New round of lockdowns in Europe, US dash West’s hope of early recovery
Published: Oct 29, 2020 10:53 PM

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (C) takes part in an emergency cabinet meeting in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 25, 2020. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Sunday announced a State of Alarm in an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus, days after Spain became the first European Union state to pass the grim one-million-case mark. (La Moncloa/Handout via Xinhua)

A new round of lockdowns in Europe and parts of the US have dashed hopes in the West of an early recovery this year, Chinese observers said. But they believe China, the country that emerged from the pandemic the strongest, will continue playing the role of stabilizer and backbone to prop up global economic development. 

Europe has struggled to shake off COVID-19 and is now facing a new round of shutdowns as France, Germany and other places announced lockdown measures on Wednesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new nationwide lockdown starting Friday, saying the country has been "overpowered by a second wave." In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a four-week shutdown of bars, restaurants and theaters, as the country recorded its highest daily number of new infection cases since the outbreak at 14,964. "We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency," she said.

Countries such as Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece have closed or otherwise clamped down again on nightspots and imposed other restrictions such as curfews and mandatory mask-wearing. 

In the US, where practically every state is seeing a rise in cases, the governor of hard-hit Wisconsin has been reduced to pleading with people to stay at home. The governor of Illinois banned indoor dining and drinking in Chicago this week. Other states are also considering re-imposing restrictions.

The FTSE 100 fell on Wednesday by more than 2.5 percent to a six-month low of 5,582.82, with shares in 98 of the UK's top 100 blue-chip companies ending the day lower in a sell-off spurred by the prospect of renewed turmoil.

Dashed hope for quick recovery

Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the situation showed that the world is on a diverging path in its recovery process from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"[The situation has showed that] a second wave of the pandemic has already hit, and that has dashed the hopes for early recovery in the last quarter of the year. That means a brisk, full-scale economic recovery is now off the table in the fourth quarter and economic performance for the US and the EU will not be as strong as in the third quarter; those economies are on track for a W-shaped recovery process," Chen told the Global Times on Thursday.

Chen said the new lockdown measures could mean the world economy fails to achieve the IMF's latest forecast of 5.4 percent growth in 2021.

In its latest world economic outlook, the IMF projected the world economy would plunge by 4.9 percent in 2020 but return to 5.4 percent growth in 2021.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times that Europe has never managed to fully control the coronavirus, which gives room for the virus to spread rapidly when it gets cold in the Northern Hemisphere. Also, European people are reluctant to obey the virus prevention rules and governments loosened quarantine measures too quickly, so while the increase of new cases fell it was not completely eliminated. 

In Germany the infections came back in late summer, as many migrant workers from Eastern Europe working in farms and slaughterhouses came back to Germany. The virus was also spread in the party and club scene as well as by young people coming back from holidays, Bjorn Nashan, former president of German Transplantation Society, told the Global Times. 

As the US and the EU accounts for a sizable portion of the global economy, their slower recovery will cast a shadow on China's economic recovery path, even as the virus is basically contained on the domestic front.

"China will have to continue to be on high-alert to curb the inflow of COVID-19 cases, which will add economic pressure. Meanwhile, global trade and flow of people will continue to be impeded, affecting exports and imports," Chen said.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Saturday that the COVID-19 pandemic is not likely to be over in the short run, so the pressure exerted on China's virus prevention controls mainly comes from other countries. "If we race to open borders, our previous efforts will be written off," said Wu, estimating that the challenge will remain for two years. 

People walk to shop at the Chuhehan Street in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Different picture in China

Analysts said that despite the setback posed by the new lockdown measures, China will be a stabilizing force for the global community. Top government officials have convened in Beijing to focus on proposals for the formulation of the country's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and long-term goals through the year 2035.  

"The meeting is expected to send a positive and stabilizing signal to the world - the world's second-largest economy and most populous country will continue on a stable growth path, mobilize its economic relationship with the outside world and continue to fulfill its responsibilities," said Li Yong, deputy chair of the expert committee of the China Association of International Trade. Li noted that China will continue to supply vital goods and services to the US and the EU to help them resolve problems in their disrupted supplies.  

The European lockdown measures also came less than a week before the opening of the third China International Import Expo, a massive trade fair where global exporters can pitch for a share of China's vast consumer market.

Li said the CIIE event will once more confirm China's status as a pillar of global growth with tremendous opportunities available for a large number of countries and regions.

Nashan, who is now working in a hospital in East China's Anhui Province, said that he is not rushing back to Germany this Christmas, and probably won't go until at least next Spring, providing the virus is under control back home. "Now I am enjoying a normal life in China."

The recovery of China is notable to the world. After the country's National Day holiday travel rush dazzled many foreigners, Chinese young people are also preparing for Halloween, which falls on Saturday. Many bars and restaurants are seizing the opportunity to attract business in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and the topic of Halloween parties has been trending on Chinese social media for a whole week.

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