• 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?

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 affecting the globe

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/MDPI.com