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Virus surge threatens developing nations exiting lockdown

Extended economic shutdowns are not an option for poor countries.
People pass partially opened businesses in downtown Rio de Janeiro, on June 20. Image: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

Developing countries face an explosion in coronavirus infections as they exit lockdowns amid worsening outbreaks because the economic cost of remaining shuttered is too great.

From Pakistan to the Philippines, Brazil to South Africa, governments have been choosing to end orders confining people to their homes even as the global pandemic envelops the developing world. Researchers at the University of Michigan predict India’s infections could almost double from current levels to more than 750 000 by mid-July, while Brazil just hit 1 million cases — the second-highest tally globally – with more increases forecast for this month.

Soaring unemployment and even starvation are forcing many countries to end sometimes months-long lockdowns that largely failed to stymie the virus like they did in Europe and China. With a coronavirus vaccine still months — maybe even years — away, these escalating outbreaks risk fuelling the wider pandemic just as richer countries start to open up their economies and nations including China and the US see resurgences.

Policy makers in poorer countries are now left with few potent tools to combat a virus that has the potential to overwhelm their health-care systems. In many places, those systems remain fragile despite efforts to add hospital beds and testing facilities when citizens were compelled to stay at home.

“There’s a de-facto realisation that we’re going to have to live with this virus at infection levels that up to this point had been seen as dangerous and unacceptable, and couple it with a different strategy,” said Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy centre at the centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The lockdown and social distancing practices don’t work or have limited utility in so many developing countries.”

With more than 2.3 million cases, the US remains the nation with the world’s largest number of infections. But data compiled by Bloomberg show that the US and UK now account for about 29% of global cases, down from 37% two months ago.

Meanwhile, Latin American and South Asia are emerging as hotspots. The 10 countries from those regions with the most number of infections accounted for 29% of infections globally as of Sunday. Two months ago, they comprised only 5% of the world’s cases.

Working to eat

In the US, some states have also come out of lockdown while the virus has been spreading, but the challenges of managing widespread shutdowns are particularly severe in poorer nations.

In the Philippines, the experience of house cleaner Yolanda, who didn’t want to be publicly identified by her full name, shows why lockdowns weren’t as effective in halting the virus in developing countries. When the stay-at-home order came down in March, her husband, three children and five grandchildren all depended on her to put food on the table.

Staying home would have put the entire family at risk of starvation. Yolanda said she applied for aid to a local government centre, but even though her neighbours received packages of canned sardines, noodles and rice, she got none and was given no explanation.

“I can’t afford not to work,” said the 52-year-old, who is among the millions that make up the informal workforce in metropolitan Manila. “I couldn’t have stayed at home. Bills were mounting. We can’t rely on the government for aid.”

Free food is donated at a temporary shelter in Pasay City, Metro Manila, on June 15.

Surging Infections

The government of President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed businesses and transportation to resume and eased other restrictions since June 1.

Since then, infections have surged. Confirmed cases in the Philippineshave quadrupled to nearly 30,600 since two months ago. At this rate, it will surpass The University of the Philippines’ forecast made at the beginning of the month that cases will top 40,000 by the end of June.

While that is substantially lower than the hundreds of thousands in the US, Brazil and India, the increases are substantial for the Philippines which has a population of 108 million and has tested about 0.5% of its residents, based on estimates from its health department.

Shutting down businesses, telling people to stay at home and enforcing lockdowns helped prevent half a billion infections in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the US, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature. But such steps aren’t as effective in poorer countries because housing is typically much denser, a challenge to social distancing. Also, much more of their workforce are employed in informal labor, reliant on daily wages.

India imposed its lockdown almost three months ago, and some restrictions like bans on international flights remain in place. While the country has ramped up manufacturing of face masks, ventilators and testing kits, and sports stadiums and railway cars have been set up as isolation centres, it still may not be enough.

“The public and government almost had an expectation that the lockdown was going to eradicate the disease,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist and biostatistics chair at Michigan University’s School of Public Health that’s part of the team modeling India’s epidemic. “It is becoming evident that the virus is not going away. This pandemic is like a wave and when one cascade of waves subside, others emerge.”

Protective masks are manufactured in New Delhi, India.

Mega-cities like New Delhi and Mumbai are already showing signs of being overwhelmed, with bodies piling up in hospital corridors and patients turned away for lack of beds. India currently has about 425,000 cases and 13,699 deaths, for a fatality rate of 3%. That compares to 5% in the US, which Indian officials say shows their approach is paying off.

