WASHINGTON, United States — The scale of economic devastation from the pandemic was laid bare on Thursday as Western economies recorded historic slumps, just as resurgent caseloads forced many countries into agonizing new tradeoffs between health and financial stability.
Six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 17 million people worldwide.
The WHO warned Thursday that young people are “not invincible” and were helping to drive resurgences in many places that had largely curbed the disease.
“Spikes of cases in some countries are being driven in part by younger people letting down their guard during the northern hemisphere summer,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
COVID-19 has killed more than 668,000 people and is forcing governments into a persistent balancing act between saving lives and preventing economic devastation.
Nowhere is that challenge more evident than the world’s hardest-hit nation — also the world’s biggest economy — with the United States posting a second-quarter loss of 9.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago, the worst figure on record.
If that trajectory carried through the entire year, its economy would collapse by nearly a third (32.9 percent), the data showed.
Historic contractions were additionally recorded in Germany (10.1 percent), Belgium (12.2 percent), Austria (10.7 percent) and Mexico (17 percent). Across the globe, companies were also taking a hit with Volkswagen, oil producer Shell, UK bank Lloyds and Japanese consumer electronics giant Panasonic all reporting huge losses.
With travel down to a trickle, aerospace giant Airbus said it burned through more than 12 billion euros in cash in the first half of the year, with a net loss of 1.9 billion euros ($1.4 billion) and plans to cut production by 40 percent.