WHO plans guidelines update on steroid hopes; shadow remains on jobs


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 World Health Organization (WHO) plans to update its treatment guidelines after a common steroid was hailed as a potential breakthrough treatment for those critically ill with the disease caused by coronavirus. A long shadow continued over jobs in Europe, including in the battered aviation industry.
  • The WHO plans to update its treatment guidelines after a clinical trial showed that dexamethasone, an inexpensive and common steroid, can help patients who are critically ill with the disease caused by coronavirus, Reuters reported. The United Kingdom has boosted its stocks of the steroid, health secretary Matt Hancock said, the newswire added. “Show me the data: U.S. doctors skeptical of reported COVID breakthrough” runs the headline to a separate Reuters article.
  • At least twenty-seven neighborhoods in Beijing are classed as medium risk after the Chinese city recorded a further thirty-one cases of coronavirus on June 17, taking the total to 137 in the past week, the BBC reported. The outbreak is believed to have begun in the Xinfandi food market, which supplies 80 percent of Beijing’s meat and vegetables, the broadcaster added. Millions of residents are under renewed restrictions, with travel curtailed and education suspended, but companies and factories remain open, the BBC said.
  • Infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci urged states including Arizona, Florida, and Texas, to move aggressively to stop an increase in coronavirus cases from becoming “a real surge,” the Financial Times reported.
  • Visitors to Vladimir Putin’s suburban residence in Novo-Ogaryovo near Moscow must pass through a “disinfection tunnel” to protect the Russian President from coronavirus, CNBC reported, citing a video from Russian news agency Ria Novosti.
  • EVENT: Is US policy toward Moscow too confrontational? Is there a better way for the international community to deal with the challenges posed by Putin and Russia? Join the Atlantic Council’s online discussion at 1:30 pm ET on Wednesday, June 17. Details here.


  • Wage subsidies may not prevent nine million job losses in Europe, or 20 percent of the 45 million workers who are furloughed, Bloomberg said, citing research by Allianz economists. That highlights the risks of a longer-term increase in unemployment, with industries from accommodation, food, retail, and entertainment unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until late 2021, researchers led by Katharina Utermoehl said, the newswire added.
  • HSBC is reviving a plan to cut 35,000 jobs in the next three years that it paused in March because of grim economic forecasts and a drop in first-quarter profit, the Financial Times reported, citing a June 17 memo from Chief Executive Noel Quinn.
  • QUOTE: “The reality is that the measures and the change that we announced in February are even more necessary today,” Quinn said, the Financial Times reported. “We could not pause the job losses indefinitely—it was always a question of ‘not if, but when.’”
  • UK companies including housebuilder Persimmon, realtor Foxtons, and trench-coat maker Burberry are putting bosses back on full pay after they took a cut during the pandemic, attracting scrutiny from investor groups and campaigners on high pay, the Financial Times reported. The decisions come just after the UK recorded the biggest drop to gross domestic product and continues to have millions of jobs under threat, the newspaper added.
  • Almost all economists predict that the Bank of England will boost its asset-buying program by at least one hundred billion pounds on June 18 and keep interest rates at a record low of 0.1 percent as the central bank tries to ensure financial markets’ stability amid massive government borrowing, the Financial Times said.
  • In spite of recent signs of a rebound the US economy faces potentially significant long-term damage from coronavirus with higher unemployment and a slew of small-business failures, The Wall Street Journal cited Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as saying.
  • QUOTE: “Until the public is confident that the disease is contained, a full recovery is unlikely,” Powell told the Senate Banking Committee on June 16, the first of two days of congressional hearings, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Calls are growing to make Latin America’s rich pay more tax as the coronavirus outbreak strains public finances, forcing the issue on to the agenda in at least eight countries there, the Financial Times said. One hundred billionaires and more than 14,000 people, each with a fortune of at least 30 million pounds, have benefited as wealth taxes were mostly taboo until now, the newspaper added.


