On Wednesday, scientists announced the first effective treatment for coronavirus – an investigational drug that can accelerate the healing of patients with COVID-19 – in a major medical advance that occurred amid the gloomy economic conditions caused by the scourge s was deepening in the United States and Europe.
The U.S. government has said it is working to make remdesivir, an antiviral medication available, as soon as possible.
“What he has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ largest infectious disease expert.
“It will be the standard of care.”
The news came when the US government announced that US production was declining at an alarming rate in the largest and most rapid collapse since the crisis. The virus has killed more than 220,000 people worldwide since December, including around 60,000 in the United States, and has resulted in closures and other restrictions that have closed factories and other businesses around the world.
Amid the closings, the United States reported that its gross domestic product, or production of goods and services, had declined at an annual rate of 4.8% over the period from January to March, the largest quarterly decline pronounced since the global collapse more than ten years ago. And the worst is yet to come: the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the GDP of the world’s largest economy will plunge at an annual rate of 40% during the three-month period ending in June.
Latest figures on people applying for unemployment benefits in the United States are expected to be released on Thursday, with economists estimating that perhaps 1 in 6 American workers, or about 30 million people, have lost their jobs in the past six weeks.
The US unemployment rate for April will come out at the end of next week, and economists have predicted it could reach up to 20 percent of the workforce – a level never seen since the crisis.
Among those who are not working is Derek Nye Lockwood, 51, a tailor-made tailor from New York City. He saw his work stop in mid-March when home orders closed galas and fashion events.
“We travel a million kilometers an hour. Suddenly it stopped, “said Lockwood.
He hopes his sewing skills will be demanded in the end, but for now, he’s sewing masks for hospitals outside of his apartment.
Confirmed infections worldwide have reached more than 3.2 million, including 1 million in the United States, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University. The actual number of deaths and infections is said to be much higher due to limited testing, differences in death counts and hiding by some governments. Biotechnology company Gilead Sciences and the US government reported that in a major study, remdesivir shortened the time it takes for COVID-19 patients to recover by an average of four days, from 15 days to 11. In addition, a tendency to the decline in deaths has been observed among those on drugs, said Fauci.
The study was led by the National Institutes of Health in the United States and involved 1,063 patients hospitalized for a coronavirus worldwide.
Effective treatment could have a profound effect on the epidemic, since a vaccine is probably in a year or more.
Meanwhile, economic damage is accumulating elsewhere in the world. Globally, the main United Nations labor agency has raised its forecast for full-time equivalent job losses in the second quarter to around 305 million. He also predicted that 1.6 billion workers in the “informal economy”, including those who work without proper contracts or without oversight by government regulations, “are in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed. This represents almost half of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people.
In Europe, almost all measures of the economy are in free fall. Figures expected to be released on Thursday are expected to show a decline of around 4% in the first three months of the year in the euro area, and an even more pronounced hit is expected this quarter. Unemployment is expected to reach around 8% in March. The figure would be worse if it weren’t for massive amounts of government support to keep millions of workers on wages. Public debts are exploding to cover the costs of these reliefs.
“The closings to contain the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented for the European economy,” said Florian Hense, economist at Berenberg Bank. In Paris, the aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced a loss of 481 million euros in the first quarter ($ 515 million), laid off thousands of workers and sought billions of loans to get out of the crisis.
Italy’s credit rating was downgraded in the first downturn of a large economy following the crisis. His rating is just one level above the status of junk bond. Italy predicts that its economy will contract by 8% this year.
The German economy minister said the government plans to contract around 11% of GDP by the end of the quarter. But he also predicted a clear recovery in 2021.
Many economists are skeptical that the U.S. economy will rebound quickly later in the year, noting that the virus may re-emerge or that consumers and workers may be too worried to resume their normal activities.
“The virus has done a lot of damage to the economy, and there is so much uncertainty now,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. In other developments, British has increased its death toll to more than 26,000 after adding more than 3,800 deaths in nursing homes that were not previously included. With the crisis easing in places like Italy, France and Spain, European governments are turning to redesigning public transport to revive their economy without triggering a second wave of infections.
Solutions include placing red stickers on the floor to tell bus passengers in Milan how far to stand. The Dutch take longer and more spacious trains. Berlin and many other cities are opening more lanes for cyclists. And in Britain, bus passengers use the center or rear doors to reduce the risk to the driver.
In China, where the virus first appeared at the end of last year, the government has announced that its ceremonial parliament will be held late next month after the postponement of its initial meeting. The session will bring together 3,000 members.