World Newsletter

28 March 2020



The head of the International Monetary Fund said Friday it is clear that the

global economy has now entered a recession that could be as bad or worse

than the 2009 downturn. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the

189-nation lending agency was forecasting a recovery in 2021, saying it

could be a "sizable rebound." But she said this would only occur if nations

succeed in containing the coronavirus and limiting the economic damage.

With the worldwide economic “sudden stop,” Georgieva said the fund’s

estimate “for the overall financial needs of emerging markets is $2.5


But she warned that estimate “is on the lower end.”

Governments in emerging markets, which have suffered an exodus of capital of

more than $83 billion in recent weeks, can cover much of that, but “clearly

the domestic resources are insufficient” and many already have high debt


Over 80 countries, mostly of low incomes, have already have requested

emergency aid from the International Monetary Fund, she said.

“We do know that their own reserves and domestic resources will not be

sufficient,” Georgieva said, adding that the fund is aiming to beef up its

response “to do more, do it better, do it faster than ever before.”

The IMF chief spoke to reporters following a virtual meeting with the

Washington-based lender’s steering committee, when she officially requested

a increase in the fund’s fast-deploying emergency facilities from their

current level of around $50 billion.

She also welcomed the $2.2 trillion economic package approved by the US

Senate, saying “it is absolutely necessary to cushion the world’s largest

economy against an abrupt drop the economic activities.”





The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in the United

States hit almost 104,000 early on Saturday, according to a Johns Hopkins

University tally, with the number of fatalities close to 1,700, pushing the

global death toll up to 27,324.

The US has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with

more than 100,000 positive tests. Virus cases spike on U.S. aircraft

carrier. The number of coronavirus cases on the USS Theodore Roosevelt

aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean has spiked to at least 23, with

authorities moving to isolate the entire crew in port, U.S. media reported.

President Trump has signed the largest-ever US financial stimulus package,

worth $2tn (£1.7tn), as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump said the package was "twice as large" as any prior relief bill.

"This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation's families, workers

and businesses," he said.

Italy, which is the worst-affected in Europe, announced 919 new deaths from

coronavirus, the highest number of fatalities any country has reported in

the space of 24 hours since the outbreak began late last year. The total

number of people who have died as a result of COVID-19 in Italy now stands

at 9,134. The number of cases also continues to rise, hitting more than


Spain death toll hits 5,138 the world’s second-highest death toll after

Italy, while the number of cases jumped to 65,179. Despite the increase, the

rate of new infections appears to be slowing, registering a 14 per cent

increase compared with 18 per cent on Thursday.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Britain’s Health Secretary

Matt Hancock Friday tested positive for coronavirus. In UK, 14,543 people

have tested positive for coronavirus and nearly 759 people have died. PM

Johnson is self-isolating in Downing Street and working from home. On

Twitter, he wrote: “Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms

and tested positive for coronavirus. I am now self-isolating, but I will

continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight

this virus. Together we will beat this with the hashtag Stay Home Save


In Iran, hundreds have been killed over false belief that poison kills

coronavirus. Iranian media reports nearly 300 people have been killed and

more than 1,000 sickened so far by ingesting methanol across the Islamic

Republic, where drinking alcohol is banned and where those who do rely on

bootleggers. It comes as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran,

where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed

the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country. The Islamic Republic

has reported over 32,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,300 deaths from the

virus, the highest toll of any country in the Middle East.

Haiti hospital chief kidnapped amid coronavirus emergency. The director of

one of Haiti's top hospitals has been kidnapped, prompting staff to refuse

to take in new patients in protest as the impoverished country battles an

outbreak of the novel coronavirus amid a spike in gang violence. Gangs

appear to strike indiscriminately, with victims ranging from Haitian

schoolchildren, lawmakers and businessmen to foreign aid workers.

Mexico's health ministry has announced that it has registered 717 cases of

coronavirus in the country, up from 585 the day before. The ministry also

said there had been 12 deaths overall from the virus in Mexico, up from

eight a day earlier.

Out of the 115 positive cases of the virus so far, Brunei reported its first

coronavirus death on Saturday.

Jordan reports first death out of 235 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Arab






Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday called upon his US counterpart Donald

Trump to take “substantive actions” and “unite to fight” the coronavirus

pandemic which is spreading rapidly across the globe, news agency AFP


President Jinping called Trump, a day after the US took over China in the

number of positive coronavirus cases reported, which is 82,400, state media


Meanwhile, China has decided to shut its borders to foreign arrivals amid

fears of infections increasing again in the country.

