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28 October, 2020 COVID-19 Information and Updates

COVID-19 Update: October 28, 2020

COVID-19 Update: October 28, 2020


Global COVID-19 cases recently surpassed 40 million, according to a Johns Hopkins University account. The worst affected countries are the United States, India and Brazil. Several nations in Europe, such as Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom imposed new restrictions as COVID-19 cases soar. However, limitations in Australia, South Korea and Singapore are expected to be gradually lifted because the number of new infections is decreasing. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the fact that new contagions are accelerating, especially in Europe and North America, as the northern hemisphere enters winter. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report which highlights the shifting risks of the agricultural landscape, including the economy-wide effects of external shocks such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued new regional economic outlooks for Western Hemisphere, Europe and Asia and Pacific, highlighting the economic and social effects of the pandemic in the aforementioned regions.


WHO

On October 22, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Wikimedia Foundation announced a collaboration to expand the public’s access to the latest and most reliable information regarding COVID-19. This collaboration is aimed at making trusted public health information available under freely-licensed resources when countries face resurgences of COVID-19 and social stability increasingly depends on the public’s shared understanding of the facts. Through the collaboration, people will be able to access and share WHO infographics, videos, and other public health assets on Wikimedia Commons, a digital library of free images and other multimedia. Since the beginning of the pandemic, WHO has taken steps to prevent an “infodemic”, which is defined as “an overabundance of information and the rapid spread of misleading or fabricated news, images, and videos”.
 
WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom highlighted the fact that new contagions are accelerating, as the northern hemisphere enters winter, especially in Europe and North America. “The number of people needing beds in hospitals and intensive care also increases (…) the virus has shown that when we let our guard down, it can surge back at breakneck speed and threaten hospitals and health systems” Dr. Adhanom stated. He also explained that over 180 countries joined COVAX, which represents the largest portfolio for potential COVID-19 vaccines and an effective way to share vaccines equitably across the world.
 
More recently, on October 23, Dr. Adhanom warned about the fact that the northern hemisphere is in a critical juncture and alerted that the next few months are expected to be tough. He urged leaders to take immediate action to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again.

IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued the new Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere, which projects a GDP contraction of 8.1% in 2020. Unlike in previous recessions, employment contracted more strongly than GDP in the second quarter of 2020, 20% on average for the five largest countries, and up to 40% in Peru. More people working in activities that require close physical proximity, and less teleworking have contributed to Latin America and Caribbean strong slowdown.
 
The IMF also issued the Regional Economic Outlook: Europe, which emphasizes the severe social and economic impact in Europe. Real GDP fell by about 40% in the second quarter (annualized quarter-over-quarter), with deeper contraction in advanced Europe, where the virus spread first, relative to emerging Europe. However, the report also indicates that the pandemic’s toll on Europe could have been much worse without the strong response to the crisis, which included fiscal packages, job retention programs, as well as monetary easing, among other measures.

The October 2020 Asia and Pacific Regional Economic Outlook highlights negative economic growth, at -2.2% in 2020. However, the IMF points out the region’s response to the pandemic with three lessons for the rest of the world: 1) early public health response to flatter the virus curve, 2) relaxing containment measures only after the virus has been suppressed, and with appropriate complementary policies, such as testing and contact tracing capacity, and 3) fiscal support to reduce the economic costs and stimulate recovery.

WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a report stating that global trade in services during the second quarter of 2020 dropped by 30% year-on-year, originated by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions. The tourism sector was particularly hard hit, with international travelers’ expenditure down 81% and transport down 31%. These two sectors make up 43% of global services trade. 

OECD

The report ‘Strengthening Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Multiple Risks’, published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), highlights the new sources of risk producers are increasingly confronting, including climate change, unanticipated changes in policy, or the economy-wide effects of external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to confront the multiple risks, a disciplined application of a holistic risk management strategy is required –specifically, taking decisions from a more proactive resilience perspective.
 
The OECD advocates for an agricultural risk management approach based on resilience (the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt and transform in response to adverse events) which emphasizes the importance of planning and prevention, while also ensuring that farming systems are flexible enough to respond to future uncertainty. The OECD approach also stresses the importance of considering systems and not just individuals, which means taking into account the impacts that the risk management strategies of individual farmers have on the resilience of the food system as a whole.

