Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: June 3

By Chris Woods

Wednesday June 3, 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.

What the G20 should do now, according to former world leaders

In a call to action co-signed by 225 other world leaders at Project Syndicate, former finance minister of Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Erik Berglöf, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former UK prime minister Gordon Brown have called on the G20 to adopt a $2.5 trillion health, economic and sustainability plan as part of their next response to the pandemic.

As The New York Times reports in its write-up of the demand, G20 leaders have held only one video meeting since the pandemic started — in which they agreed to a $5 trillion pledge the new report calls to improve upon — and their next meeting isn’t scheduled until November in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

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The plan focuses in large part on the burden faced by poor and middle-income countries — those representing nearly 70% of the world’s population and approximately one-third of global GDP — and Brown, who led the G20 financial crisis summit in 2009, has since published an op-ed at The Guardian calling on the International Monetary Fund to “dip into its $35bn reserves” to specifically target poorer nations:

“On 26 March, just as the full force of the pandemic was becoming clear, the G20 promised ‘to use all available policy tools’ to support countries in need. There would be a ‘swift implementation’ of an emergency response, it said, and its efforts would be “amplified” over the coming weeks. As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said at the time, emerging markets and developing nations needed at least $2.5tn (£2,000bn) in support. But with new COVID-19 cases round the world running above 100,000 a day and still to peak, the vacuum left by G20 inactivity means that allocations from the IMF and the World Bank to poorer countries will remain a fraction of what is required.”

As the NYT notes, other signatories to the official letter include “more than 75 former world leaders, three Nobel peace prize winners, four Nobel laureates in economics, former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, philanthropist George Soros, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, former NATO secretary-general Javier Solana and numerous former U.N. officials and past and present economists, humanitarian and health experts.”

After dropping a number of fairly staggering global statistics — the equivalent loss of more than 300 million full-time jobs (International Labor Organization), predictions of 420 million more people in extreme poverty (United Nations), and 1.5 billion children missing school — authors recommend a series of health, economic, and collaborative reforms.

Health

While welcoming an $8 billion pledge on May 4 for vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutic development as recommended by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, authors urge:

  • global coordination of the development, mass manufacture, and equitable distribution of a vaccine or vaccines to ensure that they are universally and freely available as quickly as possible;
  • every G20 member to support in full the $7.4 billion replenishment on June 4 of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, “which between 2021-25 will immunise 300 million children, saving up to eight million lives”;
  • closer cross-border collaboration to increase over the limited global supply of vital medical equipment, and to make testing accessible in every country;
  • immediate support for developing countries through the World Health Organization and others to build up their health systems and capacities, as well as to improve their social safety nets; and
  • G20 countries to support the UN’s appeal for support for refugees, displaced persons, and others who rely on humanitarian aid.

The economy

Following requests for financial health from more than 100 countries, the International Monetary Fund reports that emerging markets and developing countries will need $2.5 trillion to overcome the crisis.

With just a fraction of that money allocated thus far, the report recommends:

  • Debt relief for the 76 International Development Association countries be scaled up radically to include relief by bilateral, multilateral, and private creditors until the end of 2021, and operationalised with urgency; further:

    “multilateral creditors must demonstrate that they are providing net new lending in response to the COVID-19 crisis”, and a new binding approach must be considered as time runs out “for the voluntary process for private creditors coordinated by the Institute of International Finance.”

  • The IMF be mandated to convene relevant players and, through its debt-sustainability and policy analysis, to set broad parameters for resolution, as a dozen or more emerging-market countries face debt-servicing problems in the coming year;
  • The G20 agree that the $2.5 trillion in support will be provided:

    “This requires the IMF, the World Bank, and regional development banks to raise their lending and grant ceilings. The multilateral development banks (MDBs) will likely increase their outstanding loan portfolio from the current $500 billion to $650-700 billion over the next 18 months. Without further increasing the resources available to the international financial institutions and allowing them to be more ambitious in deploying their capital, their ability to respond to the crisis will be severely constrained.”

