Coronavirus epidemic ‘far from over’ in Asia – WHO official

first_imgThe WHO does not expect any country to be safe, as the coronavirus will eventually get everywhere, said WHO technical adviser Matthew Griffith.”Whereas countries and areas in this region have shown how to flatten the curve, outbreaks continue to pop up in new places and importation remains a concern,” Griffith said at the briefing, citing cases in Singapore and South Korea from people who travelled abroad.The focus of the epidemic is now on Europe, but that will likely shift to other regions, Griffith said. “Let me be clear. The epidemic is far from over in Asia and the Pacific. This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” Kasai told a virtual media briefing.”We need every country to keep preparing for large-scale community transmission.”Countries with limited resources are a priority, such as Pacific Island nations, he said, as they have to ship samples to other countries for diagnoses, and transportation restrictions are making that more difficult.Kasai warned that for countries that are seeing a tapering off of cases, they should not let down their guard, or the virus may come surging back. The coronavirus epidemic is “far from over” in the Asia-Pacific region, and current measures to curb the spread of the virus are buying time for countries to prepare for large-scale community transmissions, a WHO official said on Tuesday.Even with all the measures, the risk of transmission in the region will not go away as long as the pandemic continues, said Takeshi Kasai, Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the World Health Organization (WHO).The new coronavirus first surfaced in central China in late 2019. Infections have now exceeded 770,000 cases worldwide, with the United States, Italy and Spain overtaking mainland China in confirmed cases.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Singapore economy seen to contract 4-7% as pandemic impact worsens

first_imgThe circuit breaker measures will start being lifted in phases on June 2.The ministry cautioned that “there continues to be a significant degree of uncertainty over the length and severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as the trajectory of the economic recovery, in both the global and Singapore economies.”Irvin Seah, senior economist at Singapore’s largest bank DBS, said the downward revision was not surprising as the previous growth projection was no longer tenable after Singapore extended its semi-lockdown beyond May 4.He added that the full impact of the pandemic will be felt only in the April-June period, saying that the “significantly weaker global demand, labor shortage in the construction sector, supply chain disruptions and restrictive measures imposed during the circuit breaker will inflict a severe blow to the economy.”Topics : This marked the third time the ministry has cut its economic projection for Singapore for 2020 since the virus outbreak earlier this year. The previous revision came in March.The Singapore economy last went into negative growth in 2001, when annual GDP fell by 1.1 percent.The ministry said in a statement that the latest downgrade was due to “the deterioration in the external demand outlook for Singapore as well as the expected economic impact” from a semi-lockdown implemented by Singapore to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.The semi-lockdown, which led to the shutdown of most workplace premises in Singapore, has “dampened domestic economic activity, along with domestic consumption,” it said. Singapore further downgraded its 2020 growth forecast on Tuesday, projecting a 4 to 7 percent contraction as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has worsened.The Ministry of Trade and Industry previously forecast the highly trade-dependent city state’s gross domestic product would shrink by 1 to 4 percent in 2020.The revision coincided with the release of data showing the economy had contracted in the first three months of this year by 0.7 percent year on year, and by an annualized 4.7 percent from the previous quarter.last_img read more

