On April 16th, the Trump administration issued guidelines for states, individuals and employers on how to gradually restore activity and ease up on social distancing in areas where COVID-19 cases are declining.
These are distributed as “Opening Up America Again,” in a very witty and whimsical homage to “Make America Great Again” and so on.
In essence this is what it sets out:
- Prior to Phase One: there needs to be a decline in documented COVID-19 cases for a 14-day period, as well as a testing program for at-risk healthcare workers. Other criteria include a decline of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period and hospitals having enough protective gear for their workers and enough beds, ventilators and other needed supplies to treat all patients.
- Phase One: It depends on the type of employment. Schools and organized youth activities that are currently closed, such as daycare, should remain closed. Bars should also remain closed. Larger venues such as movie theaters, churches, ballparks and arenas can operate but under strict distancing protocols. Various employees should be returned to their jobs in phases. Vulnerable individuals and the elderly should continue to isolate, and those that go outside should only visit places that allow proper distancing if there is a concentration of more than 10 people. Non-essential travel should be avoided.
- Phase Two: Non-essential travel can resume. Vulnerable individuals continue to isolate. When people go out in public, they should avoid social settings with more than 50 people when appropriate physical distancing is not practical. Still distance working is encouraged, and common areas in businesses need to be kept closed in order to avoid people gathering. Schools and daycare can reopen. Bars may open but should leave less room for people to stand around when possible.
- Phase Three: Vulnerable individuals can resume going out in public but should practice physical distancing. Visits to senior care centers and hospitals can also resume, though those who interact with residents and patients must remain diligent about following good hygiene practices. Meanwhile, low-risk populations should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments. Employers can resume unrestricted staffing of worksites.
There’s no timeline, but supposedly it should be up to about two months, according to US President Donald Trump’s statements.
On April 16th, the global cases of COVID-19 reached 2.15 million, with the US and France gaining cases with the largest speed.
Germany, Italy and Spain are showing somewhat reduced numbers, but they were higher than the tendency in the last few days.
In the US, currently there are 585,445 active cases, and there have been 34,617 fatalities, which puts it at first place of most deaths by a large margin.
In Europe, the increasing numbers signaled that the restrictions can’t be lifted yet, and that some more economic damage is necessary to curb the spread of the infection.
“Relaxing any of the measures in place would damage both public health and the economy,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is standing in for Boris Johnson while the prime minister recovers from an infection with the virus. “The worst thing we could do right now is ease up too soon and allow a second peak of the virus.”
Spain, which has the second-most cases behind the U.S. and Europe’s second-highest death toll behind Italy, reported the biggest daily increase in infections in a week
Italy, where Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is considering plans to ease restrictions, reported the most new cases in four days as tests rose to a daily record of 60,999. The number of deaths, hospitalized patients and intensive care patients all declined from the day before.
At the same time, the large increase of 96,000 in a single day around the globe may seem imposing, but that is an increase of approximately 5% of the total, which means that, effectively, the infection is slowing down.
Economically, China’s GDP shrank by 6.8% in the first quarter of the year due to the shutdowns, which is the worst performance since 1992.
Retail sales slid 15.8% in March as consumers remained wary, while investment decreased 16.1% in the first three months of the year.
Oil prices keep falling, as on April 15th, Brent crude price went down to $28, amid forecasts that demand would reach its lowest point in 25 years. At the same time US oil prices tumbled to 18-year lows of $19.20 a barrel after the quickest rise in surplus oil supplies in history.
Oil demand will this month hit its lowest levels for the year, according to the agency, falling below last year’s average by 29m barrels per day to reach levels not seen since 1995.
“Even assuming that travel restrictions are eased in the second half of the year, we expect that global oil demand in 2020 will fall by 9.3m barrels a day versus 2019, erasing almost a decade of growth,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.
The IEA said there was “no feasible agreement that could cut supply by enough to offset” the impact of the virus on global oil demand but added that the plan was a “solid start”.
The IEA’s warning came hours after the International Monetary Fund predicted the deepest recession since the Great Depression because of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
In its latest outlook for the world economy, the IMF said it expects GDP will contract by 3% in 2020, a far worse recession than the one that followed the global financial crisis of 2008, and a 180-degree reversal of its previous forecast in January when it was expecting growth of 3.3% in 2020.
“The Great Lockdown, as one might call it, is projected to shrink global growth dramatically. A partial recovery is projected for 2021 … but the level of GDP will remain below the pre-virus trend, with considerable uncertainty about the strength of the rebound,” the IMF said. “Much worse growth outcomes are possible and maybe even likely,” it added.
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