Morning Brief

Coronavirus Cases Pass 2 Million Worldwide

Daily cases are dropping in Spain and Italy, but continue to rise in the United States.

A street vendor sells face masks from a pop up stand on April 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
A street vendor sells face masks from a pop up stand on April 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Rich Fury/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Global coronavirus cases pass two million, Gantz and Netanyahu fail to reach a unity deal in Israel, and U.S. alleges China is breaching a ban on nuclear testing.

We welcome your feedback at morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.


What Will the Global Economy Look Like After the Pandemic?

Coronavirus cases worldwide have doubled in the past two weeks, bringing the total to over two million. The United States remains the epicenter, responsible for almost a third of all cases, with approximately 636,000 people infected across the country.

The United States continues to have the highest recorded death rate at 28,586. On Wednesday, it registered its highest daily death toll, beating out the record set the previous day, as almost 2,500 deaths were reported.

Per capita, Europe has suffered the highest death rate with countries such as Spain, Italy, France and the United Kingdom all experiencing a higher proportion of deaths than the United States. However, the number of new cases per day is falling in Spain and Italy, whereas the trend remains flat in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where new cases have not yet fallen.

As the public health situation deteriorates so does the economic one, and pressure is building to reopen economies shut down by the pandemic. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that a number of U.S. states may reopen on May 1. “There are a number of counties within this country that have not experienced really any coronavirus despite testing,” Redfield told ABC. “There are a number of states—19, 20 states—that really have had limited impact from it. So I think we will see some states that are, the governors feel that they’re ready, we’re poised to assist them with that reopening.”

Will the global economy ever recover? Foreign Policy asked nine leading global thinkers, including two Nobel-Prize-winning economists, to weigh in with their predictions for the future economic and financial order once the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Laura D’Andrea Tyson warns that those on the bottom rungs may suffer the most immediate effects, “Many low-wage, low-skill, in-person service jobs, especially those provided by small firms, will not return with the eventual recovery,” she writes.

Can we trust the coronavirus numbers? Experts have warned repeatedly that recorded numbers, whether coronavirus cases or deaths, are likely undercounted due to testing shortages and prioritizing the living over the dead when it comes to testing. However, a report by ProPublica looking at deaths in major U.S. metropolitan areas shows just how far off the count may be. In New York, 200 deaths were recorded per day outside of hospitals or nursing homes in the past week, the usual average is 35 per day.


What We’re Following Today

Israeli leaders fail to reach deal. Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz failed to agree to a unity deal before a midnight deadline last night, opening the door to a possible fourth election in just over one year. The failed talks mean that the Israeli Knesset now has three weeks to choose another candidate who could then attempt to form a government by gaining the support of 61 legislators; if that candidate can’t reach a majority then a snap election would automatically be triggered. Netanyahu and Gantz are continuing to negotiate for the next 21 days, meaning that a unity deal between them remains a possibility.

The ongoing impasse is something of a boost for Netanyahu, whose corruption trial is due to begin next month. The prime minister coaxed his rival Benny Gantz into abandoning a promise not to enter government with Netanyahu’s Likud party, shattering Gantz’s Blue and White coalition and sending his poll numbers plummeting. Meanwhile, a recent poll showed that 64 percent of Israelis are satisfied with Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Moon Jae-in’s party wins big in Korean elections. South Korea’s Democratic Party won a historic landslide victory in parliamentary elections, providing a resounding vote of approval for President Moon Jae-in as the country slowly emerges from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic with its reputation enhanced. The Democratic Party and its affiliate party won three-fifths of the 300 seats in South Korea’s national assembly. It’s the first time in 16 years that a left-aligned party has won a parliamentary majority in the country.

U.S. Navy complains of harassment in Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy said Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels conducted “dangerous and provocative” approaches to U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf in a statement on Wednesday. The U.S. Fifth Fleet said it was in international waters and carrying out exercises when the boats approached. Iran has yet to respond to the U.S. statement.

Jobless claims released today. The U.S. Department of Labor will release its weekly unemployment claims today at 8:30 a.m. in Washington. Results from recent weeks have shattered previous records and today’s numbers will provide an insight into how deep the U.S. unemployment crisis may be. Yesterday, the U.S. released more grim economic figures for the month of March: industrial output suffered its biggest drop since 1946 and headline retail sales have fallen by 8.7 percent.


Keep an Eye On

U.S. alleges China breaking nuclear test treaty. The United States has alleged that China may be flouting a nuclear testing ban in a new State Department report. The report highlights “concerns” that China may be out of compliance with the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty due to activities that suggest zero-yield tests—explosions without a nuclear chain reaction—at the Lop Nur test site.

“China’s possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur and a lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities … raise concerns regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard,” the report said. U.S.-Chinese relations have soured recently over the coronavirus pandemic, with the United States accusing China of covering up the extent of the outbreak at its outset. In December, the White House formally invited China to begin arms control talks.

EU and U.K. agree to Brexit negotiating dates. The European Union and United Kingdom have agreed dates for the next three rounds of Brexit negotiations following a period of limbo brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The top negotiators for both sides, the EU’s Michel Barnier and Britain’s David Frost met via videoconference to prepare the meetings in a conversation they described as “constructive.” The negotiations will now take place during the weeks of April 20, May 11, and June 1. Despite the coronavirus pandemic derailing politics and public life as usual, the British government is not planning to extend the transition period beyond December 31.

Germany to ease lockdown. Germany is following the lead of its southern neighbor Austria by preparing to ease its lockdown measures. Starting May 4, Germany will begin reopening smaller shops and allowing schools to reopen, with priority given to final-year students. Hairdressers will also be allowed to open, but larger gathering points like bars, restaurants, and cinemas would still be banned. German Chancellor Angela Merkel played down talk of larger scale reopening, saying Germany had achieved merely a “fragile intermediate success” in its battle against the coronavirus.

IMF warns of social unrest. The International Monetary Fund has warned of social unrest developing in countries where coronavirus prevention measures are seen as insufficient or unfair to poorer workers. The IMF said that although governments have taken swift action to inject stimulus funds into their economies, even more money would be needed once the crisis subsides. The organization expects global public debt to rise by 13 percent in 2020 to almost 96 percent of global gross domestic product.


Odds and Ends

If lockdown doesn’t have you feeling enough claustrophobia you can now truly test yourself with a visit to the depths of a 5,000 year-old Egyptian tomb. Luckily you won’t have to deal with travel restrictions, as the Egyptian Tourist Board is promoting the site as a three-demensional experience online, hoping to entice travellers once normal flight service resumes. Viewers can explore Queen Meresankh III’s tomb, as well as the Coptic Red monastery and the Ben Ezra synagogue in 3-D thanks to modeling by Harvard University.


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.

Image credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images

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

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