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14 October, 2020 COVID-19 Information and Updates

COVID-19 Update: October 14, 2020

COVID-19 Update: October 14, 2020


Several countries such as China, France, India, South Korea, Spain or the United States are reporting an increase of new COVID-19 cases. According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the pandemic could kill more than 2 million people by the end of the year. The death toll is accelerating because of the high infection rate of the virus and the fact that control measures are not sufficiently coordinated and systematic. In addition to this, the Northern Hemisphere could see a spike in cases as winter and flu seasons are approaching. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued the World Economic Outlook, which shows that lockdowns contributed considerably to the economic recession and had disproportional effects on vulnerable groups. The World Trade Organization (WTO) reduced the size of global trade contraction in 2020, as lockdowns ease and economies reopen.


WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) issued a joint statement on the impact of COVID-19 on people’s livelihoods, their health and food systems. The statement stressed the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating, due to the fact that tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, and the number of undernourished people could double by the end of the year. Furthermore, nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods. 
 
The pandemic affects the entire food system. Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing markets, including for buying inputs and selling their produce, and agricultural workers from harvesting crops, thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets. The pandemic has decimated jobs and placed millions of livelihoods at risk. 
 
In the COVID-19 crisis, several issues such as food security, public health, and employment and labor issues, in particular workers’ health and safety, converge. Immediate and purposeful action to save lives and livelihoods should include extending social protection towards universal health coverage and income support for those most affected.
 
The statement also advocates for global solidarity and support, especially with the most vulnerable, particularly in the emerging and developing world, and for the need to develop long-term sustainable strategies to address the challenges of health and agri-food sectors. The priority should be also to address food security and malnutrition challenges.

IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued the World Economic Outlook, which shows that lockdowns contributed considerably to the recession and had disproportional effects on vulnerable groups. However, the recession has been also largely driven by people who voluntarily refrain from social interactions because they fear contracting the virus. Therefore, lifting lockdowns may not lead to an economic boost if infection rates are high, due to the fact that people may voluntarily adhere to social distancing measures.
 
The analysis concludes that lockdowns impose short-term costs but may lead to a faster economic recovery as they lower infections and thus the extent of voluntary social distancing. However, the effectiveness of lockdowns in reducing infections is linked to the evolution of the epidemic itself: If lockdown measures are taken early, they may lead to a faster economic recovery by containing the virus and reducing voluntary social distancing. The analysis also finds that the health crisis has disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable groups.
 
Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director, stressed that the IMF has projected a severe global GDP contraction in 2020, as well as a long, uncertain partial and uneven recovery in 2021. It is estimated that global public debt will reach a record-high of about 100 percent of GDP in 2020. For almost all countries, the pandemic represents a setback to the improvement of living standards in the medium term. In order to confront the crisis and push for transformations, Georgieva listed the IMF immediate priorities: 1) defend people’s health, 2) avoid premature withdrawal of policy support, 3) flexible and forward-leaning fiscal policy, and 4) deal with debt, especially in low-income countries.

WTO

On October 6, the World Trade Organization revised the Annual Trade Outlook 2020, first published in April and updated in June, which now forecasts a 9.2% decline in the volume of world merchandise trade for the current year. In 2021, it is expected to rise by  7.2%, which is a figure well below the pre-pandemic trend. The new projected decline is lower than the 12.9% drop foreseen previously in April. These forecasts are subject to an unusually high degree of uncertainty; they depend on the evolution of the pandemic as well as the different responses by governments worldwide.
 
In addition to this, WTO also estimates that global GDP is predicted to fall by 4.8% in 2020, but it is expected to rise by 4.9% in 2021. The trade decline in Asia is expected at 4.5% for exports and 4.4% for imports in the current year, which is smaller than in other regions. However, downside risks will still predominate, especially if there is a resurgence of global COVID-19 cases in the coming months.

Australia

On October 9, for the first time in three months, Australia recorded a second straight day without a COVID-19 related death. Victoria, the country’s second most populous state, which represents the epicenter of Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak, reported less than 200 active infections.
 
Because of the reduced risk of COVID-19 transmission in Northern New South Wales, Queensland Government eliminated the Queensland border zone. From October 1, Queensland residents can travel anywhere in the NSW border zone for any purpose. In addition to this, NSW border zone residents can travel anywhere in Queensland for any purpose.
 
