Vaccines, from Russia to Germany and Latin America; coronavirus found on food in China


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:

  • Vaccine developments, from Russia to Germany and to Latin America, featured prominently in the latest news coverage of coronavirus, along with the logistics of delivering the shots and tracking their impact. Food and packaging tested positive for coronavirus in China, while the outbreak in New Zealand spread.
  • Some medics in Russia will get the first batch of the country’s coronavirus vaccine within two weeks, as it rejected “groundless” concerns over safety aired by some experts, Reuters reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on August 11 that the country was the first to approve a vaccine following less than two months of human trials, the newswire reported.
  • The Philippines will begin trials of the Russian vaccine in October, with President Rodrigo Duterte promising to be among the first to be injected, the Financial Times reported. If the trials are successful the vaccine will be registered for public use by April 2021, the newspaper cited Duterte’s spokesman as saying on August 13.
  • Meanwhile Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said he expects there to be a vaccine in coming months and next year definitely, Reuters said separately, after the country’s public health agency withdrew a report suggesting a vaccine would be ready in the fall.
  • Four new cases of coronavirus were reported in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, on August 12, rising to seventeen by the next day, The New York Times reported. As the week began, the country was celebrating one hundred days without the virus spreading in the community, the Times added. Epidemiologists describe the theory that the outbreak entered through cargo as a long shot because human-to-human contact is more likely; quarantine facilities for returning travelers is another possibility, the newspaper added.
  • QUOTE: “Once again we are reminded of how tricky this virus is and how easily it can spread,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a televised news conference on August 13, Reuters reported. “Going hard and early is still the best course of action.”
  • Two cities in China found traces of coronavirus in imported frozen food and on food packaging, raising concerns that food shipments that are contaminated could cause fresh outbreaks, Reuters reported separately. The surface of frozen chicken wings imported into Shenzhen from Brazil and samples of packaging of frozen Ecuadorian shrimp sold in Xi’an city tested positive for the virus, local authorities said on August 13, Reuters added.
  • The United States recorded its highest death tally since mid-May on August 12 at almost 1,500,  The Washington Post reported. US President Donald J. Trump continued to press for in-person classes in schools, for businesses to open, and for a college football season in the fall, the Post cited him as saying at an evening press conference at the White House.
  • The Spanish military setting up a field hospital in Zaragoza this week serves as a grim reminder that the country is far from claiming victory over coronavirus, which hit it so hard in March and April, The Associated Press reported. The field hospital is a precaution, authorities say, but Spain’s hospitals are starting to see more patients struggling to breathe being admitted, the news service said.
  • The northwest Spanish region of Galicia has effectively banned smoking, citing the increased risk of transmitting infection, the BBC reported. The region prohibited smoking in the street and public places if social distancing is not possible, the broadcaster said.
  • France reported a post-lockdown record in new daily infections on August 12, the Financial Times reported. UK officials are monitoring the situation, although an immediate setting of a fourteen-day quarantine for travelers returning from France isn’t expected, the newspaper added.
  • Reuters has a series of updates on coronavirus case numbers, with another record daily increase in India, while in Hong Kong authorities warned the financial hub still faces a critical period to control infections. In the Philippines, cases reached the highest level in Southeast Asia. Australia meanwhile had its lowest daily increase in new cases in more than three weeks, adding to hopes that the outbreak in Victoria state is finally coming under control, the newswire said.
  • 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.


