Bolstering the fight against Covid-19 epidemic

Thursday, 2020-04-09 16:19:18
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Tokyo pedestrians watch a large screen showing Japan’s PM declaring a state of emergency. (Photo: Naoki Ogura/Reuters)
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NDO – The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be complicated, not only affecting the lives of billions of people globally but also negatively impacting on the world’s economy.

In this context, many countries have introduced strong and drastic measures to control the epidemic as well as help the global economy to overcome this crisis period.

In the face of the rapid and wide spread of Covid-19, “threatening to seriously impact people's lives and the economy”, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in seven provinces and cities around the country, including the capital city of Tokyo. This is the first time a state of emergency has been declared in the “Land of Rising Sun”. The action allowed prefectural governors to take strong steps such as restricting the operation or temporarily closing popular facilities as well as requisitioning houses and land for emergency medical purposes.

Following the declaration, authorities in seven provinces and cities have taken essential measures, including asking citizens to strictly follow the recommendation to stay at home, except in necessary cases. The governors of Tokyo and other cities have now required people to limit going out from April 8; meanwhile, the Osakan administration has decided to close public primary and high schools until the end of June. In addition, Hyogo City has hired private hotels as quarantine areas for those infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but have mild disease symptoms.

In addition to the declaration of state of emergency, Japan’s Cabinet approved the largest-ever stimulus package revive the economy, standing at 108 trillion yen (US$990 billion). The package, equal to 20% of the country’s GDP, far exceeds the 56.8 trillion yen emergency package at the time of the 2008 financial crisis. PM Shinzo Abe said that the package includes fiscal measures worth about 39 trillion yen, with 6 trillion yen worth of cash handouts to households and small to medium-size enterprises, as well as tax and social security payment deferments for businesses worth 26 trillion yen.

President Moon Jae-in said on April 8 that the government of the Republic of Korea (RoK) has approved an economic aid package worth 57.3 trillion won (US$44 billion) to help reinvigorate exports and bolster domestic demand. The President also noted that his government proposed to add at least 36 trillion won in financial support for businesses and 17.7 trillion won to prop up rapidly freezing domestic demand. That was considered a necessary bailout in the context of the global economic slowdown and its severe impact on the RoK’s export-dependent economy. Earlier, President Moon Jae-in announced a planned economic rescue package of up to 100 trillion won (US$80 billion) to save companies hit by the Covid-19 as well as stabilising crashing stocks and bond markets.

On the same day, the Thai government approved its third stimulus package worth 1.9 trillion baht (US$58 billion) to alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. It consists of three emergency decrees, the first transferring 80-100 billion baht to the central budget to be used as stimulus funds. The second decree allows the Bank of Thailand to use up 900 billion baht for moves to boost the economy; meanwhile the third permits the Finance Ministry to borrow 1 trillion baht, of which 600 billion baht will be used for cash handouts and public health and 400 billion baht will be spent on economic recovery measures.

Military forces in Switzerland have been mobilised to participate in anti-epidemic activities. The military mobilisation, Switzerland’s largest since World War II, aims to support the prevention and control of Covid-19. Accordingly, over 8,000 soldiers have been mobilised in support of medical forces, border checks, logistics and security. Some 5,000 soldiers including members of medical battalions are supporting civil personnel.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that a snap check carried out by the Russian Defense Ministry has shown that the country's armed forces are ready to combat COVID-19. The Ministry has created an emergency operations headquarters to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection into the armed forces. It also formed 49 mobile sanitary-epidemiological groups to identify virus carriers and organise prompt reactivity.

The application of drastic measures to bolster the fight against Covid-19 have been hailed as vital by the international community. However, several countries and territories have begun to loosen the rules on social spacing following a recent reduction in the recorded rate of infection. In this context, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on all countries and territories to not abolish measures too soon in order to prevent and control Covid-19 and avoid further outbreaks of the epidemic.