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20 July, 2020 COVID-19 Information and Updates

COVID-19 Update: July 20, 2020

COVID-19 Update: July 20, 2020


While there have been certain improvements to the public health situation in some regions, like Europe and China, there has been a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in countries like the United States, Brazil and India. In the US, there are different social distancing recommendations, and other prevention measures in place across the country. States including Florida, California and Texas have reported record numbers of cases. In addition to this, California rolled back the reopening plans due to the increase of cases. In Australia, to manage and maintain quarantine arrangements, the Government agreed to reduce international flight arrivals. There are also interstate travel restrictions in place.


WHO

In a recent media briefing, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom highlighted the fact that the virus shall be a serious concern worldwide: “Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one”, he told from WHO headquarters in Geneva. In addition to this, Dr. Tedros also said that “If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go. It’s going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way. Every single leader, every single government and every single person can do their bit to break chains of transmission and end the collective suffering”. Another concern of the WHO is the rising levels of famine in the poorest countries.
 
Dr. Tedros also indicated that there will not be a return to the ‘old normal’ for the foreseeable future, but there is a roadmap to a scenario where the pandemic is under control and people are able to get on with their lives. In order to face this scenario, there are three issues to consider: (1) reduce mortality and suppress transmission, (2) taking individual behavior measures for the general interest, and (3) strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies, which need to be clearly communicated.
 
While it is too soon to assess the full impact of COVID-19, the report titled The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 estimates that more people may face chronic hunger by the end of this year. A preliminary assessment suggests that COVID-19 may add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world in 2020 depending on the economic growth scenario.
 
On July 9, the WHO announced the initiation of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) in order to evaluate the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OECD

On July 8, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued the Employment Outlook 2020. This report focuses on worker security amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As the effects of the pandemic and its mitigation measures hit OECD economies, millions of people have been unable to go to work, resulting in an exceptional drop, in activity and unprecedented job losses. Some countries reported up to 10 times fewer hours worked, compared with the first months of the 2008 financial crisis. The report also indicates that unemployment rates are expected to remain high in 2021.
 
On July 16, the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a joint report on the agricultural outlook from 2020 to 2029. This report found that prices of most commodities are expected to remain at or below their current levels due to the fact that supply growth is going to outpace demand growth. At the same time, a decrease in disposable incomes in the poorest countries and households is expected to depress demand and could also undermine food security.

China

On July 13, the Beijing Leading Group on COVID-19 Response held its 76th meeting. Beijing’s COVID-19 situation has improved, despite the pandemic is not fully under control and the fact that lowering measures may lead to a resurgence of new cases. The meeting underscored the need to ensure strict compliance with early detection, reporting, quarantine and treatment, and the implementation of all containment measures. In addition to this, the Group also called for efforts to boost the reopening of the economy and achieve normality at a faster pace.

European Union

On July 7, the European Commission (EC) published the Regulation 2020/977, which provides flexibility regarding official controls of organic products due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extensive movement restrictions both in EU and in third countries constitute an unprecedented challenge for Member States to perform controls. Therefore, authorities should be allowed to postpone physical inspections and rely on documentary checks.
 
On July 9, Mr. Mário Centeno, President of the Eurogroup, in the remarks following a Eurogroup videoconference, said that the European Fiscal Board (EFB), the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and Eurogroup ministers support timely and targeted policies to combat the pandemic and to protect economies and societies. However, regarding the next year, “uncertainty remains very high. The policy challenges may change in the coming months and our policy responses may have to adapt. As ministers gear up their budget preparations for next year, there is broad consensus on supportive policies for next year as well”.
 
The EC and the World Bank Group renewed an agreement to strengthen development cooperation, on July 10. This agreement guides the terms under which the Bank Group will use EU funding to implement development projects worldwide. Mr. Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director for Operations, said, “COVID-19 has added a new layer of complexity to the challenges faced by our client countries. Our partnership with the European Commission is now more important than ever as we work together to end extreme poverty, increase shared prosperity, and improve the lives of millions of people around the world”.
 
On July 14, the European Council adopted measures to facilitate and speed up the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. The act provides temporary derogation from the prior environmental risk assessment required in the EU legislation for clinical trials with vaccines.
 
On July 16,  following the first review of the gradual lifting of restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of third countries for which Member States should lift restrictions. This list will continue to be updated every two weeks and includes the following countries as of today: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity.
 
