Spotlight: Gov'ts, int'l organizations move to mitigate economic impact amid rising COVID-19 cases

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-04 17:57:33|Editor: huaxia

Photo taken on March 3, 2020 shows the almost-empty shelves of pasta at a supermarket in London, Britain. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday set out the government's action plan to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the number of infections reached 51 across the country. (Xinhua)

11,480 cases have been confirmed in 73 countries outside China, with 177 deaths as of 1500 GMT on Tuesday, according to WHO.

The officials from the Group of Seven said in a joint statement that they "are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy during this phase."

BEIJING, March 4 (Xinhua) -- As more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and fatalities from this contagious disease have been reported worldwide, many countries and international organizations are taking actions to mitigate the virus' potential impact on economic growth.


MORE CONFIRMED CASES

Chile, Argentine, Ukraine and Andorra joined the list of countries reporting their first cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The case in Chile involves a 33-year-old man in the city of Talca in central Chile's Maule region who recently traveled extensively through Asia and returned via Europe. The report came a day after the country announced it would send experts to China to learn from its anti-virus experience.

All of the cases in the other three countries were linked to travel to Italy.

People line up to buy face masks in front of a department store in Seoul, South Korea, March 3, 2020, the last day for the store to sell face masks, with each person allowed to buy a maximum of five pieces. (Xinhua/Wang Jingqiang)

Among some of the worst-hit countries, South Korea confirmed 851 more cases on Tuesday, raising the total number to 5,186 with 31 deaths.

The country has raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest level, and designated Daegu, the epicenter of the viral spread in the country, and its neighboring county to the south, Cheongdo, as "special care zones."

Japan reported six more infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 986 and the death toll to 12, with 706 confirmed cases linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was previously quarantined near Tokyo.

Iran has confirmed 2,336 cases with 77 deaths as of Tuesday. The country's Emergency Center said the center's chief Pir Hossein Kolivand has been infected with COVID-19.

Italy reported a total of 2,036 confirmed cases on Tuesday and 52 deaths. Several towns in the country's most-infected Lombardy and Veneto regions have been locked down. Public gatherings have been banned, and schools and universities are closed.

Within Europe, France reported its fourth death from COVID-19 on Tuesday. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 212, with 13 regions affected.

A tourist looks at the closing notice at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, March 2, 2020. The Louvre Museum in Paris was closed due to the spreading coronavirus epidemic. (Xinhua/Gao Jing)

French President Emmanuel Macron said early Tuesday that the stage two of the epidemic in the country, which means an epidemiological mosaic with different situations at the regional level, "will last for weeks and even months."


BRACING FOR IMPACT

As for Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday set out the government's action plan to tackle the spread of COVID-19 -- containing the virus, delaying its spread, researching its origins and cure, and finally mitigating the impact should the virus become more widespread -- as the number of infections reached 51.

Johnson also congratulated the Chinese authorities on the speedy sharing of outbreak information that "has serious international implications."

As cases are growing across the world, many countries and international organizations have stepped up efforts to mitigate downside risks to the economic outlook.

In a monetary policy review released Monday, Nepal's central bank said it will offer loans at cheaper rates to enterprises affected by COVID-19, and allow those struggling to repay the loans to reschedule repayments.

President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde said Monday the bank stands "ready to take appropriate and targeted measures, as necessary and commensurate with the underlying risks."

Earlier on Tuesday, the central bank of Australia, a country which has confirmed 33 cases, announced its decision to lower the official interest rate to a record low of 0.5 percent.

New Zealand's Economic Development Ministry said on the same day that local businesses affected can access immediate government support after two more initiatives are approved.

In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve lowered the target range for the federal funds rate by 50 basis points to 1-1.25 percent amid COVID-19 concerns.

A trader works at New York Stock Exchange in New York, the United States, on March 3, 2020. U.S. stocks fell sharply in volatile trading on Tuesday despite the Federal Reserve's emergency interest-rate cut. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration is considering more tax cuts, and stands ready to work closely with Congress on an emergency funding package to deal with the spreading disease.

The country now has a total of 100 confirmed cases, with the nine deaths all from Washington state. According to a New York Times report on Sunday, COVID-19 may have been spreading in the state for six weeks after researchers examined the genomes of two infections in the state.

The U.S. rate cut came after finance ministers of Group of Seven (G7) and central bank governors sat for an emergency conference call earlier on Tuesday, reaffirming their commitment to "use all appropriate policy tools" to achieve growth and safeguard against downside risks given the potential impact of COVID-19 on global growth.

The officials from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada said in a joint statement that they "are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy during this phase."

Pedestrians wearing face masks pass by Harajuku Station in Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 25, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

Following the G7 conference, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would like to make "full use" of a fiscal 2019 reserve fund of 270 billion yen (2.5 billion U.S. dollars) as a second emergency package to combat the outbreak.

The World Bank Group also announced Tuesday it is making available an initial package of up to 12 billion dollars in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the outbreak.

By 1500 GMT on Tuesday, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that 11,480 cases have been confirmed in 73 countries outside China, with 177 deaths.

During a daily briefing on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said personal protective equipment supplies worldwide need to be increased by 40 percent, calling on manufacturers to urgently increase production.

He reiterated that COVID-19 can be contained by a comprehensive approach, while urging countries to adapt their existing healthcare systems to contain the disease.

The WHO chief said last week that when a country takes containment measures like China is doing, it "can actually see a decline in the cases and ultimately it can be contained."

Similarly, Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said Tuesday that China's sending a medical team to Iran sets "an excellent example of 'peer to peer' experience sharing," adding the WHO is looking forward to seeing more direct interaction of that kind.

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