The World Bank on Thursday approved the first steps in a plan to roll out US$160 billion in emergency aid over 15 months to help countries deal with the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.The board of the Washington-based development lender approved the first set of fast-track crisis projects, with an initial $1.9 billion going to 25 countries, and operations moving forward in another 40 nations, the bank said in a statement.”The goal of the World Bank in this crisis has been to take broad, fast action, that makes it most effective if we can have a broad response that helps individual countries but that helps the group as a whole,” World Bank President David Malpass told reporters. Read also: Bank Indonesia in talks with US, China on currency swaps”The poorest and most vulnerable countries will likely be hit the hardest, and our teams around the world remain focused on country-level and regional solutions to address the ongoing crisis.”India will be the largest beneficiary of the first wave of programs with a facility for $1 billion, followed by Pakistan with $200 million and Afghanistan with a little over $100 million, but funding is going to countries on nearly every continent, the bank said.Included in that $160 billion total is approximately $14 billion in debt repayments from 76 poor countries to other governments that the bank, along with the International Monetary Fund, has asked rich nations to suspend. Malpass told reporters the organizations are calling for “a standstill in their repayment expectations,” to begin May 1 and extend through June 2021.That “provides new financing to the poorest countries to meet healthcare needs and many of their other needs,” he said, adding that there appeared to be a willingness among G20 nation but each country would have to negotiate individually.Read also: Indonesia braces for recession, activates crisis protocolThe bank also is working to redeploy $1.7 billion of existing funding, including the use of “catastrophic deferred drawdowns,” a type of emergency credit line.In addition, the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, is providing $8 billion in financing “to help private companies affected by the pandemic and preserve jobs.”The bank is helping countries to purchase medical supplies, train personnel, establish labs and isolation and treatment centers, as well as to help support the most vulnerable households.Topics :
Switzerland on Saturday saw the number of cases of the new coronavirus in the country pass 20,000, as its death toll in the pandemic swelled past 500.The health ministry said 20,201 people in Switzerland had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday morning — nearly 1,000 more than a day earlier.The small Alpine country of some 8.5 million people is thus one of the worst hit compared to population size, now counting 236 registered infections per 100,000 people. Since the first case surfaced in the country on February 24, more than 150,000 tests have been administered with around 15 percent coming up positive.Drive-in testing stations have been set up in several places, including in the capital Bern, to help simplify safe testing for COVID-19.In the past 24 hours, the country has conducted nearly 7,000 tests, including 975 that were positive, the health ministry said.Switzerland’s southern canton of Ticino, which borders hard-hit Italy, has registered most cases, followed by Geneva.As in other countries, men seemed to suffer more from the virus. Slightly more women had tested positive for the virus, but men accounted for 64 percent of the deaths, the ministry found.Switzerland has unblocked some $60 billion to buffer the harsh blow to its economy from the pandemic and the measures taken to halt the spread of the virus.The economic affairs ministry said Saturday some 1.3 million people, or a quarter of the country’s workforce, have applied for temporary unemployment benefits since the start of the crisis.Topics : At the same time, an additional 76 people died over the past 24 hours, bringing Switzerland’s death toll in the pandemic to 540, the health ministry said.”We have not yet reached the peak,” health ministry official Daniel Koch told reporters.Worldwide, well over 1.1 million cases have been registered across 188 countries, while close to 60,000 people have died, according to a tally compiled by AFP Saturday from official sources.The high incidence in Switzerland could in part be linked to the fact that it is among the countries that have administered most tests per capita.
