Exclusive: Coronavirus crisis could destroy far more than 25 million jobs – ILO official

GENEVA (Reuters) – The number of jobs lost around the world due to the coronavirus crisis could be “far higher” than the 25 million the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated just a week ago, a senior ILO official said on Thursday.

The United Nations agency said on March 18 that, based on different scenarios for the impact of the pandemic on global economic growth, estimated the global ranks of jobless would rise by between 5.3 million and 24.7 million.

However, Sangheon Lee, director of the ILO’s employment policy department, told Reuters in Geneva on Thursday that the scale of temporary unemployment, lay-offs and the number of unemployment benefit claims were far higher than first expected.

“We are trying to factor in the temporary massive shock into our estimate modeling. The magnitude of fluctuation is much bigger than expected,” he said.

“We need to make downward adjustment, the projection will be much bigger, far higher than the 25 million we estimated.”

ILO’s next forecast is expected to be issued next week.

By comparison, the 2008/9 global financial crisis increased global unemployment by 22 million.

Figures released on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to a record of more than 3 million last week.

Strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic brought the country to a sudden halt, unleashing a wave of layoffs that likely ended the longest employment boom in U.S. history.

Data is also pointing to a sharp jump in job losses in Western Europe despite government spending packages that include support for companies to keep workers on.

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Coronavirus: Manitoba announces first death, public gatherings to be limited to 10

Manitoba has recorded its first death related to COVID-19.

Manitoba’s COVID-19 cases currently stand at 39, with three more cases overnight. The one person who was in hospital is the person who died. She was in her 60s.

Manitoba will also limit gatherings to 10 people starting on Monday, by orders of the chief public health officer, Brent Roussin.

“This is not the time for dismay. We are not helpless… thank you to everyone who stepped up,” said Roussin.

“If you can, stay home.”

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Restrictions, starting Monday, include:

  • This includes places of worship, gatherings and family events such as weddings and funerals.
  • This does not apply to a facility where health care or social services are provided including child-care centres and homeless shelters.
  • Retail businesses including grocery or food stores, shopping centres, pharmacies or gas stations must ensure separation of one to two metres between patrons assembling in the business.
  • Public transportation facilities must also ensure that people assembling at the facility are reasonably able to maintain a separation of one to two metres.

Public health investigations are underway to determine additional details and to confirm the possible exposure of these cases.

Cadham Provincial Laboratory performed 606 tests on Thursday, said the province. As of March 26, 6,203 tests have been performed.

A community testing site will open Monday, March 30 in Pine Falls at École Powerview School, 33 Vincent St., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. The community testing site in The Pas has relocated to the Royal Canadian Legion at 4 Veterans Way.

While updates on numbers of cases will continue to be updated at the press conference daily, details like age, gender and area will only be provided online when information is confirmed.

On Thursday, the premier said the previously announced PST cut to 6 per cent on July 1 would not be happening this year, and asked the federal government to implement a fund that would allow provinces to borrow money at a cheaper interest rate.

He also said the province’s rainy day fund would shortly be depleted, and the provincial government estimates it will need to borrow at least $5 billion to keep health care running during the pandemic.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers must self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Coronavirus ‘ghost towns’: Saskatchewan trucker has isolating view of pandemic

Regina trucker Chris Smyth hasn’t seen anything like this during in his 10-plus years on the road.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought forth personal protective measures and supply concerns while the trucking industry continues to transport goods.

One of the provincial measures brought into effect has restaurants reduced to food delivery and drive-thru only. According to Smyth, it’s had an impact in more than one way.

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“Restaurants and diners are closed, where we usually take our breaks. That cuts out the little bit of social life that we do have,” Smyth said.

“I ran into a fellow driver here last week, an older man, and he looked just down in the dumps… he’s said that he’s really struggling because he doesn’t have his usual coffee shops to stop into and just chat with the locals or have a little bit of a social life.”

According to Susan Ewart, executive director of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, the Thank a Trucker campaign was put out a couple of weeks ago as a way to highlight the drivers’ efforts.

“Truck driving is considered to be an essential service. Those men and women that are out on the roads today, they really are putting themselves on the front line,” Ewart said.

“We just wanted to make sure that the public understood the critical role that trucking does play in our economy and that we should be thanking those people.”

The campaign on social media aims to generate kindness on highways amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an odd time. We just need to spread a little more kindness. It is weird. This whole kindness issue is taking off… that sense of community is a little bit amazing,” Ewart said.

Smyth said the campaign is working.

“There’s a lot of places now that are offering a hot meal. You can phone and order it ahead and they’ll come right to the truck. It is making life a little bit easier out here.”