Queensland Government has announced a new $1.1 million funding package to get more seasonal workers onto farms. The package includes a pilot ‘Back to work in Agriculture Incentive Scheme’, a #pickQld Campaign and a Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network support. Growcom, the institution that represents Queensland’s fruit, vegetable and nut growers, published some recommendations on finding seasonal workers amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which impacted negatively the sector.

China

China has announced massive COVID-19 testing, to nearly 9 million people, in the eastern city of Qingdao, following an outbreak at a city’s hospital. This announcement comes after two months without any community transmission and most cases imported from people traveling into the country.
 
Some media outlets point out that a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in Hong Kong may be possible, due to a combination of factors, such as untraceable cases, sick travelers slipping checks, as well as the looming flu season.

EU

The Eurogroup published its work program until June 2021, with a focus on several priority policy areas to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis: 1) Economic and fiscal policies to support recovery and long-term growth, 2) Strengthening the Banking Union, 3) The euro as a digital currency, 4) Carefully monitoring the potential opportunities and advantages, but also the risks of an enhanced international role of the euro, and 5) Strengthening the connection with European citizens and increasing their sense of ownership of the euro and of the Economic and Monetary Union.
 
As for the circulation of goods, taking into account that the difficulties to perform official controls and other official activities will persist, the EC has decided to extend, for the third time, the use of electronic documentation until February 1, 2021, through the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1341 of September 28, 2020, which prolongs the period of application of Regulation (EU) 2020/466 of 30 March 2020.
 
On October 9, Member States' EU ambassadors agreed to the European Council position on the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is the centerpiece of the Next Generation EU recovery instrument designed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the green and digital transitions challenges. This initiative is expected to support with €672.5 billion of public investments and reforms, and to contribute to economic, social and territorial cohesion within the EU.
 
The European Council has adopted conclusions on strengthening minimum income protection in the EU, inviting the Member States and the Commission to work together to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, which highlights the principle that everyone lacking sufficient resources has the right to adequate minimum income benefits ensuring dignity at all stages of life. The Council has also adopted conclusions on improving the working and living conditions of seasonal and other mobile workers. Furthermore, the Council approved a recommendation to coordinate measures affecting free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, intending to avoid fragmentation and disruption, and increasing transparency and predictability for citizens and businesses.

Belgium

Brussels has closed cafes and bars for a month until November 8. In addition to this, the country is expected to return to a full lockdown, because new infections and hospital admissions are rising again. In order to mitigate the risk of new infections, the Belgian Government has tightened national measures, including the limitation of public or private gatherings to four people, the closure of bars at 11 pm, as well as the strong recommendation of working from home several days a week, among other limitations.

France

France announced new COVID-19 related restrictions on October 8, as the number of new cases increased significantly. Paris and Marseille, among other territories, have been put at maximum alert in recent weeks, which includes the closure of bars and cafes. France’s health minister urged people to help fight the virus by wearing face masks and keeping social distancing.

Germany

In Germany, the number of new infections is gradually rising, and the German disease control agency has warned that the country could see up to 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per day if hygienic and social distancing measures are not strictly followed. Health Minister has urged people to follow COVID-19 prevention measures, and played down the possibility of imposing national lockdowns, stating that regional measures are preferred. Health authorities have also urged people not to travel to and from regions with more than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Italy

The Italian Government offers soft loans, export credit support, passive minority stake investment as well as consulting and other assistance to national companies, especially SMEs, in order to help them to internationalize. Simest, a state-controlled company within the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Group, has received requests totaling €3 billion for loans. In addition to this, the Italian Government pumped €100 billion in stimulus to the economy, and part of these funds went to Simest.
 
Due to a resurgence of cases in Belgium, Italy requires travelers from this country to get tested for COVID-19 before entering to the country. Travelers from the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK are also required to provide COVID-19 negative testing results. Italy also strengthened certain prevention measures, for instance, it is mandatory to wear face masks outdoors.

