Hello and welcome to tonight's 1,499-word (6-minute) edition of Axios World. It's bookended by two things some readers may find interminable — lockdowns and baseball.
Situational awareness: Since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion yesterday that “enormous evidence” indicates COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, anonymous Australian, British and American intelligence officials have briefed media outlets that there’s currently little to go on beyond speculation.
A long-awaited passeggiata, in Rome. Photo: Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis via Getty Images
The world now appears to be moving beyond peak lockdown, with at least 12 countries loosening restrictions today.
Why it matters: While regions and countries will likely be forced to reimpose lockdowns as the pandemic develops, we may not again see half of humanity constrained at the same time.
Flashback: As Europe and much of the world was beginning to clamp down, a vocal minority of experts and politicians made three broad arguments against locking down.
1. The public would not comply for long enough to make lockdowns effective.
2. The virus will be with us for some time and locking down will only make renewed outbreaks more dangerous, because there will be less immunity in the population.
3. Closing schools and businesses while forcing people into isolation will ultimately do more damage than the virus itself.
The bottom line: Many leaders who have imposed lockdowns quite reasonably argue that, considering the alternatives, they really had no choice.
Back on the beach, in Barcelona. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Italy and Spain, the hardest-hit countries outside of the U.S., are both beginning gradual reopenings this week.
The big picture: Both countries have emphasized bringing back industry before retail, in contrast with U.S. states like Georgia, Axios' Orion Rummler writes.
In Italy, manufacturing plants and construction sites will reopen this week, while museums and shops will reopen on May 18 if infection rates stay low, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told parliament on Thursday.
In Spain, small businesses will be open by appointment only — even for shops that would not typically require them.
Photo: Thomas Peter/AFP via Getty Images
1. An internal government document obtained by the NY Times lays out the stakes of reopening economies too early, as its model anticipates up to 200,000 new cases per day in the U.S. as of June 1 (compared to 25,000 now).
2. China, meanwhile, is so fearful of new outbreaks that it's clamping down hard in cities like Harbin — which has just 63 confirmed bases, the Economist reports:
The leaders of nations, banks and organizations gathered Monday via video conference for an EU-led summit, collectively pledging 7.4 billion euros ($8 billion) toward research for a coronavirus vaccine, Axios’ Ursula Perano writes.
"Did you miss me?" Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
1. Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro regime says it thwarted an attempted “invasion” on Sunday, killing eight and capturing two of the “mercenaries” who arrived by speedboat.
2. Three officials in Prague, including the mayor, are now under police protection due to alleged threats from Russia.
3. Madagascar now plans to export a dubious “cure” for the coronavirus to countries including Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and Guinea-Bissau.
4. Kim Jong-un is back with a bang.
An RBI single for the Rakuten Monkeys. Photo: Gene Wang/Getty Images
There’s nothing more American than baseball — except for right now.
On the one hand: America has spent 187 days since we last had baseball, and is likely living through the largest MLB stoppage in the league’s history, Axios’ Kendall Baker writes in a glorious ode to America’s missing pastime.
On the other: That stoppage could give Asian baseball an unprecedented international showcase.
ESPN, meanwhile, has inked a deal to air six South Korean baseball games per week, starting with tomorrow’s season opener.
Herd immunity? Badain Jaran Desert, Inner Mongolia. Photo: Wang Zheng/VCG via Getty Images
"It was a tough old moment, I won’t deny it. They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario."— Boris Johnson, revealing that doctors had prepared to announce his death while he was in intensive care with COVID-19