WASHINGTON (AP) – The ranks of Americans kicked out of work by the coronavirus jumped to more than 20 million on Thursday in just four weeks, an unprecedented collapse fueling wider protests and boosting pressure from President Donald Trump to soften directives national social distancing.
Trump planned to announce new recommendations later today, despite warnings from business leaders and governors that more tests and protective gear are needed first.
The government has stated that an additional 5.2 million people claimed unemployment benefits last week, bringing the cumulative total to about 22 million out of a workforce of about 159 million people in the United States – which is by far the worst period of job loss in the United States ever.
Some economists say the unemployment rate could reach 20% in April, the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
While some leaders and citizens have called on the government to reopen shops, factories and schools, health officials and many politicians have warned that a return to normalcy is a distant goal and that easing restrictions too soon could allow the virus to come back in force.
The decision on when and how to relax rests with heads of state and local officials, who have imposed mandatory blockages and other restrictions put in place over the past month.
The epidemic has infected more than 2 million people worldwide and killed more than 137,000 people, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University, although the real numbers would be much higher. The death toll in the United States has reached approximately 31,000, with more than 600,000 confirmed infections.
The fallout from the virus has spread in both predictable and devastating ways, from police torching an illicit food market in Zimbabwe to emergency flights carrying foreign farm workers to Britain and Germany, and demonstrations in capitals. of the United States against job losses.
In France, Amazon has suspended operations after a court ruled that it was not doing enough to protect its workers in the country. The online retailer has six warehouses in France.
In Britain, a government survey found that a quarter of businesses had suspended their activities. Freight traffic in the huge European port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands fell 9.3% in the first quarter compared to the same period a year ago, and its CEO warned of the worst to come .
The European head of the World Health Organization said optimism that the spread of the virus was decreasing in Italy, Spain and France had been tempered by the fact that it was increasing or staying at a high level in Great Britain. -Brittany, Russia and Turkey.
“The thunderclouds of this pandemic still weigh heavily on the European region,” said Dr. Hans Kluge.
On Wednesday, the United States reported that US industrial production fell in March, its largest decline since the demobilization of the country in 1946 at the end of the Second World War. Retail sales fell by an unprecedented rate of 8.7%, and April should be much worse.
The International Monetary Fund has said that the fallout from what it calls the “big lockdown” will be the most devastating since the crisis.
This has made leaders all the more eager to send people back to work and school and to rebuild devastated economies.
Italy’s hardest hit region, Lombardy, is trying to restart manufacturing on May 4, the day the national foreclosure is set to end. Regional authorities are considering ordering businesses to stagger business hours to avoid overloading public transport.
But Italy’s deputy minister of economic development, Stefan Buffagni, called the plan premature: “Going in a haphazard order risks fueling confusion among citizens and businesses.”
In the United States, thousands of people have come to Michigan and Oklahoma to protest the blockades that they claim have destroyed livelihoods.
In Michigan, some were masked and armed with rifles, but many unmasked people defied orders to stay at home and got stuck almost side by side in front of the Capitol in Lansing. In Oklahoma, cars covered with protest signs passed the Statehouse in Oklahoma City: “All jobs are essential,” reads a sign in the back of a pickup truck.
“This arbitrary proliferation of business closings, which aims to bankrupt all these workers, is just a disaster. This is an economic disaster for Michigan, “said protester Meshawn Maddock.
In northern Leelanau County, Michigan, Sheriff Mike Borkovich said the enforcement of the restrictions was taking a toll.
“People can’t wait to go back to work. They were very upset, “he said.
Troubling data indicates that the worst may still be to come in many parts of the world.
The Japanese Prime Minister has announced that he will extend the state of emergency to the entire country, rather than urban areas, as the virus continues to spread. Japan has the oldest population in the world and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The British government has been set to extend a nationwide lockdown for several weeks on Thursday as health officials say the country’s coronavirus epidemic is at its peak. Britain was awaiting its first flight of Romanian agricultural workers and more than 30,000 other workers signed up for flights to Germany to help plant and harvest.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for intensified efforts to prepare Africa for the virus, warning that the continent “could endure the greatest impacts”.
In Zimbabwe, where food was scarce before the epidemic, police raided a market, torching 3 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables and dispersing farmers who had violated travel restrictions to try to sell their crops.
Perry reported in Wellington, New Zealand. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to it.
Follow the AP coverage of the pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak