Mar 10, 2020

Axios World

By Dave Lawler
Dave Lawler

Welcome back to Axios World. No lockdowns here — we're taking a global tour tonight in 1,570 words (6 minutes).

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1 big thing: Global panic over the coronavirus

Photo: Albeto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images

Italy is entering a nationwide lockdown, all travelers to Israel are being placed in quarantine, Spain is closing schools and several countries are further tightening their borders.

Driving the news: It has been a day of worrying headlines around the world as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise and markets continue to fall.

Italy’s nationwide quarantine policy means all public gatherings are banned at least through April 3. People across the country are not to leave their homes unless necessary, and travel will only be allowed for urgent reasons.

  • Six inmates died in prison riots after visits were banned.
  • Italy's death toll currently stands at 463, with 9,172 confirmed cases. The outbreak is the fastest-growing in the world and the largest outside of China.

Israel went further than any country to date in restricting its contact with the outside world by declaring that anyone arriving in the country will have to spend at least two weeks in quarantine.

  • Behind the scenes: Vice President Mike Pence personally asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to target only visitors from the U.S. and other affected countries, but to "go global," Axios contributor Barak Ravid scoops.
  • Netanyahu’s announcement today matched Pence’s request, made during a call on Sunday. Go deeper.

Saudi Arabia and Russia helped set off what became one of the worst days in the history of U.S. stock markets when they diverged in their responses to a sharp fall in global oil prices.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester became the latest high-ranking politician to test positive for the virus.

  • Portugal’s president tested negative but will still self-quarantine after a classmate of students he met with tested positive.
  • Spain is closing schools in Madrid and other areas affected by the outbreak.
  • The rate of cases reported in China continues to decline significantly.
  • Concerns remain that Iran’s outbreak has been massively underreported.
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC.

Japan has seen 12 deaths from the coronavirus, but also a significant reduction in flu cases due at least in part to public consciousness around hand washing and other good practices, the Economist points out.

  • Given the flu killed 3,300 people there in 2018, the virus outbreak could actually be indirectly saving lives.

Go deeper:

2. People don't trust their governments on the coronavirus

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The current collapse in global equities markets is mirroring a broader collapse in global public confidence, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd writes for Axios.

The big picture: Both financial markets and public sentiment are reacting to uncertainty at three levels: the future trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak, the adequacy of the policy response, and the impact on the economy and financial institutions.

At the heart of all three is a growing gap in public trust in our various national governments.

  • In part, that's because folks have been told for so long that government is the problem, not the solution.
  • In part, it's because critical public institutions mandated with defending public health have been defunded over time.
  • It's also because people understand that this crisis is bigger than any single national government can handle.

Flashback: There are echoes of the global financial crisis. After the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, markets were in free fall as businesses and consumer confidence collapsed and lines of credit dried up.

  • What broke the fall was the G20 Summit in London the following March, when the world’s largest economies decided to act together.

What to watch:

  • The U.S. could have taken the lead by reaching out to Beijing at the height of the crisis to establish a joint coronavirus taskforce. It still could.
  • Second, G20 health and finance ministers, including the WHO leadership, could meet weekly by video link.
  • Third, a virtual G20 summit could be held to agree on global economic measures to reduce the risk of global recession and any associated threats to financial institutions.

Read the full piece

Update: Good news on the other outbreak

The last patient being treated for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was released last week.

"The patient’s release from hospital in the eastern city of Beni, feted by hospital staff who sang, danced and drummed on trash cans, marks the first time there have been no active cases since the outbreak was declared in August 2018."
3. International Women's Day: Women in the streets

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Marwan Naamani/picture alliance via Getty Images, and Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

Women across Mexico stayed home from work and school today to protest violence against women and give a glimpse of "A World Without Women."

  • Two-thirds of Mexicans believe women are not treated with respect, up from 44% five years ago, according to Gallup.
  • Demonstrations to mark International Women's Day on Sunday were met with tear gas in Turkey, Chile and Mexico City, and stones hurled by Islamist hardliners in Pakistan.

Zoom out: That followed a year in which women were on the front lines of some of the world's largest protest movements, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes:

In Sudan, Alaa Salah, 22, quickly became the symbol of national protests sparked by a rise in the price of bread.

  • The protesters — a majority of whom were women — successfully toppled brutal dictator Omar al-Bashir.

In India, women were among the first to protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi's citizenship law, which excludes Muslims, and a citizenship register, which threatens to make millions stateless.

  • Women have the most to lose. Many Indian women lack any government documentation or identification to prove their citizenship, DW writes.