India’s health ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment. But officials in India and Indonesia, which has the highest case tally in Southeast Asia, have said that people may have to learn to live with the virus. Countries like India and the Philippines are now relying on other tactics such as using lockdowns only in specific communities where the virus is spreading vociferously.

A study on São Paulo, home to about 45 million Brazilians, conducted by the Solidary Research Network, a group of researchers from institutions including Universidade de São Paulo, found that if the state had kept the same social distancing rules that were in place in May for another 30 days, deaths would have risen at a slower pace to about 14,600 by July 8.

But these restrictions — which included closing businesses, schools and many public places — were eased in June. The research group now estimates deaths could reach nearly 25 000 by July 8.

While Brazil did not have a nationwide lockdown, various states imposed restrictions on people’s movements and some have now begun to ease quarantine orders. But there are a confluence of factors working against countries like Brazil, beyond a president who has been criticised for dismissing the seriousness of the pandemic. In the slums of São Paulo and elsewhere, extended families share one-room shanties and social distancing is a nearly impossible task. Lack of reliable clean water and sanitation systems also allowed the virus to take root.

Estimates from PUC University in Rio de Janeiro show Brazil’s infections will likely surpass 1.4 million by late June, with more than 60 000 deaths.

“We have epidemics at different stages now depending on the location,” said epidemiologist Gulnar Azevedo e Silva of the Institute of Social Medicine at Rio de Janeiro State University. “We need to solve the problem of the first wave still.”

A resident carries a box of donated food and hygiene supplies in the Vale das Virtudes favela of Sao Paulo, on June 12.

Economic hit

Emerging economies have already been among the hardest-hit from lockdowns, and worsening outbreaks could see further pressure on consumer spending and growth. The Philippines’ gross domestic product will likely contract as much as 3.4% this year, while India is facing its first economic contraction in 40 years.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development sees Brazil’s GDP contracting 7.4% this year, though it could shrink by as much as 9.1% if there’s a resurgence of the virus as the country reopens, the OECD says.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the region is reeling from its first recession in 25 years, according to the World Bank.

Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal have all seen virus cases spike over the past month. South Africa has more than 101,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1 990 fatalities.

South Africa’s government has also eased restrictions to salvage its economy. A court in the country also ruled that some lockdown regulations were unconstitutional. The case was filed by a human-rights group that said millions of already impoverished people were being deprived of an income by the curbs.

“Governments are faced with choosing between potential surges in infections and the potential starvation and deprivation of their population,” said Kobi Annan, an analyst at risk consultancy Songhai Advisory, based in Ghana and the UK “Longer-term lockdowns in developing countries are just not an option — we don’t have social safety nets.”

© 2020 Bloomberg

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Now they wake up to the fact that lock down is not going to stop the Virus. They only prolonged it and destroyed economies. Soon the world will look back and realize how foolish governments and their ‘advisors’ were. Scientific advisors nogals.

The Lock Down was never intended to stop the virus, the main reason the Lock Down was implemented was to Asses and Build Hospital Capacity.

Sure the Lock Down will have prevented some new cases but people will always get sick especially the poor and governments need to ensure that they have the capacity.

When 9/11 occurred in try US, the main reason for the many deaths were not directly caused by the primary events but rather by the lack of capacity at the hospitals to handle emergencies, unfortunately many patients that came in with 1st and 2nd degree burns & smoke inhalation ended up dead.

This is all down to the nature of having a capitalistic Health Care System and or having public hospitals run at 95% capacity all the time will ensure that crisis are not dealt with properly.

Whether or not governments want to admit it the main reason for not having hospitals run at 50% capacity is down to Population Size control and Politicans who get rewarded by private sector to ensure that their businesses profit off human health.

So, while we all sat at home ‘they’ were assesing and building capacity?
Were we in their way? Did we stop ‘them’ from doing their thing? The hairdresser doing her work was a hindrance to them?

@Chris,
“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Winston Churchill

Yes we were and not for the sake of keeping the virus at bay.

Follow the money to see who the winner of this crisis is:
1) Large corporations are able to buy their competitors businesses at next to nothing or allow them to collapse dominate the market anyway.
2.1) Goverments now have the private data of billions of citizens all in the name of keeping the virus under control.
2.2) ruling parties have more dominant position to use against their opponents
2.3) more people are now more than ever dependant on the governments for support, here come the saviour political parties to the rescue.

