The coronavirus pandemic is battering the world's major economies and could trigger the deepest global recession in generations, experts warned yesterday, as rising death tolls in Europe and the US dampened hopes for a quick turnaround.
While the Chinese city where the virus was born has been released from its nearly 11-week lockdown, much of the West remains in the throes of a crisis that has killed more than 80,000 people worldwide.
The hardest-hit countries, among them Italy, Spain, France and the US, are wrestling with how to balance public safety with the devastating impact of lockdowns that have shuttered whole sectors of the economy and erased millions of jobs in a matter of weeks.
The economic forecasts are dire.
The fallout "may well be the deepest economic recession or downturn of our lifetimes", warned the chief the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo.
Global trade growth could fall by up to a third this year, the WTO said.
France has already recorded its worst economic performance since 1945 during the first quarter, shrinking some six percent.
Germany's economy, the biggest in Europe, is also expected to fall into a "serious recession" and contract by nearly 10 percent in the second quarter, leading researchers warned.
Despite some early signs of downward trend in cases in Europe, health experts stressed it is too early to loosen restrictions.
They say premature moves could accelerate the spread of a disease that has already infiltrated every layer of society, from refugees to royals to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was reported to be "stable" during his third day in intensive care.
"Now is not the time to relax measures. It is the time to once again double and triple our collective efforts to drive towards suppression with the whole support of society," said the World Health Organization's Europe director Hans Kluge.
In the ground-zero Chinese city of Wuhan, which led the world with its unprecedented lockdown in January, strict measures appear to have paid off.
After a months-long travel ban was finally lifted, tens of thousands of people fled the city in joyous scenes that contrasted with the macabre mood around much of the world -- even if some passengers were travelling in hazmat suits.
Medical staff around the world are bearing a heavy physical and emotional toll as they work in packed intensive care units and makeshift hospitals erected in sports stadiums, on ships and even in a New York cathedral.
In Spain, home to the world's second deadliest outbreak, another 757 deaths were reported yesterday, bringing the toll up for a second day after several days of decline.
Hundreds are still passing away daily in worst-affected Italy although the peak of the crisis appears to have passed, with the rise of infections falling to a new low.
Britain, meanwhile, was tense after a record 786 deaths Tuesday, while the prime minister's hospitalisation underscored the seriousness of the disease for many in a country that was slow to react.
The 55-year-old British leader was "clinically stable" and "responding to the treatment", his spokesman said, adding he was in "good spirits".
The US also faced a punishing 24 hours, with another 1,939 deaths recorded according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, bringing the nation's death toll to nearly 13,000.
A staggering 81 percent of the world's 3.3 billion-strong workforce has been affected by "the worst global crisis since the Second World War", according to the UN's International Labour Organization.
Governments around the globe are rolling out unprecedented stimulus measures, including a $1-trillion package in Japan.
The eurozone is also mired in bickering over a bailout plan for its hard-hit members that would come on top of measures enacted by individual governments.
Finance ministers were unable to bridge divides after 16 hours of talks that will now resume today.
The markets continued their volatile movement, with Wall Street stocks rising at the start of trade on Wednesday.