Report: Economy rebound hinges on race between vaccines, variants

International economic projections have improved over the past months, but faster and more effective vaccine deployment is critical for getting key sectors back to prepandemic levels, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in its latest update.

In other developments, some hot spot countries reported rising hospitalization and intensive care unit (ICU) levels, even as more countries are receiving shipments though the COVAX initiative.

Rollout uneven, but momentum builds

The OECD, an economic group of 37 developed countries, now projects that global growth in gross domestic product will be 5.6% this year, reflecting an upward revision of more than 1 percentage point from its December 2020 forecast. It added that world output should reach prepandemic levels by the middle of 2021, but progress depends on the race between vaccines and emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.

So far, vaccine rollout has been uneven, with restrictions still in place in some countries and sectors, the group said. Building immunization momentum and improved prospects for government stimulus in the United States are likely to provide a major boost, it added.

Other factors that would positively influence economic growth include accelerated COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution with coordinated actions that get ahead of virus mutations. That scenario would allow pandemic restrictions to be relaxed more quickly and for global output to rise.

However, OECD said consumer spending and business confidence would both be hit if vaccines don't deploy fast enough to cut infection rates or if new variants become more widespread, requiring changes to current vaccines.

Other global headlines

  • In the wake of recent COVID-19 surges, France's ICU occupancy is at its highest level since the end of November 2020 and in Italy, the B117 variant now makes up more than half of new cases, with hospitals in some hard-hit regions feeling pressure. In the Middle East, Palestinian hospitals and ICUs are over capacity in some cities.

  • China has unveiled a QR-code based vaccine certificate to ease international travel, according to the Washington Post.

  • Afghanistan yesterday became the first country in central Asia to receive COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX, according to the World Health Organization's Eastern Mediterranean regional office. The country received 468,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine made by India's Serum Institute. The shipment also included syringes and safety boxes.

  • The global total today rose to 117,395,870 cases, and 2,605,194 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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