March 20: The world’s richest nations poured unprecedented aid into the global economy on Thursday as coronavirus cases ballooned in the new epicentre Europe, with the number of deaths in Italy outstripping those in mainland China, where the virus originated, according to a news report published by Reuters.
With over 242,000 infections and nearly 10,000 deaths, the epidemic has stunned the world and drawn comparisons with painful periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu, the news agency further reported.
UN chief Antonio Guterres has reportedly warned that a global recession is a near certainty.
“This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies,” Reuters quoted Guterres as telling reporters in a video conference, adding, “We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.”
According to Reuters, tourism and airlines have been particularly battered, as the world’s citizens hunker down to minimize contact and curb the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness. But few sectors have been spared by a crisis threatening a lengthy global recession.
The United States has reportedly urged the Americans not to travel abroad at all.
Markets have suffered routs unseen since the 2008 financial debacle, with investors rushing to the US dollar as a safe haven.
Policymakers in the United States, Europe and Asia have slashed interest rates and opened liquidity taps to try to stabilise economies hit by quarantined consumers, broken supply chains, disrupted transport and paralysed businesses, according to Reuters.
The virus, thought to have originated from wildlife in Wuhan of mainland China late last year, has jumped to 172 other nations and territories.
“Cases in Germany, Iran and Spain rose to more than 12,000 each. An official in Tehran tweeted that the coronavirus was killing one person every 10 minutes,” the news agency further said.
Italian soldiers transported corpses from an overwhelmed cemetery in Europe’s worst-hit nation where 3,405 people have died, more than in mainland China.
Supermarkets in many countries were besieged with shoppers stocking up on food staples and hygiene products. Some rationed sales and fixed special hours for the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to severe illness, according to Reuters.
Amid the gloom, China provided a ray of hope as it reported zero new local transmissions of the virus, a sign of success for its draconian containment policies since January. Imported cases accounted for all 34 new infections in China.
“China was to unleash trillions of yuan of fiscal stimulus and South Korea pledged 50 trillion won ($39 billion). With some economists fearing prolonged pain akin to the 1930s Great Depression and others anticipating a bounceback, gloomy data and forecasts abounded.”