UK’s Johnson postpones easing, Hong Kong postpones poll; Sanofi, Glaxo sign US vaccine deal


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 Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed easing coronavirus restrictions, while Hong Kong put back legislative elections by a year, citing infection concerns. New cases were recorded from Tokyo to Manila and the Australian state of Victoria. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline clinched a deal, the biggest yet, on the supply of a potential vaccine to the US government.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed the next stage of lockdown easing for at least two weeks following an uptick in infections, Reuters said. It will be compulsory to wear masks in museums and cinemas from August 8, while plans to reopen bowling alleys, casinos, and ice rinks were postponed, Johnson told reporters on July 31, the Financial Times reported. Johnson also put back plans to allow wedding receptions of as many as thirty people, the newspaper added.  
  • EVENT: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is at the forefront during a critical moment for Poland, Central Europe, and the transatlantic community. At an event, the prime minister explored Poland’s handling of the coronavirus and the country’s role in the transatlantic relationship. A recording of the Atlantic Council FrontPage event, which took place at 9:00 a.m. EDT on Friday, July 31, is here.
  • Australia recorded 723 new cases and thirteen extra deaths on July 30, an all-time high on both counts, Vice News reported. The state of Victoria may need to tighten restrictions further despite weeks of lockdown, its premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on July 31, when a further 627 cases and eight deaths were recorded, the BBC said. “Winter Virus Surge Down Under Shows US, Europe What May Come” reads a Bloomberg headline on July 30.
  • Following ninety-nine days with no new cases of coronavirus in Vietnam, state media reported the first death from the disease, The Associated Press reported. A seventy-year-old man died after testing positive while being treated for a kidney illness at a hospital in Da Nang, where more than ninety cases have been recorded in the past week, the news service cited the Thanh Nien newspaper as saying.
  • Tokyo posted a record 463 new infections on July 31 and a state of emergency may be needed if cases carry on rising, the Japanese capital’s governor Yuriko Koike said, the BBC reported. The Philippines posted Southeast Asia’s biggest increase in new cases on July 31 for the second day in a row, Reuters reported, with 4,063 new infections. Restrictions were extended in the capital Manila, it added.
  • Hong Kong has delayed September legislative elections by one year, citing the risk posed by coronavirus, Bloomberg reported. Deploying as many as 34,000 volunteers at more than six hundred polling stations on polling day to help millions of voters is too dangerous in the circumstances, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters on July 31, the newswire added. Pro-democracy opposition cries foul, reads part of an Associated Press headline.
  • The statistics say… Hong Kong recorded 121 infections on July 31, after the financial hub posted its highest daily tally so far the day before, Bloomberg reported.


  • China has locked down the restive northwestern region of Xinjiang using high-tech surveillance and thousands of law enforcement officers, the Financial Times reported. More than five hundred infections detected there since mid-July make it the worst outbreak since Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, the newspaper said. The Chinese communist party has interned more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang, the Financial Times added.
  • Contact tracing has largely failed in the United States, The New York Times reported, citing examples from states including Arizona, Texas, and Florida. That’s due in part to inadequate testing and long delays in producing results, while in some regions swaths of residents have refused to take part in contact tracing or it’s impossible to locate them, the newspaper added.
  • QUOTE: “We hoped the alarming loss of so many lives in so short a period of time would galvanize a concerted national effort to contain the virus,” wrote the editorial board of The Washington Post. “Instead, two months later, 50,000 more people are dead, and there is no end in sight to the casualties.”
  • Millions of people in parts of northern England are banned from meeting each other at home following a spike in local infections, the BBC reported, citing an announcement late on July 30. The restrictions affect residents in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire, the BBC added. Meanwhile, up to thirty people can meet outside in Wales, gyms will reopen, and children under age eleven will no longer have to social distance from August 3, the broadcaster reported separately.
  • QUOTE: “One of the features of this pandemic is that in government we have had to take decisions swiftly and then announce them swiftly so that people know about them as soon as possible,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, when asked on BBC Radio 4 why the restrictions took effect three hours after they were announced.


