Morning Brief

U.S. Officials Tell Americans to Brace for Coronavirus Outbreak

Health experts are concerned by the rising number of virus cases in Italy and Iran.

Disinfection professionals spray anti-septic solution  at a traditional market in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 26.
Disinfection professionals spray anti-septic solution at a traditional market in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 26. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. officials warn that the country should prepare for a coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates get combative on the debate stage, and Ireland’s major parties are meeting amid political deadlock.

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U.S. Prepares for Coronavirus Outbreak

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned citizens to prepare for an outbreak of coronavirus within the United States, as the number of confirmed cases outside China rises. Outbreaks in Iran, South Korea, and Italy have highlighted the lack of global coordination to combat the virus, even as the number of new cases in China has fallen. “It’s not so much of a question if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” a CDC official said on Tuesday.

The outbreaks in Iran and Italy in particular have raised concerns among global health experts. Coronavirus cases rose by 45 percent in Italy on Tuesday and spread outside the two hard-hit regions, with 322 confirmed infections and 11 deaths. Meanwhile, the crisis could increase Iran’s isolation. On Tuesday, U.S. officials said that Iran’s government may have “suppressed vital details” about its virus outbreak, which has killed at least 16 people.

European epidemic? Italy’s neighbors have so far pledged to keep their borders open, with health ministers saying calling travel restrictions a “disproportionate and ineffective measure.” Austria, Croatia, France, Spain, and Switzerland have all reported cases, and at least two hotels—in Austria and Spain—are under lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dirty money. Beijing’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Bureau is asking all banks in China’s capital region to disinfect paper cash in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus. After withdrawing bills from circulation, banks must disinfect them using ultraviolet light and keep them in a dry environment for a week. Money coming from hospitals will be kept in a separate storage facility. China Construction Bank in the southeastern province of Fujian announced it had disinfected banknotes worth 6.9 billion yuan—roughly $980 million—since late January.

Markets bet on slowdown. Global markets remain shaky as investors fear the threat of a coronavirus pandemic. Stocks fell for the second straight day on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial Average dropping by 900 points. Some economic forecasters fear that the knock-on effects of China’s slowdown and increasing travel restrictions could hit the global economy hard—just as consumers were regaining confidence, FP’s Keith Johnson reports.

What We’re Following Today

U.S. Democratic candidates go on the attack in debate. Seven Democratic candidates took the stage in Charleston, South Carolina, in a debate that was more combative than the others so far, with candidates targeting Sen. Bernie Sanders—seen as a frontrunner—and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The debate comes days before the South Carolina primary and one week ahead of Super Tuesday, when 14 states will hold votes. It also focused more on foreign policy than past debates, with the candidates discussing China, North Korea, Syria, and Israel.

If he wins the White House, Sanders could be tougher on Israel than his predecessors: He could become the first president in more than 40 years to declare Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal, FP’s Colum Lynch reports.

Read the rest of our coverage of foreign policy in the 2020 U.S. election here.

Ireland’s dominant parties meet to break deadlock. The leaders of Ireland’s two dominant political parties, the center-right Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, have agreed to keep working to try to break the political deadlock in the wake of the inconclusive Feb. 8 parliamentary election. Obstacles to a coalition remain: Neither party has shared power before. But both refuse to cooperate with the left-wing nationalist Sinn Fein party, which won the most first-preference votes in the contest and held a rally on Tuesday to demand a place in the next government.

Delhi clashes overshadow Trump’s visit. More than a dozen people have died in New Delhi in violent clashes between opposing groups during protests over India’s controversial new citizenship law, which offers a path to citizenship for some immigrants from neighboring countries but excludes Muslims. Much of the unrest has focused on New Delhi, India’s capital, where some schools and transit have been disrupted. The ongoing riots distracted from and overshadowed U.S. President Donald Trump’s two-day state visit—his first to India.

For more news and analysis on stories like this, sign up for South Asia Brief, delivered on Tuesdays.

Keep an Eye On

Mubarak’s legacy. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak died on Tuesday in an Egyptian military hospital at the age of 91. Mubarak ruled for three decades, an era of tyranny that ended when he was ousted during the Arab Spring in 2011. Mubarak’s downfall will be his legacy: The factors that led to the uprising and to his demise—corruption, cronyism, and inequality—still remain, H.A. Hellyer writes in FP.

A Turkish town underwater. The 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf in southeast Turkey is slowly disappearing as rising waters from a giant dam project—approved by the government in 1997—encroach. After years of being held up, the dam started filling last July. The dam will eventually uproot nearly 80,000 people and could affect water supplies in neighboring Iraq.

Indigenous activism under fire. A Costa Rican indigenous leader, Yehry Rivera, was shot and killed during a violent land dispute in the south of the country on Tuesday. The confrontation came during an attempt to expel landholders occupying land granted to indigenous groups by law. Rivera is the second indigenous activist killed in Costa Rica within a year.

Odds and Ends

Scotland’s government will become the first in the world to make sanitary products free for all women, after the Scottish parliament approved a $31.2 million plan that will make tampons and pads available in public spaces such as community centers and pharmacies. The legislation will now move to a second stage, with members of parliament proposing amendments. Scotland already offers free sanitary products in schools and universities.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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