Re-infections reported in Hong Kong, Europe; Germany economy suffers, airlines shed jobs


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In top stories today:

  • Re-infections are in the news, from Hong Kong to Europe, raising questions about immunity that a future vaccine may give. Spain ruled out a national lockdown, while Germany had a dire second quarter and airlines cut jobs, and sold pajamas, to save costs amid a global slump in travel.   
  • Scientists in Hong Kong confirmed on August 24 that a thirty-three-year-old man was re-infected with COVID-19, with his diagnosis by airport screening coming more than four months after his first infection, news service Stat reported. Stat asked experts to map out scenarios in response to questions including: Will our immune systems learn how to cope with the new virus threat? Will vaccines deliver long-lasting protection?
  • Two European patients, one in Belgium and the other in the Netherlands, are confirmed to have been re-infected too, Reuters reported. In the Belgian case, a woman contracted COVID-19 for the first time in March and then again in June, the newswire cited Belgian virologist Marc Van Rans as saying.
  • South Korea ordered that most schools in Seoul and surrounding schools be closed as officials try to halt the spread of coronavirus infections, CNBC reported. Infections may have peaked in the capital last weekend, Bloomberg cited health officials as saying.
  • Spain’s outbreak of coronavirus cases, adjusted for population, has surpassed that of the United States in the past few days, The New York Times reported. Health experts are still figuring out how that has happened, but factors may include the lack of a clear national message, not enough contact tracing and, perhaps, wanting to return to normal too quickly, the Times added.
  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez rejected a new national lockdown though, Bloomberg reported, instead putting pressure on regional officials, who can declare a local state of emergency if needed.
  • Hong Kong will start to ease some social distancing restrictions starting on August 28 as daily coronavirus infections decline, The Associated Press reported. Restaurants can serve diners until 9:00 p.m., cinemas and beauty salons will reopen, and residents need no longer wear masks when exercising outside, the news service said.
  • US President Donald J. Trump, speaking on the first night of a Republican National Convention, defended his handling of the pandemic, blaming China for the outbreak, the Financial Times reported.
  • EVENT: In 2020s America, public attitudes are in flux. How do Americans see the future of US foreign policy? Join us for a discussion on how the next presidential administration can re-energize support for US international leadership on Thursday, August 27 at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Details are here.
  • EVENT: Elections 2020 Co-Chairs discuss key foreign policy themes addressed in the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Join us on Monday, August 31 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. Details are here.
  • While most of the world is struggling to contain coronavirus, China’s economic recovery is gaining pace, putting it in a position to narrow its gap with the United States more quickly, The Wall Street Journal reported. Restaurants and gyms in China are busy again, while airport departure lounges and subways cars are crowded, the Journal said.
  • It’s an uproar in Ireland that has become known as GolfGate, The New York Times reported. The European Commission’s president gave trade chief Phil Hogan a 2:00 p.m. deadline on August 25 to give further clarification on whether he breached coronavirus restrictions while at home in Ireland this month, Reuters reported. Hogan has apologized twice for attending a golf dinner that has caused outrage in Ireland, prompting the prime minister and deputy prime minister to ask Hogan to consider his position, the newswire added.
  • QUOTE: “When deciding who gets the vaccine first, we want to think about who is most likely to be affected by death and severe illness; we want to think about how the virus is being transmitted; and we want to think about issues of equality,” Helene Gayle, head of the US vaccine distribution committee, told the Financial Times. The newspaper quoted Gayle in an article with the headline: “US braced for political row over who gets first COVID-19 vaccines.”


