CORONAVIRUS ALERT 08/14/2020
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:
- UK vacationers in France scrambled to get home to beat new quarantine measures as cases there rise. Restrictions were extended in cities from the French capital to New Zealand’s biggest city, while Europe lost almost half the jobs created since the last recession in a single quarter.
- The statistics say… there are now approaching 21 million cases worldwide in 188 countries and territories; more than 760,000 people have died.
- The United Kingdom added more countries to its quarantine list, including France, the Netherlands, and Malta, but is pursuing plans to ease restrictions at home, The New York Times reported. The fourteen-day quarantine for travelers arriving from 4:00 am on August 15 also covers Aruba, Monaco, and Turks and Caicos, the Times added. Bowling alleys, theaters, and casinos can reopen the same day, and beauty salons can begin to provide services such as facials and eyebrow threading, the newspaper said.
- Paris and Marseille have been declared “at-risk zones” amid a steep increase in infections following family reunions and large gatherings in the summer holidays, The Associated Press reported, citing Jerome Salomon, the head of France’s national health service, speaking on France Inter radio. A government decree issued on August 14 lets authorities in the cities impose tougher restrictions.
- New Zealand extended the lockdown in its biggest city, Auckland, by another twelve days as the country faces the first national outbreak of cases in months, Reuters reported. The latest outbreak is a different strain to the original one earlier in the year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, citing genomic testing, the newswire added.
- India overtook the United Kingdom to become the country with the fourth-highest number of coronavirus deaths following another record day of fatalities on August 14, The Associated Press reported. The tally now stands at 48,040 after 1,007 deaths in the past twenty-four hours, behind the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, the news service said. More than 70 percent of those infected in India have recovered, it added.
- A second lockdown in Spain would have a catastrophic effect on the economy, CEOE, the country’s main business lobby, warned on August 13, Bloomberg reported. New infections increased that day—the most since at least May 25, when the way reporting data changed, the newswire added.
- The statistics say… New cases increased by 2,935 on August 13 compared with 1,690 in the previous twenty-four-hour period, Bloomberg cited Spain’s health ministry as saying late that day.
- QUOTE: “The Spanish economy is in a situation where it can’t handle an outbreak similar to the one in March that would mean a new lockdown with the subsequent paralysis of activity,” the CEOE said in a statement, Bloomberg reported.
- The Spanish government has ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs and banned smoking in the street, the BBC reported. Those seen drinking in the street will face a fine, the broadcaster added.
- Meanwhile hospitals in Belgium have started stockpiling drugs and protective kit in preparation for a possible second wave of infections, Reuters reported. The country is also preparing contingency plans as a spike in infections has forced the capital Brussels to order that face masks be worn in public places, the newswire added.
- EVENT: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discusses the key foreign policy priorities for the next presidential administration and the future of US leadership. Join us for this Atlantic Council FrontPage event on Monday, August 17 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Details are here.
- READ MORE: A US-brokered deal has seen Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalize relations for the first time in history. Atlantic Council experts discuss what the agreement means and what is next for the wider region.
ONE TRILLION DOLLAR DITCH
- “Stimulus Talks Are Stuck in $1 Trillion Ditch Over Aid to States” reads a Bloomberg headline. Chances of an agreement are slim without a compromise on about one trillion dollars of aid to beleaguered US state and local governments, the newswire reported. Democrat negotiators demand that and the White House opposes it, Bloomberg said. With no deal on pandemic relief done, the Senate adjourned on August 13 until early September, The New York Times reported.
- Europe’s labor market suffered a record loss of almost five million jobs in the second quarter, a decline of 2.6 percent, the Financial Times reported, citing Eurostat. That highlights the stark economic effect of the pandemic, the newspaper said. The 4.9 million job losses are almost half of the 12 million posts created since the last recession, with more likely to follow, Bloomberg reported.
- “The recession is over for the rich, but the working class is far from recovered” reads a Washington Post headline. Home values and the stock market in the United States are back at record levels, but jobs remain scarce for those who earn less than twenty dollars an hour, the Post said, citing a new labor data analysis by John Friedman, an economics professor at Brown University and co-director of Opportunity Insights.
