Virus is Becoming a Global Political Risk

Rosalind Mathieson
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Virus is Becoming a Global Political Risk

(Bloomberg) --

The world is finding out that China’s problem is everyone’s.

The coronavirus is spreading further beyond China’s borders, with clusters in Italy, South Korea, Japan and Iran, and cases topping 80,000 globally.

While the outbreak isn’t yet a pandemic, the challenges for governments are rising.

Travel bans, quarantines, stress on health-care systems and business closures are just the start. Some countries have nixed annual events that usually draw big-spending crowds.

Emerging cases in North Africa and the Middle East are starting to fan chatter in Europe about its porous borders. In a continent wrestling with far-right parties, the virus could quickly become embroiled in anti-migration rhetoric.

There’s potential for unrest unless governments show they’re acting to curtail contagion. Ukraine was rocked by protests recently, reportedly due to fake reports about the illness.Iran faced criticism it was too slow to explain the outbreak there, for fear it would further lower turnout for last weekend’s parliamentary ballot. Israel has warned false reports could be used to scare people away from a March 2 vote.

There are also increasing questions over whether the virus’s spread could dampen the economic gains that are central to President Donald Trump’s re-election bid.

Fear can move faster than reality, especially when it comes to a virus. But governments not thinking ahead could find themselves under pressure on a variety of counts.

Global Headlines

Take two | Michael Bloomberg is trying for a do-over in tonight’s Democratic presidential debate, turning his focus to newly minted front-runner Bernie Sanders after a much-criticized debut at last week’s face-off. Seven Democratic candidates will meet in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of that state’s Saturday primary, the last of the February preliminary rounds before the 14-state Super Tuesday contest on March 3.

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.) Click here for more about why Trump hasn’t been able to head off a drawn-out Republican brawl for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia that has triggered jitters within the party about potentially losing it in November.

Tit for tat | The U.S. is weighing whether to expel Chinese journalists after Beijing kicked out three Wall Street Journal reporters. The move, which is the subject of intense debate at the White House, would be part of a push by the Trump administration to show it will resist restrictions on Americans working in China, Nick Wadhams, Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin report.

In control | After a wild day that saw the collapse of Malaysia’s ruling coalition, one thing is clear: Mahathir Mohamad remains in charge. The 94-year-old is now the only one left in charge after the king appointed him interim premier and dismissed the cabinet following his resignation as prime minister yesterday due to a rift within his alliance over who would succeed him.MeToo momentum | The guilty verdict handed down to Harvey Weinstein yesterday is another sign the MeToo movement is bringing unprecedented changes to virtually every corner of business and political life. In a single year, Bloomberg’s own accounting found 425 public allegations of sex-related misbehavior among prominent people working across industries, including politics, media, technology and finance.

Trade tussle | The U.K. and the European Union are increasingly at odds ahead of next week’s trade talks, with each accusing the other of backing away from past promises. Regaining freedom from the EU’s legal system will take priority over securing a trade deal for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And in a move that may defy the deal that broke last year’s Brexit deadlock, the U.K. is refusing to ask ports to prepare for new checks on goods moving to and from Northern Ireland.

What to Watch

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a Russian delegation will arrive in Turkey tomorrow to discuss tensions in Syria’s Idlib province ahead of a possible visit by President Vladimir Putin. Two of the top contenders to lead Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union joined forces to create a powerful team that would likely ease pressure on the German leader to step down early. A desert-locust outbreak ravaging pastures and crops on both sides of the Red Sea has reached the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first time in more than 75 years.

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And finally ... Beijing was once infamous for its smog, but along with other Chinese cities it has seen remarkable improvements in air quality, according to a new report from AirVisual. Not so in India: It dominates a list of the world’s most polluted urban areas, and its capital, New Delhi, is by far the worst-off major metropolis. While China’s leaders waged an all-out war on pollution, Indian policymakers have only just decided to act. And experts say their plans lack the legal mandate and financial heft to have an impact.


--With assistance from Michael Winfrey, Iain Marlow and Kathleen Hunter.

To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at

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