The Latest: EU predicts 'recession of historic proportions'
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Struggles in India, Brazil, US show virus fight far from won.
— The European Union predicts “a recession of historic proportions” due to the coronavirus.
— Russia reports over 10,000 new coronavirus cases for the fourth day in a row.
BRUSSELS — The European Union predicted Wednesday “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus with a drop in output of more than 7%, as it released its first official forecast of the damage the pandemic is inflicting on the bloc’s economy.
The 27-nation EU economy is predicted to contract by 7.5% this year, before growing by about 6% in 2021. The group of 19 nations using the euro as their currency will see a record decline of 7.75% this year, and grow by 6.25% in 2021, the European Commission said in its Spring economic forecast.
More than 1.1 million people have contracted the virus across Europe and over 137,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Unclear outbreak data, low testing rates and the strain on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.
How quickly things can change. On Feb. 13, the commission had predicted “a path of steady, moderate growth” this year and next of 1.2%. At that time, uncertainty over U.S. trade policy and a Brexit trade deal plus tensions in Latin America and the Middle East were the main threats.
The coronavirus outbreak in China was noted at the time as “a new downside risk” but the commission’s assumption less than three months ago was “that the outbreak peaks in the first quarter, with relatively limited global spillovers.”
MOSCOW — Russia has reported more than 10,500 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the national total over 165,000, including about 1,500 deaths.
The country’s health officials have been reporting more than 10,000 new cases for the fourth day in a row. The caseload is likely to be much higher as not everyone is being tested, and many people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms.
Russia has been in lockdown since late March, with the vast majority of regions requiring residents to stay at home and suspending operation of most businesses. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended the lockdown till May 11.
PARIS — France’s government is warning the French that they shouldn’t expect to travel far for their vacations this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, a deputy minister at the French Foreign Ministry, said Wednesday that the external borders of Europe’s visa-free Schengen area, incorporating 26 nations, will remain closed “for several weeks, for several months.”
He said that for summer vacationers, “a trip of several thousand kilometers (miles) is, for sure, excluded.”
The comments are the latest warning from the French government that vacationers need to scale back their expectations this summer. The government is advising people to vacation in France instead, in part to help the tourism sector battered by the pandemic.
STOCKHOLM — Swedish media say that the Scandinavian country’s tax authorities have, under the current laws, ordered medical staff to pay taxes for the free lunches they have been getting. Or donors to report their gifts to the taxman.
The southern Sweden daily Sydsvenskan says three restaurants in Lund, one of the region’s largest cities, have offered free lunches.
“It feels saddening,” Asa Loven, co-owner of the Stamstallet eatery in Lund, told the daily.
In Sweden, if an employer receives lunches for the employees, it should be reported as a taxable benefit, the Swedish Tax Agency told Sydsvenska.
In Goteborg, Sweden’s second largest city, a restaurant donated food to healthcare professionals directly to health staff. However, the state agency said the giving part should report it, as it is taxable, the local newspaper Goteborgs-Posten wrote.
Yngve Gripple, a spokesman at the Swedish Tax Agency, told Goteborgs-Posten that the legislature needed to be changed if free lunches should not be taxed.
PRAGUE — A comprehensive study in the Czech Republic to determine the undetected infections with the coronavirus in the population has revealed a low number of COVID-19 cases.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech said a total of 26,549 people were tested across the country, including the capital, with 107 previously undetected positive tests.
The study was conducted in different parts of the Czech Republic where the epidemic was at different stages on people aged 18-89. In the capital of Prague and the second largest city of Brno, children also were included.
The samples of the population included volunteers as well selected groups, such as those suffering from chronic diseases.
A significant number of people infected with the coronavirus suffer no or only mild symptoms, but there is concern that they might unwittingly spread the virus to others.
Some 7,900 people have been tested positive in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released on Wednesday, 258 have died.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Long-haul carrier Qatar Airways says it will lay off staff as the coronavirus pandemic largely has grounded the global aviation industry.
The Doha-based carrier in a statement on Wednesday offered no figures for the number of employees who will be fired.
Qatar Airways is one of the three major airlines in the Persian Gulf region created to capitalize on East-West travel. It began flying in 1994 and has a fleet of over 200 aircraft that it flies out of Doha’s recently built Hamad International Airport.
However, an emailed memo from the airline’s CEO that leaked online said the layoffs number would be “substantial” and include members of its cabin crew.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Wednesday with the governors of the country’s 16 states to discuss further loosening restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
With the number of new cases in Germany averaging around 1,000 in recent days, pressure to relax the rules further has grown. Business leaders in particular have warned that the economy could suffer long-term damage from the lockdown, which has been light compared to some other European countries.
