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16 September, 2020 COVID-19 Information and Updates

COVID-19 Update: September 16, 2020

COVID-19 Update: September 16, 2020


Globally, it seems that the number of new infections has slightly decreased, especially in the United States. However, several countries are facing spikes of COVID-19 cases, such as India, Italy and Spain. Many governments are still applying travel restrictions and other strict prevention measures, as worldwide health systems are still struggling to cope with the pandemic.
 
In order to help people return to normality, the United Nations urged G20 countries to agree on a common criteria in the removal of travel restrictions, to invest on safe travel, to boost intergovernmental cooperation, to encourage coordination in preventive measures –specifically in testing and tracing– and the consideration of future vaccines as a global public good, in order to make them affordable and available everywhere, supporting global health, mobility and economic recovery.


WHO

In a recent media briefing, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom advocated in favour of public health as the foundation of social, economic and political stability. According to Dr. Adhanom, a robust public health system constitutes an excellent tool for preventing, detecting and responding to disease. “When the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready. Part of every country’s commitment to build back better must therefore be to invest in public health, as an investment in a healthier and safer future”, he added. In addition to this, Dr. Adhanom gave the example of several countries, including Italy, that reduced the transmission of COVID-19 thanks to hard decisions, together with the engagement of citizens and the sacrifice of health workers.
 
On September 8, the International Health Regulation Review Committee held its first meeting on the functioning of the International Health Regulations (IHR) during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the opening remarks, Dr. Adhanom highlighted the need for global cooperation in order to confront a global threat, and the fact that the pandemic has been a test of global capacities for preparedness and response, as well as for the legal instrument that governs them, the IHR. The WHO expects that the Committee review the functioning of the IHR during the COVID-19 response, including IHR provisions related to the following areas: 1) the convening of the Emergency Committee and its working modalities, and in particular, the binary mechanism for declaring a public health emergency of international concern; 2) the international coordination and collaboration for response, including the role and functioning of national IHR focal points; 3) outbreak alert, verification and risk assessment, information sharing and communication; 4) additional health measures in relation to international travel; 5) implementation and reporting of IHR core capacities, including the possibility of establishing peer review processes for capacity assessments; and 6) examining progress made on the implementation of recommendations from previous IHR review committees. 
 
On September 10, the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia held its 73rd session, a Ministerial Roundtable on COVID-19. Dr. Adhanom highlighted that regional solidarity is strong in South-East Asia, as its countries are confronting the pandemic in an organized manner. The WHO remarked the essential priorities that countries must focus in order to control COVID-19 and reopen their societies, economies and borders: 1) prevent amplifying events through a risk-based, local approach; 2) reduce deaths by protecting essential workers and the most vulnerable groups; 3) empower and educate individuals and communities to protect themselves and others by using physical distancing, hand hygiene, and masks –not in isolation but together; and 4) focus on the public health basics: find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine their contacts.
 
On September 10, Dr. Adhanom and Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, co-hosted the inaugural meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Facilitation Council. The ACT-Accelerator is the global collaboration accelerating the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. A total of US$35 billion is still needed for the ACT-Accelerator to realize its goals of producing 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million tests. Over 170 countries are engaged in the new COVID-19 Vaccine Facility and ten candidate vaccines are under evaluation, nine of them in clinical trials, representing the largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolio in the world.

United Nations

On September 3, the G20 Extraordinary Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held. The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres made the following remarks: “The pandemic has forced unprecedented lockdowns, travel suspensions and limited movement across borders. (…) Furthermore, the adoption of ad hoc measures could create a patchwork of unworkable travel requirements, creating significant obstacles to a global economic recovery.” Therefore, the UN urged the G20: 1) to agree on common objective criteria in the removal of travel restrictions, based on scientific evidence; 2) to invest on systems and practices supporting safe travel, in close coordination with the private sector; 3) to boost coordination in preventive measures, specifically in more systematic use of testing and tracing and other actions to avoid the spread of the disease, and control the potential impacts of increased mobility; 4) to ensure full respect for international human rights and refugee law; and 5) to consider future vaccines as a global public good, and made them affordable and available everywhere, supporting global health, mobility and economic recovery.