Further, to mitigate long-term damage to social safety, health services, education, and climate-change initiatives, the group recommend:

  • That multilateral development banks have sufficient resources for at least the next five years, “which will require an additional $1 trillion in their combined portfolios”:

    “The individual institutions should be asked to provide plans for how they are to achieve these objectives. It will require them both to use existing capital more efficiently and to secure new sources of finance from borrowing, further capital increases, and the creation of new guarantee-based facilities like the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd).”

  • The G20 build political support for the issuing of Special Drawing Rights (the IMF’s reserve asset), and to transfer existing, unused SDR allocations and new ones to countries most in need of support:

    “Without requiring a reference to national parliaments, a decision on SDRs would release nearly $600 billion immediately, and more than $1 trillion by 2022.”

‘A coordinated response’

Finally, the authors note that, while the first stage of the crisis required “the provision of liquidity, employment protection, and emergency investments in health,” enhanced fiscal, monetary, and central-bank coordination will be vital to returning the world economy to pre-crisis levels of growth.

Consequently, they argue the G20 should:

  • include “green” investment at the heart of the stimulus, with spending focused on infrastructure and other sustainable development and employment projects to “make recovery from this crisis truly transformative, accelerating progress in delivering on climate-change agreements”;
  • consider a global growth target, “which can sit side by side with national inflation targets, and to rebuilding global trade”; and
  • agree upon a coordinated strategy to recover money lost to tax havens, “to raise vitally needed revenues for national governments”:

    “Countries should automatically exchange tax information and remove secrecy surrounding beneficial owners and trusts, as well as agreeing to sanction non-compliant countries that refuse to implement the agreed rules.”

Five lessons on ‘repurposing’ amidst COVID-19

In a new article at MIT Sloan Management Review, strategy experts from ETH Zurich and the University of Amsterdam unpack five core lessons in rapid innovation amidst the pandemic, arising in large part from the pharmaceutical industry (i.e. pursuing the antiviral drug remdesivir as a potential therapy for COVID-19 patients) as well as other areas such as manufacturing (i.e. Australian booze companies pivoting to hand sanitiser).

While not all examples of repurposing are inherently wise or ethical — the authors point to both the since-suspended testing of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and Bill and Melinda Gates’ cross-disciplinary work (i.e. “reimagining” New York’s education system) as exemplars — the report offers valuable insight into how decisions have been made throughout the pandemic.

Core lessons include:

  1. Get a grasp on your innovation problem. Basically, gather as much information about your existing technology and the problem as possible, while understanding that “the most valuable knowledge about the problem you are facing may originate outside your organisation”.
  2. Make a rapid inventory of your knowledge and resources, including “existing products, facilities, databases, software, talent, and expertise.” Researchers note that the FDA approving chloroquine for COVID-19 “despite weak evidence of its efficacy” demonstrates an example of repurposing all available products in spite of “unattractive side-effects”.

    “Thinking creatively about by-products can be another valuable approach to repurposing. For example, in recent years, dairy producers have increasingly targeted health-conscious consumers with new protein-rich products enhanced with milk whey — once regarded as a problematic by-product in cheese making.

    “In all of these examples, a product’s complexity and proximity to a new product feature play an important role in repurposing effectiveness. As the gap between existing and target knowledge domains widens, knowledge repurposing may become less effective.”

  3. Use emerging technologies. Cloud computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies offer two benefits for ultrafast innovation: first, enabling key actors, such as users, experts, funders, and public and private organisations, to share information; and secondly, coupling with big data to rapidly identify links between needs and solutions.

    “When problem information and solution inventories are available digitally and shared on platforms, it takes less effort to find attractive matches. For example, Alibaba Group’s Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook developed an AI-based COVID-19 diagnostic tool that can detect the disease in 20 seconds in patients’ CT scans, using a guideline provided by a leading radiologist. The tool helped doctors in 26 hospitals rapidly review more than 30,000 cases during the outbreak in China.”

