Health and Healthcare Systems

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 20 April

A woman rides a longboard past a sign at Seaward Park telling people to keep moving after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan reopened parks that were closed Easter weekend as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 19, 2020.  REUTERS/Jason Redmond - RC248G9M1G2C

Several countries around world have announced plans to ease social distancing rules. Image: REUTERS/Jason Redmond - RC248G9M1G2C

Ross Chainey
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  • In this daily round-up, we'll bring you a selection of the latest news updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Today's big stories: Confirmed cases approach 2.5 million; several countries around world announce plans to ease social distancing and lockdown rules; challenges for vulnerable populations around the world; and what you need to know about "wet markets".

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

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are now over 2.4 million worldwide, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University. Over 165,000 people are known to have died from the virus.
  • Protestors in US call for the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
  • New Zealand plans to ease its lockdown in a week, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying: "We have done what very few countries have been able to do. We have stopped a wave of devastation."
  • South Korea will also relax social distancing rules after a reduction in cases.
  • Italy and Spain have reported falls in their daily death tolls.

With almost 15,000 deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19, New York City has been the epicentre of the outbreak in the US for some weeks now. However, despite the destruction, the city has also become a focal point for international and multi-sector collaboration to overcome the crisis.

"Foreign governments, citizens, non-profit organizations, and manufacturers have rapidly mobilized support. Ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) have crossed international borders to fill resource gaps. Physicians and other healthcare workers from across the country have willingly left their homes on free flights to New York City to fight the pandemic together," write Zahra Alkhateeb and Neekta Hamidi, two World Economic Forum Global Shapers.

In their article, the authors lay out the reasons why the pandemic will soon likely wreak havoc among some of the world's most vulnerable populations in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, where introducing the measures needed to flatten the curve of infections - avoid contact, wash your hands, and stay calm - is challenging, to say the least.

What part will technology play in the world's fight against - and its recovery from - COVID-19?

"Either it will be part of the recovery debate, leading to the emergence of public-private global cooperation for a trustworthy use of technology," writes the World Economic Forum's Sébastien Louradour. "Or we might observe a dramatic surrender of public liberties in the name of using surveillance technologies in the continuous battle against coronavirus and potential novel viruses."

Tracking technologies using smartphones could help monitor the evolution of the virus among the population and quickly prevent new clusters of confirmed cases from building up, helping countries emerge from lockdowns. But they also bring daunting privacy risks associated with collecting health data from citizens and tracking movements.


They’re in global headlines every day. They’ve been ferociously condemned by everybody from the UN’s biodiversity chief to Sir Paul McCartney, who branded them “medieval”. But what actually are China’s wet markets, and do they have anything to do with the deadly coronavirus outbreak?

Wet markets are an everyday destination for many Chinese people. Broadly comparable to European farmers’ markets, they stock everything from fruit and vegetables to fresh meat, seafood to herbs and spices, all on open-air display.

They are called “wet” to differentiate them from markets selling “dry” packaged goods such as noodles. It may also to refer to stallholders’ tendency to hose down their produce to keep it cool, and the melting ice used to keep seafood fresh. Although some wet markets stock live fish and poultry, many Chinese provinces, along with Hong Kong, have banned the sale of live poultry following avian flu outbreaks in the late 1990s.

Nevertheless, wet markets are the focus of intense media speculation. Western media stories – not to mention some political leaders – have run the risk of propagating offensive stereotypes of Chinese people, in language reminiscent of the “Yellow Peril” hysteria that accompanied the first waves of Chinese immigration to the US.

Take a look at our in-depth explainer for a more balanced view.

An illustration showing the suspected transmission routes of Sars, Mers and COVID-19 to humans.
An illustration showing the suspected transmission routes of Sars, Mers and COVID-19 to humans. Image: Image: Firas A Rabi, Mazhar S Al Zoubi et al/
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