IMF

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as economies look for paths to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, new evidence reaffirms that policies for more open and trade-integrated economies could significantly benefit domestic competition and ultimately may help lower costs for consumers in emerging and developing economies. The IMF has issued a working paper on the effect of international trade on corporate market power in emerging market economies and developing countries, with a special focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The paper also states that tariff reductions cause a significant decrease in markups (the difference between the selling price of a good or service and its cost) in the manufacturing sector as it typically faces strong competition from abroad, and overall, sectors with more import penetration have a stronger response to tariff reductions.

Australia

According to a recent USDA GAIN Report, the value of the Australian consumer food service industry is A$59 billion. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the economy recorded 29 years of consecutive economic growth. The Reserve Bank of Australia forecasted a 8% growth fall during the second quarter of 2020. In March, the Australian Government announced the closure of all food and beverage service operators, except for delivery or takeaway services, as well as the prohibition of entering to the country to all non-Australian citizens and residents. As a consequence, these measures affected significantly the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional sector. Despite the fact that the demand for takeaway services has risen, the sector loss revenue because of the closure of restaurants and bars. However, rising unemployment rates may decline household discretionary purchases, such as takeaway food. In addition to this, IBISWorld has estimated a revenue loss of 25% for Australian restaurants this year.
 
The Government of Queensland applies border restrictions for agribusiness and food manufacturing industries, in order to limit people coming into Queensland from a COVID-19 hotspot. People who have been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days will only be able to enter if they are returning Queensland residents or under an exemption for essential activities. A class exemption started on August 22, for one month for farmers and agribusiness workers who need to move between Queensland and New South Wales to perform essential agribusiness services or farming activities.

Chile

Chile increased prevention measures due to a spike of new cases, including more health controls in Santiago during national holidays (September 17-19). Physical distancing and the use of face masks are mandatory in areas where social gatherings may occur.

China

On September 2, the Beijing Leading Group on Epidemic Control of COVID-19 held its 83rd meeting and the 40th meeting of the inter-agency mechanism for strict entry management.
 
Authorities, companies and individuals are required to continue implementing hygienic measures, report possible infections, and, if necessary, follow quarantine and treatment. China is committed to continue with prevention and control measures in autumn and winter, and to coordinate efforts both in containing COVID-19 and in promoting social and economic development.
 
During the meeting, the importance of resuming direct international flights to Beijing was highlighted. Consequently, the Civil Aviation Administration of China announced the gradual reopening of Beijing airport to direct international passenger flights from September 3, under strict control measures. Since March 23, all international passenger flights entering Beijing had been diverted to designated first points of entry, and only passengers who passed quarantine inspection could fly to Beijing on the original flight.
 
On September 2, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region opened all outdoor tourist sites. This area has controlled the spread of the disease and consequently restarted inter-provincial travel. Nonetheless, tourist sites, travel agencies and relevant enterprises are required to strictly follow prevention and control measures in order to re-open in a safe and orderly way.
 
As of September 15, China applies new COVID-19 testing rules for US travelers. Passengers traveling from the US, and those transiting in any country that the Chinese Government has listed as requiring the screening, must have negative COVID-19 results from a test done within three days of boarding at the last layover destination.

EU

On September 11, the European Council approved €6.2 billion budget increase for 2020, to address the impact of the pandemic, as well as the funding of the vaccine strategy. The revised budget increases payments for the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) by €1.09 billion in order to ensure the development and deployment of a vaccine. The European Commission will use this money as a down-payment for pre-ordering vaccine doses. The new budget also increases payments by €5.1 billion for the Corona Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the Corona Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+). 
 
The European Commission has proposed more clarity and predictability of any measures restricting free movement in the EU. The Commission's proposal sets out four key areas where Member States should work closer together: 1) Common criteria and thresholds for Member States when deciding whether to introduce travel restrictions; 2) Mapping of common criteria using an agreed color code; 3) A common framework for measures applied to travelers from high-risk areas; 4) Clear and timely information to the public about any restrictions.
 
