Covid-19 Mar 27

Unite to fight the deadly pandemic, Xi tells Trump

Presidents discuss measures that China took to counter coronavirus as US tops the world with more than 82,000 cases  

by Shaun Tandon
Unite to fight the deadly pandemic, Xi tells Trump
China's President Xi Jinping spoke to Donald Trump late on Thursday and said he was ready to share all information and experience with the US as it battles the coronavirus pandemic. File photo from March 10: EyePress News / AFP

China and the United States should "unite to fight" the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the globe, President Xi Jinping said in a call with his US counterpart on Friday, according to state media.

The two countries have clashed in recent weeks over the virus, but Xi told President Donald Trump that China "wishes to continue sharing all information and experience with the US," said state broadcaster CCTV.

The two leaders appeared to strike a conciliatory tone after Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angered Beijing this month by repeatedly referring to "the Chinese virus" when discussing the Covid-19 outbreak first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Earlier this month a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing also suggested in a tweet that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan.

Friday's call also took place as the US overtook China as the country with the most coronavirus cases – the pathogen has now infected more than 82,400 people in the world’s largest economy.

Xi said Sino-US relations were at a "critical juncture", CCTV said, adding that cooperation was mutually beneficial and "the only right choice."

"I hope that the US will take substantive actions to improve Sino-US relations, and both sides can work together to strengthen cooperation in fighting the epidemic," he said.

Some provinces, cities and companies in China have provided medical supplies and support to the US as well, Xi added.

Record number of new unemployed

The United States now has more Covid-19 infections than any other country, and a record number of newly unemployed people, as the coronavirus crisis deepens around the world.

Healthcare systems in even the most developed nations are stretched to breaking point with grim warnings they could soon be overwhelmed – and a prediction that 1.8 million could die from the disease this year.

An estimated three billion people are staying at home in a global lockdown that may last for weeks. More than 530,000 people globally have been sickened by the disease, one sixth of them in the US, which on Thursday edged out Italy as the worst-affected nation.

"We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect our citizens," US President Donald Trump said.

With about 40% of Americans under lockdown, Trump urged citizens to do their part by practising social distancing: "Stay home. Just relax, stay home."

Grim predictions

Even with the kind of strict measures being implemented, researchers at Imperial College London said Thursday the global death toll could be staggering. Their model shows 1.86 million people could die, with nearly 470 million infected this year. 

Failure to act swiftly in imposing lockdowns and strict social distancing could make those numbers far higher, they warned.

"Our analysis highlights the challenging decisions faced by all governments in the coming weeks and months, but demonstrates the extent to which rapid, decisive and collective action now could save millions of lives," the researchers said.

As fears mount over a global recession that could even dwarf the Great Depression of the 1930s, leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link on Thursday. They pledged a "united front" to fight the outbreak – along with an enormous financial rescue package.

"We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic," they said in a statement.

They also pledged "robust" support for developing nations, where experts fear the coronavirus could wreak havoc.

Painful choices

With hospitals under severe strain, medical workers in Italy and Spain are making painful choices.

"If I've got five patients and only one bed, I have to choose who gets it," Sara Chinchilla, a pediatrician at a hospital near Madrid, said. "People are dying who could be saved but there's no space in intensive care."

In Britain, the National Health Service said London's hospitals were facing a "continuous tsunami" of seriously ill COVID-19 patients, despite a lockdown imposed this week.

And in New York, where tens of thousands are ill, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned there were simply not enough hospital beds. "Almost any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the current healthcare system," he said.

Economic devastation

The pandemic has already become catastrophic for the global economy. In the US, the world's largest economy, the Labor Department reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week – by far the highest number ever recorded.

Job losses have swept across sectors from food services to retail to transportation, as nearly half of the country has closed to non-essential businesses.

"It is staggering. We are only seeing the initial numbers; they will get worse, unfortunately," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, estimating that half a million people in the city would lose work.

But stock markets continued to climb on Friday, with Asian bourses in the green after a third straight day of rises on Wall Street.

Traders have taken heart from the passage through the Senate of a $2 trillion stimulus bill – the largest in US history, which will support American businesses and provide cash payouts averaging $3,400 for a family of four.

The bill goes before the House of Representatives on Friday.

AFP