Shadow cast over (postponed) 2021 Olympics even amid early vaccine hopes; Australia app is a hit


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:           

  • A top medical official in Japan cast doubt on the already postponed Olympic Games taking place without an effective vaccine. Financial results from global carmakers and banks added to evidence of the deep impact of the coronavirus crisis. Vaccine development showed some early progress, while a new tracing app in Australia proved popular.
  • There’s a shadow cast over the already-postponed Tokyo Olympics. It will be difficult to hold the Games in 2021 if there’s no effective vaccine by then, said Yoshitake Yokokura, the president of the Japan Medical Association, the Associated Press reported. If they can’t take place in 2021, the Games will be canceled, Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said, Reuters reported.
  • Oxford University’s Jenner Institute thinks it has produced an effective vaccine against coronavirus and plans to conduct clinical trials on 6,000 people before the end of May, the BBC reported, picking up on a New York Times story. The National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana tested the vaccine on six rhesus monkeys last month, and twenty-eight days after being exposed to the virus, all six were still healthy, The New York Times reported.
  • A coronavirus vaccine could be ready as early as this year for vulnerable people such as healthcare workers, Bloomberg reported, citing The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is funding nine different coronavirus vaccine projects. That’s potentially faster than a previous target of twelve to eighteen months, which hadn’t accounted for factors including cooperation between companies and speedier uptake of human trials, the newswire added.
  • A mobile-phone coronavirus tracker is proving popular in Australia, where 2.4 million people have downloaded it, the BBC reported. It notifies users if they have been in close contact for more than fifteen minutes with another user who has tested positive for coronavirus, the BBC said.  
  • “Coronavirus apps: the risk of slipping into a surveillance state,” runs the headline to a long-form article in the Financial Times.
  • QUOTE: “[B]efore anyone rushes to issue [immunity] certificates or passports—and require them for work, travel or other activities—we need to stop and ask ourselves if we’re ready for a society divided between new classes of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, and Annie Sparrow, an assistant professor of population health science and policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, wrote in The New York Times.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its list of possible coronavirus symptoms to include chills, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat, The New York Times reported. That shows the unpredictable nature of the disease’s effect on different people, the newspaper said.
  • QUOTE: “We have a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to do,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, told reporters, The New York Times said.


  • Japanese carmaker Nissan said it expects to post a loss for the fiscal year that just ended after the coronavirus pandemic closed showrooms and factories worldwide, Bloomberg reported. Operating profit will be as much as 130 billion yen ($1.2 billion) less than the forecast of 85 billion yen the company forecast in February, the newswire said. Nissan delayed its earning statement until May 28 because of the global coronavirus lockdowns, Bloomberg reported.
  • General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler aim to restart some production at their US factories on May 18, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the plans. The Detroit carmakers shut down plants in March as coronavirus spread, the newspaper said.
  • The euro-area economy contracted by 3.7 percent in the first quarter, a first since 2013, data will show on April 30, Bloomberg reported. The current quarter will probably be worse still, “with a disastrous deterioration in economic prospects likely to produce the deepest recession on record” prompted by the coronavirus economic shutdown, the newswire added.
  • First-quarter profit at BP plummeted by two-thirds, while debt at the oil major climbed to the highest level in at least five years after the coronavirus crisis put a dent in energy demand, Reuters reported. Even as BP warned of exceptionally uncertain times, the company maintained its dividend, an approach that analysts questioned, Reuters said.
  • READ MORE: “What President Trump and his administration could do—perhaps better than any other country in the world due to its dual leadership in fossil fuels and renewables technology—is to help inspire and convene a global energy crisis conversation that points to the future,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Frederick Kempe.
  • The European Union (EU) will offer banks more capital relief, allowing them to help companies that are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported, citing unidentified sources. Valdis Dombrovskis, the bloc’s financial services chief, is expected to propose on April 28 that the EU follows a similar move made by the US Federal Reserve, the newswire said.
  • READ MORE: “Do as much as you can, then do a little bit more,” International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on April 27, urging policymakers to commit more money to recovery efforts, writes the Atlantic Council’s David A. Wemer.
  • HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, cut its first-quarter profit in half as bad loans surged five-fold to $3 billion, heading for the highest annual level since the financial crisis, the Financial Times reported. This is just the beginning, executives said, with provisions for bad loans to total between $7 billion and $11 billion by the end of the year as the bank prepares for a spate of bankruptcies and unpaid loans because of the coronavirus crisis, the newspaper said.


  • Argentina has banned sales of flights to, from, or within the country until September 1 because of the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC reported. The nation closed its borders and imposed strict quarantine measures in March, the BBC said.
  • The Associated Press (AP) contrasts New Zealand, which is gradually easing a strict lockdown, with Brazil. Latin America’s biggest country, with a population of 211 million, is “emerging as a potential new hot spot for infections,” AP said.
  • QUOTE: “[T]here may still be some smoldering ashes out there, and they have the potential to become a wildfire again, if we give them the chance,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, quoting a microbiologist, AP reported.
  • Tentative hopes are beginning to emerge that Africa may be spared the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as the continent so far has fewer than 1,400 deaths, the Financial Times reported. But experts warn that it’s too early to draw any firm conclusions, the newspaper added.
  • Hundreds of thousands of garment-factory workers went back to work in Bangladesh this week, prompting concerns they could contract coronavirus while the rest of the country remains under lockdown, The Washington Post reported. More than 4 million people, most of them impoverished young women, work in the country’s garment industry, the newspaper said.
  • QUOTE: “This crisis has thrown a harsh light on the gaps in our global order—gaps caused by social injustice, income inequality, poverty, and misgovernance,” Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, king of Jordan, wrote in The Washington Post. “Instead of ‘de-globalization’—as some are advocating—I see us all benefiting from a ‘re-globalization’… [that] ushers in true cooperation rather than competition.”