This stupid government won’t realise anything

Every nations race to exit any form of lockdown is just causing the virus to spread.

So keep lockdown.

The virus will spread anyway.

World is completely overpopulated. Don’t wanna hear ‘theres enough for everybody’

lockdown = absolute stupidity. The governments of the world have now pushed more people into absolute poverty than ever before, and for what? To save a few lives at the cost of millions in the long run. Open the worlds economies and that in turn will provide a stronger and more robust healthcare system. Close the worlds economies and you are left with no money to run the healthcare systems that you have. The WHO with their draconian recommendations have caused more deaths than Covid-19 ever will. Open the economies, open the airspace’s and teach people, not police them.

A recent poll in the UK showed 85% of the population agreed that lock down was good and it was the right thing to do. Although i can give you any conclusion you want from any poll, so they do not hold a lot of water. How would the UK feel in the same poll, if Rishi Sunak was not paying 80% of the salaries of 10 million people … Hmmmm.

Regardless this is still largely representative of a vastly dumbed down public, incapable of doing any independent research/ thinking, or even just looking at available government websites for information that is readily available. Most people are just happy to be spoon fed off CNN/ BBC/ MSNBC/ SKY etc.

However, NOT ONLY did Africa not have to lock down, they could ill afford to do it. For what reason, just no one is dying, the average age of the continent is 25yrs old! AFRICA has 9600 deaths – not 3,3 million as projected and hoped for by mainstream media. So AFRICA has gutted its economy, created massive abstract poverty on top of existing massive poverty. Their lock down will cost them millions of lives, because that is what poverty does. So Africa well done, your current death toll is 7 PER 1 MILLION/ total 9,600!

Just to remind the African leaders that the continent lost 2m+ lives just to Malaria last year. That is 1,458 deaths per 1 million and 75% of those were children under 5 yrs of age. Total death toll for children under 12yrs in Africa i believe is 93 from covid 19.

For just 5% of the money wasted on Covid 19 shutdowns, you could have eradicated 100% malaria in Africa!

Something stinks not so.

All for what a handful of unconditional handouts from World Bank arranged via WHO to toe the line. Uganda a case in point Euro500 million unconditional covid 19 help – guess what, 100m went to Museveni household account which is not audited. All ministers rcvd 50k each for ‘covid 19 lock down expenses’ – similar figures handed out down thru to police and army generals and the whole power ladder to the lowest rung – many other African examples.

The lock down is ridiculous and should never have happened. Covid has been discovered in 2018/19 flu season in Italy and Spain (they have been testing sewerage samples). This is blown up for an agenda – call it what you like – the last stand of the global failing socialist movements and very conveniently just after the Sept 2019 REPO crisis and just before the onset of the EU sovereign debt crisis and collapse of the EU zone. So for all of you happily accepting this illusion – just compare the numbers to the average flu season – no difference, 400 – 500 deaths per million are not unusual in multiple recent flu seasons. The planet as a whole in a normal N/S Hemisphere flu season is not unusual to see 3 million deaths 1957/8 and 1967/8 as prime examples. For locking down healthy people a real death toll 10 times that would need to be possible – even then what will be the death toll in the next 10 years normal and neonatal, due to abstract poverty due to lock down – i am guessing not less than 100 million – was it worth it? This is rhetorical.

For those of you interested the current global death toll from this deadly Covid 19 disease is just 67 deaths per 1 million people! Yes and we locked down for this.

People jump on the band wagon of – OH you cannot compare lives vs the economy – yes you can, they are inextricably linked. An estimated 300 million people have lost their jobs in the world – that is 600 for every covid 19 death.

If you think the recent and ongoing violent BLM protests were bad. That is just the tip of the coming iceberg of global violent civil unrest (courtesy of the fraud that is Covid 19) – you can watch it unfold in your own back yard over the next 6-12 months and then just get worse and worse. So think about that when you look back on just how readily you rubber stamped what THEY did and swallowed every lie hook line and sinker.

There Sunday evening venting completed :).

All they talk about is cases !!! This is a farce and the recovery ratio in America over 92%!! In South Africa the death rate is .004%
The Flu is 4.3% ???????????????????? So these on the job trainee’s in gubment “THINK” they know what they are doing and in the mean time killing the economy, businesses, peoples’ futures. Sounds like a great to for me. Don’t forget to vote ANC!! To JUNK and beyond
144,264 Confirmed cases 70,614 Recovered & deaths 2,529.

End of comments.

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