A man wears personal protective equipment (PPE) as he walks on First Avenue, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York. (REUTERS)
A recession for the rest of this year and maybe next year as well. $3.4 trillion in incomes and 25 million jobs gone. These are among the more frightening predictions in a report released by the United Nations overnight Tuesday on the impact of Covid-19. The report called for “large-scale coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10% of global GDP” and for the developed world to help the developing world. “It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that developing countries have the best chance of managing this crisis, or Covid-19 will risk becoming a long-lasting brake on economic recovery,” it added.
It is unlikely that countries will take some of the report’s recommendations seriously – especially those about not being protectionist and orchestrating a multilateral response; it’s pretty much “every man for himself” right now. “Covid-19 is the greatest test we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said in a media briefing. It is also very likely that the crisis will pose a risk to the continued relevance of bodies such as the UN, like no other crisis has before.
It is a health crisis that has killed, as of Wednesday morning, over a thousand people (1,139) in what many consider the greatest city on the planet, New York. Globally, the number of deaths stood at 45,540, and the number of infections at 912,098 people on Wednesday afternoon. Of these, 205,035 infections are in the US (the death toll in the country crossed 4,000). China, where the disease originated in Wuhan, and whose initial reluctance to share information on the severity of the threat may have lulled many other countries into a false sense of safety, is now fifth on the list in terms of deaths – after Italy, Spain, the US, and France.
In India, the number of infections rose by 392 on Wednesday, after rising by 294 on Tuesday, driven by new cases that were traced back to the gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat at Markaz Nizamuddin in the heart of New Delhi’
The event, of indeterminate length, it now emerges, saw people come and go. India’s cabinet secretary has asked states to trace those who attended, now believed to number in the thousands. Many are believed to have dispersed across India, in a nightmarish recreation of what happened in South Korea where around 1,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus met in the city of Daegu in February for a Sunday service, infected each other, and then left, travelling to various parts of the country. Of the 9,887 cases of Covid-19 in South Korea now, 5,162 can be traced back to the church – a number that highlights the damage that can be wrought by the Jamaat’s meeting. In Delhi, 531 from the Markaz have been hospitalised and all are in the process of being tested, and over 1,800 are in quarantine.
Markaz Nizamuddin is a cluster, but it isn’t the only one in India. There are at least 10 such, across states, and India’s efforts at halting the spread of Covid-19 now includes aggressive testing of symptomatic (it could just be a cough) people who live around these clusters, up to an 8km radius.
In what is perhaps the only silver lining to this swathe of grey, researchers in Delhi are now in a position to collect so-called base-level air quality data – most industrial activity has been stopped; no harvests are happening; and there’s next to no traffic in the city-state. The data will help them refine their models, and perhaps point to the real causes of air pollution in Delhi.