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Experts weigh economic impact as world nears 100 million COVID-19 cases | Nutrition FIt


With the world quickly closing in on 100 million COVID-19 cases, two new reports today touched on the pandemic’s toll on workers’ income and the benefits vaccine equity could have for both lower income and wealthy countries.

Deaths spike as world approaches grim number

At a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing today, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said a year ago at this time, there were less than 1,500 cases, with only 23 outside of China. “This week, we expect to reach 100 million reported cases,” he said.

“Numbers can make us numb to what they represent: every death is someone’s parent, someone’s partner, someone’s child, someone’s friend.”

Amid COVID-19 spikes across multiple continents and the threat from a constellation of more transmissible variants, the world recorded its deadliest day on Jan 22, with 16,288 fatalities reported to the WHO.

The global total is currently at 99,547,547 cases with 2,135,697 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Pandemic fallout on workers

Today’s briefing spotlighted two reports that assessed the pandemic’s fallout on workers, as well as the potential economic benefits of equitable global vaccine distribution to businesses and economies.

The first report, from the International Labour Organization, presented by one of its authors, Sebnem Kalemi-Ozcan, PhD, an economist at the University of Maryland, noted tentative signs of recovery in labor markets. They found that for 2020, 8.8% of global working were lost, the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs—about four times more than the number lost during the 2009 financial crisis.

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Between the lost working hours and job losses, global labor income dropped 8.3%, amounting to $3.7 trillion or 4.4% of the global gross domestic product.

Financial benefits from equitable vaccine allocation

The second report, commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), used economic models to gauge the effects of different vaccine distribution patterns across the globe. It found that the global economy could lose as much as $9.2 trillion if governments don’t ensure that developing countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines. Half of the financial impact would fall on developed countries.

The ICC said the findings clearly make the economic case to invest in the global efforts such as COVAX to ensure equitable access to tests, treatments, and vaccines.

At today’s briefing, ICC Secretary General John Denton said governments have failed to understand economic interconnectedness in the context of the pandemic. Even when countries have access to the vaccine, lack of access among trading partners likely leads to a sluggish recovery and a drag on GDP. “This is not an act of charity, this is economic sense,” he said.

The ICC said a $27.2 billion investment to fully fund the WHO-led ACT Accelerator, designed to speed and equitably distribute tools to fight COVID-19, has the potential to generate returns as high as 166 times the investment.

European surges, cases elsewhere

  • Countries in Europe grappled with more fallout from their surges, including the Netherlands, where riots over the weekend in several cities protested COVID-19 measures that include a night curfew; Germany, where a Berlin hospital is on lockdown following an B117 variant outbreak, and France, where officials are considering a third lockdown amid rising cases and hospitalizations.
  • New Zealand over the weekend reported its first case outside quarantine in about 2 months, which involves a woman who had recently traveled to Europe and tested positive for the 501Y.V2 variant, first detected in South Africa, after she completed a 14-day quarantine.
  • Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador is the latest world leader to test positive for COVID-19 and is reported to have a mild infection.
  • China today reported dozens of new cases in its outbreak hot spots in the northeastern part of the country, including in Jilin province where the residents of the city of Tonghua, currently on lockdown, are reporting shortages of food and medicine. The country’s National Health Commission today reported 117 more local cases, including infections from Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Hebei provinces, as well as a few from Beijing and Shanghai.
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