Morning Brief

Wuhan Virus Death Toll Rises as International Response Takes Shape

Even as China hits out at the U.S. response, WHO experts are expected to travel to Wuhan in the coming days.

A man wears a protective mask as he walks down the street on Feb. 3 in Wuhan, China.
A man wears a protective mask as he walks down the street on Feb. 3 in Wuhan, China. Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: the international response to the Wuhan virus begins taking shape, uncertainty reigns as candidates wait for delayed results in Iowa, and the EU attempts to lower tensions with Iran.

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Wuhan Virus Death Toll Rises

The international response to the epidemic is gaining steam, with members of the G-7 agreeing to coordinate on travel regulations and research into the virus. The World Health Organization has also announced progress in coordinating with China, with a team including U.S. experts expected to head to Wuhan as early as this week.

Meanwhile, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has criticized the U.S. response to the epidemic, saying that U.S. actions “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic.”

The official Chinese death toll from the coronavirus outbreak now stands at 361, overtaking the number during the SARS outbreak when 349 people died on the Chinese mainland. However, the coronavirus does not seem to have the same fatality rate as SARS, and the recovery rate also seems to be improving. This news comes as China opened its first rapidly-built 1,000-bed hospital on the outskirts of Wuhan, with another expected to be opened within days.

China’s stock market is also struggling due to increased uncertainty, with the Shanghai Composite index closing almost 8 percent lower on Monday, its sharpest daily drop in four years. FP’s James Palmer and Keith Johnson report that the economic fallout from the virus may be worse than previously thought.

What We’re Following Today

All eyes on Iowa. Chaos reigned in the midwestern U.S. state of Iowa on Monday night and into the early hours of Tuesday morning after the app used for reporting caucus results failed. Democratic Party officials struggled to explain the failure to eager reporters and angry campaign staffers and pledged to use a paper trail and photos of vote tally sheets to confirm the results.

As of this writing, there are still no official results for the Democratic caucuses, but that has not stopped some candidates from claiming victory. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg appeared to claim victory, declaring, “So, we don’t know all the results… But, we know, by the time it is all said and done, Iowa you have shocked the nation. Because, by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.” Other campaigns disputed Buttigieg’s claim and Iowa party officials promised to release results later on Tuesday.

Europe’s top diplomat in Iran. European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell is on the second day of his two-day trip to Iran, his first visit to the country since taking up the post. The trip is seen as an attempt at cooling tensions over Iran’s nuclear program following the killing of Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone attack at the beginning of January.

Turkey attacks in Syria. Yesterday, Turkish forces killed at least 13 Syrian troops in artillery strikes near the Syrian town of Saraqeb in Idlib according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said Turkish forces had hit 54 targets in Idlib, and had killed 76 Syrian troops in “retaliation” for a strike by Syrian forces that killed eight Turkish soldiers.

Keep an Eye On

Malawi’s presidential election annulled. Malawi’s constitutional court voided the 2019 elections that would have granted President Peter Mutharika a second term, pointing to widespread electoral tampering, including the use of white out correction fluid to change votes on paper ballots. Official results claimed Mutharika had won 38 percent of the vote, a number the opposition candidates Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima disputed. Judges have ordered that another election be held in the next 150 days. Although the results were reported in a sloppy manner, they did not show the tell-tale signs of organized election fraud—and public anger could have been quelled earlier if international observers had released key figures—Luke Tyburski argued in FP in November.

Kosovo approves new PM. After months of negotiations, Albin Kurti has been named the new prime minister of Kosovo. Kurti has promised to tackle two major issues for Kosovo: corruption and its relationship with Serbia. Kurti has promised to take a tough stance on negotiations with its neighbor and also said his government would take Serbia to the International Court of Justice for crimes committed by Serbian forces in the 1998-99 war.

U.K.-EU trade deal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set the tone of his government’s planned trade negotiations with the EU in a speech warning that the U.K. would not accept alignment on EU regulations and would instead be content with a relationship similar to one that exists between the EU and Australia. Negotiators in Brussels are pushing Johnson to accept alignment on state aid and competition laws to prevent the U.K. government from increasing state aid to its heavy industries.

Odds and Ends

A Berlin-based artist has created a solution to city gridlock—by creating an artificial traffic jam. Artist Simon Weckert’s latest work involves walking down the street trailing 99 smartphones in a cart. The phones send data to Google Maps, which in turn marks the location as experiencing  slow-moving traffic. “Through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red, which has an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route to avoid being stuck in traffic,” Weckert wrote.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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