Developing countries face economic collapse in COVID-19

Developing countries face economic collapse in COVID-19 fight: UN

The coronavirus outbreak threatens to disproportionately devastate the economies of already impoverished countries as they gear up to tackle a health crisis with extremely limited resources, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has warned.
The socioeconomic hit on poor and developing countries will take years to recover from, UNDP said in a report released on Monday, stressing that income losses in those countries are forecast to exceed $220bn. Nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost, it also warned.

Read more here.

Modi seeks ‘forgiveness’ from India’s poor over COVID-19 lockdown

Modi apologises as 21-day lockdown stings millions, leaving the poor hungry and forcing migrant workers to flee cities.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked the nation’s poor for forgiveness, as the economic and human toll from his 21-day nationwide lockdown deepens and criticism mounts over a lack of adequate planning ahead of the decision.

“I apologise for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people,” Modi said in his monthly address on Sunday, broadcast on state radio.

“I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle.”

Modi announced an unprecedented three-week lockdown – the world’s largest – which came into effect on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the decision has stung millions of India’s poor, leaving many hungry and forcing jobless migrant labourers to flee cities and walk hundreds of kilometres to their native villages.

The poor “would definitely be thinking what kind of prime minister is this, who has put us into so much trouble,” he said, urging people to understand there was no other option.

“Steps taken so far … will give India victory over corona,” he added.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India rose to 979 on Sunday, with 25 deaths.

The government announced a $22.6bn economic stimulus plan on Thursday to provide direct cash transfers and food handouts to India’s poor. A quarter of India’s 1.3 billion people live below the poverty line.

In an opinion piece published on Sunday, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo – two of the three winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2019 – said even more aid for the poor is needed.

“Without that, the demand crisis will snowball into an economic avalanche, and people will have no choice but to defy orders,” they wrote in the Indian Express.

The lockdown is expected to exacerbate India’s economic woes at a time when growth had already slumped to its slowest pace in six years.

‘No contingency plans’

There still appears to be broad support for strong measures to avoid a coronavirus catastrophe in India, a country where the public health system is poor.

But opposition leaders, analysts and some citizens are increasingly criticizing its implementation. In particular, they say the government appears to have been caught off guard by the mass movement of migrants following the announcement, which threatens to spread the disease into the hinterlands.

“The Gov’t had no contingency plans in place for this exodus,” tweeted opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as images of migrant labourers walking long distances to return home dominated local media.

#ModiMadeDisaster was a top trending topic in India on Sunday on Twitter.

Police said four migrants were killed on Saturday when a truck ran into them in the western state of Maharashtra. Also on Saturday, a migrant worker collapsed and died in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, according to a police official.

“We will die of walking and starving before getting killed by corona,” said migrant worker Madhav Raj, 28, as he walked along the road in Uttar Pradesh.

On Sunday, several hundred migrants in the town of Paippad, in southern Kerala state, gathered in a square demanding transport back to their hometowns.

The central government has called on states to provide marooned labourers with food and shelter, and Modi’s supporters slammed state governments on Twitter for failing to properly implement the lockdown.

In India’s cities, too, anger was rising.

“We have no food or drink. I am sat down thinking how to feed my family,” said homemaker Amirbee Shaikh Yusuf, 50, in Mumbai’s sprawling Dharavi slum.

“There is nothing good about this lockdown. People are angry, no one is caring for us.”


EU lists ‘critical workers’ needing to cross borders

The EU released a list of the “critical workers” it says must be allowed continued freedom of movement across its internal borders, despite emergency coronavirus measures.

“Many of them have jobs that are important for us all to get through the crisis,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said, in a video message.

The guidelines were put out as the EU’s executive tries to maintain unity and rules across the bloc, after some member state governments took unilateral steps to restrict the inflow of EU citizens.


Tokyo Olympic Games to take place from July next year

The Tokyo Olympic Games will take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021, after they were postponed last week by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organisers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Games were originally scheduled to run from July 24 until August 9..

Read more here.

