I mentioned earlier that the Asian Development Bank had said Vietnam’s GDP growth will slow to 4.98% this year, versus 7.02% last year.
I now have a fuller copy of the report, which says regional economic growth in developing Asia will decline sharply in 2020. It forecasts regional growth of 2.2% in 2020, down from the 5.5% the ADB had forecast in September.
But the ADB says growth is expected to rebound to 6.2% in 2021, assuming that the outbreak ends and activity normalises.
“The evolution of the global pandemic—and thus the outlook for the global and regional economy—is highly uncertain. Growth could turn out lower, and the recovery slower, than we are currently forecasting. For this reason, strong and coordinated efforts are needed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and minimise its economic impact, especially on the most vulnerable,” said ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada.
The ADB estimates the pandemic will:
- reduce China’s growth to 2.3% this year, before rebounding to 7.3% in 2021.
- It estimates growth in India will slow to 4.0% in fiscal year 2020 before strengthening to 6.2% in 2021.
- Economic activity in the Pacific subregion is expected to contract by 0.3% in 2020 before recovering to 2.7% in 2021.
New Zealand’s health minister has apologised to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after he was photographed mountain biking, apparently flouting the government’s own advice to exercise safely and locally during a country-wide lockdown.
David Clark told Ardern on Thursday night that he had driven to a park 2km from his Dunedin home.
You can read our full story below.
Here’s our latest global wrap on the coronavirus pandemic, toplining with the citizens of Wuhan being told to stay inside and be vigilant as the date for their travel restrictions being lifted approaches (8 April). As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow will be a national day of mourning in China. Get the full story below:
In Hungary journalists say a new law supposedly aimed at fighting the coronavirus will make objective reporting of the pandemic harder and leave them open to facing court cases or even jail time for their reporting.
The measures, in place since Monday, have been roundly criticised for the sweeping powers they hand to the nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, to rule by decree. Another part of the bill provides penalties of up to five years in prison for those spreading misinformation during the pandemic.
Journalists in the country say the new law is already being used to deny them access to information, and on occasion to threaten them.
You can read the Guardian’s full story below:
Crops at risk in Europe without migrant workers
Farmers across Europe bank on improvised armies of pickers to save harvest, as coronavirus lockdowns have stopped migrant workers from arriving to carry out the work.
Fruit and vegetable crops in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the UK and other countries risk rotting in the fields – putrefying testaments to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It won’t be pretty,” said Eamonn Kehoe, a soft fruit specialist with Ireland’s agri-food agency, Teagasc. “If they don’t have the staff it won’t be picked. It’s a nightmare, a perfect storm.”
He was referring to Ireland’s growers, but farmers and agriculture officials across Europe have equally grim warnings about abandoned fields and lost crops unless they can conjure improvised armies of pickers.
Spain, which is the EU’s biggest exporter of fruit and vegetables, is already feeling the impact. “We’re very limited at the moment when it comes to having enough hands to pick and harvest,” said Pedro Barato, the president of Spain’s largest farming association, Asaja.
You can read the full story below:
Australia’s chief medical officer says global cases could be ‘5-10 times higher’ than reported
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy has said worldwide cases of Covid-19 could be “five to 10 times” higher than the one million known currently. Murphy says the only numbers he has total faith in are the Australian numbers, because “we have the highest testing rate in the world” (Trump has also claimed this mantle).
I think China is in a really difficult position. They did clamp down incredibly hard and they stopped transmission. But their population is not immune. They still have a lot of people in their population and they are, obviously, trying very hard to prevent second waves. I think they have been pretty transparent but as I said, I’m only confident about our numbers. I’m certainly not confident even the numbers out of the US are much higher than being reported because nobody else in the world has been doing testing like we have. Nobody else in the world got on to all those original cases out of Wuhan in January and contained them. That’s why we are now dealing with what we know rather than a huge community transmission that happened all through February in countries like Italy and the US. We’re on top of our cases. But we still have a long way to go.
At the same press conference, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said modelling done for the government shows that “at the current rate” Australia is “tracking well”.
At the current rate if we keep doing what we’re doing and keep doing the work to upgrade ICU capacity and secure the extra ventilators then right now that trajectory is promising, it’s encouraging, but there are no guarantees. This virus writes its own rules.
You can follow all of the developments in Australia’ on Guardian Australia’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Asian Development Bank says that Vietnam’s GDP growth will slow to 4.98% this year, versus 7.02% last year.
Still with business and share markets have had a sticky day after hopes of a Saudi-Russia deal on oil production faded.
Donald Trump talked up the hope of a deal that would reverse a decision last month by the two countries to boost production, which shocked investors and saw prices plunge to $20 a barrel.
But that looks less certain now and the price of Brent crude slipped more than 1% in the Asia trading session. Shares also struggled and Wall Street was set to open down on Friday. All the main indices in Asia Pacific, from Sydney to Seoul, are in the red.
Some more details from my colleague Helen Davidson about the capacity cuts at Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong-based airline that has been devastated by the city protests and now the virus.
Augustus Tang, the chief executive, says the airline’s passenger fleet “has been virtually grounded as the remaining demand has disappeared”, according to a memo seen by Reuters.
“We carried 582 customers on one day this week, with a load factor of just 18.3%,” he said, adding that a usual day would see 100,000 passengers.
