World leaders criticize Trump’s WHO decision, IMF says coronavirus biggest economic toll since Great Depression


The Atlantic Council’s Coronavirus Alert is a regular summary of policy, economic, and business events around the emergency. To stay updated, sign up to the Coronavirus Alert here.

In top stories today:

  • US President Donald J. Trump’s suspension of funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) was criticized by top world leaders, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the coronavirus crisis will take the biggest toll on the global economy since the 1930s Great Depression. A ninety-nine-year-old army veteran has raised millions for the UK’s health service by walking laps of his garden.
  • World leaders from China, Germany, and the European Union to New Zealand criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding of the WHO, appealing for cooperation and unity, Reuters reported. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed sympathy for Trump’s stance but said Australia worked closely with WHO, the newswire also reported.
  • QUOTE:  “Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Reuters reported.
  • Trump halted funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) because of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic including promoting “disinformation” by China, Reuters reported. The decision by the United States, the biggest donor to WHO by contributing more than $400 million last year, or about 15 percent of its budget, drew criticism from infectious disease experts as the death toll from the virus increases, the newswire said.


  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the coronavirus pandemic will take the biggest toll on the global economy since the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Financial Times reported. What’s more the crisis will leave lasting scars as most countries’ economies will be 5 percent smaller than planned even following a sharp recovery in 2021, the newspaper said.
  • About 80 million people in the United States will get a $1,200 stimulus check by April 15, The Washington Post cited Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as saying. Early evidence shows that Americans will use the money to buy essentials including food and gas, the newspaper said, citing Netspend.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have taken the lead in developing a public health response to coronavirus and a plan to reopen parts of the country, The Washington Post reported, citing a strategy document. The newspaper links to an early draft by the CDC.
  • “Ending coronavirus lockdowns will be a dangerous process of trial and error,” runs a headline in the journal Science. Governments worldwide need to triangulate their citizens’ health and freedoms with economic constraints, Science reported.
  • QUOTE: “We’ve managed to get to the life raft,” said epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Science reported. “But I’m really unclear how we will get to the shore.”
  • The European Union predicts a “very long” exit from the coronavirus crisis as the bloc’s top officials asked its twenty-seven member countries to coordinate reopening their economies to avoid the chaotic unilateral measures at the start of the outbreak, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Countries that ease restrictions should wait at least two weeks to gauge the impact of that before lifting more measures designed to halt the spread of coronavirus, WHO said in its latest Strategy Update, Reuters reported.
  • Amazon hit the headlines. The Financial Times (FT) leads its world coverage with a French court’s ruling that Amazon limit shipments to essential items such as food and medicine to customers in France while it carries out a review of warehouse workers’ safety. Amazon, which employs about 10,000 workers in France, said it disagreed with the court’s decision, the FT reported. Labor unions had called for Amazon’s six warehouses in France to be shut down, the newspaper said.


  • China failed to warn the public of the coronavirus outbreak for six key days, during which time the city of Wuhan hosted a banquet for tens of thousands of people, the Associated Press reported, citing internal documents and expert estimates. By the time Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the public on January 20, more than 3,000 people had been infected with the virus, AP said.
  • QUOTE:  “This is tremendous,” said Zuo-Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported. “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient. We might have avoided the collapse of Wuhan’s medical system.”