In order to provide information for international travelers desiring to visit EU countries, the web platform Re-open EU was issued on July 16. The interactive map brings up real-time information on the situation concerning the free movement and available means of transport. It also covers public health and safety measures, such as physical distancing or the use of facemasks, as well as other practical information for travelers.

Italy

On July 10, Italy banned the entry of people from 13 countries, including, among others, Bangladesh, Brazil and Chile. Travelers who stayed or transited through any of these countries in the previous 14 days, will not be allowed to enter into the country. Italian residents returning from these countries are asked to self-isolate for two weeks.

Spain 

The prime ministers of Spain and Italy, on July 9, called for the adoption of the European Commission’s €750 billion COVID-19 recovery plan, presenting a united front among two of the EU countries hardest hit by the pandemic and its social and economic consequences.

United Kingdom

According to CNBC, in May, the UK economy rebounded 1.8% due to the easing of lockdown measures. However, the UK economy grew less than expected, as economists had expected a monthly rebound of 5.5%.

India

According to a recent USDA GAIN Report, Mumbai port handled 5% more containers in June, compared to the previous month, demonstrating a slow recovery in trade. However, from April to June, Mumbai port saw a drop in cargo volume of 31%, Tuticorin -14%, Kandla -20%, and Chennai nearly -40%, compared to the same period last year.
 
Regarding food and retail in India, according to a USDA GAIN Report, Pune markets reported low demand due to the closure of hotels and restaurants, despite a steady increase in the demand, which is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels. In Surat, traders and wholesale associations have agreed to restrict their working hours from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm until July 27, to prevent large crowds from gathering at grocery shops. In Cochin, the delivery of essential commodities is being delayed by COVID-19 restrictions, which are forcing drivers to take longer routes to avoid containment zones. According to a local media report, in Kolkata, a strict seven-day lockdown has been imposed in containment zones across the state of West Bengal. Just before the lockdown, residents resorted to panic-buying.

Panama 

According to a recent USDA GAIN Report, the shutdown of economic activities to mitigate the effects of the pandemic has forced the retail food sector to adapt and innovate with e-commerce and delivery platforms. In the short and medium-term, consumers are expected to stay at home more and consequently eat more meals there.

Singapore 

Singapore entered into a technical recession after the economy contracted more than 40% in the second quarter compared to the previous quarter. The economic performance worsened due to the implementation of partial lockdown measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. Compared to the previous year, the Singapore economy contracted by 12.6% in the second quarter, while the forecast was 10.5% drop.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka revised the temporary import controls on June 30, according to a USDA GAIN Report. The new regulation applies mainly on commodities loaded on or after June 30, at the loading port. The regulation is flexible for import of raw materials for local value addition, and export processing, while others are allowed on a restricted basis. Sri Lanka also revised import control regulations at several stages since the start of the pandemic.

Turkey

Turkey maintained dried fruit export volume amid the pandemic. During the first semester of 2020, exports reached $606.5 million, according to the Turkish Exporters' Assembly. The dried fruits sector maintained its export volume to a great extent compared to the same period last year. In April and May, when the COVID-19 measures were stepped up, exports fell gradually, declining to $104.1 million and $74.4 million, respectively. By June, when many countries accelerated the normalization process, the sector increased its exports by 40.7% year-on-year to $89.5 million.

United States

On July 9, a list of additional commodities, including pistachios, have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). From July 13, producers will be able to submit applications. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting applications until August 28. The USDA is expected to announce additional eligible commodities in the coming weeks.
 
The CFAP is intended to provide direct relief to producers of agricultural commodities who faced a 5 percent or greater price decline, or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs. The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers.
 
The US officially notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the WHO on July 7. The withdrawal is expected to take effect on July 6, 2021.

Vietnam

According to a recent USDA GAIN Report, the COVID-19 outbreak hit the retail food sector in the short term. However, the pandemic has offered opportunities for the e-commerce sector. This sector was already experiencing significant annual growth of 30% over the past two years and the estimations are that the market could reach $13 billion by the end of the year. The GDP growth for 2020 is forecasted down to 2.8% due to the negative impacts of the pandemic.
 
 
The information above is a review of actions the INC has compiled from government sources, international organizations and press media. This news article is not intended to be exhaustive and it does not reflect the opinions of the INC. While the publishers believe that all information contained in this publication was correct at the time of publishing, they can accept no liability for any inaccuracies that may appear or loss suffered directly or indirectly by any reader as a result of any advertisement, editorial, photographs or other materials published in this news article.
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