WASHINGTON: A new measure of global uncertainty around the coronavirus has surged to a record high, according to a blog post released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Saturday.
"The coronavirus continues to spread. As more countries impose quarantines and social distancing, the fear of contagion and income losses is increasing uncertainty around the world," Hites Ahir and Davide Furceri, officials at the IMF's Research Department, and Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, wrote in the blog post.
To quantify uncertainty related to the coronavirus crisis and compare it with previous pandemics and epidemics, the three researchers developed the World Pandemic Uncertainty Index (WPUI) for 143 countries starting in 1996.
As of March 31, the WPUI is three times the size of the uncertainty during the 2002-03 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic and about 20 times the size of that during the Ebola outbreak.
"The level of uncertainty around the coronavirus is expected to remain high as cases continue to rise and it is still not clear when the crisis will end," the researchers wrote, warning high uncertainty historically coincides with periods of lower growth and tighter financial conditions.
"The current level of uncertainty related to the coronavirus crisis is no exception as the economic impact is already visible in the countries most affected by the outbreak," they said, noting that "increased coordinated action" will be key to boosting confidence and providing stability to the global economy.
The increasing uncertainty came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has exceeded 1.14 million with over 60,000 deaths, according to the tally from Johns Hopkins University.
"We're now in recession, it is way worse than the global financial crisis," IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Friday at a joint press conference with the World Health Organization (WHO), noting the "dual crisis" -- health and economic crisis -- caused by COVID-19 outbreak is unprecedented in the history of IMF.
Georgieva stressed that saving lives and protecting livelihoods ought to go hand in hand as the coronavirus sweeps across the globe.