Pandemic Could Have Been Avoided, Expert Panel Says

world health organization

The whole Covid-19 pandemic could have been avoided. That’s the opinion of an expert review by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The panel was commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report ripped the response by both governments and the World Health Organization. It stated that a swift international response could have stopped the 2019 Covid-19 outbreak in China from becoming a global catastrophe in 2020.

“If travel restrictions had been imposed more quickly and more widely, that would have been a serious inhibition on the rapid transmission of the virus.” So said the panel’s co-chair (and former New Zealand prime minister) Helen Clark .

The panel criticized the World Health Organization for not declaring Covid a public health emergency of international concern until Jan. 30. It was officially called a pandemic on March 11.

The strongest criticism though was aimed at the nations of Europe and North America for “wasting February 2020” through inaction. This led to “a lost month when many more countries could have taken steps to contain the spread of Sars-Cov-2 and forestall the global health, social and economic catastrophe that continues its grip.”

The expert panel sponsored by the World Health Organization made a number of good recommendations of how to meet a future pandemic. But I doubt that governments will listen.

The Big News

A Vaccine With Your Big Mac?

Some companies are actively promoting the need for Covid vaccinations. McDonald’s is partnering with the White House to promote vaccination information on its coffee cups. And Uber and Lyft will make all rides to and from vaccination sites free until July 4. The boost is needed. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 47% of people who said they want to “wait and see” before being vaccinated also said financial incentives would boost their chance of getting vaccinated.

Yes, Vaccines Do Work

The Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday released a study showing that 99.75% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and April 13 were not fully vaccinated. The study also looked at 47,000 Cleveland Clinic employees who had received one shot, both shots or no shots at all. It found that 99.7% of employees who were infected with the coronavirus were not vaccinated. Only 0.3% of infections occurred in those who were fully vaccinated. The study found that in this group, mRNA vaccines were more than 96% effective in protecting against coronavirus infections.

Fed Plays Down Inflation Risk

Fed governor Lael Brainard has called on the U.S. central bank to be “patient” in pursuing its ultra-loose monetary policy. She dismissed inflation worries and highlighted “uneven” improvements in the labor market. The comments indicate that senior Fed officials viewed last week’s weak jobs report for April as reinforcing their concerns. The main concern is that the acceleration in the U.S. recovery this year remains uneven and fraught with uncertainty.

IEA Cuts Oil Price Forecast Due to Covid  

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has lowered its expectations for oil this year. It pointed to the coronavirus crisis in India and weaker than anticipated demand in Europe and the U.S. This is offsetting benefits from the global vaccination campaigns. In its monthly oil market report, the IEA said consumption in 2021 would grow by 5.4 million barrels a day. That is 270,000 b/d lower than its previous forecast.

China Sends Vaccines to Latin America

Latin America continues to struggle against a deadly third wave of the pandemic. It is now the most affected region in the world. China is lending a helping hand. It has shipped more than half of the 143.5 million doses of vaccines delivered to the region’s 10 most populous nations. This is according to a Financial Times analysis.

The Coronavirus Numbers

Roughly 90% of the world’s population has yet to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Here are the numbers from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:

  • 159,732,343 Infected Worldwide
  • 1,320,394,132 Vaccines Given Globally
  • 3,319,169 Deaths
  • 32,779,414 Infected in the U.S.
  • 263,132,561 U.S Vaccine Doses Administered
  • 582,848 Deaths in the U.S.

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What’s Next

Inflation continues to be the watchword for markets. And today the news is bad.

The government’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) for April came in much higher than expected. In fact, inflation accelerated at its fastest pace in more than 12 years (September 2008)!

The CPI rose 4.2% from a year ago. Estimates were for a 3.6% increase. The monthly gain was 0.8%, against the expected 0.2%.

Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the core CPI increased 3% from the same period in 2020 and 0.9% on a monthly basis. The respective estimates were 2.3% and 0.3%.

This news sent Nasdaq futures down 1.5%.

One other note. . .the VIX futures term structure is in a fairly steep contango through to October. This suggests investors are concerned about markets coming off the boil over the coming months following the strong run-up through the first four months of the year.

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Yours in Health & Wealth,

Tony Daltorio

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