  • Stalemate continued in Congressional negotiations on renewed coronavirus stimulus measures after an August 12 call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin delivered no progress, CNBC reported. Pelosi said the Democrats and the Trump administration are “miles apart,” CNBC added.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) lowered its forecasts for global oil demand for the first time in several months, citing falling demand for jet fuel as the major factor as coronavirus restrictions continue, CNBC reported. The IEA now expects global demand this year to be 91.1 million barrels a day, a year-on-year drop of 8.1 million barrels per day, CNBC added. The revised forecast, published in the IEA’s monthly report, is 140,000 barrels per day lower than its previous forecast, the news outlet said.
  • “1,193 Quarantined for COVID. Is This a Successful School Reopening?” asked a New York Times headline. The article cites the case of the Cherokee County School District in suburban Atlanta that started classes again despite growing cases of coronavirus. That either shows the district’s folly, as the newspaper puts it, for reopening or demonstrates a brave effort to return to normal—depending on whom you ask.
  • Schools in Italy are set to reopen next month, but first they need three million single-seat children’s desks to replace the traditional two-person desks because of social distancing, The Washington Post reported. The government tender published on July 20 was marked “extremely urgent” as everything needed to be built and shipped within a month, the newspaper added.
  • QUOTE: “I almost drove into oncoming traffic when I heard,” said Alessandro Zecchin, the managing director of one company, Gonzagarredi Montessori, The Wall Street Journal reported. “I personally know everybody in Europe who makes school furniture,” said Emidio Salvatorelli, president of another company, Vastarredo, the article added. “It can’t be done.”
  • Tui is considering a rights issue, inviting existing investors to buy extra shares, or a sale of part of its business after Europe’s biggest tour operator reported a net loss of 2.3 billion euros in the nine months through June, the Financial Times reported. It doesn’t expect business to return to normal until 2022, the newspaper added.
  • Cisco, the networking-equipment giant, will adjust investment plans and make deep cost-cutting measures as its customers’ priorities have changed during the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Ride-hailing company Lyft reported a steep drop in riders and revenue in the three months through June amid rising coronavirus cases and extended shutdowns, the newspaper also said. Meanwhile, Recreational Equipment Inc., known as REI, wants to sell its custom-built headquarters in the Seattle area and allow employees to work from home or other offices, the Journal said.
  • Shares in CanSino Biologics, a pharmaceutical group that’s developing a vaccine with China’s military, surged as much as 127 percent on its first day of trading on Shangai’s Star Market, similar to Nasdaq, the Financial Times reported. The shot has already been approved for use on military personnel, it added.


  • Imperial College researchers estimate that 6 percent of England’s population, or 3.4 million people, have been infected with COVID-19, a figure that’s much higher than previous studies, The Associated Press reported. Meanwhile the United Kingdom’s death toll from the pandemic was lowered by five thousand following concerns that a former method of calculation overstated the tally, Reuters reported.
  • The statistics say… Under the new method, which publishes daily the number of deaths that arose within twenty-eight days of a positive test result, the number of fatalities is 41,329 rather than 46,706 recorded before. That’s still the highest in Europe and compares to Italy at about 35,000, Reuters reported.
  • Argentina and Mexico reached a deal to produce UK drugmaker AstraZeneca’s potential coronavirus vaccine for Latin America in a venture that billionaire Carlos Slim’s foundation is helping to fund, Bloomberg reported, citing the nations’ governments on Twitter. The two countries will make between 150 million and 250 million doses initially of the shot designed by scientists at the University of Oxford, the newswire added.
  • Biometric tracking based on fingerprints and irises can ensure billions have immunity against COVID-19, Bloomberg Businessweek said in a headline, adding that it’s also a big headache potentially on security and data privacy grounds. When a vaccine finally reaches the market, tracking the shots and their effect will be a mammoth record in record-keeping, made even more complex because a seventh of the world’s population is hard to monitor, the news outlet added.
  • “How will the world vaccinate seven billion?” asked the BBC. Fridges, polling stations, and vials are among the factors involved in the vast logistical operation, the broadcaster added.
  • As many as one in three patients recovering from COVID-19 could experience psychological or neurologic after-effects including headaches to dizziness, a lingering loss of smell or taste, mood disorders, and deeper cognitive impairment, news service Stat reported, citing experts. That reflects a growing consensus that the illness can have a lasting impact on the brain, Stat added.  


  • “Coronavirus’s Long, Deadly Plateau in the Developing World.” That’s a Wall Street Journal headline to an article that cites examples from Mexico, Brazil, and India. While cases and deaths increased more slowly in poorer countries, those nations now seem to be stuck on long and deadly plateaus that are lasting for months, the Journal said.
  • The statistics say… In much of Europe and parts of the United States, in contrast, lockdowns and other restrictions reduced the number of cases and deaths by about 90 percent within six weeks or so following a sharper increase to start with, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Liberia’s Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor, aged fifty-six, tested positive for COVID-19 on August 10 and was given permission to travel to Ghana for treatment the following day, The Associated Press reported, citing Liberia’s health ministry. The country’s health sector is still weak seventeen years after the civil war ended, and government officials and those with the means to do so regularly get medical treatment abroad, the news service said.