  • Europe’s economy declined at a record pace in the second quarter, even more so than in the United States, The Wall Street Journal reported. The euro zone’s gross domestic product (GDP) plunged 40.3 percent on an annual basis, compared with a US contraction of 32.9 percent, the Journal said. Still, confidence seems to be surging among European consumers and businesses, thanks in part to support by governments for furlough programs, the European Central Bank’s aggressive stimulus measures and a record 1.8 trillion-euro spending package agreed by the bloc’s leaders last week, the newspaper added.
  • QUOTE: “We’re expecting a longer and slower climb from the bottom unfortunately, and here the virus will dictate the terms,” said Beth Ann Bovino, US chief economist at S&P Global Ratings, The Wall Street Journal reported in a separate article.
  • France, Italy, and Spain entered recession in the second quarter as lockdowns took their toll, the BBC reported. France’s GDP fell by 13.8 percent, Italy’s declined by 12.4 percent, while Spain’s economy contracted by 18.5 percent in the three months through June, the broadcaster said. A recession is usually defined as two quarters of a contraction in GDP in a row, the BBC added.
  • QUOTE: “The shock was deeper than in Germany and France, reflecting the impact of stricter measures and an economy more reliant on the hospitality sector,” said Maeva Cousin, euro-area Bloomberg Economist, the newswire reported. “We also anticipate Spain’s recovery in 3Q will be shallower, dragged down by tourism and heightened risks of a second outbreak.”
  • “China’s Economy Sped Up in July as Factory Output Recovered” reads a headline on Bloomberg, which cites data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on July 31. While construction activity continued to improve, the loss of jobs and income will weigh on China’s economic recovery by limiting consumers’ ability to spend, the newswire said. The expansion in factory activity was for a fifth month in a row, thanks to improving demand from inside and outside China, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Defying the pandemic and regulatory scrutiny, big tech companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google announced a blowout quarter of results on July 30, the Financial Times reported. Their combined market value surged by about $230 billion in after-hours trading following their results, exceeding $5 trillion for the first time, the newspaper added.
  • QUOTE: “The day we found out the US economy declined more than it ever has in history, these companies recorded extraordinary growth,” said Roger McNamee, a longstanding tech investor, the Financial Times reported. “In the absence of some sort of regulatory intervention, they will continue to displace a larger and larger share of the economy.”
  • Big oil companies from Exxon to Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell had one of their worst second quarters on record and are bracing for long-term pain as the pandemic carries on hitting demand for fossil fuels, The Wall Street Journal reported. The owner of British Airways posted its largest loss on record, the Journal said in a separate article.


  • Sanofi and its UK partner GlaxoSmithKline reached a deal of up to $2.1 billion to supply the US government with one hundred million doses of its experimental coronavirus shot, The New York Times reported, citing a July 31 statement from Sanofi Pasteur, the French drug maker’s vaccine division. That’s the biggest such agreement to date, the Times added. The deal helps to speed up development of the vaccine, the Financial Times said.
  • “Trump planning for U.S. rollout of coronavirus vaccine falling short, officials warn” reads the headline to a Reuters article. Meanwhile, there’s some modest good news, as The Wall Street Journal puts it: doctors are getting better at treating the disease by using a mix of drugs to combat its symptoms. The newspaper cites the experience of medical staff in Italy and the United Kingdom, which have both been hard hit by infections and sickness.
  • QUOTE: “While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” US infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Robert Redfield, and Health and Human Services testing chief Adm. Brett Giroir will tell a House panel investigating the pandemic, The Associated Press reported, citing prepared testimony before the July 31 hearing.
  • A “zero risk” strategy for countries easing travel restrictions during the pandemic does not exist, and essential travel for emergencies should still be the priority, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in updated guidance on July 30, Reuters reported. Governments and industries can use the WHO guidance to inform their policies, but it’s not enforceable, the newswire added.
  • Some good news, especially for rhinos in South Africa. The number of rhinos killed in the first half of the year by poachers declined by 53 percent as the pandemic limited the movement of people, Bloomberg reported, citing a July 31 statement from the country’s environment department.
  • As India’s coronavirus cases continue to soar, the sprawling Mumbai slum of Dharavi beat back the virus using customized solution and community involvement, The Washington Post reported. The neighborhood’s “aggressive action” in containing infections drew praise from the World Health Organization this month, the Post added.
  • EVENT: Extreme heat threatens people across the globe – What can be done to stop this “silent killer”? Join us for this event on Tuesday August 4 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. Details are here.