Half a million people infected worldwide as economic toll rises
The human and economic toll of coronavirus lockdowns increased on Thursday as India struggled to feed the multitudes, Italy shut down most of its industry, and a record 3.3 million Americans demanded allowances of unemployment in a single week.
As the number of infections worldwide hit half a million, and world leaders held a video summit to determine how long to keep the economy at a standstill to help flatten the upward curve, the damage to livelihood and well-being began. to concentrate.
In India, where the country’s 1.3 billion people were ordered to stay at home, legions of the poor were suddenly made redundant and many families found themselves struggling for something to eat.
“Our first concern is food, not the virus,” said Suresh Kumar, 60, a rickshaw cyclist in New Delhi whose family of six depends on a daily income of Rs.300, or $ 4. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle it.
India has the second highest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world. Rickshaw drivers, product hawkers, domestic workers, day laborers and other low-wage workers form the backbone of the economy, and many live day-to-day on their wages and have no savings on their own. which one to rest.
The Indian government has announced a 1.7 trillion rupee ($ 22 billion) economic stimulus package that will provide monthly rations of grains and lentils to 800 million people.
Globally, the death toll rose to nearly 8,200 in Italy, over 4,100 in Spain, and over 1,000 in the United States, of which around 400 were in New York State, the worst country hotspot.
The United Nations has estimated that up to 25 million jobs could be lost in the economic upheaval, more than in the 2008 global financial crisis.
In Europe, companies have been laying off workers at the fastest rate since 2009, according to surveys of business leaders. And the United States is bleeding jobs, too: The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits last week was nearly five times the previous record set in 1982.
New Orleans restaurant and caterer owner Keisha Henry said she lost $ 10,000 in earnings last week after three major functions she was supposed to host were canceled. She had to lay off several employees.
“I wish I could just keep them and pay them off, but being a small business, I don’t have enough capital to pay employees when we’re not releasing product,” she said.
In what appeared to be a rare positive sign, stocks rallied on Wall Street for the third day in a row after an unprecedented $ 2.2 trillion economic bailout to help businesses, hospitals and Americans ordinary people to get through the crisis authorized the Senate. The plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House on Friday, would hand out checks of $ 1,200 per adult and $ 500 per child.
From Fifth Avenue Piccadilly Circus, city after city, restaurants, hotels, airlines, giant chains and small stores are all closed, as cities, states and entire countries have ordered the closure of non-commercial businesses. essentials and asked people to stay at home.
Italy, the third-largest economy in the eurozone and a major exporter of machinery, textiles and other goods, became the first developed Western country to slow down most of its industry, extending the shutdown of small non-essential businesses to large manufacturers .
Among the companies that have stopped or reduced production: Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari, Pirelli tires and Luxottica glasses, maker of Ray-Bans and Oakley.
Industry lobby Confindustria estimates a cost of 70 to 100 billion euros (77 to 110 billion dollars) of national wealth per month if 70% of businesses are closed, as expected.
“We are entering a war economy,” declared Confindustria President Vincenzo Boccia.
In other developments:
__ China has said it is temporarily barring entry to most foreigners as it tries to limit imported cases. Reports of new cases from inside the country have ceased.
__ In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has announced a total lockdown of the capital, Riyadh, and of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in addition to a national curfew. In the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced an overnight weekend lockdown and used drones to tell people to stay home.
__ In New York City, the state’s death toll jumped 100 in one day, bringing the number to 385, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. He added that experts expect the number to rise as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for several days succumb to the virus. “It’s a situation where people just get worse over time,” Cuomo said.
__ The leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations have pledged to work together to tackle the crisis but have made no specific commitments.
__ In Brazil, the country’s governors challenge President Jair Bolsonaro for his call to reopen schools and businesses, rejecting his argument that the “cure” for widespread closures is worse than disease. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,500 cases and 59 deaths.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
So far, more than 115,000 people have recovered, according to a current tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Long reported from Washington, Rising reported from Berlin and Schmall from New Delhi. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.