Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: May 20

By Chris Woods

May 20, 2020

Welcome to Coronavirus Government Global Briefing, Mandarin Premium’s morning update on everything in local and global government responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

World Economic Forum launches ‘COVID-19 Risks Outlook report’

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks team has launched a new report that, based on the views of 350 senior risk professionals and published in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group (ZIG), is designed to create a holistic assessment of the headline risks, challenges and opportunities the world faces as a result of the pandemic.

In an article for the forum, ZIG’s Head of Sustainability Risk John Scott argues that the report, ‘A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications’, is designed to reconcile fears with the acceptance of uncertainties, and provide policy-makers and businesses a guide to the most likely fallout risks over the next 18 months.

Specifically, the report identifies four key areas of concern:

  1. Economic shifts: emerging risks from structural change
  2. Sustainability setbacks: emerging risks from stalling progress
  3. Societal anxieties: emerging risks from social disruptions
  4. Technology dependence: emerging risks from abrupt adoption
Source: World Economic Forum.

Underpinning those risks are a handful of new statistics emerging from the pandemic:

  • 500m: people at risk of falling into poverty
  • 3%: expected drop in world output
  • 13-32%: anticipated fall in global trade
  • 30-40%: estimated drop in FDI
  • 80%: students worldwide (1.6 billion) out of school in March 2020
  • 34%: adults feeling adverse effects on their mental health during lockdown
  • 1%: increase in unemployment results in 2% increase in chronic illness

How does risk operate, and how can we address it?

That first area of concern, economic shifts, unsurprisingly tops the list of risks perceptions, but Scott highlights the interplay between indebtedness, for example, with social protection systems:

“High structural unemployment is likely to affect consumer confidence and the speed of economic recovery, as well as exacerbate inequality, mental health problems and lack of societal cohesion. It is also likely to widen the wealth gap between young and old and to pose significant educational and employment challenges that risk a second lost generation.”

Further, Scott notes how focusing on one global crisis creates means ignoring other existential global risks — specifically in relation to climate change — but that reboot economies and changing lifestyles could make it easier for businesses and governments to capitalise on low carbon opportunities.

Finally, Scott notes how increased dependence on technology through telehealth, online retail and home delivery could foster both greater mistrust or misuse of technology, specifically through new cybersecurity risks; see, for example, every second headline for ‘COVIDSafe’.

Where are the opportunities?

In Chapter Five of the report, “Implications for decision-makers”, there are a number of questions under five challenges for businesses, governments and societies worldwide:

  • Understanding interdependencies exposed by the crisis
    • i.e. “How can economic recovery and fiscal policies be used to accelerate nationally determined emissions reduction commitments and drive a low-carbon transition?”
  • Managing institutional change in the midst of crisis response
  • Building back better
  • Building corporate, national and international resilience
  • Accelerating the evolution of public-private partnerships

Further, WEF’s risks paper has been published with a corresponding collection of essays, ‘Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID-19 World’, which includes 10 essays on subjects including governance, geopolitics, technology, economics and work, health and psychological impact, and the public-private safety net.

In Chapter Four, “Geopolitics: Resilient and Sustainable Globalisation” Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and ANU colleague Anthea Roberts both dismiss critics who believe globalisation will return to normal or end completely once the pandemic is over. They warn that the biggest risks ahead include either an “over-correction or under-correction” in the degree of recovery, and call on governments to develop a new co-operative framework without clear global leadership:

“The risk of over-correction would involve a full swing back from the hyperglobalisation of the 1990s and early 2000s to a highly nationalist and protectionist order in the 2020s. Pro-globalisation supporters from the 1990s could be critiqued for presenting an excessively rosy picture of globalisation,” the two argue.

“There is also a risk of under-correction from assuming that COVID-19 will be a short and sharp disruption after which things will return to business-as-usual.”

The fill list of chapters includes:

  1. “Global Governance: Planning for the World After COVID-19,” Ngaire Woods
  2. “Regional Governance: An Opportunity for Regional Organisations?” Rolf Alter
  3. “Urban Governance: Cities in a Time of COVID-19,” Robert Muggah
  4. “Geopolitics: Resilient and Sustainable Globalisation,” Julie Bishop and Anthea Roberts
  5. “Technology: Digital Epiphany? COVID-19 and our Tech Futures,” Samir Saran
  6. “Economics: Trade and Connectivity in the Post COVID-19 World,” Pascal Lamy and Eduardo Pedrosa
  7. “Work: The Pandemic that Stopped the World,” Sharan Burrow
  8. “Health: Providing Free Healthcare for All, Everywhere,” Winnie Byanyima
  9. “Management: Catastrophic Risk Transfer in a Post-Pandemic World,” Carolyn Kousky
  10. “A Socio-Psychological Perspective,” Chan Ghee Koh, Leonard Lee, Carolyn Lo, Catherine Wong and Janson Yap

New York’s nursing home crisis

According to CBS News, Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday that no one should be prosecuted over the more than 5,300 coronavirus deaths in New York nursing homes. The statement comes just a week after mounting pressure saw him reverse a decision to send active patients back to homes.

