Business chiefs expect lengthy period before recovery as CDC chief warns of worse to come during US winter
Martin Farrer and agencies – The Guardian
A view of the fairground of Iranmall, Tehran’s largest shopping mall, after it converted into a hospital for coronavirus patients. Photograph: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images
The prospect of a prolonged worldwide impact from the coronavirus pandemic has hardened after business leaders warned of a drawn-out recession and US health chiefs highlighted the prospect of a second wave of US cases in winter.
As financial markets staggered under fresh blows to the global oil industry on Wednesday, a survey of thousands of bosses revealed that they fear many companies will not survive the onslaught.
The pandemic sweeping the world has killed nearly 180,000 people, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, and has infected more than 2.5 million.
Around 60% of chief executives are preparing for a U-shaped recovery – a long period between recession and an upturn – according to a poll of 3,534 chief executives from 109 countries conducted by YPO, a business leadership network.
“We have not seen a crisis like this for over a hundred years, and some household names will not survive,” said Glenn Keys, executive chairman of Aspen Medical, a Singapore-based health services firm and YPO member.
It came as a leading US public health chief warned that a new wave of coronavirus hitting the US next winter could be “even more difficult” for America to deal with than the current outbreak because it would coincide with the normal influenza season.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) federal agency, said in an interview with the Washington Post : “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.”
Kevin Warsh, a former US Federal Reserve board member and economic adviser to George W Bush said the pandemic would be with us for “a considerable time”.
“The US economy – like much of the rest of the world – is likely to suffer from a considerably deeper, more synchronous and broader downturn than experienced during the last recession,” he told livewire.com.
Adding to the gloomy outlook, the UN’s food relief agency has warned that the world is facing widespread famine “of biblical proportions” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, said leaders only had a short time to act before hundreds of millions starved. “We are not talking about people going to bed hungry,” he told the Guardian. “We are talking about extreme conditions, emergency status – people literally marching to the brink of starvation.”
There was some hope, however, when UK health secretary Matt Hancock said a team from the University of Oxford will begin trialling a vaccine on people from Thursday.
Hancock: UK human trials for coronavirus vaccine to begin on Thursday – video
The UK government has made £20m available to the team to accelerate its efforts, as well as making £22m available to researchers at Imperial to support their phase-two trials.
Although US crude prices recovered some ground in early Wednesday trade, the international benchmark Brent crude price dipped to $16.95 in volatile trading. Naoya Oshikubo, senior manager of research at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management in Tokyo, said the moves were causing worrying swings in stock prices.
“The plunge in oil prices sparked fresh caution about the stock market. Overnight, companies that have been seen as a winner in the post-corona world, such as Amazon, fell. That is a worrying sign.”
In other major developments around the world:
- Donald Trump issued a 60-day ban on immigrants seeking to live and work in America permanently, and said he could extend it depending on the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
- Taiwanese authorities are trying to track down thousands of people who might have come into contact with more than 700 sailors who were allowed to disembark after a “goodwill” mission to the Pacific Islands, despite several reporting fevers and respiratory problems while on board. So far 27 sailors have been diagnosed with Covid-19, prompting accusations of “serious lapses” in a country that has been internationally lauded for its successful virus response.
- Authorities in China’s north-eastern border province of Heilongjiang announced strict new curbs on movement after reporting seven new locally transmitted coronavirus cases and one imported case.
- London’s newly opened Nightingale hospital has turned away patients because of a shortage of nurses, according to NHS documents seen by the Guardian. The British government remains under severe pressure for its response to the crisis, with No 10 forced to defend the health secretary, Matt Hancock.
- The US state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government for failing to do enough to prevent the spread of the virus. Also in the US, Republicans in Wisconsin are taking legal action to challenge the lockdown laws imposed on the state by its Democratic governor.
- Netflix has doubled its tally of expected new subscribers during the lockdown period.