaning it leapfrogged France and Germany and now has the fifth-highest number of registered cases in the world, Reuters reported. “Three Russian doctors have fallen from hospital windows in two weeks, amid reports of dire conditions,” reads the headline to a Washington Post story.  
  • The statistics say… New cases jumped by 11,231 in the past twenty-four hours, Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said. More than half of the country’s coronavirus cases and deaths are in Moscow, which reported a record overnight increase of 6,703 additional cases, Reuters said.  
  • Boston-based biotech company Moderna received US regulatory approval for the second phase of trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine, the Financial Times reported. Moderna, the first in the United States to start human testing on a vaccine, said it will start those trials soon and expects phase three trials to begin in the summer, the newspaper added.  
  • China’s exports in dollar terms unexpectedly rose by 3.5 percent in April from a year earlier, compared to economists’ estimates of a 15.7 percent decline, CNBC reported, citing General Administration of Customs data and a Reuters poll. That reflects a clearing in the backlog of delayed orders from earlier in the year because of the coronavirus outbreak, The Wall Street Journal said, citing economists. They, and Chinese government officials, are pessimistic about the increase being sustained especially as growth sours further in the United States and Europe, the newspaper added.  
  • The Bank of England (BoE) forecasts the worst economic slump since 1706, according to its own data, with a 14 percent contraction in 2020 driven by a 25 percent drop in the second quarter, CNBC reported. The central bank said it’s ready to take more action if the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak deteriorates further, as it held interest rates at 0.1 percent. The BoE expects the contraction to be temporary and a quick recovery to follow, given an assumed relaxation of social distancing restrictions, CNBC added.  


  • Global sales of luxury goods may slump by between 50 and 60 percent in the second quarter even as some countries begin to ease lockdown restrictions and as demand shows signs of recovery in China, Reuters reported, citing consultancy Bain. It will take until 2022 or 2023 for sales in the industry to return to 2019 levels, Bain said, the newswire added.  
  • ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker outside China, suspended its dividend as coronavirus affected the construction and manufacturing sectors in the first quarter, the Financial Times reported. The company, which has idled furnaces after a drop in demand from carmakers and building sites, said it has seen signs of customers resuming production, the newspaper added.  
  • Puma, the German sportswear maker, expects all markets to recover by the end of this year and for growth to return in 2021, as the coronavirus crisis has prompted many people to do more sport, Reuters reported.  
  • Paris is testing face-mask recognition software by French tech firm Datakalab as part of efforts to end the coronavirus lockdown, Bloomberg reported. The three-month CCTV trial is at Chatelet-Les-Halles station in the center of the capital, normally used by about thirty-three million passengers a year, the newswire said.  
  • Frontier Airlines dropped plans to charge extra for passengers to pay extra to travel next to an empty seat following criticism from congressional Democrats that the Denver-based carrier was seeking to profit from concerns over coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.  
  • READ MORE: “The aviation sector has been working to decarbonize, but it faces unique challenges since decarbonization options that may work for ground or maritime transport are generally not feasible for air travel,” writes Fred Ghatala for the Atlantic Council
  • “From blood clots to ‘Covid toe’: the medical mysteries of coronavirus” reads a Financial Times headline, while Reuters publishes an explainer to answer the question “What do studies on new coronavirus mutations tell us?” 


  • The UN needs billions more to help the most vulnerable countries cope with the coronavirus outbreak, as it more than tripled the size of its humanitarian aid appeal to $6.7 billion from an initial $2 billion just six weeks ago, The New York Times reported. The updated appeal includes nine extra countries that are particularly vulnerable, the newspaper said: Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Zimbabwe.  
  • READ MORE: “The coronavirus has revealed structural economic issues that must be tackled, both national and international,” write the Atlantic Council’s Ana Palacio and Daniel Fried. “Inequality in the United States has been growing for generations and has reached Gilded Age levels; poorer, working class, and racial minorities are being hit disproportionally hard, and versions of such inequality exist in Europe as well.” 
  • Coronavirus “exposes gaping holes in Africa’s healthcare systems,” Reuters reported. Nations in Africa face a surge in cases of the disease with less than one ventilator and one intensive-care bed per 100,000 people, the newswire said, citing its own survey of fifty-four countries, which got responses from health officials or independent experts in forty-eight of those.   
  • The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the trade in illegal drugs but the fallout from the crisis may prompt more people to get involved in the trade, Bloomberg reported, citing a report sponsored by the UN. More border controls, less air traffic and supply shortages are among the disruptive factors, said the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the newswire reported.   
  • The Bundesliga will start again on May 16, becoming the first European soccer league to do so amid the coronavirus outbreak, The Telegraph reported. Strict health measures include a ban on fans in stadiums, the newspaper said, citing the German Football League.