Ministry proposes $69m stimulus for fisheries, aquaculture

first_imgThe stimulus package, which was proposed during the meeting, will provide Rp 413.27 billion in funds for fishermen and Rp 406.55 billion to aid aquaculture farmers.It also includes Rp 36.07 billion for fish processors and marketeers, Rp 54.1 billion for salt farmers, Rp 106.48 billion to strengthen poaching surveillance and Rp 8 billion for internal audits.“We also would like to have more cold storage facilities to anticipate the possibility of slow demand as several regions are still implementing the large-scale social restrictions [PSBB],” the minister said.The government has been working to ensure a secure supply of staple food across the country amid disruptions in production and logistics as a result of the pandemic. The government data presented by President Jokowi on April 28 showed that over 20 provinces faced shortages of staple foods, such as garlic, sugar, chili and eggs. The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has proposed a Rp 1.02 trillion (US$69 million) stimulus package to aid small scale fishermen and aquaculture farmers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.Minister Edhy Prabowo said the stimulus would include social aid for fishermen, fish farmers and salt farmers and funds to strengthen surveillance efforts against poaching.“We will optimize the budget to help enable fishermen to go on fishing while also providing the farmers with seeds, broodfish and infrastructure,” the minister said in an online press conference after attending a limited Cabinet meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Thursday. Jokowi, when opening the meeting on Thursday, stressed the requirement to provide incentives for farmers and fishermen to ensure the country’s food security.Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector contributed 12.84 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter, the third-largest contributor after manufacturing industry and trade.Edhy also said state-owned fishery companies PT Perikanan Nusantara (Perinus) and PT Perikanan Indonesia (Perindo) were preparing proposals for around Rp 500 billion each in state capital injections (PMN). The two companies are tasked with buying fishery and aquaculture products to boost demand.Furthermore, the minister also urged state-owned banks and financial institutions to provide loans for aquaculture farmers.The government has allocated Rp 34 trillion in loan interest subsidies and loan-payment relaxations for farmers and fishermen through the microcredit program (KUR) and the government’s UMi and Mekaar programs, among others.“I’ve sent out instructions to relax the access and procedures to get the stimulus so that our farmers and fishermen can secure funds and capital,” Jokowi said on Thursday.Separately, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) environment and development director Stefanos Fotiou said on Thursday that countries should focus on helping poor coastal communities affected by the negative impact of the pandemic.“In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people left behind were people that did not have access to proper health care, they did not have access to proper facilities,” Stefanos said in an online discussion.The government has projected that up to 3.78 million Indonesians will fall into poverty amid the pandemic, according to its worst-case scenario. That adds to the 24.79 million people who already lived in poverty last year.Fishermen’s average income have fallen sharply to a range of Rp 1 million to Rp 1.5 million per month from Rp 3 million to Rp 5 million as a result of the pandemic, according to the Office of the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment’s human resource development, science and maritime culture deputy, Safri Burhanuddin.The pandemic is also expected to result in a decline of around 8 percent in production and prices, undoing an upward trend in the previous two years.The government, he said during the discussion, would disburse Rp 600,000 in cash assistance per month for three months to fishermen and salt farmers, among other workers in the fisheries sector.“We have done many things now, but of course it takes time and we will see the results after June or September,” Safri said.“The blue economy is very important for Indonesia as an archipelago so it is our ultimate goal to make it the primary driver of the economy,” he added, referring to the concept of the sustainable use of marine resources to improve economic growth and livelihoods.Topics :last_img read more

Indonesia’s COVID-19 budget swells but still not enough, observers say

first_imgIndonesia’s 2020 budget deficit will widen further to accommodate a larger stimulus package, but economists and business representatives say it will still not be enough to prevent the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Indonesia research director Piter Abdullah said the government’s stimulus was “far from ideal” to counter the virus’ blow.Read also: Indonesia unveils bigger stimulus worth $47.6 billion to fight coronavirus impacts “The country needs bigger health care budget to manage the outbreak […] If we are not ready, then there is a possibility of a second wave of the virus crisis,” Piter said in a statement. “Meanwhile, the proposed budget for social protection is too small amid the threat of rising poverty.”Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati announced on June 3 she expected the budget deficit to swell to 6.34 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), an increase from earlier estimates of 6.27 percent in May and 5.01 percent at the end of March.The state budget to fight COVID-19 is now Rp 677.2 trillion (US$48 billion), higher than the Rp 641.17 trillion allocation in May and the Rp 405.1 trillion initial allocation.This was the third alteration to the state budget in just over two months. The rapid changes underscore the ferocity with which the virus has torn through the economy. “We are hoping that this stimulus will keep our economic growth above zero percent,” Sri Mulyani said during the latest budget announcement on June 3. The government expects Indonesia’s GDP to grow by 2.3 percent this year under the baseline scenario or contract by 0.4 percent under the worst-case scenario.“Demand for stimulus is increasing even after the latest package,” Bank Danamon economist Wisnu Wardana said. “The government must now focus its resources on making the spending more productive and cutting unnecessary spending.”Read also: Indonesia’s economy may shrink 3.5% if PSBB last for 4 months: World BankMeanwhile, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) called on the government to boost its budget to fight the pandemic.According to Kadin chairwoman Shinta Kamdani, the government will need Rp 400 trillion for health care, Rp 600 trillion for social safety net programs and Rp 600 trillion for economic recovery.Meanwhile, World Bank senior economist Ralph van Doorn has called on the government to take steps to maintain market confidence as debt mounts during the outbreak.“The government must [provide assurances about its] fiscal strategy to raise revenue back to at least the 2018 level to flatten the debt curve,” said van Doorn.It should unwind “exceptional measures” taken to battle the pandemic after the virus subsides, including by reinstating the deficit ceiling of 3 percent of GDP and ending Bank Indonesia’s partial financing of the deficit, he added.Indonesia’s debt-to-GDP ratio will rise to 37 percent this year from 29.8 percent at the end of last year, van Doorn predicted.The government now expects the total state budget in 2020 to be 2.74 quadrillion. State revenue is expected to be Rp 1.69 quadrillion, leaving a budget deficit of about Rp 1.05 quadrillion. Debt financing is expected to swell to Rp 1.22 quadrillion this year to cover the widening budget deficit and to pay for the government’s investments, which will be covered mostly by the issuance of bonds.“We will treat the widening budget deficit carefully in terms of sustainability and financing,” Sri Mulyani added.The new budget aims to strengthen the health care system, direct more spending toward social protection to boost consumption and provide incentives to rescue Indonesian businesses from bankruptcy and workers from layoffs.The government will spend Rp 87.55 trillion in the health care sector, Rp 203.9 trillion to strengthen social safety net programs and Rp 123.46 trillion to provide incentives for micro, small and medium businesses, according to the new budget.About Rp 120.6 trillion will be allocated for tax incentives for larger entities, and Rp 97.11 trillion has been designated to support ministries and regional administrations. Rp 44.57 trillion will be used to provide a stimulus for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and labor-intensive businesses.Read also: Indonesia’s COVID-19 budget changes again: What we know so far The government remains hopeful that the economy will not shrink sharply in the second quarter and will begin to recover in the subsequent quarters, said Finance Ministry Fiscal Policy Agency head Febrio Kacaribu on June 4.“There is a possibility of a severe economic crisis and recession. We are currently revising the state budget to ensure that negative growth does not happen,” Febrio told reporters.Indonesia’s economy grew 2.97 percent in the first quarter, the weakest since 2001, as household spending and investment growth slowed in response to the outbreak.The World Bank now expects zero percent growth for Indonesia if large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) last for two months amid a severe global economic slowdown and falling commodity prices. Under the organization’s worst-case scenario, which allows for four months of PSBB, Indonesia’s economy may shrink 3.5 percent.The government estimates that 1.8 million to 4.8 million people may fall into poverty this year, while 3 to 5.2 million may lose their jobs because of the severe economic impact of the pandemic.Topics :last_img read more

