CORONAVIRUS ALERT 08/19/2020
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:
- The United Kingdom plans mass testing to control the spread of coronavirus, while London’s Heathrow airport pushed for tests and not quarantine. Japanese exports fell, as did the demand for shipping containers worldwide. Germany said some there may get a vaccine early next year.
- The statistics say… there are now more than 22 million cases worldwide in 188 countries and territories; in excess of 780,000 people have died.
- The United Kingdom plans to conduct mass testing as a means to bring the outbreak under greater control, said Health Minister Matt Hancock, CNBC reported. New technologies including saliva-based tests as opposed to swabs will help to allow that, Hancock said during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
- QUOTE: “This is a really, really important drive that we have across government to bring in mass testing, population-wide testing,” Hancock told BBC radio, CNBC said, citing a Reuters report. “We’ll ramp it up, certainly over the remainder of this year.”
- London’s Heathrow Airport said a testing area is ready if the UK government approves two tests, one on arrival and the other a few days later, compared with the current two-week quarantine restrictions, Reuters reported. Travelers arriving to the United Kingdom from countries including the United States, Spain, and France currently have to quarantine for fourteen days, acting as a deterrent to travel and adding to financial pressure on airlines, the newswire added.
- Meanwhile, China and the United States will allow airlines to double flights to eight per week between the world’s two largest economies after they were reduced because of the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reported, citing the US Transportation Department.
- US President Donald J. Trump said he called off last weekend’s trade talks with China, Bloomberg reported. That raises questions about the future of an agreement that, according to the newswire, is the most stable element in an increasingly tense relationship. A failure of the deal would likely lead to tit-for-tat tariff war, harming trade and companies worldwide, Bloomberg said.
- EVENT: Join us for a discussion on the salient energy policies under a potential Biden or Trump 2.0 administration and how each would address the deep and entrenched energy and environmental challenges the United States faces. Wednesday, August 19, at 12:30 p.m. EDT. Details are here.
- READ MORE: “Chief among the flawed assumptions undergirding American foreign policy is the belief that perpetual US primacy is both desirable and possible,” write the Atlantic Council’s Mathew Burrows, also Robert A. Manning, in The National Interest.
- Nightclubs, karaoke bars, and museums closed in and around Seoul, the capital of South Korea, as the country reported 297 new infections on August 19, the highest daily tally since March, the BBC reported. Officials are targeting an uncooperative religious sect that may be spreading infections, Bloomberg said.
SHIFT FROM CHINA
- Exports from Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, plunged 19.2 percent in July from a year earlier on lower demand for plastic goods, iron and steel, and computer parts, The Associated Press reported, citing provisional data from the finance ministry. Exports to the United States fell by 19.5 percent, the news service added. But exports to China, including paper products, machinery and metals, rose by 8.2 percent in July, The Associated Press added.
- Moving manufacturing out of China could cost companies one trillion dollars over five years, but is likely to be beneficial in the long term, Bank of America (BofA) research said, CNBC reported. BofA’s survey of global analysts showed that, even before the pandemic, companies were shifting towards more localized supply chains, CNBC said. Factors influencing that shift include threats to the network that supplies factories, ranging from trade disputes to climate change and automation, the news outlet added.
- Target recorded its strongest growth in quarterly sales, including a near tripling in digital sales, as the coronavirus pandemic increased demand for services allowing shoppers to collect their goods in parking lots, The Wall Street Journal reported. Walmart said on August 18 that its e-commerce sales almost doubled in the latest quarter, the Journal added.
- The University of Notre Dame is stopping face-to-face undergraduate classes for at least two weeks following a spike in infections, while Michigan State University also said on August 18 that it’s switching to virtual learning, The Washington Post reported.
- A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping line, said it faces a “massive problem” of crew being stranded on its ships amid coronavirus restrictions, the Financial Times reported. The company defied a global trade slump with a 25 percent increase in second-quarter profit to $1.7 billion thanks to cost cuts, higher freight rates and lower oil prices, the newspaper said. Worldwide demand for containers, a proxy for growth in global trade, fell by 10 percent, the Financial Times added.
- QUOTE: “How sad it would be if, for the COVID-19 vaccine, priority is given to the richest,” Pope Francis said on August 19 during his weekly public audience, The Associated Press reported. “The pandemic has laid bare the difficult situation of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world.”
- Many public health systems and governments have failed to communicate critical information about the pandemic in a way that most people can understand, Quartz said in its daily email to readers, citing research published on the JAMA Network. Americans, for example, read at an eighth grade (aged 13 to 14) level on average, whereas literature by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assumed an eleventh-grade reading level, the research said, Quartz reported. The Netherlands made its information the easiest to understand, while publications by the World Health Organization and countries including the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Norway were on par with the CDC, it added.