On September 8, during the Brussels Economic Forum, European Council president, Charles Michel, highlighted the fact that fiscal rules shall give Member States the capacity to act in hard times: “As we implement our recovery plan, every euro must be used thoughtfully and efficiently. Europe's recovery plan is not a three- or seven-year strategy. It's a thirty-year strategy. Our prosperity will be founded on democratic and human values. And for this to work, we need trust.” 
 
The European Council agreed its position on temporary derogations in support of the rail sector, to mitigate the severe effects of the pandemic on the sector. The Council agreed on September 9 on a proposal to give Member States the possibility to help the sector by providing relief from certain infrastructure charges for rail companies, while ensuring a timely refund for infrastructure providers.

Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned about the increasing infection risk of the coming months, and called on people to continue adopting prevention measures. In addition to this, Germany promised an investment of €4 billion in public health centers, as well as the creation of new healthcare jobs.

Italy

In the beginning of September, COVID-19 cases spike in Italy. The country had dramatically reduced the number of cases with strict lockdown measures. However, during the reopening of businesses and tourist activities, there was a resurgence of new cases. The schools reopened on September 14, representing an immediate challenge.
 
Amid the spike of new cases, Norway added Italy and Slovenia to COVID-19 quarantine list, imposing a 10-day quarantine to all people arriving from these countries as of September 5. Norway quarantines travelers from countries with more than 20 confirmed new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In addition to this, Norwegians are advised against traveling to those destinations.

Spain

Spain recorded a record-high rise in COVID-19 cases during the second week of September, and registered its highest cumulative incidence since the start of the pandemic (238.94 cases per 100,000 inhabitants).
 
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Spain has the highest incidence in Western Europe and almost double that of France, which is second on the list. As for schools reopening, the Director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts said that it was a “challenge for all,” and admitted that some of the 28,000 education centers in the country may have to close due to coronavirus outbreaks.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom suffered a spike of COVID-19 cases in early September. For this reason, from September 14, social gatherings for more than six people are banned. However, there are exceptions of this rule, as it is not applicable to workplaces, schools or organized team sports, among others. The rule replaces the ban on participating in gatherings of more than 30 and the previous guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors.

India

On September 7, India took 2nd place in COVID-19 cases worldwide, surpassing Brazil, which is now the third worst-affected country in the world after the US. India has been reopening public spaces in order to help the economy recovery. The disease entered the vast rural areas of the country, where 70% of its population live, but healthcare infrastructure is under resourced.
 
Between April and June, when India was under strict lockdown measures, its GDP shrank by 24% compared to the same period last year.

South Korea

Recent clusters of infections in religious gatherings, offices and medical facilities in the Seoul metropolitan area concern the authorities in South Korea. According to Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, “It would be right to lift the restrictions, considering the sacrifices the people are making, but we’re as much worried if any hasty easing would lead to a re-spread of the virus and cause even greater pain for the public.”

Turkey

On September 8, the Turkish Interior Ministry issued a notice to the public regarding new COVID-19 restrictions/guidance: 1) Face masks must be worn in public (streets, gardens, workplaces, etc.) at all times in all 81 provinces of Turkey; 2) Standing passengers will not be allowed in urban public transportation vehicles where physical distance rules cannot be applied; and 3) Live music at restaurants and cafes after midnight is forbidden.

United States

COVID-19 new cases in the United States fell during the second week of September, and the number of deaths decreased for the fourth consecutive week. However, there is a resurgence of cases in certain states such as Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wisconsin, among others.
 
Several schools already have temporarily shut down again after COVID-19 outbreaks this school year. Others, including some universities, have managed to keep their cases low after testing every student returning to school.
 
The US Government is planning to end enhanced screening of international passengers for COVID-19, and lower requirements for travelers coming from pandemic hotspots.
 
 
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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