UK lockdown extends, South Korea election, balcony exhibition

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Here’s what you need to know

The UK is set to continue its lockdown… Foreign secretary Dominic Raab will outline plans to extend current restrictive measures for potentially another three weeks, as a central exit strategy has yet to take shape. Lawmakers will also discuss plans for a “virtual” parliament. Meanwhile, the first chartered flight carrying Eastern European workers to pick fruit and vegetable crops will land in the UK.

while the US unveils guidelines for re-opening the economy. President Donald Trump will issue the federal benchmarks for states following a conference call with 50 governors, though the final decision on how to restart businesses will be made at the state level. Meanwhile, New York tapped global consulting firm McKinsey to develop a “Trump-proof” re-opening plan, and is mandating face masks in busy public places.

South Korea’s ruling party clinched a landslide victory. In a national election with stringent social distancing and hygiene rules that still saw a historic 66% turnout rate, president Moon Jae-in’s ruling Democratic Party and its satellite party won 180 of the 300 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Thae Yong-ho, a former Pyongyang diplomat, became the first North Korean defector to win a seat.

Another 5 million people could file for unemployment benefits in the US. Almost 17 million have already made jobless claims in the previous three weeks, and economists are forecasting another series of filings in the multi-millions for the week that ended April 11 as the economy buckles from the shutdown.

Amazon shuts its French warehouses. The online retail giant is suspending operations at its distribution centers for five days to deep clean the facilities, after a French court ruled that the company was not doing enough to safeguard its workers’ health and ordered it to stop selling non-essential goods for a month.

Two dozen Rohingya died on a boat. The vessel with nearly 400 people onboard had been drifting for weeks after failing to reach Malaysia. The survivors will be sent back to Myanmar, where the Rohingya are from, following their rescue by Bangladesh’s coast guard.

Who’s making it work on Zoom?

Charting banks’ backup plans

America’s banking giants are fortifying themselves for a potential tsunami of bad loans.

The five biggest US lenders have stashed away $24 billion of loan-loss provisions as of the first quarter, almost five times as much as in the previous period, according to FactSet data. Banks are preparing for a wave of soured loans and credit losses as businesses endure weeks of closures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

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Prison breaks are having a resurgence in the Covid-19 era. From the United States to Italy, Brazil, and Iran, inmates are trying to break out of jails, many of which have elevated coronavirus infection rates. Pandemic aside, prison breaks have a long history, and the ingenuity of escapees draws a cult following in culture and beyond. Make a break for the Quartz Daily Obsession.

Surprising discoveries

Banksy’s lockdown artwork is causing mayhem in the bathroom. The anonymous artist said his wife hates it when he works from home.

A lost Viking trade route has been re-discovered. It was likely used to ferry goods like butter and reindeer antlers across Europe.

A bookstore is making bike deliveries of “mystery bags.” Forced to close during the lockdown, the shop in Boulder, Colorado, is bringing bags sending books and other goodies to customers instead.

Artists in Berlin transformed their balconies into galleries. Several dozen creatives took part in the impromptu exhibition, staged on what curators called “the public apertures of the private.”

The ocean’s longest creature measures 150 feet. A siphonophore spotted off the coast of Australia puts blue whales to shame.

Schmidt Ocean Institute
Schmidt Ocean Institute
Image: Schmidt Ocean Institute

From the Quartz newsletterverse 

Climate deniers have a new hobby: coronavirus denial. The same people (and psychology) are at work, says Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol. One conservative radio host referred to the coronavirus on March 14 as “climate change 2.0.” “They perceive it as a threat, in the same way that climate change is—not just to the economy, but also to the way in which the economy operates,” he told Grist. That has led to a vastly different assessment of the risk posed by the pandemic.

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“When I have tasks I’m not excited about, I try to work on those in chunks too. If it’s a particularly onerous task, I’ll chop it down to 5-minute chunks.”

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Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, creative bathroom mayhem, and mystery book bags to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app on iOS or Android and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Mary Hui and edited by Isabella Steger.