The provincial government said, on an average day, roughly 38,000 trucks are travelling along Saskatchewan highways.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Coronavirus: Health officials confirm case on Calgary to Kamloops WestJet flight

A WestJet flight from Calgary to Kamloops this past weekend had a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, the BC Centre of Disease Control (BC CDC) said on Thursday.

The BC CDC posted the information to social media in a public exposure alert, stating WestJet flight 3241 on Saturday, March 21 was affected.

The BC CDC did not list which rows or seats were affected, with Interior Health retweeting the information.

According to the BC CDC, this is the fourth domestic flight into the Interior Health region involving a confirmed case of COVID-19.

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The other flights were:

    • March 9: Air Canada 8420, Vancouver to Kelowna, rows 2-6
    • March 10: WestJet 3326, Vancouver to Kelowna, all seats
    • March 10: Air Canada Jazz 8416, Vancouver to Kelowna, rows 12-18

    “We’ve added more domestic and international flights with a confirmed case of #COVID19 on board,” tweeted BC CDC

    “If you have been flying, please check the list. People arriving in B.C. from outside of Canada need to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.”

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U.S. House will have panel overseeing coronavirus aid law expenditures: Pelosi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday the House will set up a panel to oversee expenditures under the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law.

Pelosi made the comment in an MSNBC interview when asked about a statement by President Donald Trump rejecting aspects of a provision in the law setting up an inspector general to audit some loans and investments.

“Congress will exercise its oversight and we will have our panel … appointed by the House, in real time to make sure we know where those funds are being expended,” Pelosi said.

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U.S. lawmakers urge 90-day-plus deferral of tariff collections to aid businesses

WASHINGTON, March 26 (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday to order the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to defer collections of U.S. tariffs for at least 90 days to ease coronavirus pressures on U.S. businesses.

Eight prominent Democratic and Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives said in a letter that the deferral should be kept in place “until the crisis passes” to relieve “extreme cash flow problems due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.” (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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G20 leaders to inject $5 trillion into global economy to fight coronavirus

RIYADH (Reuters) – Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies pledged on Thursday to inject $5 trillion in fiscal spending into the global economy to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus and “do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”

Showing more unity than at any time since the 2008-2009 financial crisis that led to the G20’s creation, the leaders said they committed during a videoconference summit to implement and fund all necessary health measures needed to stop the virus’ spread.

In a statement containing the most conciliatory language on trade in years, the G20 leaders pledged to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies and other goods across borders and to resolve supply chain disruptions.

As many countries enact export bans on medical supplies, the G20 leaders said they would coordinate responses to avoid unnecessary interference.

“Emergency measures aimed at protecting health will be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary,” they said.

The G20 leaders also expressed concern about the risks to fragile countries, notably in Africa, and populations like refugees, acknowledging the need to bolster global financial safety nets and national health systems.

“We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat,” the G20 leaders said in a joint statement following their 90-minute call.

Saudi Arabia, the current G20 chair, called the video summit amid earlier criticism of the group’s slow response to the disease. It has infected more than 470,000 people worldwide, killed more than 21,000, and is expected to trigger a global recession.

Saudi King Salman, in opening remarks, said the G20 should resume the normal flow of goods and services, including vital medical supplies, as soon as possible to help restore confidence in the global economy.

The group committed to national spending measures totaling $5 trillion — an amount equal to that pledged in 2009 — along with other large-scale liquidity, credit guarantee schemes and other economic measures.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was to address the G20 to seek support for ramping up funding and production of personal protection equipment for health workers amid a global shortage.

“We have a global responsibility as humanity and especially those countries like the G20,” Tedros told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday. “They should be able to support countries all over the world.”

In his remarks to the group, U.S. President Donald Trump shared details of the $6 trillion in support the United States is making available through legislation and increased Federal Reserve liquidity, including $2 trillion in fiscal spending, and spoke in support of multilateral action and coordination.

“He talked about working together and sounded more supportive of multilateral coordination than ever before,” said one source who observed the meeting.

The meeting was not marred by acrimony, as was feared given the ongoing oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and a war of words between the United States and China over the origins and handling of the pandemic, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Tedros told G20 leaders that the pandemic is “accelerating at an exponential rate” and urged them to ramp up production of protective gear for health workers and remove export bans.

“Everyone realizes that it is essential to preserve jobs, and to maintain trade flows, not disrupt the supply chains,” said one Brazilian government official with knowledge of the videoconference discussions.

No country advocated “total confinement” mainly because most of the countries in G20 are not implementing such moves, the official added.