In Lebanon, women came out en masse to protest the government after it attempted to implement a tax on popular message service WhatsApp amid an already dire economic situation.

  • A report from the UN illustrates the role women played in ensuring the protests didn't turn violent, even acting as "human buffers" between security and demonstrators.

Why it matters: There's a direct correlation between the success of protest movements and the participation of women, Harvard Professor Erica Chenoweth finds.

Go deeper

4. Where things stand: Women as world leaders

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sri Lanka's Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the modern world's first female head of state in 1960.

The big picture: 71 women have taken power since, with Finland and New Zealand leading the way with three female leaders each, Axios' Ursula Perano writes:

  • However, over a third of those women held their posts in a temporary capacity, or were never elected in their own right, according to Statista.
  • 15 women led UN countries at the start of 2020, but that number has since dropped to 13.

Where things stand: There are few women at the top table among the world's most powerful nations. In the G20, Germany's Angela Merkel is the only national leader, while Ursula von der Leyen represents the EU as president of the European Commission. Of the G20:

  • China, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia have not had a female leader in modern times, along with the U.S.
  • Canada and France have each seen one woman take power and hand it over within a year, while a woman has led South Africa only as acting president.
  • Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey have each had one female leader serve between three and five years.
  • The U.K. has been led by women twice, including 11 years under Margaret Thatcher.
  • Argentina has had two female presidents, both of whom succeeded their husbands.
  • India's only female prime minister, Indira Gandhi, served twice for a total of 16 years.

Merkel's 14-year tenure makes her the longest-serving woman currently in office and the longest-serving leader of any liberal democracy. She has said she'll step aside in 2021.

5. World News roundup

Ghani's swearing in. Photo: Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

1. Kabul hosted two presidential inaugurations today, with incumbent Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah both continuing to insist they won September’s election.

  • Why it matters: The Afghan government is about to begin negotiations with the Taliban over the country’s future. Even without the legitimacy crisis, renewed violence and a controversial prisoner swap pose massive hurdles.
  • Zalmay Khalilzad, the veteran U.S. diplomat who negotiated the U.S.-Taliban deal, has been attempting to broker a solution between the two would-be presidents. Khalilzad and other U.S. officials attended Ghani’s inauguration.

2. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman detained senior royals — including his uncle and cousin, both former heirs to the throne — on Friday in an apparent bid to secure the line of succession.

  • “Guards from the royal court wearing masks and dressed in black ... took them into custody and searched their homes," WSJ reports.
  • Flashback: MBS detained some of the kingdom's wealthiest and most powerful people, including numerous royals, in the Ritz-Carlton in 2017.

3. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok survived an apparent assassination attempt this morning in Khartoum.

6. Data du jour: Germans think U.S. relationship is broken

Americans tend to think the U.S. relationship with Germany is going just fine. Germans ... do not, according to a Pew survey.

Reproduced from Pew Research Center Global Attitudes & Trends; Chart: Axios Visuals

Breaking it down:

  • Americans (60%) are far more likely than Germans (34%) to think their country should be willing to use military force to defend a NATO ally from Russia.
  • Germans are divided about the importance of U.S. military bases to their national security, with 52% saying they're at least "somewhat important."
  • But Germans rank the U.S. second (behind France) on a list of important foreign policy partners, while the U.S. ranks Germany fifth behind the U.K., China, Canada and Israel.
  • In the former East Germany, a plurality of residents say they'd choose good relations with Russia (38%) over the U.S. (23%).
  • Germans are also more likely to pick China (53%) than the U.S. (24%) as the world's top economic power.

What to watch: Armin Laschet, the front-runner to replace Angela Merkel as CDU leader and potentially as chancellor, "has warned against demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin for his annexation of Crimea" and "voiced support for deepening the relationship with Beijing," per Foreign Policy.

7. Stories we're watching

Migrants met by water cannons near the Turkey-Greece border. Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images

  1. Two U.S. service members killed during anti-ISIS operation in Iraq
  2. China's domestic violence epidemic
  3. North Korea fires several projectiles
  4. Trump policies could scare immigrants away from coronavirus care
  5. Prince Andrew rules out cooperating with Epstein probe
  6. In photos: American expats cast primary ballots in New Zealand
  7. 11-year-old Syrian table tennis player qualifies for Olympics


"Wuhan virus"
— The use of that phrase by Mike Pompeo and others led to a vigorous debate about stigmatization. But China's response was odd: A foreign ministry spokesman falsely claimed there was no evidence the outbreak began in China.
Dave Lawler