President Hassan Rouhani urged Iranians to continue to respect measures to guard against the new coronavirus as “low-risk” business activities resumed in most of the country on Saturday, state news agency IRNA reported.So-called low-risk businesses – including many shops, factories and workshops – resumed operations across the country, with the exception of the capital Tehran, where they will re-open from April 18.”Easing restrictions does not mean ignoring health protocols … Social distancing and other health protocols should be respected seriously by people,” Rouhani was quoted saying. Topics : Schools and universities remain closed, and a ban on cultural, religious and sports gatherings has been imposed. Iran is also likely to ban all public events marking the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which starts in late April.Yet health authorities have repeatedly complained that many Iranians have ignored appeals to stay at home, warning of a second wave of the outbreak. The death toll in Iran has reached 4,357 with 70,029 infected cases.”If people become arrogant over the relatively better situation now and disregard anti-corona health measures … we will surely face a hard and heavy phase [of the disease],” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on state TV.News agencies carried pictures showing heavy traffic on inner-city freeways in Tehran and crowded buses and subway cars, despite warnings by officials that public transport was behind more than 20% of the spread of the coronavirus.Meanwhile, Iran executed a death-row prisoner who had allegedly led a mass prison escape, IRNA reported, after fears of a coronavirus outbreak led to riots in several institutions.IRNA said the man, Mostafa Salimi, had been sentenced to death over security offences including involvement in a clash that killed two security officers some 16 years ago. Salimi’s name has long featured on lists of Kurdish political prisoners facing execution issued by rights group Amnesty International.Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 people from jail, including political prisoners, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, officials have said.IRNA reported government spokesman Ali Rabiei as saying on Saturday: “In case of a long-term shutdown, some 4 million people could be out of work … Four million non-state employees face stoppage or reduction in activities, reduction of salaries and expulsion.” Many government offices also re-opened, with two-thirds of their staff to reduce crowding. In Qom, a city of 1.2 million, which was the early epicenter of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak, some 24,000 businesses were expected to re-open, state TV said.”We have disinfected the shop and are providing gloves for customers,” a bookseller in Qom told state television.The Islamic Republic is the Middle Eastern country worst-affected by the COVID-19 respiratory disease and has been struggling to curb the spread of the infection. But the government is also concerned that measures to limit public activities could wreck an economy which has already been battered by sanctions.High-risk businesses including theatres, swimming pools, saunas, beauty salons, schools, shopping centers and restaurants have yet to re-open.
The regional administrations in the Greater Jakarta area have decided to prohibit app-based ride-hailing ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers from transporting passengers during a partial lockdown despite a new ministerial regulation saying otherwise. Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan had announced earlier that ride-hailing ojek were not allowed to transport passengers and were only permitted to transport goods while large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) were in effect in the capital, in accordance with Health Ministry Regulation No. 9/2020 on PSBB implementation guidelines.However, Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who is also the acting transportation minister, then issued Transportation Ministerial Regulation No. 18/2020 on transportation management to prevent COVID-19 transmission. The regulation stipulates that ride-hailing ojek were permitted to transport passengers, in direct opposition to the health minister’s decision.Read also: App-based motorcycle taxis can take passengers if regional government allowsThe policy has created confusion among the public and prompted the Transportation Ministry to relax the regulation to allow individual regional governments to make adjustments. Other than Jakarta, the Health Ministry has also granted PSBB status to Bogor, Bekasi and Depok in West Java and Tangerang and South Tangerang in Banten. Greater Jakarta Transportation Agency (BPTJ) chairperson Polana B. Pramesti said in a statement that all regional heads who attended a virtual meeting with the agency on Monday had agreed with the Health Ministry’s policy.She said that those present at the meeting had also agreed to synchronize their regions’ transportation policies to avoid further confusion. Each region would formulate a policy that catered to their unique needs, Polana added.Under the PSBB, public transportation in Greater Jakarta will operate daily from 6 a.m to 6 p.m., with all services adhering to the COVID-19 health protocol to prevent the further spread of the infectious disease.“The bottom line is that we are not suspending public transportation, but limiting its operational hours and [passenger capacity],” Polana said.Editor’s note: The article has been updated for clarity.Topics :
