A woman is tested for COVID-19 in Windhoek, Namibia, on April 22, 2020.
A woman is tested for COVID-19 in Windhoek, Namibia, on April 22, 2020.
Photo by Jacobina Mouton/Xinhua

BEIJING-- As the confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide continue to rise, major countries and regions are struggling with a predicament to save lives and livelihoods.

Meanwhile, international cooperation is highlighted to combat the pandemic and counter an economic fallout.

HARD DECISION ON REOPENING ECONOMY

The U.S. Senate has passed a relief package of 484 billion U.S. dollars to increase funding for small businesses, hospitals and coronavirus testing.

Protests in some state capitals have prompted several states to announce plans meant to restart the local economy and public life.

But the White House's push to ease social distancing restrictions and reopen economy has met resistance from states who want to make the decisions themselves based on their COVID-19 realities. A Reuters-Ipsos survey released Tuesday showed an overwhelming support among Americans to the current stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In Europe, many nations are "walking a tightrope" towards normal economic and life activities by tentatively easing anti-coronavirus restrictions, with plans to phase in a return without a rebound of infections.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday announced the reopening of primary schools partly as of May 11.

Austria, one of the first countries in Europe to loosen its lockdown, has taken a further step with the decision to possibly reopen all shops from May 1, schools gradually from May 4, and restaurants, coffee houses as well as worship services from May 15.

In Italy, one of the European countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the economy may gradually reopen from the strict terms of a six-week-long nationwide lockdown beginning May 4 with specific rules in place to be announced later.

Precautions against infections rebounding are seen as in the obligation to wear a protective face mask in certain public areas in German states after Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "gradual" and "cautious" exit strategy from COVID-19 restrictions.

New Zealand's Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor announced Wednesday the country's Moving Day celebrations on June 1 will go ahead with strict controls.

"This annual movement is a critical part of the dairy industry," which provides 46,000 jobs in rural communities, he said. "It's also an industry that will play a critical role in New Zealand's economic recovery after COVID-19."

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

The raging COVID-19 has continued to increase stock and oil markets volatilities while dampening the economic outlook for regions and countries.

The combined external and domestic factors "will lead to the worst contraction that the region has ever undergone," warned the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on Tuesday, forecasting an average regional contraction of 5.3 percent for this year in its latest report.

For the global economy this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week said it was on the track for a sharp decline of 3 percent in the worst recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

On Thursday, data by South Korea's central bank showed its inflation-adjusted gross domestic product fell 1.4 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter, marking the worst since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Last week, China reported its GDP contracted 6.8 percent year on year in the January-March quarter, or the first negative quarterly growth in decades.

At an online briefing organized by the United Nations Security Council on April 21, as UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General Qu Dongyu said it is impossible to ignore the virus' impact on the food security of the world's most vulnerable populations while urging coherent reaction.

Unless swift action is taken, the number of people suffering acute food insecurity could rise from 135 million in 2019 to 265 million in 2020, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has projected.

GLOBAL PICTURE MIXED

Data by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday showed the global total confirmed COVID-19 cases have topped 2.6 million, with over 181,000 deaths.

The United States reported 834,858 cases, with the highest death toll at 45,894.

In Europe, Spain has recorded 208,389 cases while Italy, France, Germany and Britain each has reported over 100,000 cases, the tally showed.

In Spain, the State of Alarm already in place will be extended for a further 15 days to May 9.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday told a virtual press conference from Geneva that trends of the COVID-19 pandemic are different among regions and countries.

Most of the epidemics in Western Europe appear to be stable or declining, he said, while warning of "worrying upward trends" in Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, Tedros stressed gaps in terms of virus response capacity in countries. For example, he said that only 66 percent of the countries reporting to the WHO have a clinical referral system in place to care for COVID-19 patients.

"We have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time," warned Tedros.

COOPERATION URGED

Tedros on Wednesday called on the United States to reconsider its decision to freeze funding to the WHO, and expressed hope that Washington will once again support the work of the global health watchdog and continue to save lives.

"The U.S. has been supporting WHO and it's number one donor. We value that, we appreciate that," said the WHO chief.

"The IMF and the world's Regional Financing Arrangements stand united in addressing the global challenges" related to the COVID-19 pandemic, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and heads from the European Stability Mechanism, Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development, Latin American Reserve Fund, Arab Monetary Fund and ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office said in a joint statement after a teleconference held Tuesday.

The officials emphasized that the most effective support is a comprehensive response and mobilization of the resources and expertise available at all layers of the Global Financial Safety Net.

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