The Olympic Games were originally scheduled to start in July this year [Issei Kato/Reuters]

Goldman Sachs: Coronavirus crisis game changer for oil sector

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting plunge in crude prices will result in a leaner, stronger oil industry but raise the risk of shortages further down the line, Goldman Sachs analysts said.

“If pipelines get clogged up as refineries shut down, inventories cannot build, reducing the cushion and creating a very quick risk reversal towards oil shortages,” Goldman said in a note.

This would in turn cause an oil shortage, pushing prices above the Wall Street bank’s $55 a barrel target for 2021, it said.

“This will likely be a game changer for the industry,” the bank said.

“Big Oils will consolidate the best assets in the industry and will shed the worst … when the industry emerges from this downturn, there will be fewer companies of higher asset quality, but the capital constraints will remain.”

Oil has been hit disproportionately by the “coronacrisis”, sending landlocked crude prices into negative territory, Goldman said.

“Paradoxically, this will ultimately create an inflationary oil supply shock of historic proportions because so much oil production will be forced to be shut in,” it added. “The oil price war is made irrelevant by the large decline in demand and has made a coordinated supply response impossible to achieve in time.”

UK PM Johnson’s adviser isolating with coronavirus symptoms

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, has begun self-isolating with symptoms just days after the British leader tested positive.

A Downing Street spokesman said Cummings, widely seen as one of the most powerful men in the government, had developed symptoms of COVID-19 over the weekend.

Johnson on Friday became the first leader of a major world power to announce he had tested positive for the virus. His health minister, Matt Hancock, also tested positive and the government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, is self-isolating.

Cummings is widely seen as one of the most powerful men in the British government [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

PM Johnson leads coronavirus action despite positive test: spokesman

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been able to do everything required to coordinate the government’s response to coronavirus after he tested positive for the virus last week, his spokesman said.

“He’s been able to do everything that he needs to do to lead the coronavirus response,” the spokesman said.

Boris Johnson has been in isolation since he tested positive for the coronavirus last week [AP]

“Number 10 and across government, (we have) put in place contingency plans to ensure that we can carry on working throughout this outbreak, and that we have all the capacity we need to lead the nationwide response.”

GMT – Austria to make basic face masks compulsory in supermarkets

Austria will require the public to wear basic face masks in supermarkets, where they will be handed out probably from Wednesday in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

“These masks are handed out in front of supermarkets it will be compulsory to wear them,” Kurz said, adding that the aim in the medium term was for people to wear them in public more often as well. The so-called MNS masks are below medical-grade, he said.

 Lockdown in Zimbabwe likely to hit vulnerable people hard

Zimbabweans rushed to supermarkets on the eve of a three-week lockdown imposed by the government on Monday to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The threat of the new disease could not have come at a worse time for millions of Zimbabweans already struggling with a deepening economic crisis bringing soaring food prices, stagnant salaries, water shortages and daily power blackouts.

Many fear steps to curb coronavirus will hit vulnerable people hard.

Read Chris Muronzi’s story from Harare here.

Zimbabweans rushed to stock food on the eve of the lockdown [Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP]

Russia weighs nationwide coronavirus lockdown

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin asked regional governors to consider introducing a partial lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus after Russia recorded its biggest rise in cases for the sixth day in a row.

Russia’s official nationwide tally of coronavirus cases rose by 302, taking the total to 1,836. Nine people across Russia have died, the authorities say.

Authorities in Moscow ordered residents to stay at home from Monday, their toughest move yet after the number of official cases in the Russian capital passed the 1,000 mark.

Mishustin said he thought the measures now needed to be rolled out nationwide.

Coronavirus economy: Recesssion or depression

An increasing number of economists are warning of a recession in the United States, Europe and globally as coronavirus containment measures bring entire sectors of the world’s economy to a halt. 

Many have also compared the swiftness and severity of the coronavirus slowdown with the Great Depression that began in 1929. 

Read more here.

 Dutch coronavirus cases rise by 884: health authorities

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose to 11,750 from a day earlier, with 884 new cases and 93 new deaths, health authorities said.

The Netherlands’ National Institute for Health (RIVM) confirmed the numbers, an 8.1 percent increase in cases, on its official Twitter account.

The total number of deaths increased to 864.

Source : Aljazeera