Secondly, there was late and incomplete reporting due to medical workers and institutions being occupied by treating patients during epidemic. Another factor was that designated hospitals to treat patients were expanded to institutions at the municipal and district level, including private hospitals, and not all were connected to and feeding timely information to the central epidemic network, Xinhua reported. A similar revision up in death toll occurred in New York City a few days ago, adding over 3,700 people who died at home before being tested. Still, China’s move is likely to fuel speculation about the accuracy of its data, which has been questioned by US President Donald Trump. American intelligence officials have concluded that China concealed the extent of its outbreak and under-reported number of cases and deaths.Last month, pictures of thousands of ash urns being ferried to funeral homes in Wuhan circulated on Chinese social media platforms, raising concern that the real number of deaths in the city where the virus first emerged is higher than officially acknowledged.China has refuted charges that it intentionally under-reported its numbers, saying that it shares what information it has transparently. But its repeated revisions of data throughout the crisis — including a one-day addition of nearly 15,000 cases diagnosed through a different clinical method in February — has fueled mistrust.While the revision marks a substantial surge, China’s new official death toll is still low compared to the US where reported deaths have climbed past 30,000. In Italy and Spain, deaths number around 20,000 in each country. China has revised its official count of deaths from the coronavirus, adding some 1,290 deaths in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged last December.The addition, reported by state media on Friday, brings the nationwide death toll to 4,636, the majority coming from Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.The additional deaths were all counted in Wuhan and the late reporting of deaths are due to several reasons, said the report. The first is that some patients died at home without seeing a doctor or being tested for the virus as hospitals were overwhelmed during the epidemic’s peak. Topics :
The Trade Union Rights Centre (TURC) is calling on the government to reallocate its funding for the preemployment training program as cash assistance while pushing for stronger supervision of businesses to prevent further layoffs.The non-governmental labor advocacy and research organization has pointed out that several of the government’s COVID-19 policies have not contributed to overcoming the resulting employment crisis,, including the preemployment card training and incentives program for unemployed workers and the holiday bonus (THR) installment payment policy for Idul Fitri.The preemployment card program, which has been allocated Rp 20 trillion (US$1.35 billion) from the 2020 state budget, aims to assist 5.6 million eligible workers and small business owners affected by the health crisis.“The government’s role is crucial in allocating trillions of rupiah from the state budget effectively and on target to protect workers and to [prevent] hunger and an increase in poor people,” TURC executive director Andriko Otang said in a statement on Sunday.The Manpower Ministry’s records show that about 1.7 million workers have been laid off, terminated or lost their jobs as a direct effect of the COVID-19 epidemic in Indonesia. The figure comprises 1.4 formal workers and 300,000 informal workers.In an online survey on the preemployment card program conducted from May 1 to 11, the TURC found that 54 percent of potential applicants were interested in the program because of the cash incentive, 30 percent wanted to acquire new skills, 16 percent were simply curious and 8 percent wanted to find a job.Otang said that the majority of jobless workers needed cash aid, and that the preemployment card program was ineffective at helping them find jobs since the program offered training to participants without any job placement on completing their training.Read also: Preemployment card draws criticism as workers ‘need cash aid’“Therefore, the training fund for the preemployment card program must be reallocated as [direct] assistance for workers,” he said, adding that direct cash transfers could help maintain buying power among workers of the poor to middle classes.The ministry also recorded that 34,179 Indonesian migrant workers had not been able to depart for their jobs abroad, and that 465 Indonesian apprentices in Japan had been repatriated. Meanwhile, the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BP2MI) estimates that 34,300 migrant workers will return to Indonesia in May-June because of the COVID-19 pandemic.The TURC survey also found the different ways in which formal workers had been affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, including termination without severance pay, temporary layoffs with partial pay and working on-site or from home with partial pay.Middle-class employees, who spend about Rp 1.2 million to Rp 6 million per month, were the most affected group, followed by the aspiring middle class, whose monthly spending ranged from Rp 500,000 to Rp 1.2 million, the survey found.Otang said that although the government had offered several incentives to businesses to support them during the crisis, supervision had been weak in preventing layoffs.