Welcome back and happy Thursday World readers.
Students in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo: Abdirazak Hussein Farah/AFP via Getty
Several African countries recorded their first coronavirus cases this week, and case numbers accelerated in countries like South Africa, escalating fears that Africa could be the pandemic's next frontier.
Why it matters: While there are still just 600 cases across Africa — fewer than several European countries are recording each day — many countries will find it difficult to control the spread once it begins, or treat those who fall most seriously ill.
Driving the news: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s first African director-general, called on Africa today to “wake up” to the threat it now faces.
Several countries have.
Between the lines: The policy responses and recommendations sound similar to those rolled out in Europe, but there are limitations.
Some characteristics of sub-Saharan Africa are cause for optimism.
Where things stand: After several weeks of relative quiet, 33 countries have now reported cases. Many were linked to travelers returning from Europe.
The pandemic has already had massive economic implications in Africa, where oil exports and trade with China are crucial to many economies.
The bottom line: African countries are beginning to take action despite having relatively few cases to date. But Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh Medical School contends that they have only two weeks to protect themselves.
What to watch: If sub-Saharan Africa is hit hard by the coronavirus, China may be its best hope for help. Beijing is attempting to take on a global leadership role as the U.S. and Europe contend with their own growing outbreaks.
1. China reported no new locally transmitted cases today, and no additional cases in Wuhan, where the outbreak began.
2. Italy’s national health authority finds that the median age of those who have died of coronavirus there is 79.5, and nearly all had prior medical conditions, per Bloomberg.
3. An Imperial College London coronavirus model caught the eyes of policymakers in London and Washington, with projections that some 510,000 Brits or 2.2 million Americans would die if the virus spread unimpeded.
4. Russia recorded its first coronavirus death and then reversed itself, saying the patient had coronavirus but died of an unrelated blood clot. Russia’s numbers have been strikingly, perhaps suspiciously, low.
The message from Rome: "Everything will be alright." Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images
While China's declaration of a "people's war" on the virus may have once sounded odd to Western ears, leaders in Europe and the U.S. are increasingly using similar language.
The latest: Monaco's monarch, Prince Albert II, became the first world leader to test positive for COVID-19.
Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios; Photos: Stringer/Getty Images, Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images, Peng/Xinhua via Getty via Getty Images
Chinese diplomats and propaganda arms are doubling down on false claims that the U.S. may have created the coronavirus as a bioweapon, while President Trump is leaning into the "Chinese virus" label and hawks in Washington are blaming China for the global crisis.
Reality check: None of this will help alleviate this crisis. All of it is ominous for the future of the world's most important relationship.
What they're saying: Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has accused China of carrying out "one of the worst cover-ups in human history" and inflicting a pandemic and economic calamity on the world.
The flipside: China is earning praise from leaders in Serbia and Italy for its offers of help, while simultaneously waging a disinformation campaign about how the outbreak began.
Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian has a fantastic timeline on the first weeks of the outbreak. Summing it up:
An Israeli scientist conducts coronavirus tests in Tel Aviv. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images
Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad, stepped in to help secure much-needed coronavirus tests from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, only to find they were the wrong ones, Axios contributor Barak Ravid reports.
Why it matters: Israel has serious shortages of medical equipment needed to fight the outbreak, leaving Israeli embassies and even intelligence agencies scrambling to get their hands on everything from medical masks to test kits.
The backstory: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested Mossad's help, hoping the intelligence service could use its web of secret contacts around the world to find relevant medical supplies.
A funeral procession for Morales supporters killed by security forces moves toward La Paz. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images
Many Bolivians agree there was a coup last November. They disagree about who carried it out.
The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson recently met with both leaders. He reports from the Andes in this week's New Yorker:
Flashback: "On November 12th, the day that Áñez took office, she deployed the police and the Army, and soon offered immunity for any crimes they might commit in their efforts to reassert social control. Within days, the security forces were involved in two massacres of Morales supporters."
The bottom line: "Morales’s alleged electoral fraud, and his party’s acceptance of new elections without him, makes it difficult to call his ouster a coup. Áñez’s behavior makes it hard not to," Anderson writes.
A lonely walk over Charles Bridge, Prague. Photo: Lukas Kabon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
"The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. "— The world we live in, as of today. Before the outbreak, State's "Level 4" travel advisory applied to countries like Libya, North Korea and Syria. Now, it's the entire world.