Asked about recourse for aggrieved family members, Cuomo instead posited rhetorical questions for the 139 people who died the previous Saturday:

“How do we get justice for those families of those 139 deaths?” Cuomo asked. “Who can we prosecute for those 139 deaths? Nobody. Mother Nature, God, where did this virus come from? People are going to die by this virus, that is the truth.

“Older people, vulnerable people are going to die from this virus. That is going to happen despite whatever you do.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cuomo was quick to highlight his efforts to protect senior citizens in Monday’s address:

“Protecting our nursing homes and our seniors has been a top priority. Last week I put a requirement in place that staff at nursing homes be tested twice a week.

“You will always have people who say we should do more, that always happens and by the way now they’re complaining we’re doing more and they want it both ways. You cant have it both ways.”

How did New York get here?

Unwise political communication aside, Cuomo’s comments follow extremely controversial directives across New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California for long-term care facilities to admit discharged patients — whether or not they were still infectious — in an apparent effort to free up hospital space.

As the Foundation for Economic Education’s Jonathan Miltimore pointed out earlier this month, the decision attracted condemnation from health experts as a fairly obvious mechanism for spreading COVID-19 amongst facilities that both house vulnerable populations and where not built to properly quarantine infected people.

In late April, Cuomo was quick to defend the policy, even cutting off a journalist asking whether anyone had objected to it:

“They don’t have the right to object. That is the rule, and that is the regulation, and they have to comply with it.”

When Cuomo reversed that policy last week, and even enacted new testing requirements, Miltimore dismantled the New York Department of Health’s initial justification for actively denying nursing homes the ability to screen admissions as a “non-discriminatory” policy; “the whole purpose of a quarantine is to discriminate the healthy from the sick so we can keep them separated and reduce spread of illness.”

Finally, Miltimiore — a libertarian of sorts — posits that Cuomo’s relatively-quick change of heart was driven by politics, and that the act of both making screening illegal, then reversing the ban in the face of public pressure, “exposes the problem with empowering politicians and bureaucracies with broad regulatory and police powers.”

On the home front: Queensland launches ‘Economic Recovery Strategy’

Yesterday, the Queensland government outlined the first stage of the state’s economic reset package, ‘The Queensland Economic Recovery Strategy: Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs‘.

The strategy incorporates three main components, first and foremost a focus on infrastructure.

The infrastructure package includes the following programs, with links supplied for additional information where appropriate:

Secondly, a focus on industry support will include:

  • $50m tourism package to fast track tourism projects and assist our national tourism icons
  • $100m small business adaption grants program to help sustain small businesses so they can succeed post-COVID-19.
  • $7m domestic tourism campaign to support jobs and businesses in our tourism regions by marketing Queensland as the destination of choice for Australian travellers.
  • $50m making it for Queensland to attract industry to grow the Queensland’s advanced manufacturing capacity, particularly biomedical and health

Finally, measures dedicated to future growth include:

  • CopperString$14.8m to continue investigating the feasibility of the CopperString project to connect the North West Minerals Province with the national electricity market.
  • Up to $20m for additional training to assist Queenslanders, particularly young people and women who have borne a disproportionate burden through job losses nationally, with access to additional free training.
  • $20m Queensland Apprenticeships Centre to help position Queensland at the forefront of renewable hydrogen.

Elsewhere, Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick announced the state government will publish a COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review (C19-FER) in September, while a bill covering new justice and economic changes, the Justice and Other Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Amendment Bill 2020, was introduced to parliament.

Victoria launches universities fund, digital seniors festival

In yet another busy day for the state, Victoria announced a $350 million Higher Education State Investment Fund, to include funds for technology and infrastructure that “enables universities to conduct new research, commercialise intellectual property and create high-value jobs”, as well as $110 million in payroll tax deferrals for universities.

Secondly, the government launched, ‘Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined’, a six-month-long, digital version of the state’s (originally month-long) seniors festival. The festival delivers three broadcasts each week until October, with events and activities to include music, storytelling, Indigenous performances, stand-up comedy, Zumba classes, Bollywood dancing and more.

Tasmania launches rent relief fund

Yesterday, Tasmania announced a ‘COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund’, which will ensure targeted support of up to $2000 or four weeks rent for tenants suffering extreme hardship.

Assistance will be made available to all tenants, including temporary visa holders, that are paying more than 30% of their income in rent and with less than $5000 in savings.

Payments will be made to landlords of eligible tenants, who will be required to pass it via via rent reductions, and will be administered by Communities Tasmania through Housing Connect. Applications will open from next week.

State wrap: Council funds, infection control and e-commerce

For health department updates: Federal, NSW, Victoria, QueenslandACTSouth AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern Territory and Western Australia.

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