“The weak point is that the state has not encouraged the relevant institutions to [maintain] data on the companies that have received the government incentives,” he said. Read also: COVID-19 forces restaurants, retailers to cut wages, furlough employeesHe stressed that this shortcoming prevented public monitoring to make sure that beneficiary companies were not laying off their workers, and that the government must issue a regulation on supervising its incentive programs for businesses.Orang also called on the Manpower Ministry to withdraw its recently issued circular that allowed companies to defer paying the THR to employees or to pay the THR in installments. He said that the move “gave the impression that the government prioritizes incentivizing businesses rather than protecting workers’ rights”.“The government should better understand the vulnerability of workers who have to meet their needs,” he said, citing the survey results that showed 78 percent of workers disagreed with the government’s THR policy.In addition, Otang called on the government to instruct the Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) to start paying old-age security (JHT) to workers, an idea that 81 percent of survey respondents supported.“The reason is that the pandemic has resulted in workers receiving incomplete or unsteady incomes, reducing their capacity to meet their daily needs,” he said.Topics :
The virus has sent the Hong Kong economy into a tailspin, fuelling a record 8.9 percent contraction in the first three months of the year, with worse expected in the current quarter.”The very real threat now is the return of mass protests to the streets of Hong Kong, a downgrade in trade status with the US and potentially an exit of large companies from the SAR,” said OANDA’s Jeffrey Halley. “Overhanging this, are concerns that China and the United States are about to engage in a new round of trade wars.”The Hang Seng Index fell more than five percent on Friday.Property firms — already under pressure from the virus — were battered in early trade. Sino Land collapsed more than 10 percent, Sun Hung Kai Properties lost 7.8 percent and New World Development dropped 9.8 percent, while Wharf Real Estate Investment shed 9.4 percent.Swire Pacific and CK Asset Holdings were each more than eight percent off.And the picture was no less gloomy for financials, whose profits in the city could be threatened by companies leaving.Market heavyweight HSBC lost 6.9 percent and BOC Hong Kong shed 7.8 percent, while insurance giant AIA was down more than nine percent and China Life dropped 6.8 percent.Subway operator MTR Corp, which was battered during the protests as its stations were targeted by demonstrators, dived nearly 10 percent.The Hong Kong dollar, which has been at the strong end of its trading band with the US dollar for several weeks, also dropped as dealers began selling the unit.”Traders around the world are playing the waiting game to see details of the new Hong Kong law to gauge how severe the terms are,” said Stephen Innes of AxiCorp. “And more specifically, the White House response to decide whether Hong Kong’s special economic status will be affected.”– Bloomberg News contributed to this story –Topics : Plans for the proposal had sparked warnings of “the end of Hong Kong” and fears of further unrest, while the US State Department said the move was “highly destabilising, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the international community”.President Trump promised a response, saying: “I don’t know what it is, because nobody knows yet. If it happens, we’ll address that issue very strongly.”Markets are now worried that the city’s freedoms — unseen on the mainland and protected by an agreement made before Britain handed the territory back in 1997 — could be curtailed. US lawmakers have already passed a law that would strip the city’s preferential trading status in the United States if it no longer enjoys autonomy from the mainland. Real estate companies and financials were among the biggest victims in a stock market sell-off in Hong Kong on Friday after China submitted a security law proposal for the city that has fanned fears of fresh protests.With the economy already on the ropes because of the coronavirus, investors fled for the hills with many worried about Beijing’s increasing influence in the semi-autonomous finance hub and what that could mean for doing business there. At its annual National People’s Congress, China’s lawmakers put forward a proposal to enact new legislation to strengthen “enforcement mechanisms” in Hong Kong, which was rocked last year by seven months of massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests that crippled the city.
