South Korea faces nationwide outbreak, Bali remains shut to tourists; US infections decline


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:

  • South Korea faces a nationwide outbreak, while New Zealand extended a lockdown in Auckland, and Bali said it will remain closed to tourists. Infections fell in the United States, while France said it will soon reciprocate on a UK requirement that returning travelers quarantine for fourteen days.
  • South Korea, once held up as a model for its response to the pandemic, is on the verge of a nationwide outbreak, as infections centered around a Presbyterian church have now spread to all of the country’s seventeen provinces for the first time, the BBC reported. While South Korea’s contact tracers can track about one thousand potentially infected patients an hour, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted that an estimated 20 percent of cases are of unknown origin, the BBC added.
  • QUOTE: “If we fail to flatten the curve this week we believe we will be faced with a very important crisis, that the virus will spread to the entire nation,” South Korean health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing, Reuters reported.
  • US President Donald J. Trump announced emergency approval of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients on August 23, The Associated Press reported. While he called it a “breakthrough,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the treatment, which uses blood plasma taken from those who have recovered from the disease, needs further study to prove its effectiveness, the news agency added.
  • QUOTE: “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19,” Denise Hinton, chief scientist for the FDA, said in a letter describing the emergency authorization, The Associated Press reported. “Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.”
  • New infections in the United States reached their lowest level in more than two months after a ninth day in a row of daily cases below 50,000, The Wall Street Journal reported. All states that are driving the decrease—Florida, Arizona, and Louisiana among them—have at least some mask mandates in place or have again closed bars, theaters, and gyms to contain infections, The New York Times reported.  
  • The statistics say… August 23 saw 34,567 new cases, down from 44,572 the previous day and the lowest since June 22, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The Trump administration may fast-track a UK coronavirus vaccine for use in the United States before the election in November, the Financial Times reported, citing three unidentified people familiar with the plan. One possibility is that the FDA award “emergency use authorization” in October to the vaccine developed in partnership between AstraZeneca and Oxford University if it proves to be effective, the newspaper said.
  • READ MORE: “Regardless of the political balance of power after November, there are two things that need to get done, and fast: the unblocking of the WTO Appellate Body and a new trade deal with Europe to match Canada’s and Mexico’s,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Marc L. Busch.
  • EVENT: Public and private sector leaders join the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council to discuss what steps they have taken to secure the information space around the 2020 presidential election on Tuesday, August 26, at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Details are here.
  • France will in the coming days reciprocate on the United Kingdom’s fourteen-day quarantine restriction on returning travelers, French Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told French TV France 2 on August 24, Reuters reported. UK officials have required those returning from France to self-isolate for fourteen days when they get home because of high infection rates in France, the newswire added.  
  • Meanwhile Hong Kong had its first single-digit daily increase in new cases since the most recent wave of infections started in early July, Bloomberg reported. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country’s largest city, Auckland, will remain in lockdown four days longer than planned, the newswire added. After allowing public gatherings of up to five hundred people in August, Finland said on August 24 that the limit will drop to fifty in September because of a recent increase in infections, Reuters said.


  • More than $100 billion was wiped off the value of dividends worldwide in the second quarter as companies ditched payouts to investors in response to the pandemic, the Financial Times reported. The decline of about a fifth was the steepest drop in a decade, the newspaper said, citing Janus Henderson, the fund manager that tracks dividends worldwide.
  • “Thousands allowed to bypass environmental rules in pandemic” reads an Associated Press headline. That includes thousands of oil and gas installations, citing lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, and government facilities that secured permission to stop monitoring dangerous emissions, or otherwise bypass rules on health and the environment, the news agency added.
  • A tsunami: that’s how The New York Times described a wave of job losses that, it said, will soon be hitting Europe as government-backed furlough programs, designed to mitigate the economic impact of coronavirus, come to an end in the region. As many as 59 million jobs are at risk, ranging from cuts in hours or pay, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs, especially in transportation and retail, the Times cited an April study by McKinsey & Co. as saying.
  • The United Kingdom seems set to post a record-breaking economic recovery in the third quarter, fueled by consumer spending after lockdowns were eased and a return to schools, the Financial Times reported. Gross domestic product may increase by 14.3 percent, according to a new average of forecasts by City of London economists, the newspaper said. But beyond September, the picture is less clear because of factors including job cuts, social distancing measures, and a possible second wave of infections, the Financial Times added.
  • India’s government issued guidelines allowing film and television shooting to restart nationwide in an industry that employs millions, The Wall Street Journal reported. While the industry has been mostly shuttered since India’s lockdown started on March 25, a few states including Maharashtra, home to Bollywood, have allowed some filming since June, the Journal added.


  • While 172 countries are engaging with a plan called COVAX, led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and designed to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, extra funding is needed urgently and nations now need to make binding commitments, the WHO said on August 24, Reuters reported.
  • It’s a dubious honor, according to The Washington Post: China’s claim to be the first country to roll out an experimental coronavirus vaccine for use on the public. Officials in Beijing said on August 22 that they started giving the shot to some medical workers and staff at state-owned companies in late July under “urgent use” protocols, which would put China’s civilian rollout three weeks earlier than Russia’s, the Post added. Papua New Guinea said last week it turned away a group of Chinese miners who had received an experimental vaccine against coronavirus, the newspaper reported.
  • Four of the world’s seven coronavirus vaccines that are in the third phase of trials are from China, Reuters reported in a fact box article that summarizes the nation’s efforts to develop a vaccine. Meanwhile, Italy started human trials of a potential vaccine on August 24, the newswire said in a separate article. Lazzaro Spallanzani Institute in Rome, a hospital that specializes in infectious diseases, will carry out trials on ninety volunteers in coming weeks, with the hope a vaccine may be available by the spring of 2021, Reuters reported.
  • The University of Louisville requires students taking in-person classes to test for coronavirus between August 24 and September 4, whether they are or plan to be occasionally on campus, The Associated Press reported. The testing requirement applies to faculty and staff too as the university wants to avoid an online-only semester this fall, the news service added.


  • Infections have hit almost every country in the world, but not ten nations in the South Pacific, from Palau to the Marshall Islands 2,500 miles east, the BBC reported. But in Palau, for example, the only guests in hotels are returning residents in quarantine, restaurants are empty and souvenir shops closed, the broadcaster said. While the Marshall Islands are much less dependent on tourism, coronavirus restrictions have hit the fishing industry there, the BBC reported.
  • The Indonesian island of Bali postponed a plan to reopen to tourism on September 11, citing an increase in infections in the Southeast Asian country, Reuters reported. And in Cancun on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, hotel occupancy is below 30 percent, with shopping malls empty, The Wall Street Journal said. The global tourism industry is expected to shed more than 100 million jobs because of the pandemic, the World Travel & Tourism Council has said, the Journal added. Meanwhile, more tourists visited Spain in July, but visitor numbers are still one-sixth of last year’s levels. Reuters said separately.
  • QUOTE: “There are going to be opportunities to sell and the hotel chains are going to be very attentive to that,” said Javier Jimenez, head of Spain’s Association of Hotel Directors in the Costa Blanca region, which includes the resort towns of Benidorm, Denia, and Torrevieja, Bloomberg reported.
  • Excess deaths in the Brazilian Amazon city of Manaus fell from around 120 per day in May to almost zero in August, with hospitalizations down too, sparking questions about immunity to coronavirus, The Washington Post said. Deaths and cases started to let up without the interventions seen elsewhere, stunning front-line doctors, the Post added. “Death and denial in Brazil’s Amazon capital” reads the title to an Associated Press photo story produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.