Australia

By the end of October, it is expected that Melbourne will be emerging from strict lockdown after Victoria state reported no new cases and no new deaths because of the pandemic for the first time in more than four months. The state had suffered a dramatic spike of new COVID-19 cases, peaking in August when hundreds of cases were daily reported. The decline in new cases has allowed the lifting of major social distancing measures that have been in place for weeks. However, some restrictions, including a limit on travel and an internal border between Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne, will remain in place until November 8. 

China

China imposed lockdown measures in the prefecture of Kashgar in the far western region of Xinjiang, because new infections were reported. In addition to this, the Government is expected to test nearly 5 million people in the region. The testing already performed identified more than 100 additional cases. The country’s approach at containing the spread of the pandemic includes drastic measures, such as strict lockdowns, extensive contact tracing and mass testing. In early October, the eastern port city of Qingdao tested more than 10 million people in just four days.
 
Hong Kong completed preparatory work on a “health code” that will be necessary for cross-border travel between mainland China and Macau. The next step is the discussion of its timeline and conditions.

EU

On October 23, the European Council adopted conclusions calling on the European Commission to create a pandemic and other major crisis contingency plan for the European freight transport sector. In addition to this, the European Council encourages the Commission to extend the contingency plan to passenger transport and transport in general, including EU-level coordination measures and clear guidelines.
 
The contingency plan should cover at least the following aspects: 1) maintaining cross-border freight transport operations along the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) corridors and other essential cross-border connections, as well as related ancillary services supporting the operation of that network, 2) ensuring free movement of transport workers while safeguarding the protection of their health and safety, 3) preparing guidelines and best-practice toolboxes in order to strengthen the sector's resilience, 4) setting up a coherent regulatory framework as regards exemptions to be applied when pandemics and other major crisis situations arise.
 
In addition, the European Council reviewed the list of third countries for which restrictions should be lifted. Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, as from October 22, Member States should gradually lift the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Uruguay and China –subject to confirmation of reciprocity. Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for Hong Kong and Macau. This list will continue to be reviewed regularly and updated, if necessary. In addition to this, Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) also take part in this recommendation.
 
On October 21, EU Member States’ ambassadors agreed to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the EU4Health program (2021-2027). This program is a strong response to the pandemic, but also maintains a focus on long-term EU actions in the health field. It aims to improve public health in the EU and make the Union better prepared to cope with future health crises.
 
The EU4Health program aims to complement national policies and to promote coordination between them, in order to improve human health by: 1) protecting people in the Union from serious cross-border threats to health, 2) improving availability of health products and crisis relevant products, 3) strengthening the resilience and sustainability of health systems, 4) increasing the use of digital tools and services in the health area, and 5) strengthening the role of the EU in global health. 

Belgium

The number of new COVID-19 cases is growing, and the country is expected to tighten restrictive measures aimed to contain the spread of the pandemic. Some of the measures include enforcing working from home for most employees, imposing a nighttime curfew, reduce the opening hours of bars and restaurants, and limiting social interaction to two people outside their homes. 

France

France imposed a curfew from 9:00 pm until 6:00 am, which affects nearly 46 million people across the country. Initially, the curfew was imposed to Paris and its suburbs, but it has been extended to a total of 54 departments. This measure aims to contain the spread of the virus when France surpassed 1 million COVID-19 cases. 

Germany

The number of new COVID-19 infections hit a new record high, as the country’s death toll passed 10,000 on October 24. The Government warned of a national lockdown, and advised citizens to reduce social contact to an absolute minimum in order to reduce the scope of the pandemic in the country. Local and regional authorities are allowed to impose their own rules, which may include travel restrictions, curfews for restaurants and bars, as well as tighter limits on social gatherings. Berlin implemented new restrictions such as wearing face masks in markets.

Italy

Italy imposed new restrictions in order to curb down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures include wearing face coverings outdoors, a curfew on restaurants and bars from 6 pm, and shutting down gyms, pools and cinemas, among others. However, restaurants and cafes are able to serve takeout and delivery orders until midnight. The government promised financial aid to the food sector by November. 

Spain

Spain declared a national state of emergency on October 25, and imposed a curfew from 11 pm until 6 am. In addition to this, different Spanish regions are able to add up to an hour of flexibility if they want to modify the duration of the night curfew. Regional governments may also ban movement between districts, depending on public health needs. The state of emergency as well as other restrictions imposed may be extended for up to six months.

United Kingdom

Several regions across the UK imposed stricter restrictions, such as Nottinghamshire, Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Warrington. The aforementioned regions moved into the top tier of COVID-19 restrictions: gatherings of more than six people are not allowed, no household mixing indoors or outdoors is allowed, pubs and bars without serving meals will be closed, and there is guidance against traveling in and out of the area.
 
