The human and economic toll of the lockdowns against the coronavirus mounted Thursday as India struggled to feed the multitudes, Italy shut down most of its industry, and a record-shattering 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week, The Associated Press reported.
As the number of infections around the globe reached a half-million and world leaders held a video summit to grapple with how long to keep the economy at a standstill to help flatten the rising curve, the damage to people’s livelihoods and their well-being started to come into focus.
In India, where the country’s 1.3 billion people were under orders to stay home, legions of poor were suddenly thrown out of work, and many families were left struggling for something to eat.
India has the world’s second-highest number of people living in extreme poverty. Rickshaw drivers, produce peddlers, maids, day laborers and other low-wage workers form the backbone of the economy, and many live day to day on their wages and have no savings to fall back on.
The Indian government announced a 1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) economic stimulus package that will deliver monthly rations of grain and lentils to a staggering 800 million people.
Around the globe, the death toll stood at nearly 8,200 in Italy, more than 4,100 in Spain and over 1,000 in the U.S., approximately 400 of them in New York State, the worst hotspot in the nation.
The United Nations estimated that as many as 25 million jobs could be lost in the economic upheaval, more than during the global financial meltdown of 2008.
In Europe, companies are laying off workers at the fastest pace since 2009, according to surveys of business managers. And the U.S. is bleeding jobs as well: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week was nearly five times the old record, set in 1982.
New Orleans restaurant owner and caterer Keisha Henry said she lost $10,000 in revenue last week after three big functions she was supposed to cater were canceled. She had to lay off several employees.
“I wish I could just keep them on and pay them, but being a small business, I don’t have enough capital to pay for the employees when we are not putting out a product,” she said.
In what seemed like a rare positive sign, stocks rallied on Wall Street for the third straight day after an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to help businesses, hospitals and ordinary Americans pull through the crisis cleared the Senate. The plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House on Friday, would dispense checks of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.