Global coronavirus cases have surged past 2.25million with 154,000 deaths as the US and China push to reopen their economies while Japan‘s health system teeters on the brink of collapse.
Trump announced his three-phase plan to ‘open up America again’ in a press briefing on Thursday, saying it will be done ‘one careful step at a time’.
The US President said: ‘Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agree that we can begin the next front in our war, which we’re calling “opening up America again.”
‘Our approach outlines three phases in restoring our economic life. We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time.’
Meanwhile China’s outbreak has eased and the ruling Communist Party has allowed factories to reopen, but analysts have been cutting growth forecasts as negative trade and other data pile up.
‘I don’t think we will see a real recovery until the fourth quarter or the end of the year,’ said economist Zhu Zhenxin at the Rushi Finance Institute in Beijing.
It comes as the country reported its first GDP contraction since at least the early 1990s after several decades of breakneck growth.
Japan also reported a fresh surge of 556 new cases on Saturday, pushing its total to over 10,000.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concern on Friday that people were not observing social distancing and announced a 100,000-yen cash handout to each resident as an incentive to stay home.
It comes as governments worldwide are wrestling with when and how to lift virus-control measures as unemployment rises.
Mandatory lockdowns to stop the spread of the new virus, which has so far infected more than 2.2 million people and for which there is no vaccine, have brought widespread hardship.
In a joint statement on Saturday, a group of 13 countries including Canada, Brazil, Italy and Germany called for global cooperation to lessen the economic impact of the pandemic.
‘It is vital that we work together to save lives and livelihoods,’ they said.
The group, which also includes Britain, France, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, South Korea, Singapore and Turkey, said it was committed to ‘work with all countries to coordinate on public health, travel, trade, economic and financial measures in order to minimise disruptions and recover stronger’.
The countries emphasised the need to maintain ‘air, land and marine transportation links’ to ensure the continued flow of goods including medical equipment and aid, and the return home of travellers.
Most governments remain cautious, even as the economic toll rises.
Public health experts warn that easing shutdowns must be accompanied by wider testing and tracing of infected people to keep the virus from coming back.
The Trump administration pledged another $19 billion in relief for farmers reeling from a massive jolt to agricultural markets with schools and restaurants shuttered across the country.
Part of the funds will be used to buy up surplus dairy products and produce that farmers have been destroying, unable to get it to consumers or food processors.
‘Having to dump milk and plow under vegetables ready to market is not only financially distressing, but it’s heartbreaking as well to those who produce them,’ Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
African state leaders and global financial bodies warned Friday that the continent needed tens of billions of dollars in additional funds to fight the outbreak.
The IMF also warned the virus could spark another ‘lost decade’ in Latin America and backed debt moratoriums for the region’s fragile economies.
Singapore, which has been held up as a model for other nations after taking strong measures to clamp down on the virus, reported a new daily record of 942 infections on Saturday that saw its total surge to 5,992.
The number of cases in the city-state has more than doubled just this week alone amid an explosion of cases among foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories, that now make up 60% of Singapore’s infections.
Spain reached 20,000 deaths and total infections increased to more than 190,000. The country’s health authorities reported 565 deaths in the last 24 hours.
In Africa, the pandemic is only just getting under way.
The continent now has more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
52 of the continent’s 54 countries have reported the virus, with the total number of cases more than 19,800 as of Saturday morning.
Top leaders of China’s ruling Communist Party called for deficit spending and a more flexible monetary policy after the economy shrank 6.8% in the first three months of the year.
France’s lower house of parliament approved an emergency budget overnight that takes into account the government’s 110 billion euro (£95 billion) plan to save the economy from virus-related collapse.
The government has warned that France’s economy, one of the world’s biggest, could shrink 8% this year and see its worst recession since the Second World War.
South Korea’s Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said on Saturday that new guidelines could be issued soon that officials have said would allow people to engage in ‘certain levels of economic and social activity’.
The East Asian country was among the 13 nations to issue the joint statement on protecting global trade.
The declaration also stressed ‘the importance and critical role of the scientific community in providing guidance to governments,’ and suggested pooling scientific resources and efforts to tackle the pandemic.
The outbreak has killed at least 154,000 people worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally based on figures supplied by government health authorities around the globe.
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