Morning Brief

Trump Extends Coronavirus Lockdown Until April 30

After dangling the possibility of restarting the U.S. economy by Easter, Trump now says keeping deaths to 100,000 would be a ‘very good job.’

People walk by Central Park as workers set up a field hospital in front of Mount Sinai West Hospital on March 29, 2020 in New York City.
People walk by Central Park as workers set up a field hospital in front of Mount Sinai West Hospital on March 29, 2020 in New York City.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Trump extends lockdown until April 30, Syria reports its first coronavirus death, and North Korea launches more missiles.

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U.S. Social Distancing to Continue Until End of April

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump dangled the possibility of reopening the U.S. economy by Easter. Now he has changed his mind. At a White House Rose Garden briefing, Trump extended the current guidelines on social distancing until April 30, keeping the United States in line with measures taken by other nations gripped by the coronavirus pandemic to keep their populations at home. The United States has the highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide at 143,025, according to Johns Hopkins University.

How high will the death toll be? A senior member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, Anthony Fauci, told CNN the outbreak could cause 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the United States alone before qualifying his estimate, “I just don’t think that we really need to make a projection, when it’s such a moving target that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people,” he said.

In New York, the state worst hit by coronavirus in terms of total numbers infected and total deaths, steps are being taken to extend capacity in an overwhelmed hospital system. Today, a 1,000-bed temporary hospital opens in Manhattan’s Javits Center, a 68-bed overflow field hospital is near completion in Central Park, and a U.S. Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is due to dock in New York city, having made the journey from Norfolk, Virginia.

How prepared are U.S. hospitals for a surge in cases? Compared to other wealthy nations, the United States lags behind on several key measures. The United States has fewer practicing physicians, fewer hospital-employed physicians, and a lower number of hospitals per capita than most wealthy nations, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It also has a lower number of hospital beds per 1,000 people: 2.8 compared to South Korea’s 12.

Perhaps most worrying in a pandemic, Americans are more likely to forgo medical care due to its cost: In 2016, 33 percent of Americans reported they either did not see a doctor when they were sick, skipped a medical test or treatment, or did not fill a prescription because of the cost in the past year.


What We’re Following Today 

Former Venezuelan in talks with U.S. Hugo Carvajal, the former head of Venezuelan military intelligence, is reported to be in talks with the United States after his indictment on Thursday along with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Carvajal, who has backed Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s next leader, is in hiding after a Spanish court approved extraditing him to the United States in November.

Japan prepares stimulus. After initially saying coronavirus funds would be taken from existing budgets, Japan is now preparing a stimulus package from a supplementary budget that will be put together over the next 10 days. In a press conference, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government would “lay out a stimulus package of unprecedented size that will exceed the one compiled after the Lehman crisis.”

Syria records first coronavirus death. Syria reported its first coronavirus-related death yesterday as the United Nations and World Health Organization both issued warnings of the risk of a major outbreak in the war-ravaged country. Writing in Foreign Policy last week, Steven Cook outlined the stakes for Syria and the world if Syria’s outbreak takes a turn for the worse.

North Korea continues missile testing. North Korea’s military fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the ocean yesterday, its eighth and ninth missile tests this month. In a statement, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff called the tests “very inappropriate” in light of the global coronavirus pandemic. According to calculations made by Shea Cotton at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, North Korea has fired more missiles in March than in any previous month.


Keep an Eye On

India’s lockdown fallout. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked “forgiveness from all my countrymen” over the country’s three-week lockdown. Photos and videos emerged over the weekend of migrant workers crowding bus stations as they attempted to return home.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Rana Ayyub reports on the toll the lockdown will take on the country’s day laborers, who depend on a daily income to survive. “How easy it is for the prime minister to say do not step out of your houses,” one man told her. “If I do not go out for a week, my children and my wife will die.”

Poland headed for May election. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party forced through changes to the country’s electoral code over the weekend that could better their chances in a May presidential election that is slated to go ahead as scheduled. Poland’s constitutional court has ruled in the past that any electoral changes must take place six months before any election—the changes made on Saturday include allowing postal voting for the elderly or those in quarantine.

Marcin Horala, a lawmaker with Law and Justice pushed back against critics of the move on Twitter, “The ban on changing the rules six months before the elections concerns its essential elements, such as the size of constituencies … Technical and organizational changes are allowed,” he wrote.

Missiles over Riyadh. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia intercepted two ballistic missiles over Riyadh, leaving two civilians “slightly injured.” Yemen’s Houthis took responsibility for the strike, with a spokesman saying they were targeted at “sensitive” sites. It’s the first attempted strike on Riyadh since June 2018. The foiled strike appears to upset possibilities for peace after both the Saudi coalition and Houthis welcomed a call by the United Nations for a global cease-fire due to the coronavirus pandemic.


The World This Week

NATO foreign ministers will meet on Thursday, April 2. In keeping with the new coronavirus guidelines, the meeting will take place via video conference.

The U.S. Department of Labor releases its jobs report for the week of March 22-28 on Thursday. Last week’s figures showed a record 3.28 million jobless claims.

On Saturday, April 4, the U.K. Labour Party will announce its new leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn. The candidates still in the running are all members of Parliament: Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and Keir Starmer.


Odds and Ends

If you are finding being at home under lockdown a heavy burden, spare a thought for the workers of the Consomed medical equipment factory in Tunisia. Rather than risk contamination, 150 workers have moved into their factory and lived there for the past 8 days, sleeping in dormitories and making up to 50,000 medical masks per day. They have carved out spaces for dancing, football, and basketball—and a physician and pharmacist have joined them on site. According to the BBC, they have enough supplies to last for a month.


That’s it for today.

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

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

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