Hello and welcome to the lucky 200th edition of Axios World. My sincere thanks to readers old and new — it has been a joy and a privilege to ship this off to your inboxes twice a week, and to get your reactions and insights in return.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
In the coming months, the decisions world leaders make — and their ability to communicate them effectively — could determine whether millions live or die, and whether the global economy stays afloat.
What to watch: Nations are judging their leaders on a daily basis. They may ultimately be revered or reviled based on the decisions they make now. Some may emerge with new powers that last well beyond the outbreak.
The big picture: The battle against the coronavirus has effectively been every nation for itself.
Even in Europe, now the focal point of the pandemic, individual countries are charting their own paths.
Italy's Giuseppe Conte was until recently viewed by many as an accidental prime minister who could fall within months. Now tasked with combating the world’s deadliest outbreak, he was the first EU leader to quarantine his citizens — and he's seen the public largely rally around the government and tune out the far-right.
The first lockdowns came in China, but those drastic steps followed a slow initial response in which President Xi Jinping was shielded from public scrutiny.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes to avoid a crisis on the scale of China's or Europe's.
Russia's Vladimir Putin recently insisted the situation there was “generally under control,” while attempting to boost turnout in a constitutional referendum through which he could retain power until 2036.
Those who moved quickly, such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, now look prescient. Even those who initially downplayed the threat, like Trump or Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, have stepped up their rhetoric and policy responses.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
No one could accuse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of ignoring this crisis. Instead, he's been accused of using it to cling to power and delay his corruption trial.
Zoom out: Israel is not alone. China has used apps to bar people exposed to the virus from leaving their homes. Russia says it will soon roll out a system to track infected people and notify those exposed to them.
The big picture: Muscular government actions, from travel bans to quarantines, have thus far proved popular among populations looking for protection, Anne Applebaum writes in The Atlantic.
What to watch: Historian Yuval Harari warns in the FT that governments won't willingly give back the powers they've gained once this crisis is over.
"Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies."
Italy recorded 602 deaths today from the coronavirus — a staggering total that could nonetheless be some cause for hope because it's the second day of decline from Saturday's high of 793.
The big picture: Today marks two weeks since Italy entered a nationwide lockdown, with officials warning at the time that we wouldn't get a sense of how effective the measures had been until right about now.
What they're saying:
"Italy looked at the example of China ... not as a practical warning, but as a 'science fiction movie that had nothing to do with us.' And when the virus exploded, Europe ... 'looked at us the same way we looked at China.'"— Sandra Zampa, undersecretary of Italy's Health Ministry, to the NY Times
1. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson today ordered all nonessential shops, playgrounds, libraries, gyms and places of worship to close, and he banned public meetings of more than two people. He said the new regulations would be enforced by police, Axios’ Zach Basu reports.
2. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected an offer of assistance from the U.S., Axios’ Jacob Knutson writes.
3. The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, has asked diplomats in European and Eurasian countries other than Russia to seek to buy medical supplies wherever they can find them, even in countries that are facing their own outbreaks, Foreign Policy’s Robbie Gramer and Colum Lynch report.
4. International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today the Olympic Games, slated to begin in Tokyo on July 24, will be postponed.
Preparing the streets, in La Paz, Bolivia. Photo: Javier Mamani/Getty Images
Visitors to ski slopes in Austria and Shiite shrines in Iran have brought the coronavirus back with them to their native countries, sparking fast-growing outbreaks in Germany and Pakistan respectively.
Zoom in: “Health authorities have traced dozens of cases in Germany to Ischgl,” a ski town with just 1,500 permanent residents. “Half of all of Norway’s confirmed cases, one-third of all of those in Denmark and one-sixth of those in Sweden were contracted in the tiny resort,” per the FT.
But while small towns can spark big outbreaks, they can also provide clues for how to fight them.
Pacific islands without current coronavirus outbreaks may seem like ideal settings in which to ride out the crisis, but they may actually have it worse than the mainland.
Prisoners have it worst of all. Visitors now can’t come in, and inmates obviously can’t get out.
Industrial slowdowns in China, Italy and beyond have already caused a major drop in air pollution, per The Guardian.
The trend is likely to continue around the world, with fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky — until life begins to return to something approaching normal.
“We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen. Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.”— Paul Monks, professor at the University of Leicester, to The Guardian
Preparing the fields, in Shandong Province, China. Photo Zhao Yuguo/VCG via Getty Images
"The cause of an outbreak of pneumonia in China that's sickened at least 59 people in the city of Wuhan remains a mystery, although Chinese officials say it is not the deadly SARS virus and doesn't appear to spread quickly between people."— Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly in our first article about the virus, just 77 days ago. How the world has changed since then...