Spain overtakes China's coronavirus death toll, major relief packages in the works as India remains under lockdown
At last count, there were over 4,71,400 global cases and around 21,300 deaths.
Coronavirus continued its rampage across the world. At last count, there were over 4,71,400 global cases and around 21,300 deaths. Spain saw a surge in infections and deaths; with the death toll going over 3,640, it has now lost more lives to COVID-19 than China, second only to Italy. The situation in Italy also does not seem to be coming under control - there were close to 700 deaths in the last 24 hours taking its toll to over 7,500.
Further, cases in the US are also expanding rapidly, with deaths now over 1,000 and cases nearing 70,000.
Countries are scrambling to keep their economies intact during a phase described by the WTO (World Trade Organization) as worse than the recession of 2008. The US Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package - the largest in modern history - which includes a $1,200 direct cash payment to those earning under $75,000 annually, along with further funding for children, longer unemployment benefits and sops for small businesses.
India, too, is working on a financial package to ease the suffering of the masses - the majority of the economy is in the informal sector and many millions rely on daily wages for subsistence.
The position in India
The total number of cases in India reached 649 on Thursday morning, including 13 deaths. States such as UP, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat have chalked up plans to provide relief for those in the informal sector; there have been announcements of a one-time cash transfer of Rs 1,000-1,500.
The centre plans to disperse Rs 52,000 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare cess (BOCW) Act to construction workers across the country. Delhi, Bihar and other states announced free ration for the poor as well, and the PDS (Public Distribution System) will be expanded to include vegetables apart from foodgrains.
All of these are drastic moves and it could be a while, and a major challenge, to repurpose these essential services.
The first day of the national lockdown was a state of confusion for consumers and vendors alike; transport carrying food and other essential goods was allegedly stopped and delivery personnel harassed causing disruptions in the supply chain. E-retailers have been assured smoother functioning in the coming days as local authorities adapt to new realities.
The head of the UN, Antonio Guterres said that COVID-19 was a threat to the “whole of humanity and the whole of humanity must fight back”. The UN has asked for $2 billion in funding to fight the virus in poorer communities where social distancing is not possible and the healthcare system is weak.
The parts of the world that haven’t already closed themselves off moved to do so: Mexico is set to suspend all non-essential services starting Thursday and Russia will suspend all regularly scheduled commercial flights into the country as well. Spain is also looking to extend its national lockdown by two weeks until the 11th of April.
The 71-year-old Prince Charles of London, heir apparent to the British throne, also tested positive for the novel coronavirus but is in a stable condition currently.
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