German media reported Wednesday that a draft plan would give states significant room to reopen all schools, hotels and restaurants, but require them to clamp down swiftly on any big outbreaks.
The dpa news agency and weekly Der Spiegel reported that authorities would need to reimpose restrictions on any county that reports 50 new cases for every 100,000 inhabitants within the past week.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has recorded 26 new coronavirus cases overnight mainly due to COVID-19 clusters at a Sydney nursing home and a Melbourne abattoir.
Deputy Chief medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Wednesday the daily increase was larger than has been usual in recent weeks. Put he is confident health authorities are quickly getting on top of the clusters at Newmarch House in Sydney and Cedar Meats in Melbourne.
The death toll at the nursing home has reached 16. There have been 49 infections linked to the abattoir, but no fatalities.
The Australian government plans to announce on Friday a relaxation of lockdown rules to get more people back to work.
Australia had recorded 6,875 cases and 97 fatalities in a population of 25.5 million. There have been 688,000 virus tests conducted, equivalent to one test for every 37 people.
BEIJING — The Disneyland theme park in Shanghai will reopen May 11 under “enhanced health and safety measures,” the company said.
Only limited attendance will be allowed initially, and visitors will need to book tickets and make reservations in advance. Social distancing will be maintained in lines for amenities, in restaurants, on rides and other facilities and sanitization and disinfection will be boosted, the company said in a news release.
With warmer weather and new virus cases and deaths falling to near-zero, China has been steadily re-opening, parks, museums and tourist sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City ancient palace complex in Beijing.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister says Queen Elizabeth II is pleased that the coronavirus has not shut down Australian horse racing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday the monarch of both Britain and Australia had initiated a telephone conversation overnight to discuss the pandemic, Australian drought and Australia’s recovery from recent devastating wildfires.
Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB: “She understands drought issues and rural issues really well and she was terribly interested in that. And she was particularly happy to know that the races were still running.”
Horse and greyhound racing are among the few sports to continue in Australia after pandemic lockdown rules prevented mass gatherings and unnecessary travel.
The 94-year-old monarch owns and breeds race horses.
Wildfires across Australia’s drought-stricken southeast during the Southern Hemisphere summer killed at least 33 and destroyed more than 3,000 homes.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the world’s one billion people with disabilities are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video and report Wednesday that the coronavirus crisis is revealing the extent of exclusion that the most marginalized members of society experience.
He said the pandemic is intensifying the inequalities that people with disabilities already face including living in poverty and experiencing higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse and is “producing new threats.”
If disabled people contract COVID-19, Guterres said, “many are more likely to develop severe health conditions, which may result in death.”
He said: “The share of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes — where older people with disabilities are overrepresented — ranges from 19 percent to an astonishing 72 percent.”
In some countries, Guterres said, decisions on rationing health care are based on discriminatory criteria “such as age or assumptions about quality or value of life, based on disability.”
“We cannot let this continue,” he said. “We must guarantee the equal rights of people with disabilities to access health care and life-saving procedures during the pandemic.”
WATERLOO, Iowa — Tyson Foods will begin limited operation Thursday of its huge pork processing plant in Waterloo, more than two weeks after closing the facility because of a coronavirus outbreak among workers, the company announced Tuesday.
Tyson said workers have been invited to tour the plant Wednesday to see enhanced safety measures and social distancing procedures that have been implemented. The plant has been closed since April 22, and the Iowa Department of Public
Health reports 444 workers have tested positive for the virus. The plant is Arkansas-based Tyson’s largest pork processing operation, with the ability to process 19,500 hogs per day. That accounts for 3.9% of the U.S. pork processing capacity, according to the National Pork Board.
All those who will return to work have been tested for COVID-19, the disease cased by the virus, the company said. Those who have tested positive will remain on sick leave until they can return to work.
NEW DELHI — Indian authorities have decided to shut down liquor shops in Mumbai, India’s financial capital which is the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, after the police found it extremely difficult to control the surging crowds at the vends over the past two days.
Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi in an order late Tuesday said that only groceries and pharmacies will be allowed to be opened in Mumbai which is battling a rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases.
Mumbai currently has around 10,000 positive cases and 387 deaths. On an average it has been getting more than 400 cases per day.
After some lockdown restrictions were eased in India on Monday, thousands turned up at liquor stores across the country without following social distancing guidelines. This led the authorities to shut many of the liquor shops. In some places, the police had to resort to baton-charge to disperse crowds.
Authorities in India’s capital imposed a special tax of 70% on liquor purchases on Tuesday to dissuade huge gatherings of thirsty drinkers at stores. The new tax is called the “special corona fee.”
India’s total positive cases have touched 46,711 with 13,161 recoveries and 1,583 deaths, according to India’s Health Ministry.