A 13-year-old girl from Denpasar, Bali, who got pregnant after being allegedly raped multiple times by her cousin and who was forced to marry him, was reportedly raped again by her father-in-law after delivering the baby.The alleged incident came to light after officials from the South Denpasar Community Health Center (Puskesmas) felt suspicious of the girl’s behavior during a health checkup. The officials then alerted authorities.The girl later told officials from Denpasar’s Integrated Care Center for the Empowerment of Women and Children (P2TP2A) that she had been raped.”After communicating with her, she admitted that she was raped by her cousin until she got pregnant. After the baby was born, she was raped by her father-in-law,” Gusti Ayu Agung Yuli Marhaeningsih, a legal advisor from the Denpasar P2TP2A, said on Friday as reported by Tribunnews.com.Marhaeni said the girl and her parents had come to the P2TP2A office for further questioning.”Her parents said that she had been raped by her cousin who lived near their house. However, they decided not to report the incident to the police, as the perpetrator had agreed to take responsibility for his action by marrying her,” she said.Read also: American wanted by FBI entered Indonesia before Interpol’s red notice: MinisterThe girl and her alleged rapist did not register their marriage, as they are both still minors.”A court order is necessary to register a child marriage. Since they did not carry out the procedures, they decided to marry unofficially,” Marhaeningsih said.She also explained that the baby was taken from the girl by other family members shortly after it was born in early 2020.Marhaeningsih said that the girl’s parents did not know what they should do about the incident, as they were unsure about legal matters. She said officials from the Denpasar P2TP2A had advised the girl’s parents to report the incident to the police as the alleged incident violated the law.”We had advised them to go to the police, but they said they were still thinking about it since the girl would be putting her husband and her father-in-law behind bars,” she said. (nal)Topics :
After months of studying from home, students in several parts of the archipelago returned to school on Monday in accordance with the so-called “new normal” protocols in their respective communities.In the meantime, a number of other regions continued to exercise caution and carried on with their online learning policies as the COVID-19 health crisis has shown no sign of abating anytime soon.In East Nusa Tenggara, students returned to their classrooms as junior and senior high schools in 13 regencies and cities across the province – including the provincial capital Kupang, East Manggarai regency, Rote Ndao regency, East Flores regency, and Central Sumba regency – were permitted to resume their normal educational activities this week, albeit with a renewed emphasis on physical distancing and personal hygiene. Furthermore, students should also be given practical lessons on health protocols so they can develop new habits to minimize the risks of infection, Habel said.Read also: Teachers, parents fret over health risks as schools prepare to reopen“Parents shouldn’t simply tell [their children] to wash their hands, but they should also demonstrate how to do it properly,” Habel added.Similarly, junior and senior high school students in Jambi city, Jambi, were also allowed to return to their classrooms on Monday, kompas.com reported.Jambi Mayor Syarif Fasha said the decision to reopen schools in the city was partly because hundreds of students in the region lacked access to online learning technology.He noted that the reopening was met with enthusiasm among students, as evidenced by the 50 percent attendance rate on Monday. He expected the attendance rate to reach 100 percent by the end of the month.“For the time being, [studying at school] is not mandatory. If a student has [breathing issues], for instance, they will be allowed to study remotely,” Syarif said.Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim allowed 104 regencies and cities considered to be “green zones” across the country to reopen junior and senior high schools on July 13, which also marked the start of the new school year.However, elementary school students are still required to study from home until further notice.Amid Monday’s reopenings, some other regions remained cautious, with students told to continue studying from home because of health and safety concerns.Read also: Indonesia shifts from ‘new normal’ to ‘adapting to new habits’The Riau Islands administration, for instance, has prohibited schools from reopening as the threat of COVID-19 has yet to subside in the region.“Based on our field inspection, schools – specifically senior high schools and vocational schools – haven’t reopened. We will [impose sanctions] if they do reopen,” Riau Islands Education Agency character building division head Adimaja told The Jakarta Post, adding that learning activities had mostly taken place online.He went on to say that a few vocational schools in Batam had been permitted to allow students to resume outdoor activities, while still adhering to strict health protocols.Akmal, who serves as a principal at Kartini Senior High School in Batam, said schools could be reopened for in-person learning as soon as the region was declared a “green zone”. “[The reopening] also depends on the parents’ approval,” Akmal said.In Medan, North Sumatra, however, students flocked to schools despite the local administration’s restrictions. Based on the Post’s observations, many students were not wearing face masks.