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Conte addresses the Italian Parliament last month
Conte addresses the Italian Parliament last month

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: THE BENEFITS OF SHARING THE BAD NEWS

If the fabric of our globalized society has been tested by the spread of COVID-19, that's also true for our national leaders. Our prime ministers and presidents are facing the kind of leadership challenge they could never have prepared for, with one thorny social-economic-cultural-constitutional dilemma after the other. High on that list is the question: How do you deliver unimaginably terrible news to your citizens?

It would seem so far, as the severity of the crisis becomes more apparent, that people prefer straightforward communication from their leaders. Germany's Angela Merkel warned at an early stage that up to 70% Germans could eventually get the virus and was the first leader to liken the crisis to war. The Chancellor's approval rates have steadily increased, with a recent poll showing that 89% of the German people believe the government is handling the situation well. This is also true for France's Emanuel Macron whose approval rating has jumped to a nearly two-year high of 43% after the country was put on lockdown March 17 with an even more aggressive declaration of "war" against the virus. Italy's Giuseppe Conte — seen by many as a short-term, accidental leader — has risen in stature by a similar approach of coming clean about the death that coronavirus was bound to bring.


Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump has reliably played his entirely own game. For a while that meant mostly downplaying the crisis while assuming the role as arch-expert and protector of the American economy. But despite harsh international critique, a recent Gallup Poll shows that for only the second time in Trump's presidency, more Americans approve (49%) than disapprove (45%) of his performance, while some 60% gave him positive reviews for his handling of the crisis. Some experts attribute this to the "rally-round-the-flag" effect of the crisis, as it increases patriotic sentiments while some punches from the opposition are pulled for purposes of national unity. However, it seems Trump realizes there is truly bad news to come. His press briefing on Tuesday, which included warnings from health officials that the death toll could rise to 240,000, took a completely different tone. It's safe to say that Trump is thinking about his polls number, but there's also that always pesky factor called reality.

— Carl-Johan Carlsson

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: A record one-day death total in Spain of 864 and France of 499, as European toll passes 30,000 mark. Single day record in U.S. as well, with more than 850 deaths. U.S. President Trump warns of "roughest two or three weeks we've ever had in our country" and health officials predict up to 240,000 deaths.

  • Record recession: According to UN Chief Antonio Guterres, the world is facing the most challenging crisis since WWII that will bring "a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past."

  • Markets & Factories: World markets keep falling, as monthly reports on factory activity plunge.

  • Indigenous exposed: Brazil reports first coronavirus case in an indigenous community: a 19-year old woman in the Amazonas state.

  • No Wimbledon: The world's premier tennis tournament, slated to begin June 29, has been canceled for the first time since World War II.

  • City block: U.S. authorities are removing basketball hoops from public courts all around the country in effort to prevent social gatherings.

  • Country block: Turkmenistan bans the word "coronavirus."
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In The News

War In Ukraine, Day 86: Putin Turns Up The Dial In Donbas

Russia may allow over-40s to enlist in military as resources are needed to step up the assault in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldier and his dog on the outskirt of the separatist region of Donetsk

Irene Caselli, Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

Signs are pointing to Russian combat operations accelerating in the southeastern Donbas region, as the invasion in Ukraine nears the three-month mark. The British Ministry of Defence said Friday that more Russian troops are likely to be deployed to Donbas to reinforce operations there once they finish securing the strategic port city of Mariupol, where a growing numbers of Ukrainian soldiers has surrendered this week.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian students during a virtual address on Thursday that the war is not over yet, and is entering “the final stage (which) is the most difficult, the bloodiest.” He added that it is not time yet for him to tell Ukrainians abroad to return home.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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