  • Germany’s economy contracted by 9.7 percent in the second quarter, the sharpest decline since Germany started to record quarterly gross domestic product in 1970, CNBC reported. Consumer spending, investment by companies and exports all slumped at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC added. State consumption bucked the trend, rising by 1.5 percent thanks to government stimulus measures, the news outlet added.
  • London’s reputation as one of the world’s major tech hubs hangs in the balance because of the pandemic as employees work remotely and events go virtual too, CNBC reported. One effect is that there’s no opportunity to bump into a venture capitalist or a fellow founder in a coffee shop or restaurant in neighborhoods including Shoreditch, King’s Cross, and the West End, where tech companies have set up offices, now mostly empty, the news outlet added.
  • High school students in Scotland will have to wear face coverings in corridors, communal areas, and school buses from August 31, the BBC reported. Meanwhile, The Associated Press has this headline: “Scotland’s handling of virus boosts support for independence,” with Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon described as neat and concise, compared with the rumpled, rambling UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
  • Johnson got a boost for his drive to get students back to school in England next month, the Financial Times said, as teaching labor unions gave their conditional support and local officials have, so far, not opposed the plan. Teaching unions have called for more detailed guidance on how to keep students and staff save, the newspaper added.


  • Hospitalizations and deaths attributed to COVID-19 are at a record low in the United Kingdom and several other countries in Europe, even though infections have been increasing for several weeks, the Financial Times said. There are three main reasons, health experts say: increased testing, a change in the ages of those infected, and better treatment for the sickest patients, the newspaper reported.
  • Meanwhile, the UK government plans to urge companies to conduct regular workplace testing, the Financial Times said in a separate article.
  • Five months into the pandemic, evidence suggests that lockdowns are too blunt and economically costly a tool, The Wall Street Journal said in a long-form article. Alternative, more targeted approaches could slow infections at a much lower cost, the Journal said.
  • QUOTE: “In a free-market culture where the consumer is king, people utterly lack the tools they are accustomed to using to help them make sound judgments and choices,” Steven Phillips, an internal medicine physician and medical epidemiologist, wrote on news service Stat. “Without tools that illuminate our personal risk and options, we gravitate to the comfort of narratives that reinforce our beliefs and instincts. This predicament has led to abysmal consequences.”


  • Airline SAS, part-owned by the governments of Sweden and Denmark, posted a pre-tax loss of 2.07 billion Swedish crowns ($235.8 million) in its fiscal third quarter through July as a collapse in demand for air travel outweighed cost cutting, CNBC said. The carrier posted a profit of 1.49 billion crowns in the year-earlier period, CNBC added.
  • Japan plans to relax a coronavirus entry bar that applies to foreign residents as it fears the restrictions damage Tokyo’s standing as a financial hub, the Financial Times reported. Japanese residents can enter the country subject to testing and quarantine, but foreign residents who left after April 2 are not allowed to return, a restriction that officials aim to lift as soon as possible, the newspaper added.
  • Rather than an all-or-nothing stance on admitting American travelers due to coronavirus, Costa Rica takes a more nuanced approach by welcoming residents of six US states from September 1—New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, CNBC said. That gives about 35 million US citizens, or nearly 11 percent of the population, access to the Central American country, CNBC added.
  • Australian airline Qantas will outsource 2,500 cleaning, baggage, and ground handling jobs in an attempt to save 100 million Australian dollars a year, the Financial Times reported. The carrier has also started to sell kangaroo-emblazoned pajamas it usually gives to business-class customers for twenty-five dollars, with about 10,000 pairs selling within hours, the newspaper added.
  • Finland’s national carrier Finnair plans to cut as many as one thousand jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce, Bloomberg reported. The airline also increased its 2022 cost-cutting target to 100 million euros from 80 million euros, the newswire added.
  • Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the region with the fastest pace of infections in Myanmar, needs high-speed internet back to help tackle the problem, Reuters cited humanitarian workers as urging authorities. Myanmar has curbed internet access in the area, where thousands of people have been displaced amid fighting between the army and ethnic minority insurgents, citing security, the newswire added. 


  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who described coronavirus as a “little cold,” a disease that has killed 114,000 Brazilians in the world’s second-worst outbreak, is now more popular than at any time since he came to power, The Washington Post reported. That’s partly because his support base now includes more poor people after they started receiving emergency federal aid, the Post said.
  • Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who holds world records for 100 meters and 200 meters, has tested positive for coronavirus but has no symptoms, CNBC reported. Bolt, who celebrated his thirty-fourth birthday last week with a big mask-free bash, as CNBC put it, is self-isolating at his home in Jamaica.