Easing the curbs in Europe; hotspot now Latin America / South Korea: an uptick in cases after lockdown / Europe’s answer to the blow / expect more stimulus and central bank pump priming.
Worldwide COVID-19 cases exceeded 6.4 million, leaving world case growth near its cycle highs; growth in mortality rates, however, has fallen by nearly half from the March-April peaks, reflecting the shift in the focus of the pandemic towards emerging markets. Here, mortality rates have been consistently lower than in developed markets. Meanwhile, curves continue to flatten in the US and in particular in major European economies. Globally, deaths topped 382 000, as of 3 June.
All major European countries have now eased the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Oxford Stringency index shows. Some countries are easing faster than others. Italy, in particular, stands out. Where the restrictions were once seen as the toughest in Europe, Italy now ranks as the laxest, with Spain now assessed to have the toughest regime.
Latin America remains the current pandemic hotspot: four out of the 10 countries reporting the highest number of new infections in recent days are from the region: Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico.
Brazil is now second only to the US in terms of confirmed cases and is fourth in fatalities after the US, UK and Italy. Brazil’s mortality curve remains worrying, and since there is no national lockdown, it is hard to tell when the peak will be reached.
Meanwhile, events in South Korea remind us that managing the virus outside of lockdown is not straightforward even for the best-in-class regime. South Korea reintroduced quarantine measures for the next two weeks due to the recent uptick in cases: parks, museums and art galleries were temporarily closed and school quarantine and distancing rules in Seoul were tightened.
On Thursday, 79 new cases had emerged, the highest since early April. Most of them were attributed to a single distribution centre for an online retailer. The new cluster led provincial governments in the region to postpone plans to reopen schools for kindergarteners and primary schoolers on Wednesday, although most of the country’s schools have reopened as planned.
The main news in recent days has been the announcement by the European Commission of the details of the long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), and its response to the current crisis, Next Generation EU.
Markets had focused on the latter. The Commission proposes a EUR 500 billion package of grants and EUR 250 billion in loans to be financed by debt issued in the capital markets. This is backed by the headroom in the EU budget between actual spending and the theoretical limit on the funds that the EU can claim from the member states.
Next Generation EU sets out an important principle: establishing a genuine fiscal capacity at the centre of Europe, which can be deployed to support demand in member, states that are hit by large shocks.
However, the details of the package are yet to be agreed by all member states. It seems likely that the generosity of the scheme may be diluted in the search for a compromise. The scale of the net transfers may be reduced. The conditionality attached to funds that already exists may be strengthened. The split between grants and loans may be recalibrated.
There have been two significant developments:
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