  • The US military is braced for a months-long struggle against the coronavirus outbreak, the Associated Press reported. As AP puts it, “military leaders are suggesting that this summer may be the best-case scenario of tiptoeing toward a return to normal activities” but even that isn’t certain because of the evolving nature of the pandemic, the article said.
  • Deaths in New York City from coronavirus were revised upwards on April 14 by more than 3,700 to include those who hadn’t tested positive for the virus but were presumed to have fallen victim to it, The New York Times reported, citing the city’s health department. That takes the total to more than 10,000, the newspaper said. On a per-capita basis far more people have died of coronavirus in the biggest city in the United States than in Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe, it added.
  • Ten of the twelve biggest US airlines plan to accept financial help from the federal government under the $2.2 trillion economic relief package passed last month as demand for air travel has collapsed, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Treasury measures includes $25 billion in direct assistance to allow passenger carriers to pay workers’ salaries and benefits in coming months, the Journal said. Airline shares rose sharply in after-hours trading, the newspaper added.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the crisis will erase almost a decade of growth in demand for oil this year as lockdowns affecting billions of people created an unprecedented drop in energy market demand, CNBC reported.
  • QUOTE: “Even assuming that travel restrictions are eased in the second half of the year, we expect that global oil demand in 2020 will fall by 9.3 million barrels a day versus 2019, erasing almost a decade of growth,” the IEA said, CNBC reported.  


  • Japan, with the world’s oldest population, could see about 850,000 people fall ill with coronavirus and almost half of those could die without social distancing and other restrictions, the Associated Press cited a government-commissioned estimate as showing. The current state of emergency in the country is voluntary and workers don’t get compensation for lost earnings, AP said.
  • The city of Osaka made an urgent plea for citizens to donate plastic raincoats to hospitals running low on personal protective equipment, Reuters reported. By the afternoon of April 15 almost 900 cases of the virus were reported in the city and nearby, making it the second hardest hit after Tokyo, the newswire cited local media as saying.
  • The statistics say… Japan has more than 8,800 confirmed cases of coronavirus, about a quarter of them in Tokyo, and has recorded 131 deaths. The health ministry reported 457 new cases on April 15, according to the Associated Press.
  • A sudden surge in coronavirus cases in Turkey, with a population of 82 million, has alarmed health experts, CNBC reported. Turkey, one of the few countries in Europe not to have ordered a compulsory lockdown, has reported more than 4,000 cases a day since April 8, up from more than 3,000 after April 4, CNBC said. The country’s economy is in bad shape to cope with a pandemic, with issues including two years of a weakening currency and growing unemployment, CNBC reported.
  • READ MORE: “We can only eradicate this threat through collective effort,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said at a virtual event moderated Atlantic Council IN TURKEY program director Defne Sadıklar Arslan and Turkish Heritage Organization President Ali Çınar on April 14. “[I]ndividual efforts will not be enough.”


  • Bond investors will have a central role in negotiations on debt relief to emerging markets in coming weeks after their holdings in these economies’ public borrowing increased in the past decade, The Wall Street Journal reported. Private bondholders including asset managers and hedge funds hold nearly 36 percent of this debt on average, according to the newspaper’s analysis of 2018 data compared with 18 percent a decade earlier.
  • A growing number of nations could default on their debt obligations in the next twelve to eighteen months as countries increase their spending to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, CNBC cited the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) as saying. South Africa and Brazil are “likely to suffer a further crisis as a result of this,” Simon Baptist, global chief economist at the EIU said, CNBC reported.
  • Dozens of cases of coronavirus have been recorded among Brazil’s oil and gas workers, a sign that the outbreak in the sector far worse than thought, Reuters reported, citing an industry regulator.
  • READ MORE: “We have had to manage two crises at the same time,” said Colombian President Iván Duque, speaking on April 14 as part of the Atlantic Council’s Front Page event series and the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s Leaders of the Americas series. Duque was referring to coronavirus as well as the ongoing collapse of neighboring Venezuela, which has already seen nearly 2 million Venezuelans seek refuge in Colombia, wrote The Atlantic Council’s David A. Wemer.


  • “Completely out of this world”. That was the reaction of Tom Moore, ninety-nine, when he found out that his sponsored 100 laps of his garden in Bedfordshire near London had raised more than £5 million for the UK’s National Health Service, the BBC reported. The army veteran had set out to generate £1,000 in sponsorship.
  • QUOTE:  “The science is immensely challenging,” wrote the editorial board of The Washington Post. “But we can take heart knowing that so many creative, persistent and indefatigable researchers are working on more than 140 experimental drug treatments and vaccines, cooperating across company lines and national borders.”