UK urges workers to get back to the office; Germany’s Merkel warns of tough transition in fall


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In top stories today:

  • The UK government urged people to get back to the office, while daily infections were the highest since mid-June. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the country to remain vigilant as the transition to fall may be tough, while Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, criticized for his handling of the pandemic, stepped down because of poor health. And in Turkey, the wedding inspectors come calling.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 65, whose handling of the coronavirus outbreak has been criticized, resigned citing ill health, The New York Times reported. The public was dissatisfied with how he handled the pandemic, especially its impact on the economy, the Times added. Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, drew criticism for his clumsy early response to the outbreak in Japan and what critics described as a lack of leadership as cases spread, Reuters reported.
  • While the World Health Organization (WHO) will get a series of commitments to its plan for COVID-19 vaccines for all, it’s had to scale back the scope of the program, Reuters reported. Ignoring the WHO’s warning that so-called “vaccine nationalism” will squeeze supply, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have all struck their own deals to assure access to a future vaccine for their citizens, the newswire said. Experts warn that if other countries able to afford it do the same, that will undo the WHO’s ambitions for equitable access, Reuters added.
  • US President Donald J. Trump gave a speech to more than one thousand people on August 27 as he accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the BBC said. Photos show members of the audience on the South Lawn of the White House close to each other, with few wearing masks, the broadcaster added.
  • EVENT: Elections 2020 Co-Chairs discuss key foreign policy themes addressed in the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Join us for this event on Monday, August 31 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. Details are here
  • From business meetings to church services and college parties—where Americans gathered, coronavirus cases followed, The New York Times reported. Some events garnered public attention while others went by largely unnoticed, the Times said in a photo story with extended captions.
  • South Korea’s health ministry extended a back-to-work order for striking doctors to the whole country as the capital, Seoul, took the unprecedented step of restricting eateries as authorities try to halt the spread of infections, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, India recorded more than 77,000 new cases, a daily record for the second day, Bloomberg said.
  • Amsterdam said it was ending an experimental mandate on compulsory face masks in crowded places as the peak of the tourism has passed, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Paris police excluded those doing exercise outside and cyclists from a city-wide mask order, the newswire also reported. The Canary Islands in Spain made mask-wearing compulsory in workplaces, the BBC reported, while children as young as six will have to wear masks while at school, the broadcaster said separately. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she’s making her own mask, as wearing one becomes compulsory next week, Reuters also reported.


  • The US Federal Reserve undertook “robust updating,” as Chairman Jerome Powell put it, of its policy, willing to allow inflation to run higher than usual to support the labor market and broader economy, CNBC reported. The Fed will allow inflation to run “moderately” above its 2 percent goal “for some time,” CNBC cited Powell as saying on August 27.
  • QUOTE: “Many find it counterintuitive that the Fed would want to push up inflation,” Powell said in prepared remarks, CNBC reported. “However, inflation that is persistently too low can pose serious risks to the economy.”
  • The UK government is preparing an ad campaign to encourage those who worked from home during the pandemic to return to the office, The Washington Post reported. We’re fine where we are, thanks, many workers say, the Post added. A study by Cardiff University and the University of Southampton found that almost nine in ten Britons who worked from home during the lockdown want to carry on either permanently or on an occasional basis, the newspaper said, citing the Press Association.
  • QUOTE: “Our central message is pretty straightforward: we are saying to people it is now safe to return to work,” UK transport secretary Grant Shapps told LBC radio, Reuters reported.
  • The statistics say… The United Kingdom had its biggest daily increase in new cases since June 12 on August 27, with 1,522 confirmed infections, Reuters reported. But for now, that’s much lower than the levels in France, Spain, and other parts of Europe experiencing a second wave of infections, Reuters said.
  • Wealthy nations mostly back their leaders’ handling of the coronavirus crisis, except for the United States and the United Kingdom, The Washington Post reported, citing a poll of fourteen developed nations by the Pew Research Center. Among US respondents, 52 percent thought their government had responded poorly, compared with UK respondents, of which 54 percent of which were critical of the government’s handling of the outbreak, the Post said.
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  • Italy’s 78 billion euro fashion and leather industry may be dominated by global brands like Gucci, Valentino, and Versace, but tens of thousands of small family businesses comprise its backbone, the Financial Times reported. Their prosperity was already hit by global competition, but many fear that the pandemic will finish them off, prompting calls for help from the Italian government, the article said.
  • QUOTE: “Cramming millions of people together allows them to spark off one another, not only helping productivity, innovation, and economic growth but also fun, creativity and romance,” wrote the editorial board of the Financial Times. “In the time of coronavirus, however, that connectivity has become a curse: a disease that spreads through human contact makes living cheek by jowl with each other a far less appealing prospect. Cities will not die but they will have to, once again, transform.”