City honor Liverpool, then hammer them 4-0

first_imgManchester City generously applauded new champions Liverpool onto the field before their Premier League match on Thursday — and promptly showed no mercy by thrashing them 4-0 at the Etihad stadium.With the title secured a week ago, there was little at stake for Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool side who showed far from their usual levels of intensity but the loss, just their second of the league campaign, was an emphatic reminder that City will be desperate to regain their crown next season.Klopp was quick to defend his team’s attitude, rejecting any suggestion they had taken the game lightly. Topics : Joe Gomez could not cope with Raheem Sterling’s twisting and turning in the box, pulling him to the ground before Kevin De Bruyne converted the penalty in the 25th minute.Sterling doubled the lead 10 minutes later when after a swift break, Phil Foden found him inside the box and the ex-Liverpool forward cut inside Gomez and slid the ball home.The 20-year-old Foden made it 3-0, firing past Alisson after a swift exchange with Kevin De Bruyne.City were showing an unusual willingness to play long balls and after Rodri launched a pass deep to De Bruyne, the Belgian found Sterling inside the box and he slipped the ball goalwards, with substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s outstretched touch only turning it into his own net.It could have been even worse for Liverpool with Riyad Mahrez’s fine solo effort in the final moments but VAR spotted a handball by Foden in the build-up.”We beat the champions, an extraordinary team,” Guardiola said.”We tried to play football, take risks against the best team I have ever faced in my life at high pressing,” he added.”They drank a lot of beers this week but they arrived here with no beers in their blood which is why I give us a lot of credit.”The loss was the joint-heaviest defeat by a side already crowned Premier League champions. Arsenal were beaten 4-0 at Liverpool in 1997-98 in the game after they clinched the title.center_img “I saw a brilliant attitude. I saw fight. We didn’t behave like somebody who became champions a week ago. We lacked fluidity. And in some 50-50 situations they were quicker than us,” he said.”Man City are incredible. I saw their season, they didn’t play a bad game even when they lost,” he said.After the guard of honor, which included City manager Pep Guardiola, the visitors started brightly and Ederson had to be alert to keep out a fourth-minute effort from Mohamed Salah.Salah then struck the post after a clever pass from Roberto Firmino, whose hair was colored red, but if Liverpool thought they were in for another night of festivities, they were in for a rude awakening.last_img read more

