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Australia recession adds to global economic virus woes

Filed on September 2, 2020 | Last updated on September 2, 2020 at 04.30 pm
Australia announced a record contraction of seven per cent despite authorities providing billions of dollars in support to struggling firms.


Raft of bleak data from India to Europe in recent days lays bare toll from worldwide lockdowns

Australia has fallen into recession for the first time in three decades and Brazil's economy shrank by almost 10 per cent because of coronavirus, leaving China as the only major nation still recording economic growth during the pandemic.

A raft of bleak data from India to Europe in recent days has laid bare the toll from lockdowns as nations try to keep a lid on an illness that has killed more than 850,000 people and infected over 25 million.

The challenges were further highlighted on Wednesday when Australia announced a record contraction of seven per cent despite authorities providing billions of dollars in support to struggling firms.

"Today's national accounts confirm the devastating impact on the Australian economy from Covid-19," said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

"Our record run of 28 consecutive years of economic growth has now officially come to an end. The cause: A once-in-a-century pandemic."

Australia has confirmed almost 26,000 cases of coronavirus and 663 deaths, but had successfully contained the illness in most of the country by July.

A recent outbreak in Melbourne, however, forced a new lockdown covering five million people that has dragged on any economic recovery.

Shutdowns have taken a toll on livelihoods across the globe as business revenues plunge and millions are forced out of work.

New Delhi reported on Monday that growth in Asia's third-largest economy suffered a historic 23.9 per cent decline between April and June as the manufacturing sector was battered by restrictions on businesses.

In the Philippines, meanwhile, there has been a resurgence of barter trade as cash incomes dry up, with people flocking to Facebook groups to exchange everyday possessions for food.

"People are realising that while they have no money, they have accumulated a lot of material things," said Charles Ramirez, who runs a 14,000-member bartering website in the capital Manila.

"It's a depressing feeling, of course, having to let go of things you have accumulated just to be able to survive."

The site is one of dozens that have sprouted up to provide a lifeline to Filipinos hit hard by the country's recession.

Brazil's economy, the biggest in Latin America, contracted by a record 9.7 per cent in the second quarter of the year, plunging the nation into a virus-induced recession.

"GDP is now at the same level as in late 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis," the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics said.

The drop in the April-June period was the biggest for any quarter since the current system of records began in 1996, it added.

The only major economy to have avoided a recession is China - where coronavirus first emerged last year - thanks to strict lockdowns that have seen Covid-19 all but disappear in the country.

In the second quarter the Chinese economy rebounded by 11.5 per cent, having fallen by 10 per cent in the first quarter.

The Chinese city at the centre of the initial outbreak, Wuhan, took another step back to normality on Tuesday when almost 1.4 million children returned to schools and kindergartens.

In Europe, where GDP plunged 12.1 per cent in the three months to June, fears are growing of more lockdowns and disruption this autumn and winter as the virus refuses to die.

"The pandemic has changed everything," said Gema Perez Barea, who runs a firm offering tours of wineries in southern Spain that are highly dependent on tourists.

She said there were "far fewer visitors" than before the pandemic and "now all the tourists we have are from Spain".

The country is the world's third-largest wine producer by value after France and Italy, but sales have been battered by the virus crisis.

The virus has failed to put the brakes on the Venice film festival in Italy, however, which on Wednesday was gearing up for the movie industry's first post-Covid-19 international competition.

Still, only about half the usual number of visitors are expected to attend.

"It's a festival without stars because Hollywood is still in lockdown," festival director Alberto Barbera told AFP.

"Will there be less glamour? Yes."

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