World coronavirus dispatch: US likely to accuse China of vaccine data theft

Topics Coronavirus | USA | China

A second wave of infections in tightly packed foreign workers' dormitories has caught Singapore off guard, and exposed the danger of overlooking marginal groups in a health crisis
In another potential skirmish, the US is preparing to accuse China of vaccine data theft. According to a New York Times news break, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security are preparing to issue a warning that China’s most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the country’s crash effort to develop vaccine and treatment for the novel coronavirus. The efforts are part of a surge in cyber theft and attacks by nations seeking advantage of the pandemic.

A draft of the forthcoming public warning, which officials say is likely to be issued in the days to come, says China is seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing”. This comes as the Donald Trump administration’s latest offensive against China. So far, it has accused China of "manufacturing the virus in a lab", "deliberately withholding early warnings", and "lack of collaboration”.

Let’s look at the global statistics:

Total confirmed cases: 4,123,376

Change over previous day: 71,945

Total deaths: 283,055

Total recovered: 1,420,933

Nations hit with most cases: The US (1,329,799), Spain (224,350), Russia (221,344), the UK (220,449) and Italy (219,070).


Now, Singapore finds it is suffering a second outbreak: A second wave of infections in tightly packed foreign workers' dormitories has caught Singapore off guard, and exposed the danger of overlooking marginal groups in a health crisis. This came after new infections linked to night clubs emerged in South Korea. In Singapore, infections have jumped more than hundred folds in two months — from 226 in mid-March to over 23,000. About 89 per cent of its cases are linked to foreign workers' dorms that were a blind spot in the government's praised crisis management.

UK lays down lockdown easing plan: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said people who opt to go out for work from May 13 should use their own vehicles so as to save space on public transport. People can exercise outdoors or sit in parks as many times they please. He announced a phased reopening of shops and schools from June 1.

US Fed’s Neel Kashkari says worst is yet to come for US economy: In a TV interview, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari said the economic downturn could go on for one-two years, and the government must offer more monetary and policy assistance. About 20 million jobs have been lost in the US, constituting 14 per cent of the workforce. Meanwhile the Fed has slashed interest rates to nearly zero and unveiled a raft of emergency lending programmes.

Chinese central bank vows stronger policies to counter economic hit: China’s central bank has said it will resort to “more powerful” policies to counter unprecedented economic challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, without giving further details on what measures it will use. The remarks reflect the growing concern over the unprecedented economic downturn and the risk of a second quarter of contraction.

President criticises lockdown measures as Brazil becomes a hotspot: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro seems ready to blame the looming economic recession on quarantine measures taken by state governors, even as the nation turns into a global epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. Since the pandemic began, the leader has already lost two ministers and is currently facing a ballooning political crisis as well.

Google and Facebook tell employees to WFH till end of year: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, has told employees to prepare to work remotely through October and possibly until the end of the year. Pichai said any return would be 'staggered' and 'incremental’. Last week, Facebook told employees they could work remotely through 2020 if they liked.


What’s causing US stock market rally? US unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 per cent, with jobless claims raising to 20.5 million in April. Yet, the Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq all rose more than 1.5 per cent. Why? Early action by the Fed to provide liquidity prevented a financial crisis in the corporate sector. Meanwhile, the Congress sent cheques to a majority of working Americans and provided $670 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses. Secondly, the Big Tech – Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook – account for more than 20 per cent of the S&P’s total value. Those firms are likely to emerge from the crisis relatively unscathed. And, finally, corporate earnings for the last quarter weren’t as bad as feared.

Could children be super spreaders? As Europe reopens schools, one question haunts the efforts – just how contagious are children, and could they be the next super spreaders? Evidence suggests that children are less likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 than adults. But small numbers of children have become very sick and some have died. An even greater blind spot is transmission. Children often do not have symptoms which makes it less likely that they are tested, so it is harder to see whether or how they spread the virus. The bottom line is that we still don’t know enough.

What we don’t know about coronavirus origins might kill us: Deciphering the creation story of SARS-CoV-2 is a crucial step towards arresting a pandemic that’s killed 284,000-plus people so far, virologists say. While crash vaccine programmes are underway in the US, Europe and China, an inoculation from the virus may not be ready for months, and the jury’s out on potential treatments. In the meantime, to reduce the risk of deadly secondary outbreaks or the emergence of an entirely new strain, disease chasers need to retrace the pathogen’s journey around the globe. That might mean heading back to China, where it all started.

Paris offers a cautionary tale on reopening: Until last month, there had been no coronavirus deaths and only a handful of cases among Paris’s roughly 25,000 residents. And all the cases were linked to out-of-state travel. Then, at the end of April, a suspected outbreak ripped through one of the city’s nursing homes. The outbreak in Paris comes as many countries push to reopen their economies despite patchy access to testing, raising the prospect of a fresh bout of outbreaks.

What is the future of universities? The Financial Times’ education editor Andrew Jack on school timetables, scholarships and safety measure. Understand more from this Q&A thread.


Why the economic recovery is so difficult: Richard Koo, the chief economist at the Nomura Research institute, is well known for having popularised the concept of the “Balance Sheet Recession”, drawing on his work from Japan’s post-bubble era. In this Bloomberg podcast, he talks about how his work applies to this crisis, what can be done to revive growth, and why the aftermath will be so difficult.

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