Morning Brief

Coronavirus Cases Surpass 10 Million, With 500,000 Dead

With the number of coronavirus infections rising across the United States, it’s too soon to tell whether the death toll will rise along with it.

An aerial view of graves at the General Cemetery in Santiago, Chile on June 23, 2020 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
An aerial view of graves at the General Cemetery in Santiago, Chile on June 23, 2020 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Martin Bernetti/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Global coronavirus deaths exceed half a million, the United States and Russia deny Russian bounty program in Afghanistan, and Poland’s presidential election heads to second round.

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Coronavirus Global Death Toll Passes 500,000

The coronavirus pandemic, about to enter its fifth month this week reached two grim milestones over the weekend: More than 10 million people have been infected with the virus and over 500,000 have died of it. As these numbers are taken from officially recorded cases, the actual figure is likely to be much higher.

Europe has seen the most deaths of any continent, although its overall caseload is declining. The situation in the Americas is more concerning: Two countries—the United States and Brazil—account for roughly 35 percent of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide  and both countries are still seeing new cases in the tens of thousands daily.

Is the death rate slowing? In the United States, the death rate has yet to hit the highs of April, when over 2,000 deaths were recorded nearly every day. As Bloomberg reports that could be down to better treatments, a younger population being infected, or warmer weather. Ultimately, since deaths may take up to three weeks later to register in official tolls, it will be some time until it’s clear whether recent caseload spikes have increased the death rate.

“My biggest concern is what happens two weeks from now,” Jill Roberts, an associate professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, told Bloomberg. Those testing postive now “could infect other people. And if they infect other people, we’re going to see hospitalizations and deaths follow.”

About that vaccine. Anthony Fauci, in remarks aired on Sunday, gave a gloomy assessment of the chances for a vaccine to be taken up by enough of the U.S. population to be effective. “There is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country—an alarmingly large percentage of people, relatively speaking,” Fauci said, adding that a massive public health education campaign would be necessary should a vaccine prove viable.


What We’re Following Today

Russia and U.S. deny bounty program. Both Russia and the United States have denied a report in the New York Times of a program run by Russian military intelligence offering bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. A further report from the Times, published on Sunday, said that U.S. military forces had highlighted the Russian program to their superiors and that the information appeared in U.S. President Donald Trump’s daily brief. Trump addressed the reporting on Twitter. “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or [the vice president],” he wrote.

Polish presidential election going to second round. Polish President Andrzej Duda failed to meet the threshold necessary to win a second term outright, and now moves to a second round against Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski. Duda performed largely as polls predicted, winning roughly 43 percent of first round votes, while Trzaskowski won 30 percent. The now-eliminated candidates represent another 27 percent of votes potentially up for grabs in the second round election on July 12.

In Foreign Policy on June 27, Dariusz Kalan reported from Warsaw on the contrasting styles and support bases of the two remaining candidates: Duda has campaigned as a hardline nationalist, and Trzaskowski as the “consummate European.”

New Malawi president sworn in. Lazarus Chakwera has been officially sworn in as the new president of Malawi following his victory in the country’s election last Tuesday. Malawi’s electoral commission announced on Saturday that Chakwera had received 59 percent of the vote. His rival, former President Peter Mutharika received 39 percent of the vote. Chakwera’s success marks the first time an African opposition candidate has won a court-ordered rerun election.

Ireland names new prime minister. The leader of the centrist Fianna Fail party, Micheál Martin, has been named as Ireland’s new prime minister, as his predecessor Leo Varadkar takes on the role of deputy prime minister in a coalition government. Martin had served in a number of cabinet posts in previous governments, most recently as foreign affairs minister. According to the terms of the coalition agreement the role of prime minister will rotate and Varadkar will resume the premiership in 2022.

Iceland’s president wins second term. Icelandic President Gundi Johannesson won a second term on Saturday in a landslide victory. Johanneson won 92 percent of the vote, while his right wing challenger Gudmundur Franklin Jonsson received just 7 percent of the vote. The Icelandic presidency is a largely symbolic post, although the president can exercise veto power over legislation. 


Keep an Eye On

Facebook ad boycott grows. Global brands continue to join a growing advertiser boycott of social media giant Facebook, whose user base covers roughly a third of the world’s population. The company has been under pressure in recent months over its treatment of U.S. President Donald Trump’s posts, as well as its hands-off stance on political advertising. Unilever and Starbucks have recently joined the boycott, which helped wipe $56 billion off Facebook’s market value on Friday. Such is the size of Facebook’s advertiser base—reported to be 8 million individual advertisers—it’s not clear whether the current boycott will lead to fundamental changes to the platform.

French local elections offer Macron rebuke. The party of French President Emmanuel Macron fared poorly in the second round of France’s local elections as Green party candidates saw increased gains, according to exit polls. Macron’s prime minister Édouard Philippe was elected mayor of Le Havre, raising questions over his political future even though he is allowed nominate an acting mayor while he serves in national government.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally made history as her party’s candidate, Louis Aliot—who was until recently also her domestic partner—won the mayoral race in Perpignan. It is the first time Le Pen’s party was won control of a town with over 100,000 people.


The World this Week

On Wednesday, July 1, a changing of the acronyms takes place as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA)—the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—officially takes effect.

July 1 is also the earliest date on which Israeli lawmakers can vote on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plans, according to his coalition agreement with Benny Gantz. Since last week’s internal White House discussions ended without agreement on whether to approve of such a rapid annexation, it’s unclear whether Netanyahu will move forward.

Also on July 1, voting concludes in Russia’s referendum on changes to its constitution, potentially setting up President Vladimir Putin to rule until 2036.

On Thursday, July 2, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly jobs report covering the month of June. The European Union will also release unemployment statistics on this day, although those will cover the month of May.


Odds and Ends

With this summer’s Olympic Games already postponed until 2021, a majority of Tokyo residents would like the schedule change to go further, AFP reports. In a poll published today, 51.7 percent of respondents said they would like to see the games postponed again or canceled entirely, 46.3 percent said they would like the games to go ahead as planned on July 23, 2021, however, only 15.2 percent of those positive respondents want to see the games proceed as normal with no restrictions.


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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