Brazil’s Bolsonaro, long a skeptic, tests positive for coronavirus

first_imgFinishing the interview, he stepped back and removed his mask to reveal a smile, adding: “You can see from my face that I’m well and I’m calm.”Bolsonaro said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against COVID-19.Bolsonaro has emulated his political role model Donald Trump in voicing skepticism about the virulence of the virus, although the US president has moderated his tone. Bolsonaro tested negative in March for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, resort.The positive test on Tuesday looks set to spark a frantic period of contact tracing and tests for those who met Bolsonaro in recent days, including Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, lender Banco Bradesco’s Chairman Luiz Carlos Trabuco and planemaker Embraer’s CEO Francisco Gomes Neto. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he tested positive for the novel coronavirus after months of playing down the severity of the virus and defying medical experts, even as the pandemic killed more than 65,000 people in his country.The right-wing populist told a group of television reporters that he had developed symptoms at the weekend.”It started on Sunday with a certain malaise and became worse throughout the day on Monday, feeling poorly, exhaustion, a bit of muscle ache, fever hit 38 [degrees Celsius],” he said. Topics :center_img Over the weekend, Bolsonaro was also in close contact with US Ambassador Todd Chapman during July 4 celebrations. Pictures showed neither wearing a mask.Brazilian financial markets retreated following the news. Brazil’s currency, the real, swung into negative territory and the benchmark stock index deepened losses to 1.5%.CriticismBrazil has the world’s second-largest outbreak behind the United States, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases.Bolsonaro has drawn criticism from public health experts for fighting state and city efforts to impose social distancing, arguing that the economic damage of those orders is worse than the disease itself.He has fired two health ministers during the crisis, both trained doctors, and replaced them with an active duty army general on an interim basis.He joins a list of government leaders to become infected with the coronavirus, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, both of whom were treated in hospital and needed extra oxygen.Pan American Health Organization director for communicable diseases Marcos Espinal wished Bolsonaro a “speedy recovery” but said his infection carried a message.”The message is that this virus is unpredictable and does not respect race, class or people in power, despite security around any president,” Espinal said. “For Brazil, the infection of its president should reinforce the need to strengthen implementations of social distancing recommendations and the use of masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” he added.Bolsonaro has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June. Bolsonaro has also railed against social distancing rules supported by the World Health Organization.The US embassy in Brasilia said via Twitter on Monday that the ambassador had lunch on July 4 with Bolsonaro, five ministers and the president’s son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro. The ambassador had no symptoms, but would undergo testing and is “taking precautions,” the embassy said.last_img read more

US town grows money from trees during pandemic downturn

first_imgDesperate times The idea is not new: town officials last tried it during an even worse period of economic devastation, the Great Depression in the 1930s.A national scarcity of dollars at the time prompted officials in Tenino to print money on spruce bark.”The concept became 1930s viral,” Fournier said, with other communities, businesses and chambers of commerce eager to emulate the town’s example.Media attention piqued the curiosity of investors, and over the years the wooden currency became a collector’s item sold on eBay and Amazon.The contemporary version of wooden currency, like the previous edition, aims to help the town through an economic crisis that forced businesses to close nationwide.”It’s more of an advertisement for the town itself,” said Chris Hamilton, the manager of the town’s main grocery store. “It brings a lot of people into town that may not even know about Tenino and want to check this place out that makes its own money.”They might stop off here, buy an ice cream or go down the street and buy a hamburger.”Similar complementary currencies exist elsewhere in the US and Europe, aimed not at replacing the national money but supporting the local economy — a key distinction since American authorities take a dim view of anyone trying to create a bill to compete with the almighty dollar. The US Treasury declined to comment on its position regarding local currencies.Switzerland’s WIR system, created in 1934, is considered the oldest local currency in the world, used by thousands of small businesses every day. Tenino had become a ghost town, and small businesses were struggling to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic, so local officials revived an unconventional idea from the last century: printing the town’s own currency on thin planks of wood.”There was no trading, no selling and the city streets were dead. They looked the same at 3 pm as they did at 3 am,” said Wayne Fournier, mayor of the town of 1,800 people in Washington state, in the northwestern United States.”We were getting a lot of calls from businesses saying they were not sure if they would be able to hang on,” he told AFP. Topics : The currency is good only inside the town limits.center_img Response to globalization Facing an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent in June — one of the highest rates since the Great Depression — American advocates of complementary currencies say now is the time to consider them as a means to help residents.”The crisis in municipal funding is pushing creativity. Administrators are exploring this concept of issuing their own currency instead of bonds to finance their COVID response,” said Susan Witt, director of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics.The research center developed BerkShares, a currency in circulation since 2006 in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts, which is distributed by local banks. Witt is advising several US municipalities interested in similar initiatives.Advocates of local currencies also see them as a bulwark against unbridled globalization.”People are starting to realize that we went too global, too fast and we lost our local skills,” said Chris Hewitt, founder of Hudson Valley Current, a currency in upstate New York which operates as a mutual credit system.Supporters hope to create a nationwide movement.”If that happens across the country organically, that could be something that helps save us from a serious recession,” Fournier said. The town’s museum had a printing press, so it was put to use to make $10,000 worth of bills on wooden rectangles, each nominally worth $25. They feature a portrait of President George Washington and bear a Latin inscription that translates as “We’ve got it under control.”The money is being given as a grant to locals who demonstrate they have been economically harmed by the pandemic. Each resident is allowed up to $300 per month.Known as “Tenino dollars,” “COVID dollars” or, sometimes, “Wayne dollars” after the mayor himself, the bills are traded at almost all shops in the town at a fixed rate equivalent to $1.last_img read more