“On the first day of school, we sang together and wrote down our personal information. We had fun,” said Dori, a seventh grader at SMP 4 state junior high school in Medan.North Sumatra Education Agency secretary Alpian Hutahuruk expressed dismay over the unsanctioned reopenings, saying it endangered students.Read also: Indonesian schools not ready for ‘new normal’: Survey“This could put students in peril. We have prohibited [schools from reopening]. No school in North Sumatra may reopen when the COVID-19 [transmission rate] is still high,” said Alpian, adding that the administration would reach out to schools that were found to have violated the regulation.Separately, national COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said the government had considered allowing schools in “yellow zones” to reopen because of high public demand.“We are reviewing several public requests to allow [students] in yellow zones to go back to school,” Doni said after a meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Monday.As of Monday, Indonesia had recorded 76,981 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,656 deaths linked to the disease. (rfa)Topics : Despite the high-spirited school reopenings across the province, some parents have conveyed their collective anxiety about their children’s well-being.Habel Manafe, whose child attends SMA 3 state senior high school in Kupang, called on schools to implement strict health protocols to ensure the safety of students, teachers and other staff members.“For us, it goes without saying that once schools reopen, they must [enforce] health protocols. This includes implementing physical distancing measures, for instance, by putting some distance between seats in the classroom,” Habel told the press on Monday, adding that students must also be required to wear face masks.Habel went on to say that having students tested for COVID-19 was crucial as schools adjusted to new norms.
The new leader will also have to sort out simmering trade tensions between the United States and China and revive stalled trade talks.There are three African candidates, two from Europe, two from Asia and one from the Americas.Africa’s trio are former Nigerian foreign and finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh; and Kenya’s former WTO General Council chair Amina Mohamed.Britain’s first post-Brexit international trade secretary Liam Fox and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi are the two from Europe. South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and former Saudi economy minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri are running from Asia, while Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri was the first to declare his candidacy. The eight candidates battling to become the next head of the beleaguered World Trade Organization make their pitches this week, with three days of auditions starting Wednesday.The contenders will make 15-minute presentations to the 164 member states’ representatives at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, before facing a 75-minute grilling over their plans for the global trade body.After a series of eliminations based on consensus, starting in September, the winner will take the WTO wheel in the midst of a global economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Serious problems Seade, Okonjo-Iweala and then Mamdouh are up first on Wednesday.Ulianovschi, Yoo and Mohamed take their turn on Thursday, while Tuwajiri and Fox go on Friday.”The WTO is in a serious crisis,” Seade told the UN correspondents’ association.He said the body had “very limited results” to show for its 26 years, its dispute settlement system was “in a serious state of disrepair”, while measures taken by countries to control the COVID-19 pandemic “have generated gigantic dislocation of international trade”.Since the WTO was created in 1995, three of its directors-general were from Europe, while one each came from Oceania, Asia and South America.Africa therefore fancies its chances, even though there is no regional rotation principle at the global trade body.”It is time that Africa took up her responsibility of serving at the helm of WTO,” said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.He called Mohamed “a uniquely qualified person, to lead the WTO at this critical time”, saying that “her leadership at the WTO will without doubt be a game changer”. Speedy search The WTO is staging a swift contest to replace outgoing director-general Roberto Azevedo.The campaign phase runs until September 7, after which the eliminations round will last up to two months.In a surprise move in mid-May, the Brazilian career diplomat announced he was ending his second four-year term 12 months early at the end of August for personal reasons.Former family doctor Fox, who entered the race on last Wednesday’s deadline, set out his diagnosis for revitalizing the organization.”If we want to keep the WTO relevant and vibrant our task is clear: update, strengthen and reform. We must ensure that global trade works for everyone,” he said. Topics :