WASHINGTON/LONDON: The world’s richest nations prepared more costly measures on Tuesday to combat the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people, triggered social restrictions unseen since World War Two and sent economies spinning towards recession.
With the flu-like disease that originated in China racing across the world to infect more than 187,000 people, governments on every continent have implemented draconian containment measures from halting travel to stopping sport.
But while the main aim is to avoid deaths — currently at nearly 7,500 — global powers were also focusing their attention on how to limit the inevitably devastating economic impact. In the world’s biggest economy, the United States, the Senate prepared to consider a multi-billion dollar emergency spending bill to offer relief from the pandemic, but the Trump administration pressed for $850 billion more.
Airlines are among the worst-hit sector, with US carriers seeking at least $50 billion in grants and loans to stay afloat as passenger numbers collapse.
Britain, which has told people to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, was to unveil a rescue package for businesses threatened with collapse.
Budget forecasters said the scale of borrowing needed might resemble the vast amount of debt taken on during the 1939-45 war against Nazi Germany. “Now is not a time to be squeamish about public sector debt,” Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, told lawmakers.
QUEEN ELIZABETH TO MOVE
Underlining how the crisis has shaken even the most august of institutions, Britain’s Church of England suspended services while 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth was to move from Buckingham Place to Windsor Castle outside London.
France is to pump 45 billion euros ($50 billion) of crisis measures into the economy to help companies and workers, with output expected to contract 1 per cent this year.
“I have always defended financial rigour in peacetime so that France does not have to skimp on its budget in times of war,” Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin was quoted as saying by financial daily Les Echos.
The European Union (EU) eased its rules to allow companies to receive state grants up to 500,000 euros ($551,000) or guarantees on bank loans to ensure liquidity.
Such promised cash splurges did not, however, enable world share markets or oil prices to shake off their coronavirus nightmare after Wall Street on Monday saw its worst rout since the Black Monday crash of 1987.
The Philippines was the first country to close markets, while Europe — now the epicentre of the pandemic — saw airline and travel stocks plunge another 7 per cent. With various central banks around the world having cut interest rates to try and help beleaguered economies, investors fret that they may have used up their policy ammunition early with far longer to go before the coronavirus is curbed. — Reuters