Cathay’s passenger capacity will now be further reduced from the previously announced “skeleton schedule” to two weekly flights to four long-haul destinations- London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Sydney.
Tang said they hoped to maintain three weekly flights on regional services to Tokyo, Taipei, New Delhi, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore, as well as three weekly flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur.
He will take a 30% cut to his base salary from April to December, as will Chairman Patrick Healy, with executive directors taking a 25% cut, the memo said.
This week the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 Report TV programme asked viewers if any of their children had messages to send to their grandparents, who they couldn’t see at the moment because of the home isolation requirements. The result was terrific.
China records 31 new cases
China has released its latest daily figures. They include 31 new cases, 29 of which were imported.
A row has erupted in the US over the sacking of the commander of the US Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, which is docked in Guam. Captain Brett Crozier had written a scathing letter asking for stronger measures to control a coronavirus outbreak onboard his warship, which was subsequently leaked to the media.
Acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the commander exercised poor judgment. Modly said the letter was sent through the chain of command but Crozier did not safeguard it from being released outside the chain.
“He sent it out pretty broadly and in sending it out pretty broadly, he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked and that’s part of his responsibility,” Modly said.
“It raised alarm bells unnecessarily,” he added.
Over 100 personnel on the Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus so far.
In the four-page letter, Crozier, who took command in November, described a bleak situation aboard the nuclear-powered carrier as more sailors tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus.
He called for “decisive action”: removing over 4,000 sailors from the ship and isolating them. He said that unless the Navy acted immediately, it would be failing to properly safeguard “our most trusted asset – our sailors.”
The ship has since docked at US naval base in Guam.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said the Trump administration’s decision to remove the commander showed “poor judgement”.
Fujifilm Holdings Corp says it has developed a new test for the coronavirus that reduces the results time to about two hours.
The test was developed by subsidiary Fujifilm Wako Pure Chemical Corp and will be released on 15 April, Reuters reports.
The SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Detection kit will be able to deliver results for the virus that causes Covid-19 faster than existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which presently take four to six hours, the company said.
Jazz guitarist John Bucky Pizzarelli dies in outbreak
Jazz guitarist John Bucky Pizzarelli who was inducted to the New Jersey Hall of Fame, has died at the age of 94.
The virtuoso who had played for presidents at the White House during his long and esteemed career died on Wednesday at his home in New Jersey.
His family told the New York Times they believe the cause of death was the coronavirus. And the Bergen Record reports that Pizzarelli tested positive for the virus on Sunday.
Associated Press says:
Pizzarelli was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and had a career that spanned eight decades.
He showed off his musical chops for former presidents like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and played alongside musical icons like Frank Sinatra.
Jazz guitar wouldn’t be what it is today without Bucky Pizzarelli, said jazz guitarist Frank Vignola. He and Freddie Green were responsible for a style of rhythm guitar playing that has lasted until 2020.
Pizzarelli died with his wife, Ruth, his son Martin, and his caregiver at his side.
China to hold national day of mourning on Saturday
China will hold a national mourning on Saturday for “martyrs” who died in the fight against the epidemic, the official Xinhua news agency says.
Three minutes of silence will be observed at 10am on 4 April across the country “while air raid sirens and horns of automobiles, trains and ships will wail in grief,” Xinhua said.
China has reported a total of 81,589 confirmed cases, which exclude asymptomatic patients, and 3,318 deaths from the outbreak.
Just while I’m on the airline industry, Hong Kong’s carrier Cathay Pacific carried just 582 passengers one day this week, with a load factor of 18.3%, Reuters reports, quoting an internal memo. It’s CEO and chairman have agreed to take a 30% base salary cut until December.
International airline seat capacity drops 80% from a year ago
We have written quite a lot about the dire state of the airline industry, but here’s a little more woe to add to it …
International seat capacity has dropped by almost 80% from a year ago and half the world’s airplanes are in storage, new data shows, suggesting the aviation industry may take years to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Carriers including United Airlines Holdings Inc and Air New Zealand have warned they are likely to emerge from the crisis smaller, and there are fears others may not survive.
“It is likely that when we get across to the other side of the pandemic, things won’t return to the vibrant market conditions we had at the start of the year,” said Olivier Ponti, vice president at data firm ForwardKeys.
“It’s also possible that a number of airlines will have gone bust and uneconomic discounts will be necessary to attract demand back,” he said in a statement.
There seems to be some movement on whether or not Americans should wear face masks routinely, outside of the house.
Speaking at a White House briefing, Dr Deborah Birx, a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue guidelines in the coming days on the use of face coverings.
Birx however cautioned that Americans, who have been admonished to stay at home except for essential outings, should not develop a “false sense of security” that they are fully protected from the respiratory illness by wearing a mask.
New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, urged residents to wear face coverings, citing studies showing that the virus can be transmitted by infected people who are showing no symptoms.
“What that means is when you put on that face covering you’re protecting everyone else,” de Blasio said. The Democratic mayor suggested New Yorkers use scarves or other home-made masks because medical-grade protective gear was in short supply.
The WHO has said only people who are sick or treating or assisting people who are sick should wear masks.
The Guardian asked four experts for their advice on face masks.
In case you missed this, the Guardian’s Yang Tian has written about her anticipation of receiving a care package from her father in Beijing: “Dad has always sent care packages from China. Now it’s face masks instead of snacks.”