Worldwide Headlines March 27, 2020
The sinking price of oil
(Eurointelligence, The New York Times) The Covid-19 crisis acted as a trigger for an oil price war that has seen benchmarks drop to a third of where they were three months ago, from the $60-75/bbl range to the low twenties. The prospect of $10 oil is not far-fetched. Those with storage capacity are taking advantage of increased Saudi oil production and lower prices to build up inventories, and that is actually keeping up demand and so propping up prices. But inventories will max out soon and then demand for oil will fall as people are still not driving or flying due to lock-downs, and so the price of oil could drop further.
Soldiers around the world get a new mission: Enforcing coronavirus lockdowns
(Washington Post) Around the world, as a consensus has formed around the need for quarantine and social distancing to fight the coronavirus, a more delicate question has emerged: How do you enforce those new rules? In every region, under all kinds of political systems, governments are turning to increasingly stringent measures–and deploying their armed forces to back them up. Countries as varied as China, Jordan, El Salvador and Italy have sent service members into the streets. Guatemala has detained more than 1,000 people. In Peru, those who flout government restrictions can be jailed for up to three years. In Saudi Arabia, it’s five. Deploying troops is a startling but often effective way to keep people indoors, but its impact could ripple well beyond the end of the coronavirus, as countries decide when–and if–to cede the powers endowed by a global pandemic.
Europe’s Leaders Ditch Austerity and Fight Pandemic With Cash
(NYT) A British prime minister from the party of Margaret Thatcher has effectively nationalized the national railway system, while forsaking budget austerity in favor of aggressive public spending. Germany has set aside its traditional detestation for debt to unleash emergency spending, while enabling the rest of the European Union to breach limits on deficits. The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe with lethal and wealth-destroying consequences has proved so jarring to the powers-that-be on the European side of the Atlantic that they have discarded deep-set taboos to forge atypically swift and pragmatic responses. “This pandemic is really like a war,” said Maria Demertzis, an economist and deputy director of Bruegel, a research institution in Brussels. “In a war, you do what you have to do.”
Coronavirus leaves Paris street in 1940s time warp
(Reuters) A Parisian neighbourhood has been left stuck in a World War Two time-warp after the makers of a 1940s-era film had to abandon their set before France went into a lockdown. War propaganda and Socialist posters are plastered on walls along the cobbled Rue Androuet, in the Montmartre district, now lined by a mock jeweller’s store, tailor and off-licence in war-time decor. German road signs point towards medical facilities. “Just in case quarantined Paris wasn’t disorienting enough: my neighbourhood was being used as a film set when the lockdown hit. Now the whole block has been frozen in 1941,” resident Tim McInerney wrote on Twitter.
France pulls out of Iraq
(Foreign Policy) The coronavirus is causing knock-on effects for Western counterterrorism efforts. On Wednesday, the chief of staff of the France’s armed forces in Iraq announced that it was suspending its anti-terrorism operations in the country and would withdraw its troops to combat the coronavirus at home. France will maintain its presence in Kuwait and Qatar, as well as air operations in Syria. The decision comes as French President Emmanuel Macron initiated a special military operation in France to assist in the response to the pandemic.
Crisis in Spanish health care
(Bloomberg News) In the emergency room at one of Madrid’s biggest hospitals, Daniel Bernabeu signed the death certificate for one patient and immediately turned to help another who was choking. People are dying in waiting rooms before they can even be admitted as the coronavirus pandemic overpowers medical staff. With some funeral services halted in the Spanish capital and no space left in the morgues, corpses are being stored at the main ice rink. Intensive-care wards overflowing and new rules dictate that older patients miss out to younger people with a better shot at surviving, Bernabeu said by telephone. “That grandpa, in any other situation, would have had a chance,” he said. “But there’s so many of them, all dying at the same time.” (Foreign Policy) Spain has recorded just under 50,000 cases, 27,000 of which are undergoing hospital care. Spain has recorded 3,647 deaths from COVID-19.
China orders sharp cuts in flights in, out of country to curb coronavirus risk
(Reuters) China has ordered airlines to sharply cut the number of flights in and out of the country out of concern that travelers from overseas could reignite the coronavirus outbreak that paralyzed the country for two months.
South Africa on the eve of lockdown
(AP) South Africa on the eve of a three-week lockdown announced its coronavirus cases are nearing 1,000, while the president urged police to have compassion as they ensure that most of the country’s 57 million people stay at home. “Our people are terrified right now and we should not do anything to make their situation worse,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said. “Psychologically they are already scared that they could get the virus, lose income, lose jobs, get sick without medication.”