Several participants called upon the G20 to play the same role that it played in overcoming the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, when member countries pledged to inject massive fiscal stimulus and financial liquidity into the economy, the Brazilian official said.

IMF RESOURCES

The G20 leaders also asked the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group “to support countries in need using all instruments to the fullest extent.”

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva plans to ask the Fund’s steering committee on Friday to consider doubling the current $50 billion in emergency financing available to help developing countries deal with the virus, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.

To boost global liquidity, Georgieva also asked G20 leaders to back a Fund plan to allow member countries to temporarily draw on part of its $1 trillion in overall resources to boost liquidity. The IMF made a similar move in 2009 with a $250 billion allocation of Special Drawing Rights, its internal unit of currency.

Georgieva gave no specific number in her statement, but observers to the G20 meeting said an SDR allocation of up to $500 billion could be needed.

HEALTH FUNDING

On the health response, the G20 leaders committed to close the financing gap in the WHO’s response plan and strengthen its mandate as well as expand manufacturing capacity of medical supplies, strengthen capacities to respond to infectious diseases, and share clinical data.

Despite calls for cooperation, the G20 risks entanglement in an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia and frictions between the United States and China over the origin of the coronavirus outbreak.

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U.S. House sets Friday debate for coronavirus aid bill

WASHINGTON, March 26 (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives will begin a two-hour debate on a sweeping, $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid bill at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Friday but it was not clear whether the measure would be able to pass on a voice vote, the House Majority Leader’s office said late on Thursday.

While most House members are in their home districts because of the coronavirus outbreak, those able and willing to travel to Washington for a vote should arrive by 10 a.m. (1400 GMT), according to the House advisory.

There have been discussions of a possible roll-call vote if a voice vote is blocked by dissenters. (Reporting by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Ackman says Pershing Square no longer has hedges on stocks

(Reuters) – William Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management no longer has hedges on its stock portfolio, but still has some cash to invest if equities decline further as the United States battles the coronavirus outbreak, the billionaire investor said on Saturday.

Pershing Square earned roughly $2.6 billion by hedging its stock portfolio in early March through credit protection on investment grade and high yield credit indices. Much of the money has been reinvested in stocks the firm already owns.

“Today, we are unhedged, and we no longer own any insurance”, Ackman said in a Twitter thread bit.ly/2xsAEFA, adding that he continues to believe the sooner the entire United States is shut down, the more lives will be saved and the sooner the economy will recover.

“Every day we wait, we prolong our collective misery”, Ackman said.

He told CNBC in an interview on March 18 that he thought the best approach to killing off the coronavirus was to close the borders and shut down the entire country, barring essential services, for 30 days.

The S&P 500 .SPX and the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell sharply after the interview aired.

He later said the interview was not designed to enable his firm to profit from any trades, dismissing some media speculation that he had purposely pushed markets lower to make money off his hedges.

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Coronavirus prompts changes to Canada Post in the Okanagan

Canada Post is warning its Okanagan customers to double-check its retail outlets’ hours amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It said that many post offices will reduce hours of service, opening one hour later and closing one hour earlier to clean, restock and provide some relief to employees.

“As well, for the first hour of each day, we will offer priority service to those who are at a higher risk (the elderly or people with compromised immune systems),” the organization said in a news release.

Canada Post said franchise-operated post offices will follow the measures put in place by its operators.

“We are working to keep our post offices open, but some may close due to building closures beyond our control and some smaller locations may close due to personnel reasons,” a news release said. “In these cases, we will direct customers to the nearest operating post office.”

Canada Post is also reminding waiting customers to respect social distancing measures of two metres.

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The mail delivery service said it’s working on signage and floor decals for larger post offices, adding that it may limit the number of customers in smaller spaces.

“We are also working on clear barriers for the counter to increase safety,” Canada Post said.

The postal service is encouraging customers to pay by using the tap function on credit or debit cards, but said it will continue to accept cash.

Canada Post said it has suspended its normal 15-day hold period, and parcels left at the post office for pickup will not be returned to their sender until further notice.

The company is also asking customers who are feeling ill or self-isolating to not visit the post office.

The postal delivery service said that to eliminate customer interactions at the door, it has implemented a “knock, drop and go approach.”

Canada Post said the change eliminates the need for signatures at the door, and delivery employees will knock or ring, choose the safest location available to leave the item and then depart for the next address.

The company said the change greatly reduces the number of parcels sent to post offices for pick-up.

However, items that require proof of age, ID or customs payments will be sent directly from a depot to a retail post office for pick-up with no restrictions on when customers can pick up the item, according to a news release.

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