  • Germany’s coronavirus tracing app has been downloaded 6.5 million times in the first twenty-four hours following its launch, Reuters said, citing Christian Klein, chief executive of software firm SAP. Other European countries including Italy, Poland, and Latvia have launched similar apps, the newswire added. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times also run stories on the use of these apps in Europe.
  • Researchers at Israel’s Technion University have created a reusable face mask that can kill coronavirus with heat to its inner layer of carbon fibers generated using a USB port, the BBC reported, citing Reuters. Heating the mask to 70 degrees centigrade takes about 30 minutes, with users recommended not to wear the face covering during the disinfection process, the BBC added.
  • The whole stock of a mink farm in northern Jutland, Denmark will be culled following an outbreak of coronavirus, CNBC reported. Similar outbreaks have happened in the Netherlands, where the government culled tens of thousands of the animals that are bred for fur, CNBC added.
  • QUOTE: “The administration and some legislators on both sides of the aisle are talking about making it illegal for U.S. drug makers to source important ingredients from China, and mandating that government agencies purchase only American-made pharmaceuticals,” Michael Rea, the CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, wrote on news service Stat. “Such moves may sound clever to some, but they would require overhauling the supply chain at enormous time and expense—and decrease competition along the way.”
  • Boston University researchers have found that Dutch firm Signify’s ultraviolet lights can “degrade” coronavirus, CNBC reported. Signify, the world’s biggest maker of lighting, said three seconds of UV light eradicates 96 percent of the virus, rising to 99 percent after six seconds, CNBC added.
  • QUOTE: “It’s a preventive measure, meaning we are disinfecting objects, environments, surfaces, and the air,” said Eric Rondolat, Signify CEO, who added that schools, offices, hospitals, warehouses and factories will need to be disinfected in the future, CNBC reported.
  • Lufthansa has warned that a nine-billion-euro rescue package for the airline may be at risk following criticism from major shareholder Heinz-Hermann Thiele, The Associated Press said. The German carrier has urged investors to attend a special meeting on June 25, when a two-thirds majority is needed to approve the government bailout, the news service added. Lufthansa said it currently expects attendance of fewer than 50 percent of shareholders, The Associated Press reported.
  • Ticket prices are down by about 14 percent for European air travel this month from a year earlier and by around 10 percent for August, but fares could rise quickly as demand improves, Bloomberg reported, citing data provider Skytra. Air France plans about 8,300 voluntary job cuts, the newswire also reported, citing people familiar with the proposal. Fraport AG, which operates Frankfurt airport, plans to eliminate as many as four thousand jobs as it prepares for years of impact from coronavirus, Bloomberg said in another article.
  • Juan Orlando Hernández, president of Honduras, said he has tested positive for coronavirus but only with mild symptoms, allowing him to continue working, The Washington Post reported. His doctors have advised him to rest, Hernández said, the newspaper added.
  • Egypt has recorded more than 1,500 coronavirus cases a day since June 12, adding to pressure on a healthcare system that was struggling even before the pandemic, The Washington Post reported. The country reported a record tally of ninety-seven deaths from coronavirus on June 15, the newspaper added.
  • Lagos in Nigeria suspended a plan to reopen places of worship from June 19 following a review of the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reported, citing the state governor. Christianity and Islam are widely practiced in commercial hub Lagos and the rest of Nigeria, the newswire said.
  • EVENT: The Atlantic Council will host Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss strengthening US-African ties through trade, which must now take place alongside global efforts to confront the pandemic. How will a blueprint US-Kenya free trade agreement adapt to the threats the coronavirus crisis poses, and how is Kenya stepping up to take a leading role in the African response? Details of the online #ACFrontPage event on Thursday, June 18 at 8:00 am ET are here.
  • Soccer’s Premier League is back, one hundred days after the last game as spectator sports shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press reported. Manchester City takes on Arsenal while Aston Villa plays Sheffield United on June 17 in stadiums limited to about three hundred people, the news service said.