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Disinfecting in Dakar, Senegal. Photo: John Wessels/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus is spreading most widely in countries that should be among the best equipped to handle it. There's no reason to expect that to remain the case.

Where things stand: 88% of new coronavirus cases confirmed on Wednesday came within the OECD club of wealthy nations, which together account for just 17% of the world's population. While that data is based on uneven and inadequate testing, Europe and North America are clearly in the eye of the storm.

What they're saying:

  • “In three to six weeks, Europe and America will continue in the throes of this — but there is no doubt the center will move to places like Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro and Monrovia,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the Washington Post. “We need to be very worried.”
  • There's deep concern about a coming shortage of ICU beds across the U.S. But on a per-capita basis, America has 330 times as many as Uganda, Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group and his brother Richard, an infectious disease doctor, note in Foreign Affairs.
  • "[T]he countries least able to impose physical distancing and perform contact tracing also tend to have the most overstretched health-care systems and the most precarious economies," they write.

The big picture: In many poor countries that are now imposing lockdowns, millions live in cramped conditions without regular access to running water — and many simply can't afford to stay home. The effectiveness of those policies is thus uncertain, and the economic pain is severe.

  • "If economies crash, silent killers such as diarrhea, malnutrition and infant mortality may sweep through populations," David Pilling notes in the FT (subscription).

The bottom line: This virus has brought unprecedented challenges to the Western world. But in the developing world, the consequences could be deeper still and far more difficult to recover from.

Go deeper: Debt crisis awaits in emerging markets

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.

3 hours ago - World

Biden huddles with European allies on Ukraine ahead of Putin call

Putin in the Kremlin. Photo: Grigory Sysoyev/Sputnik via Getty

President Biden will seek to convince Russia's Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that the price of invading Ukraine would be steeper than anything he's faced in the past.

Driving the news: Biden held a call on Ukraine this evening with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., while Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer America's "unwavering support."