CHINA’S well-considered opinion that Coronavirus is a global challenge and should be treated as such is proving right with the spread of the deadly virus to all continents of the world and multilateral institutions as well as individual countries firming up short, medium and long term plans to fight the menace. After World Bank’s announcement of launching of a $12 billion programme to help poor nations deal with the health and economic consequences of the epidemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday announced a $ 50 billion aid package. Global central banks have also initiated coordinated action to deal with the consequences of the outbreak of the disease.
Latest reports from across the globe reveal as the number of fresh cases in China is decreasing, other countries are reporting a sharp increase. The scale with which the Chinese Government started the campaign to brace the challenge is paying off and number of suspected infections in China fell to the lowest level since late January, at 520 cases — down from nearly 29,000 suspected cases reported in early February. There are close to one hundred thousand confirmed cases of the Coronavirus around the world, and the outbreak has spread to thirty countries in six continents. Italy is worst affected after China where 28 more people died on Wednesday, the highest single-day total, prompting the authorities to close down educational institutions and deciding to play all football matches without fans. Saudi Arabia too is taking all sorts of precautionary measures including latest ban on its own citizens on performing Umrah, raising concerns about what would happen to annual Hajj. The speed with which the virus is spread to different corners of the globe is alarming and there is surely need for greater cooperation among states to tackle the challenge effectively. It is appreciable that China, which has demonstrated its ability to overcome the problem in a short span of time, has expressed its readiness to provide all possible assistance to other countries in dealing with the threat. The difficulties of the poor and lower middle income countries would multiply as they have not enough resources to spare when healthcare system in those countries is already in a shambles. In this backdrop, the announcement of IMF to provide interest-free loans to countries is a welcoming development. However, this would increase the burden of loans on them and the most viable approach would be provision of grants and medical assistance to the affected but poor countries.