  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to carry on treating the coronavirus outbreak seriously, The Associated Press reported. Her three priorities are to ensure that children can still access education, secure economic revival, and maintain social cohesion while many in society are suffering hardship, Merkel told reporters in Berlin on August 28, the news service added. The end of the summer may mean greater exposure to micro-particles of the virus that are believed to spread through the air, especially in poorly ventilated places inside, the BBC cited her as saying.
  • QUOTE: “Some things are likely to be more difficult over the next few months than they are in the summer,” Merkel said, the BBC reported. “We have all enjoyed the freedoms and relative protection from aerosols in the summer, which is possible through life outdoors.”
  • CanSino Biologics is in talks with several countries about distribution of its coronavirus vaccine before final trials are complete, The Wall Street Journal said, citing Pierre Morgon, senior vice president for international business at the Chinese pharmaceutical maker. Getting the shot to millions of people now would broaden the knowledge base about the drug’s safety and effectiveness, it cited Morgon as saying.
  • Large percentages of Americans are reluctant or concerned about taking a vaccine against coronavirus, including some in high-risk groups, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing surveys and researchers. The quick pace of vaccine development is one of the concerns respondents talk about, the Journal said, adding that a small but vocal minority are against all vaccines.
  • Meanwhile, in Russia more than half of respondents in a poll said they don’t want the country’s coronavirus vaccine, even if it’s free, Bloomberg reported.
  • QUOTE: “Before this experience, I thought I knew a lot about COVID-19. I was wrong. But here’s one thing I know for sure: If you haven’t been taking the risk of this pandemic seriously, you should start now,” Christopher Chen, a cardiologist and CEO of ChenMed, which focuses on providing primary care for seniors, wrote on news service Stat. “When you’re an ICU patient with COVID-19, it is like dying in solitary confinement.”
  • Two organizations representing thousands of local US public health departments have urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reverse its new guidance on testing and go back to the recommendation that those exposed to the virus get a test whether or not they show symptoms, The New York Times reported. With little fanfare, the CDC changed its guidance this week to exclude those with no symptoms, the newspaper added.
  • The White House announced a $750 million deal with Abbott Laboratories for the supply of 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests, The Wall Street Journal reported. In China, Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine contender, CoronaVac, got emergency approval in July, Reuters cited an unidentified person as saying. The United Kingdom provided 8.4 million pounds in funding to three nationwide studies into immune responses to coronavirus, the newswire also said.


  • The United Kingdom added three more countries—Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Jamaica—to its quarantine list, the Financial Times reported. Those arriving after 4:00 am on August 29 from any of the three countries must self-isolate for fourteen days following an increase in coronavirus cases, the newspaper said. About 4,200 people have been referred to the UK police for flouting quarantine restrictions, transport secretary Grant Shapps said on TalkRadio on August 28, Bloomberg reported.  
  • Wedding inspectors: that’s an unusual tactic Turkey is deploying to control the spread of coronavirus, the Financial Times reported. They ensure venues are doing temperature checks, seating guests at least 60 cm apart from each other, and enforcing a ban on dancing in close quarters, the newspaper added. No pinning of money on the newlyweds either; the cash has to go in a box instead.