Japan approves dexamethasone as coronavirus treatment

first_imgJapan’s health ministry has approved dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, as a second treatment of COVID-19 after a trial in Britain showed the drug reduced death rates in hospitalized patients.The ministry included dexamethasone as an option for treatment along with antiviral drug remdesivir in a recent revision to its handbook. The revision was widely reported by Japanese media on Wednesday.In results announced last month, a trial by researchers in the United Kingdom showed dexamethasone as the first drug to save lives of COVID-19 patients in what scientists said was a major breakthrough in the coronavirus pandemic.Japan’s Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical Co is among those that produce the drug.  Topics :last_img

Carpe diem: Invasive fish feeds hungry in South Africa’s lockdown

first_img“It is a difficult time since COVID-19 started, we could not work. There is [no] money to buy food,” said Erika Kurdom, speaking behind her mask after collecting her ration for the day.”This fish helps us greatly,” she said.South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus infections on the continent, with a tally creeping towards half a million.For freshwater anglers in western Europe, carp are a game fish which are typically put back into the water alive after being caught, so that they can fight again.But in other cultures, in eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, carp are a well-known dish and are often farmed for food.”The fish itself [is]… very good for human consumption,” said Mario Ferreira, regional representative of charity Gift of the Givers, driving the fish distribution initiative. “The locals actually love it.”  Topics : It is just before sunrise and volunteers are hauling nets full of gleaming, wriggling carp out of Groenvlei Lake.Here, on the picturesque coast of South Africa, environmentalists are hard at work trying to eradicate an invasive alien species.The fish, introduced into Groenvlei in the 1800s, has proliferated so much that the lake’s ecosystem is at threat.center_img For nearly two years, the carp have been netted or hunted with a bow and processed into fertilizer. But not any more.Today, the fish are destined for dinner tables in nearby Sedgefield, a town that depends hugely on tourism — and that industry has vanished almost overnight because of the coronavirus pandemic.”The carp that we take out… we donate it to our local communities as part of a food diet, because fish is actually an important source of protein,” said Thulani Ndlovu, manager at CapeNature, a governmental nature conservation organization.With South Africa’s lockdown now in its fifth month, fish from Groenvlei are helping feed around 250 people per day.last_img read more

Govt to disburse Rp 2.4 million in aid for small and micro enterprises

first_imgAs a potential COVID-19 vaccine is in the making, Jokowi expressed optimism that the country’s economy would get better by early next year. Thus, he hoped micro enterprises could stay afloat until then.Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Teten Masduki called for micro and small enterprises to actively register themselves to their local cooperative agency in order to receive the government aid.“We encourage small and micro enterprises that have not yet received any capital and investment banking to actively enroll in their nearby cooperative agency,” he said.Teten said the government had so far collected data on 17 million micro enterprises nationwide.Under the aid scheme, Rp 2.4 million in cash benefits would be transferred directly to a recipient’s bank account following a thorough data verification process. (trn)Topics : President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced on Wednesday that the government will disburse Rp 2.4 million (US$161) in cash aid to micro and small enterprises starting next week to support businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.“Starting next week, the government will disburse an emergency capital fund, or what is called productive presidential aid. It is worth Rp 2.4 million per person for 9.1 million vendors, micro and small enterprises,” Jokowi said on Wednesday.“We all know how the pandemic has hit hard not only the small [enterprises], but also medium and large [businesses].”last_img read more