Due to a rise of new COVID-19 infections, UK authorities are likely to tighten restrictions on more regions across the country. Scotland and Northern Ireland established their own public health rules, and Wales introduced a 17-day lockdown for all its inhabitants, until November 9.

India

Festival celebrations in India such as Diwali, which will be celebrated by mid-November, and other major religious celebrations approaching are feared as a possible cause of a COVID-19 surge.
 
According to a recent USDA GAIN report, a growing container shortage has been reported in Mumbai, derailing exporters plans to take advantage of a recovery in export demand. Some of the factors involved in this shortage are sailing cancelations, the failure of shippers to return containers in a timely manner, and a steady decline in imports. Shortages have resulted in a 20-40% increase in freight rates. Chennai port introduced new measures aimed to improve port operations, such as the reduction of certain fees and charges, a new food inspection laboratory, direct port delivery, and the construction of a new road. Mundra and Mangalore ports report normal port operations. However, in Tuticorin, truck movement is slow due to a shortage of drivers.
 
The most recent update of the weekly port situation in India indicates that port operations are running normally in Mundra and Mangalore. There is no sufficient availability of containers in Mumbai. Truck movement is slow in Tuticorin and Kandla, which also experiences a lack of labor availability.
 
New Delhi is seeing a price hike in multiple vegetable products, due to heavy rains which slowed down the arrival of supplies, according to a recent USDA GAIN report. In addition to this, in Visakhapatnam edible oil prices have increased by 30% due to higher demand. 

Malaysia

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the Malaysian hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) sector, according to a recent USDA GAIN report. Before the pandemic, Malaysia’s HRI industry was one of the fastest growing sectors in the country’s economy. However, because of the travel restrictions, the sector has experienced a major drop in business with national hotel occupancy rates of 12-20% in July. Malaysian HRI industry is highly dependent on tourism. However, due to social distancing measures imposed across the country, food delivery services have increased dramatically in urban areas. 

Peru

Peru, as many other countries, have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent USDA GAIN report, the country experienced a quarantine of almost five months, but most sectors have progressively resumed activities. A negative GDP growth is expected for the current year, in addition to increasing unemployment rates, linked with a decrease in household consumption.

Singapore

Singapore is planning to ease some of the COVID-19 mitigation measures, including the increase of gatherings of people from five to eight, as well as permitting weddings, religious and business events before the end of the year. The Government announced the road map towards Singapore’s final phase of reopening.

South Korea

The country started easing restrictions as the spread of the COVID-19 declined. As a consequence, the Government relieved certain social distancing-related restrictions, stadiums opened again to the public and sanctuaries resumed in-person services. However, this week, South Korea reported double digit-increase in new cases due to small clusters of infections in Seoul and its surrounding province, as well as imported cases. Since January, the country has tested more than 2.5 million people. 

Thailand

According to a USDA GAIN report, the food service sector in Thailand accounts for about 13% of the country’s GDP. The pandemic caused a severe contraction in the sector, due to lockdown measures as well as international travel restrictions. Restaurant sales revenue dropped severely during the first half of 2020. According to the Thai Restaurant Business Association, approximately 10 or 15% of restaurant business operators are expected to shut down by the end of the year. However, food delivery services were exempted from the lockdown and continued providing food, experiencing a rapid growth in business.

United States

On October 23, the US reported the highest number of COVID-19 infections in one day, more than 80,000 since the pandemic started. The number of hospitalized people across the country increased by 33% since the beginning of October. More than 30 states are having upticks of new cases. As the pandemic continues to spread, some states have imposed domestic travel restrictions. For example, the State of New York requires travelers from high-risk areas to self-quarantine for 14 days and to fill out health forms.
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a fourth round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The budget for this round is $500 million, and it is expected to deliver food boxes based on the internal needs of each state, from November 1 until December 31. The third round has delivered more than $2.981 billion worth of food to date.

Vietnam

The food service sector in Vietnam has suffered a negative impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a USDA GAIN report. For 2020, the World Bank forecasts a 2.8% GDP decrease due to the impact of the pandemic. In addition to this, the Government of Vietnam lowered its 2020 GDP growth target from 6.8% to 2.5%, in the most favorable scenario. However, the country is expected to recover fast from the outbreak, as the World Bank forecasts that the country’s GDP growth for the next year could be of 6.7%.
 
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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