• In this daily round-up, we'll bring you a selection of the latest news updates on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Today's big stories include: IMF head warns of steepest downturn since Great Depression; How this app is helping UK health systems plan resources; Why economist Robert Shiller says we're fighting two pandemics.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

1. How COVID-19 is impacting the globe

  • There are more than 1,123,000 confirmed cases of infection and more than 59,000 confirmed deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 228,000 people have reportedly recovered from COVID-19.
  • Ventilators in New York City will be redistributed to the city's hardest hit areas.
  • In Malaysia, meals and 3-D printed masks are sent to health workers.

2. The global economy is set for its sharpest reversal since Great Depression, IMF warns

“This is a crisis like no other,” said Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at a conference organized by the World Health Organization yesterday.

“Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill,” she said. “It is way worse than the global financial crisis.”

Georgieva's speech followed in the wake of more startling economic data to emerge from the US, which now has more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. The US economy lost 710,000 jobs in early March, ending a run of 113 months continuous job growth. The official figures were far worse than many economists had predicted.

Earlier this week, data showed that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits hit a record high for the second week in a row. More than 6.6 million people filed jobless claims in the week ended 28 March, the Department of Labor said.



3. How the IMF will help vulnerable economies now

Emerging markets and developing nations are hit especially hard by lockdowns and need special help. At the briefing with the World Health Organization, Kristalina Georgieva also outlined key measures that the IMF will take to help the world's most vulnerable. These include:

  • Prioritized help for emerging markets and developing economies, given their fewer resources, collapsing commodities markets, and weakened health systems.
  • Mobilizing emergency funding and doubling the availability of those resources from $50 billion up to $100 billion.
  • Increasing capabilities to ease debt service obligations for the IMF's poorest members through the Catastrophe Containment Relief Trust and advocating for a standstill of debt service from the poorest countries to official bilateral creditors.

"This is an unprecedented crisis, which demands an unprecedented response."

—Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO

The international community is working together like never before to produce a coronavirus vaccine. The clinical trial process designed to test whether new vaccines are both safe and effective typically involves several phases and takes approximately ten years, but governments and industry are making efforts to expedite the process, and even intersperse animal testing throughout, while maintaining safety and efficacy standards. If a vaccine is developed in the timeline predicted, then people will have a preventative option should COVID-19 recirculate next year.

4. Why Robert J. Shiller says COVID-19 has brought about two pandemics, not just one.
The public is currently coping with two pandemics, says economist Shiller: a viral pandemic, brought on by a contagion; and a pandemic of financial anxiety brought on by the economic impact of shut businesses and cratering stock prices. This financial anxiety is not logical, is highly reactive and often has a life of its own. To predict the stock market now, said Shiller, requires both understanding the economic effects of the pandemic as well as the real and psychological effects of financial anxiety. Said Shiller: "The two are different, but inseparable."

Academics from King's College London recently created a symptom tracker app to learn how coronavirus is impacting the UK. Through the app, citizens document any COVID-19 related symptoms, allowing for the outbreak to be tracked on a population-wide scale. The data from the app is being made available every day to policymakers, NHS services and academic researchers.

While the app is informing experts in real-time regarding COVID-19 symptoms, it's also revealing how fast the disease is spreading and helping to identify geographical hotspots. These updates are helping decision-makers allocate limited NHS resources more efficiently and monitor the impact of policy measures, such as social distancing.

The app was made from scratch in about four days and would normally take four months.
The app was made from scratch in about four days and would normally take four months.
Image: King’s College London