- China’s economic recovery lost some momentum as retail sales disappointed again in July as people held back from going out amid public-health concerns, The Wall Street Journal said, citing August 14 data by the National Bureau of Statistics. The decline of 1.1 percent in July from a year earlier narrowed the 1.8 percent drop in June but both months missed economists’ forecasts, the Journal reported. Some economists think China’s snapback may have already seen its best days, as the newspaper puts it, after gross domestic product rose by a better-than-expected 3.2 percent in the three months through June.
- QUOTE: “It’s just one month, but it’s consistent with the idea that the snapback we got in the second quarter is not going to be repeated,” said Michael Spencer, head of Asia-Pacific research for Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, referring to the July retail figures, the Journal reported.
- Turkey’s current account deficit widened in June for the seventh month in a row as tourists stayed away and investment faltered because of the pandemic, the Financial Times reported. A country’s current account is the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, the newspaper said, and the latest figures expose the vulnerability of Turkey’s growth-at-all-costs policies.
- Hong Kong’s government now expects the financial hub’s economy to contract by between 6 and 8 percent this year, compared with its previous forecast of a decline of 4 to 7 percent, CNBC reported. Hong Kong, whose economy contracted 9 percent decline in second quarter from a year earlier, the government also said on August 14, has had a recent spike in coronavirus cases, CNBC added.
- The United Kingdom has signed deals for a further 90 million doses of a vaccine, taking its possible stockpile of potential vaccines to 340 million doses, the BBC reported. The vaccines in the latest agreement are being developed by Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen and US biotech Novavax, the broadcaster added.
- China will supply Pakistan, one of its closest allies in the developing world, with coronavirus vaccines as part of a deal for clinical trials to take place in the South Asian nation, The Wall Street Journal said in an exclusive report, citing Pakistani government officials. Pakistan will get enough doses to inoculate the most vulnerable of its 220 million citizens, an arrangement that may cover one-fifth of the population, the newspaper said. State-owned Sinopharm will work with Karachi University on the trials, it reported.
- The United States has secured a minimum of 800 million doses of a vaccine once the shots get regulatory approval later this year or early in 2021, reported CNBC in an article that summarizes deals that come to billions of dollars.
- Vietnam has registered to buy Russia’s vaccine against COVID-19, despite concerns by health experts that Russia is offering the shot before human trials are completed, The New York Times said, citing a Reuters report. There was no detail either on the number of doses or when they would be delivered, the Times added.
- “A Deadly Coronavirus Was Inevitable. Why Was No One Ready?” asked a Wall Street Journal headline. Disease X was among those that scientists debated in a two-day meeting at the World Health Organization’s Geneva headquarters in February 2018, and when it arrived in the form of the current coronavirus, governments—after ignoring clear warnings and underfunding pandemic preparedness—businesses, public-health officials and citizens found themselves in a state of chaos, as the Journal put it.
- “Across faiths, pandemic alters worship, rites” reads the headline to an Associated Press photo story.
- Bloomberg Businessweek published a feature about the Spanish resort town of Benidorm’s efforts at reinvention as visitor numbers are down, business closures are up and where police patrol the waterfront to remind socially distancing vacationers to put on a face mask, and pronto. More than a third of hotels are still closed and at those that are open, occupancy is about 40 percent compared with 90 percent in a normal summer, the news outlet reported.
- While cruising has been called to a halt in the United States, several major cruise liners are trying to restart operations in Europe, with Italy at the center of their efforts, The Washington Post said. MSC Grandiosa will begin a voyage on August 16, the first to restart in the Mediterranean. How risky it will be for people to embark on cruise ships again remains to be seen, as cruises helped to spread the virus worldwide at the start of the epidemic and were connected to several dozen deaths, the newspaper said, adding that the cruise companies say they depend on science to guide how they reopen.
- Health officials in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, made “unjustifiable” and “inexcusable” mistakes that allowed cruise ship passengers with COVID-19 to disembark in central Sydney, an inquiry said on August 14, Reuters reported. For a time the Ruby Princess, owned by Carnival, was Australia’s biggest single source of infections, with over six hundred cases and more than twenty deaths directly linked to those passengers, the newswire added.
- Johns Hopkins University interactive web-based dashboard to visualize and track reported cases in real-time.
- CDC provides frequent updates and background information on coronavirus and interim guidance on company policies.
- The World Health Organization daily situation reports.