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

Confirmed coronavirus cases are at more than 3.75 million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 263,000 people have died from the virus, while over 1.2 million have recovered.

The US Labor Department’s weekly jobless claim showed initial claims for unemployment benefits climbed by 3.169 million for the week ending May 2, down from a revised 3.846 million in the prior week.

The latest figures take the number of people who have filed claims for unemployment benefits since March 21 to over 33 million. Yesterday it was announced that 20.2 million had been lost in the US private sector. The world's largest economy's unemployment rate will be announced tomorrow, and could be has high as 16%.

Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, spoke on navigating the economic limitations of the COVID-19 era at Wednesday's virtual meeting of the Forum's COVID Action Platform.

"One of the areas where we feel that we have been more successful than people might have thought is in maintaining our trade with the United States," she said.

Responding to the need to close the Canadian-US border to limit the spread of the coronavirus, she added: "We have been able to cut down the traffic across that border by over 90% and at the same time trade is still happening – goods and services are still flowing across the border."

Launched last month, the Forum's platform aims to convene leaders from governments and the business community for collective action to protect people’s livelihoods, facilitate business continuity and mobilize support for a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, more than 1,500 people from more than 1,000 businesses and organizations have joined the platform. To find the latest updates on the platform, check out our recently-launched highlights blog.

Wondering what offices will look like in the new normal? South Korea's new guidelines give one approach for how people might return to work while still helping to suppress the virus.
The guidelines feature some COVID-19 hygiene basics, such as hand washing and no handshaking. They also discourage happy hours and prompt workers to return home after the day is done.

5. How a financial freeze could protect us from economic collapse

Lockdowns have brought economies around the world to a screeching halt. To blunt their impact, a 'Big Freeze" could help, wrote Sarah Nadav of Rapid Economic Innovation COVID-19 in this week's Agenda.

Big Freeze economic theory would halt time-related fixed expenses temporarily, Nadav says. These would include rent or mortgage payments and health insurance. Supporting businesses would close temporarily while a Universal Basic Income (UBI) would be distributed.

"The goal is to prevent debt, preserve existing economic infrastructure, protect individuals, and position businesses for a smooth market re-entry when the time is right."

6. Using cash payments to protect the poor in Pakistan

Pakistan has a population of 210 million and a third of its population subsists from daily and piece-rate wages. To protect those living in extreme poverty during the COVID-19 response, cash payments have been an important lifeline, writes one official in this week's Agenda.

In a new program, eligible families receive approximately $75 (enough to provide subsistence nutrition for four months), according to Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection.

The program reached 7 million of the nation’s poorest people in just its first two weeks. Cash transfers structured appropriately, writes Nishtar, can be low-cost, effective and efficient ways to provide humanitarian assistance.

"It is clear already that COVID-19 will have lasting health and economic effects beyond the effects of damage caused directly by the virus itself," Nishtar wrote. "While the suffering will be difficult to quantify, measures like this may help alleviate at least some of the damage caused by the pandemic."