As the novel covid-19 throws millions out of work and devastates economies worldwide, governments are struggling with the delicate balance between keeping people safe from a highly contagious disease and making sure they can still make a living or have enough to eat.
Workers in some non-essential industries were returning to their jobs on Monday in Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, while in South Korea officials were warning that hard-earned progress fighting the coronavirus could be eroded by new infections as restrictions ease.
The decisions are complicated because each nation is on its own covid-19 arc, with places like Britain, Japan and parts of the United States still seeing increasing daily levels of deaths or infections; France and New York hoping they are stabilising, albeit at a high plateau of deaths; and nations like Italy and Spain seeing declines in the rates of increase.
PM Imran Khan yesterday issued a global plea to the world’s richer countries and international financial institutions to provide debt relief for poor countries, where forced lockdowns are crippling already troubled economies and causing widespread hunger for the poor.
His government has launched an ambitious $8 billion programme to help the millions near the poverty level. PM Khan last week relaxed his country’s lockdown to allow the construction industry, which employs the vast majority of Pakistan’s daily wage earners, to reopen.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his government must balance its response to the virus crisis that “threatens to destroy lives and at the same time destroy the economic and social fabric of our country.”
Seeking to restart manufacturing government of Spain is allowing workers to return to some factory and construction jobs. The country on Monday reported its lowest daily growth in infections in three weeks. Retail stores and services remain closed and office workers are strongly encouraged to keep working from home. A prohibition on people leaving home for anything other than groceries, and medicine will remain for at least two weeks under the state of emergency.