- Millions of girls and women worldwide have lost access to abortion services and contraceptives because of the pandemic, The Associated Press said, citing a report by Marie Stopes International. Across thirty-seven countries almost two million fewer women received these services from January to June compared with the year-earlier period, the news service added. The organization expects more than three thousand additional pregnancy-related deaths as a result, the news service added.
- The Office for National Statistics’ Infection Survey will test 150,000 people every two weeks in England by October, compared with 28,000 now, to get a clearer picture of how the virus is spreading, the BBC reported. The survey will take random samples of the population, the broadcaster added.
- Australia reached an agreement with drugmaker AstraZeneca to secure a possible coronavirus vaccine, promising to offer it for free to the country’s 25 million citizens if it proves to be effective, The New York Times reported. The vaccine is in Phase III clinical trials, with ten thousand people in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa having received doses as of July, the newspaper added.
- QUOTE: “It is not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine, OK? It’s not compulsory. There are no compulsory vaccines in Australia,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB, the BBC reported. “There will be a lot of encouragement and measures to get as high a rate of acceptance as usual.”
- Some groups of people in Germany could be vaccinated against coronavirus early next year, the head of Germany’s vaccine regulator, CNBC reported. Klaus Cichutek, head of the Paul Ehrlich Institut, told the Funke group of newspapers that data from Phase I and Phase II trials showed some vaccines led to antibodies against the coronavirus being created, CNBC reported.
- QUOTE: “If data from Phase III trials shows the vaccines are effective and safe, the first vaccines could be approved at the beginning of the year, possibly with conditions attached,” CNBC cited Cichutek as saying.
- Sweden, known for its lighter-touch stance on coronavirus restrictions, is an outlier in its refusal to advocate face masks, the Financial Times reported. It’s one of the few European countries not to recommend masks after neighboring Norway, Denmark, and Finland all changed their position on masks in the last week, the newspaper added.
- Roche agreed to make and distribute a potential COVID-19 treatment for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a tie-up of competitors that could more than triple supply of the medicine if it gets regulatory approval, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing the companies. The drug, also aimed at preventing infections temporarily among high-risk groups, is among the more promising treatments undergoing clinical trials, according to the newspaper. Initial study results are expected by the end of September, the Journal said.
- “Will Covid-19 vaccines be safe for children and pregnant women? The data, so far, are lacking” reads a headline on news service Stat. Expectant mothers have historically been omitted from all kinds of trials, Stat reported.
- The statistics say… India recorded more than 64,000 new cases on August 18, bringing the total number of infections to almost 2.8 million, the BBC reported. More than 31 million tests have now been conducted, including 800,000 on August 18 alone, the Indian Council of Medical Research said, the broadcaster added.
- Confirmed deaths from coronavirus surpassed 20,000 in Iran, The Associated Press reported, citing the health ministry. The Islamic Republic, which is contending with the biggest outbreak in the region, went ahead with entrance exams for more than one million university students and is also gearing up for mass Shiite commemorations later in August, the news service added.
- The Philippines, which with almost 170,000 coronavirus cases is the hardest-hit country in Southeast Asia, largely reopened for business on August 19 despite advice against it by some health experts, The New York Times reported. Of that total, 30,000 infections were reported in the past week, the Times added. Under the new rules, more industries can reopen, limited church services are permitted, and restaurants can welcome dine-in customers, the newspapers reported.
- A number of states in Mexico are banning the sale of junk food, spurred on by growing evidence that being overweight increases the risk of falling seriously ill with COVID-19, The Washington Post reported. Legislators in Tabasco voted on August 17 to ban the sale of sugary beverages and highly processed foods to those under age eighteen, just twelve days after Oaxaca took similar action, the Post said.
- Officials in Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government are denouncing those who may have come into contact with coronavirus as “bioterrorists” and encouraging neighbors to report them, The New York Times reported. The government has also detained and intimidated doctors who question Maduro’s coronavirus policies, the Times added.
- Indonesia has put on hold President Joko Widodo’s $33 billion project to move its capital city to the island of Borneo as the country contends with the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters said, citing an interview with Suharso Monoarfa, the planning minister. Meanwhile officials in the current capital, Jakarta, are trying out shock tactics to fight the outbreak, including an empty coffin at a busy intersection, the newswire said in a separate article. A board gets updated with the local tally of infections and deaths, Reuters 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.