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.
Malaysian authorities have advised women to wear makeup, not to nag their husbands and speak with a cartoon character’s soothing voice during the virus lockdown, sparking a flood of mockery online. Like many countries, Malaysia has ordered all citizens to stay at home to stem the spread of COVID-19, which, as of yesterday, had killed at least 39,070 people globally. In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, the Malaysian Ministry of Women and Family Development issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18. One of the campaign posters depicted
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
HELPING HAND: Taiwan is ready to help other nations and will not sit idly by while the global fight against the coronavirus continues, President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan, as a responsible member of the international community, is to offer humanitarian assistance to nations hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic by sending them masks and medicine, as well as sharing with them an electronic system that the government has been using to track down people that need to be quarantined, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday. With the nation’s daily production having reached 13 million masks and soon to reach 15 million, the government is to donate 10 million masks to medical personnel in nations most severely affected by the coronavirus, Tsai said at the Presidential Office in Taipei. The