Spain

A recent USDA GAIN Report assessed the impact of the COVID-19 on the Spanish Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional (HRI) sector. Spain received more than 72% fewer tourists during the first seven months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. The country spent seven weeks of strict confinement and restaurants and other hospitality venues were closed. After that, only the limit capacity is allowed. The hospitality sector estimates that nearly 40,000 businesses have already closed and, under the current scenario, about 65,000 establishments could close by the end of the year. During the strictest confinement period, more than two million new customers used food delivery services.
 
Due to a rise in the number of new cases, the Government declared the State of Emergency in Madrid. There are movement restrictions and people are only allowed to travel for work, school or an emergency.

United Kingdom

A recent USDA GAIN Report gives an overview of the UK food service sector. The COVID-19 impacted both the UK economy and the hospitality industry, which in 2019 was estimated to be worth $71 billion USD. Pubs and restaurants were closed for more than three months, but were allowed to open for takeaway or delivery service. The Government issued the “Eat Out to Help Out Scheme” which ran from Monday to Wednesdays in August and allowed customers 50% off their dine in meal up to £10.00 ($13.00) per person. The initiative was a resounding success which raised bookings 216% compared to the same day in 2019.
 
Further restrictions have been applied. Since September 14, there is a limitation of six people allowed to meet, and since September 24, restaurants, pubs and bars have to close by 10 pm.

India

The port situation in India, according to a recent USDA GAIN Report, is generally improving. In Mumbai, cargo truck and laborer availability is rising as lockdown restrictions gradually decline. Mundra port is expected to introduce a new train access charge of approx. USD $103 from November 1. In Mangalore, minor disruptions have been reported. Due to adverse weather conditions, over 175 fishing boards anchored suddenly at the port. Kolkata port is accelerating its efforts in order to digitalize port operations. By doing so, port authorities expect to ensure greater accountability and reduce delays and logistical costs.
 
In Mumbai, in September, the port handled 95% of the cargo carried during the same month last year. Several initiatives such as direct port entry, internal terminal rail handling, and the installation of scanners among others, are expected to make the port much more efficient as cargo volumes recover pre-pandemic levels. Cargo volume drops during the period of April-September, compared to the same period last year, were the following: Kandla cargo volume dropped 13%, Chennai 26% drop, Mangalore 7% drop, Kolkata 19% drop and Cochin cargo volume dropped 24%.
 
The food service sector in India has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19. According to a new USDA GAIN Report, some of the challenges faced by the sector are: 1) falling occupancy rates, 2) limited restaurant operations, 3) travel cancellations, and 4) decline in social gatherings, among others. However, it is expected that the sector will begin to recover next year.
 
According to the latest Weekly Food Retail Update, the situation of the food and retail sector in India is the following: in the State of Assam vegetable prices are soaring, due to supply disruptions caused by rains and floods in the major growing areas. The intervention of authorities is expected in order to control the price hikes. Koyambedu Market, the primary produce and grain market in Chennai, has been partially reopened after being closed for five months. The market applies strict social distancing, hygienic and testing measures. In Pune, vegetable and fruit market vendors have to be screened. In addition to screenings, there are strict social distancing and monitoring measures to control the spread of the epidemic. 

Singapore

The hotel, restaurant and institutional sector in Singapore is traditionally fueled by both consumer spending and tourism. However, the COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent movement restrictions caused a major drop in business, according to a recent USDA GAIN Report.
 
Singapore announced that is considering more “air travel bubbles” with countries deemed to be safe. To avoid a 14-day quarantine, travelers from Hong Kong, for instance, would be asked to stick to a controlled itinerary.

South Korea

South Korea reported a rising number of new COVID-19 infections during the first week of October, according to The Associated Press. Nearly all the confirmed cases were in the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been suffering a resurgence of infections since mid-August.

United States

Half of US states reported rises in the number of new COVID-19 infections. Some states announced further measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. Wisconsin is now limiting public gatherings to 25% of the total occupancy of a room or a building. In Kentucky, wearing face masks is mandatory, as the state is suffering a major escalation of COVID-19 cases. There are clusters of new cases in New York, and schools and essential businesses are obliged to close. These announcements may represent a first sign of tightening restrictions across the US as a challenging season is approaching.
 
In addition to this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast that the total death toll related to COVID-19 may rise to 233,000 people by the end of October. COVID-19 has become the third leading cause of death in the US, after heart disease and cancer.
 
 
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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