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World Roundup: G20 nations join forces vs COVID, set aside $5-T to perk up world economy

G20 nations pledged a “united front” in the fight against coronavirus, saying they were injecting $5 trillion into the global economy to counter the pandemic amid forecasts of a deep recession.

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin joined the emergency video-conference chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who called for coordinated action while facing pressure to end an oil price war between Riyadh and Moscow that has roiled energy markets.

The talks come amid criticism that the G20 has been slow to address the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more than 21,000 dead worldwide and triggered financial shock waves as more than three billion people are locked down.

“We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat,” the leaders said in a joint statement after the summit.

“We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.”

As concerns mount for poorer countries without access to capital markets or adequate health facilities, G20 leaders also pledged to work with bodies such as the International Monetary Fund to deploy a “robust” financial package to support developing nations.

“It is our responsibility to extend a helping hand to developing countries and (the) least developed countries,” King Salman said.

Brace for 1.8M death toll

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe could hit 1.8 million worldwide this year even with swift and stringent measures to stop it, according to a study from Britain’s Imperial College published Thursday.

Researchers estimate that tens of millions of lives could be saved if governments act fast to adopt strict public health measures, including testing, quarantining and broad social distancing.

The modelling simulations of the Imperial College London, whose previous research spurred the British government to ramp up its efforts to curb the virus, are based on current data about the severity of the virus – its contagiousness and estimated mortality rate – as well as demographic and societal factors.

In a sobering projection of what could have happened with no interventions at all, the study said that if left unchecked COVID-19 could have infected almost everyone on the planet this year and killed 40 million people.

US now has most infections

The United States now has more COVID-19 infections than any other country, and a record number of newly unemployed people, as the coronavirus crisis deepens around the world.

Healthcare systems in even the most developed nations are being stretched to breaking point with grim warnings they could soon be overwhelmed.

More than 530,000 people globally have been sickened by the disease, one sixth of them in the US, which on Thursday edged out Italy as the worst-affected nation.

“We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect our citizens,” US President Donald Trump said.

With about 40 percent of Americans under lockdown, Trump urged citizens to do their part by practicing social distancing: “Stay home. Just relax, stay home.”

Imported cases

China reported more than 50 imported cases of the coronavirus on Friday, hours after announcing a ban on foreigners entering the country. 

In recent weeks China’s tally of infections has dwindled dramatically, with only a handful of domestic patients each day. AFP

There were another 55 new infections in China Friday, the National Health Commission said, with one local infection and 54 imported cases from overseas.

Beijing has been racing to control the number of infections being brought into the country – mostly Chinese nationals returning home from overseas, including large numbers of students abroad.

Xi calls for unity

China and the United States should “unite to fight” the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the globe, said President Xi Jinping in a call with his US counterpart on Friday, according to state media.

The two countries have clashed in recent weeks over the virus, but Xi told President Donald Trump that China “wishes to continue sharing all information and experience with the US,” said state broadcaster CCTV.

The two leaders appeared to strike a conciliatory tone after Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angered Beijing this month by repeatedly referring to “the Chinese virus” when discussing the COVID-19 outbreak first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Earlier this month a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing also suggested in a tweet that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan.

Xi said Sino-US relations were at a “critical juncture,” CCTV said, adding that cooperation was mutually beneficial and “the only right choice.”

Jail term for standing too close together

Singaporeans could be jailed for up to six months if they intentionally stand close to someone else, under tough new rules announced Friday to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The city-state has introduced a series of new measures to tackle the virus, including closing bars and cinemas as well as banning large events.

One step aimed at ensuring “social-distancing” – a key approach being used worldwide to halt the spread of the contagious disease – is a ban on individuals standing less than one meter (three feet) apart in certain settings.

People are barred from intentionally standing too close to someone else in a queue, or sitting on a seat less than one meter from another individual in a public place, according to the regulations.

Those found guilty of breaking the rules face a jail term of up to six months and a maximum fine of $7,000. AFP

Topics: G20 nations , Donald Trump , Vladimir Putin , COVID-19 , Imperial College London , Xi Jinping
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