  4. Encourage open and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Examples here include both direct contact with experts in other fields (i.e. Bill and Melinda Gates) and crowdsourcing, for example “coronathons”; for example, international 3D printing network Mobility Goes Additive launched an online platform for 3D printing, weboostam.com, “that features COVID-19-specific use cases, including face shields, masks, and hands-free door openers, that are submitted by its members.”As we saw in Italy, repurposing 3D printing technology quite literally saved a person’s life, even if IP owners OEM subsequently threatened to sue over the ventilator valve.
  5. Rapidly integrate end users. Basically, bypass the “market research” stage by integrating end-user knowledge through communication channels, for example by using YouTube videos, Google searches and Twitter to understand disease evolution patient symptoms.

    “Likewise, health care workers are at the forefront of medical device innovation in the current pandemic. For example, engineers from Vanderbilt University developed a prototype ventilator in collaboration with physicians from the university’s medical centre. Without input from those physicians, some essential features, such as pressure sensors and alarms, might have been overlooked.9 Integrating health care workers and their patients into the innovation process in this way is crucial not only for quickly identifying needs but also for saving time in the design process.”

On the home front: Tasmania brings forward Stage Two restrictions to Friday, 5 June, welcomes on-site testing for construction industry

Yesterday, the Tasmanian government announced it will bring forward Stage Two restrictions allowing intrastate travel, more businesses to reopen, and increased gathering limits from Friday 5 June 2020.

A formal review for easing Stage 3 restrictions will occur in mid to late June.

Restrictions to ease include:

  • Gatherings increasing to 20 people at a time for indoor and outdoor, including cinemas, museums, galleries, historic sites, religious gatherings and weddings;
  • Gatherings of up to 40 patrons for seated table service at cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs (excluding nightclubs) only where sufficient space and settings allow this to occur;
  • 10 visitors to households, in addition to household members;
  • Funerals attended by up to 50 people;
  • Accommodation (hotels, motels, Air BnBs, Bed & Breakfasts) unlimited;
  • Camping permitted and parks reopening, although there may be some exceptions where maintenance is occurring;
  • Shack visits and statewide boating resuming;
  • Open homes and auctions resuming with 20 people;
  • Gyms and boot camps for up to 20 people;
  • TABcorp retail shop fronts reopening;
  • Beauty services (including tattoo, nails, waxing, facials and tanning) for up to 20 people;
  • Park exercise equipment and playgrounds opening for up to 20 people;
  • Outdoor community sport resuming, with up to 20 athletes/personnel, as guided by AIS; and
  • Indoor sport and recreation, including pools with up to 20 people, no spectators, as guided by AIS.

Elsewhere, the state government welcomed the launch of asymptomatic COVID-19 mobile testing facilities across construction sites under a new initiative being delivered by construction body Incolink.

Queensland’s virtual Mabo Day celebrations

Virtual and live-streamed events will be held across Queensland today to celebrate Mabo Day, the 28th anniversary of Eddie Mabo’s High Court win for Native Title rights and dismissal of ‘terra nullius’ as a legislative principle. These include:

Thursday Island

  • 8:30am – Assemble at Post Office for a Silent March
  • 9:00am – Prayer for the Day
  • 9:05am – March to proceed to ANZAC Park
  • 10:00am – Closing prayer

Townsville

  • 8.30am–9.30am – 2020 Mabo Day Online program broadcast from Eddie Mabo monument delivered by Townsville Zenadh CommUnity, with support from partners including the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and Townsville City Council.

South East Queensland

  • 7.30pm – delivered by the South East Queensland Mabo Day Working Group with partners including National Reconciliation Week, Reconciliation Queensland (RQI), Arts Front, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Teralba Park Stolen Generations Support Group Inc, Digi Youth Arts and the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

A full line-up of live-streamed commemorations, including music, spoken word, performances and a message from three-time Olympian and NBA champion Patty Mills, can be found on the Mabo Day Celebrations 2020 Facebook page.

It’s officially camping season

Finally, with Winter upon us and states heading to a Queens Birthday long weekend, South Australia reports that campgrounds in many of the state’s national parks are close to being booked, while Queensland has reopened camping grounds beside state-owned dams and Tasmania set to reopen parks and campgrounds from Friday.

But Winter, sadly, might also mean an increased risk of airborne transmission: a new University of Sydney study ($) found a 1 percent decrease in humidity could lift the number of COVID-19 cases by 6 percent.

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

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