In an attempt to repair strained relations between both counties over the

virus, Xi told Trump that China “wishes to continue sharing all information

and experience with the US” and that the relations between both countries

had reached an “important juncture”, said state broadcaster CCTV.

“Working together brings both sides benefits, fighting hurts both.

Cooperation is the only choice,” the Chinese President was quoted as saying

by The Guardian.

Xi added that he hoped that the US-China relations would improve which will

be “without conflict and confrontation” but based on “mutual respect and

mutually beneficial cooperation”. Terming the pandemic as “the common enemy

of mankind”, Xi said: “Only by united can the international community can

defeat it.”

After the phone call, the US President took to Twitter to share that he had

a good conversation with Xi. “Discussed in great detail the coronavirus that

is ravaging large parts of our planet. China has been through much and has

developed and strong understanding of the virus. we are working closely

together. Much respect,” Trump wrote.





Wall Street stocks tumbled on Friday, ending a massive three-day surge after

doubts about the fate of the U.S. economy resurfaced and the number of

coronavirus cases in the country climbed.

U.S. stocks deepened their losses late in the session, even after the House

of Representatives approved a $2.2 trillion aid package — the largest in

American history — to help people and companies cope with an economic

downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak and provide hospitals with

urgently needed medical supplies.

The bill, along with unprecedented policy easing by the Federal Reserve,

helped the S&P 500 surge 10.2% for the week, its best week since 2009. But

the U.S. stock market benchmark is still down about 25% from its February


In its strongest three-day performance since 1931, the Dow surged 21% in

three straight days through Thursday, establishing it in a bull market,

according to one widely used definition. Even after Friday's drop, the Dow

ended 12.8% higher, its best week since 1938.

Many investors see a strong risk the market could fall deeply again as

coronavirus infections increase.

“Next week will depend on what happens over the weekend,” said Lindsey Bell,

chief investment strategist at Ally Invest.






The United States on Friday announced $174 million financial assistance to

64 countries including $2.9 million to India to help them fight the

coronavirus pandemic.

This is in addition to the $100 million aid announced by the U.S. in


The newly announced assistance is part of a larger American global response

package across multiple departments and agencies, including the Centres for

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The funding is for 64 of the most

at-risk countries facing the threat of the global pandemic.

The U.S. State Department said it is providing $2.9 million to help the

Indian government prepare laboratory systems, activate case finding and

event-based surveillance, and support technical experts for response and

preparedness, and more.

“This builds upon the foundation of more than $1.4 billion in health

assistance out of the more than $2.8 billion in U.S. assistance for India

over the last 20 years,” the State Department said.

According to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, the new assistance builds on the U.S.’

record of global health leadership.





Saudi Arabia said on Friday that it was not in talks with Russia to stablise

crude prices despite overtures from Moscow and rising pressure from

Washington to call a truce in an oil price war.

A three-year supply pact between the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum

Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies led by Russia fell apart earlier

this month after Moscow refused to support Riyadh's plan for deeper

production cuts to offset dwindling demand resulting from the coronavirus


Saudi Arabia responded to the breakdown in relations by lowering the prices

it charges for crude and pledging to pump oil next month at record levels.

The resulting supply boost has coincided with plummeting demand as

governments around the world implement national lockdowns to slow the spread

of the coronavirus. The twin-pronged assault on prices has sent Brent crude

to a 17-year low below $25 a barrel and hammered the income of oil


"There have been no contacts between Saudi Arabia and Russia energy

ministers over any increase in the number of OPEC countries, nor any

discussion of a joint agreement to balance oil markets," an official from

Saudi Arabia's energy ministry said, referring to the wider grouping of oil


The comment came after a senior Russian official said on Friday that a

larger number of oil producers could cooperate with OPEC and Russia, in an

indirect reference to the United States, the world's biggest producer, which

has never cut production.

"Joint actions by countries are needed to restore the [global] economy ...

They [joint actions] are also possible in the OPEC deal's framework," said

Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund.





Afghanistan's government late on Thursday announced a 21-member team to

negotiate with the Taliban in a tentative sign of progress for the United

States-brokered peace deal.

The list announced by the country's State Ministry of Peace would be led by

Masoom Stanekzai, a former National Directorate of Security chief, and

included politicians, former officials and representatives of civil society.

Five members of the team are women.

It was not immediately clear whether President Ashraf Ghani's political

rival Abdullah Abdullah would endorse the team selected, which diplomats

have said would be vital given his camp's strong influence in much of the

country's North and West.

