World leaders were yesterday set to hold online crisis talks on the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced 3 billion people into lockdown and claimed more than 21,000 lives.
With the disease tearing around the globe at a terrifying pace, warnings are multiplying over its economic consequences, with experts saying it could cause more damage than the Great Depression.
Amid squabbling between the leaders of China and the US over who is to blame, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the world to act together to halt the menace.
“COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity,” Guterres said. “Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough.”
The global lockdown — which also took in India’s huge population this week — tightened further yesterday when Russia announced it was grounding all international flights, while Moscow’s mayor ordered the closure of cafes, shops and parks.
Tokyo’s millions of citizens have been told to stay at home and tourism-dependent Thailand has shuttered its borders.
Economists say the restrictions imposed around the world could cause the biggest recession in modern history.
“The G20 economies will experience an unprecedented shock in the first half of this year and will contract in 2020 as a whole,” ratings agency Moody’s said.
The leaders of the G20 major economies were due to hold a virtual meeting later yesterday in the shadow of such dire predictions.
“As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges to healthcare systems and the global economy, we convene this extraordinary G20 summit to unite efforts towards a global response,” Saudi Arabian King Salman wrote on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia holds the rotating G20 presidency.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said richer nations needed to offer support to low and middle-income countries.
The devastating effect on poorer nations was laid bare when the Philippines announced that nine front-line doctors had died after contracting COVID-19.
Three large Manila hospitals this week said that they had reached capacity and would no longer accept new coronavirus cases.
Hundreds of medical staff are undergoing 14-day self-quarantines after suspected exposure, the hospitals said.
The death toll from the coronavirus, which emerged in Wuhan, China, last year, continued to grow, with the US becoming the sixth nation to hit four figures.
Almost 1,050 people are now known to have died in the US, with nearly 70,000 infections, Johns Hopkins University data showed.
Globally, the number of infections is closing in on half a million.
The rocketing infection rate in the US has sparked a rush to buy weapons, gun store owners said, with customers panicking about societal breakdown.
“A lot of people are buying shotguns, handguns, AR-15 [semi-automatic rifles], everything,” said Tiffany Teasdale, who sells guns in Washington state. “A lot of people are scared that someone is going to break into their home ... to steal cash, their toilet paper, their bottled water, their food.”
About half of the US population is under lockdown, but US President Donald Trump said that he would decide soon whether unaffected parts of the nation could get back to work.
The White House has repeatedly lashed out at Beijing over the disease.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said that the G7 were united against China’s “disinformation” campaign.
A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman had infuriated Washington by suggesting on Twitter that US troops had taken the coronavirus to Wuhan.
“Every one of the nations that were at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place,” Pompeo told reporters.
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
ROAD TO HISTORY: When Lee Teng-hui joined the KMT, the likelihood of a Taiwanese becoming ROC president, much less its first directly elected one, was hard to imagine Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was born on Jan. 15, 1923, in the farming community of Sanshi Village, Taihoku Prefecture — now New Taipei City’s Sanzhi District (三芝) — during the Japanese colonial era, and rose to become mayor of Taipei and not only the Republic of China’s (ROC) first Taiwan-born president, but its first directly elected one as well. Educated in the Japanese educational system of the time, Lee, who spoke Japanese, Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Mandarin and English, won a scholarship to Kyoto Imperial University, but his studies were interrupted by World War II. He earned a bachelor’s