California declares state of emergency, UK cases jump


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.



California declared a state of emergency to contain the spread of coronavirus, as a cruise ship with sick passengers and crew stood offshore from San Francisco. The UK reported a jump in cases, while Italy took unprecedented steps even after the closure of schools and universities yesterday.


 There are in excess of 95,000 cases worldwide in more than seventy countries; almost 3,300 people have died.

QUOTE: “We’re only in the early innings of this crisis” former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, cited by Bloomberg.


  • US Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to meet with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee in Olympia, Washington on March 5, as the state remains the center of the US outbreak.
  • Some health officials said it would be impossible to check the spread of the virus fully now that infections are spreading within many communities, the Wall Street Journal reported. Community transmission is a milestone for a disease as this means the virus could be circulating among the general public, the WSJ said.
  • Eleven people have now died in the United States, most in Washington state. There are also cases in Oregon, New York City, California, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Georgia, Rhode Island, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida. 150 cases have been confirmed nationwide.
  • California has reported the highest number of cases in the United States, as a cruise ship off San Francisco has twenty-one sick passengers, the New York Times said. The number of cases in the state increased to fifty-four on March 4, when one passenger who had been on an earlier leg of the cruise from the United States to Mexico died.   
  • Bishops in Italy, the European country worst hit by coronavirus, ordered that weekday mass not be held in areas affected by the virus in the north of the country, Reuters reported. That’s believed to be an unprecedented step, not even taken when the plague struck Milan in the 17th century.
  • Up to 80 percent of the population could be infected with coronavirus “in the worst case scenario” England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty told BBC Breakfast, a television show. “A wave is almost certainly coming, but we don’t know the size,” he said. The UK had its biggest day-on-day increase in new cases, bringing the total to ninety, BBC News said.
  • Vox has published a guide to the most promising vaccines and drugs that could fight the virus, while a long-form article in the Financial Times has the headline “Coronavirus and the $2 billion race to find a vaccine”.
  • India has seen a spike in cases, with twenty-nine incidences confirmed. Most of the cases are linked to a group of travelers from Italy, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
  • CNN presents Ten lessons drawn from Asia, ranging from transparency to social distancing, early testing to flexible working, via pets, and (avoiding) panic.
  • Argentina, Chile, Poland, and Ukraine have reported their first cases of coronavirus, the World Health Organization said in its latest situation report. “Disruptions to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) are leaving healthcare workers ill-equipped to care for patients,” WHO added.  
  • India banned the export of twenty-six medications and active pharmaceutical ingredients, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said. Most are antibiotics, the New York Times reported. “We’re working very closely to look at that list to assess how that will affect the medical supply chain,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told US senators on March 3, the paper reported.    
  • “Limited virus testing in Japan masks true scale of infection,” a Japan Times headline reads. “[T]he country’s official infection tally [is] suspected to be the tip of the iceberg of a much wider outbreak.” Masahiro Kami, chair of the Medical Governance Research Institute in Tokyo said, “Those with mild symptoms are not being tested.” 
  • Separately, Japan said that a visit to Tokyo by Chinese President Xi Jinping, slated for April, has been postponed because of coronavirus.
  • Australia’s chief medical officer said the worst case scenario for the country is “millions of people being infected over a period of several weeks,” The Guardian reported. “[W]e’re not in the position of creating unnecessary anxiety,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

QUOTE: “The biggest thing is the announcement of community transmission in various places,” Siouxsie Wiles, an associate professor in microbiology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, quoted in The Wall Street Journal. “That’s starting to change the picture quite a bit.”


  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is providing $50 billion to fight the coronavirus outbreak. “The IMF said it is making the money available to help poor and middle-income countries with weak health systems respond to the epidemic,” the BBC reported. IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva declined to say whether the “escalating health crisis,” as the BBC puts it, could push the world economy into a recession.
  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to cut production of 1.5 million barrels per day through the end of the second quarter, in an attempt to offset drops in oil prices due to concerns about decreased demand during the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reports.
  • “Banks and other finance providers recognize that the cashflow of small and medium sized businesses may be disrupted,” Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, a banking and finance trade group, said in an e-mailed statement. “We would urge businesses to contact their finance providers early.”   
  • HSBC evacuated the research department of the bank’s office in Canary Wharf, a London financial district, after an analyst contracted coronavirus, Financial News reported.
  • “Containing pathogens is a much different business than managing waves of refugees,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Frederick Kempe. “[W]hat unites the two issues is how dramatically the European Union’s response will shape public attitudes about the institution’s relevance, responsiveness, and effectiveness.”

QUOTE: “[W]hile the Trump administration is pushing drug companies to meet faster timelines, it hasn’t addressed an equally urgent question: What will be done to ensure the vaccine is accessible for those who need it most?” Gavin Yamey, M.D., a professor of global health and public policy at Duke University, writing in news service Stat.


  • A drop in bookings because of coronavirus was the last straw for struggling UK airline FlyBe, which collapsed into administration, Time reported.
  • Workers for Lockheed Martin in Italy have been told to work from home, while Lockheed is restricting travel to the Italian facility, DefenseNews cited a Pentagon official as saying. It’s telework too for The Pratt and Whitney engine team in Cameri.
  • Etsy removed all items mentioning the coronavirus or COVID-19 for sale on the e-commerce website, BuzzFeed News said.
  • The virus is costing the European Union’s tourism industry €1 billion ($1.1 billion) a month, the WSJ cited Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, as saying. “It gets worse and worse. The cancellations are piling up,” said Franck Trouet, spokesman for France’s Group of Independent Hoteliers and Restaurateurs.

QUOTE: “For those of us who may be more slanted in an anxious way, we can be really vulnerable to the news,” Dr. Nicole Naggar, a psychiatrist in New York, quoted in a Rolling Stone article.