Following the selection of the government's negotiators, the next step

should be to convene talks with the Taliban as part of a process aimed at

ending America's longest war and bringing peace to Afghanistan.






Pakistan on Friday opened its borders with its all-weather ally China for a

day to accept Chinese medical supplies to fight the growing coronavirus

outbreak in the country which has infected 1,235 people and claimed nine

lives, officials said.

China on Thursday asked Pakistan to open the border between the two

countries for one day on Friday so that medical supplies to fight

coronavirus pandemic could be transported into the country.

According to Pakistan’s health ministry, the number of confirmed cases are

nearly 1,235 with Sindh province on the top with 429 patients.

According to the government data, nine patients have died, 23 have recovered

and seven are in critical condition.

One new case was reported in PoK, taking the tally to 2. Complete lockdown

has been imposed by the regional government and strict measures were taken

to prevent the further spread.

“Medical supplies from Xinjiang, China to Pakistan is delivered through

Khunjerab (5,000m) port today, highest land port on Earth. Both sides from

China and Pakistan braved the cold, cleared the roads, made good

preparations for the delivery of the medical supplies at the Khunjerab Pass,

the Chinese embassy in Pakistan tweeted on Friday.





German researchers plan to regularly test over 100,000 people to see if they

have overcome infection with coronavirus (COVID-19) to track its spread, an

institute behind the plan confirmed on Friday.

A spokeswoman for Brunswick’s Helmholtz Institute for Infectious Disease

Research confirmed a report in news weekly Der Spiegel that large-scale

testing for antibodies could start in April if researchers are given the

green light.

By Friday, the Robert Koch Institute reported over 42,000 confirmed

coronavirus infections in Europe's most populous nation, and 253 deaths. The

first results are expected in late April. “Results from the study will make

it easier to decide when schools could be reopened and large events

permitted,” Der Spiegel wrote.





New data confirms the improvement in air quality over Europe - a byproduct

of the coronavirus crisis.

The maps on this page track changes in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - a pollutant

that comes principally from the use of fossil fuels.

Lockdown polices and the resulting reductions in economic activity have seen

emissions take a steep dive.

The maps were produced by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute


The Dutch met office leads the Tropomi instrument on the Copernicus

Sentinel-5P satellite, which monitors a number of atmospheric gases,

including NO2.

The comparisons being made are for concentrations in the air from 14 to 25

March with the monthly average of concentrations for March 2019.

"There's a lot of variability in NO2 from day to day. And that's real

variability; it's not a measurement artefact, but it's just due to changes

in the weather. So when the wind direction changes, or the wind speed

changes, or the stability of the boundary layer changes - you will get

different readings."

Combining data for the 10 days irons out much of this variability, enabling

us to see the impact of changes due to human activity.





A rescue flight arranged by the German government on Friday picked up

hundreds of tourists who had been stranded in Nepal since the Himalayan

nation went on lockdown earlier this week, officials said.

The Qatar Airways charter flight took off with 305 people on board, said Deo

Chandra Lal Karna, an official at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International

Airport. Immigration official Sagar Acharya said most of the passengers were

German nationals or had some connection to the country.

The airport reopened only for the flight, which did not bring any passengers

to Nepal. Nepal, home to the highest mountains and hiking trails, is popular

with tourists during the spring season when the weather is favourable for


Up to 10,000 tourists are believed to be stranded in Nepal since the

government ordered a complete lockdown that halted all flights and road

travel to prevent the spread of the virus.

Businesses and government offices were also shut. Nepal has only three

confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including one who has recovered.





Israel appeared headed for a unity government on Friday after opposition

leader Benny Gantz moved towards an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu, disappointing voters who had hoped to bring down the right-wing


Gantz was elected parliamentary speaker on Thursday with support from

Netanyahu's Likud and allied parties, angering many of his own partners over

the possibility he could form an alliance with a leader who is under

criminal indictment.

The shock move splintered Gantz's centrist Blue and White coalition of three

parties just 13 months after it came into existence as a grouping of

Netanyahu opponents intent on bringing down Israel's longest-serving prime


It also drew an angry response from some among the hundreds of thousands of

Israelis who turned out to support Gantz's coalition in three elections in

the past year. Some commentators accused the former general of caving into


Gantz, 60, expressed regret on Friday that his decision had split his

centrist alliance, but said dragging the country towards a fourth election

would distract from fighting the coronavirus and aiding the economy.

"[We] will make every effort to establish a national emergency government.

We will take care of the health crisis. We will lift the country out of

economic trauma," Gantz said in a statement.

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