Coronavirus will infect half the global population, EIU predicts

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A man wearing a protective mask on March 12, 2020 in New York City.

John Lamparski | NurPhoto | Getty Images

The new coronavirus will infect half of the global population and have a fatality rate of up to 3%, analysts said Wednesday.

“We assume that the virus will infect around 50% of the world population; 20% of the cases will be severe, and 1-3% will result in deaths,” analysts from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said in a note.

As a result of the pandemic, the EIU predicted global growth would stand at just 1% for 2020 — down from its outlook of 2.3% before the outbreak began. It would mark the lowest rate in global gross domestic product (GDP) growth since the global financial crisis, analysts noted.

Data from Johns Hopkins University showed on Wednesday that cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 200,000 worldwide, with more than 8,000 people killed by the virus globally. More than 82,000 people around the world have recovered from the virus, according to the data.

“Death ratios will depend on the capacity of countries to effectively detect, track, and contain the epidemic,” EIU analysts said. “Death ratios will be higher in countries with poor healthcare systems — in Sub-Saharan Africa for instance.”

In a major Chinese study on the coronavirus published last month, scientists calculated an overall fatality rate of 2.3%. Meanwhile, Italy — the hardest-hit country outside of Asia — has recorded more than 2,500 deaths out of 31,506 confirmed cases to date. 

The EIU also warned in its note that the coronavirus “will become a seasonal disease, with another outbreak in Winter 2020/21,” with analysts adding that they did not expect a vaccine to come onto the market until at least the end of next year.

Human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine began in the U.S. on Monday, with several big biotech firms racing to develop an immunization for the virus. However, experts have warned it would take at least a year for any new vaccination to be rolled out to market.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday, John Gieve, former deputy governor at the Bank of England, also suggested the coronavirus was likely to linger, saying COVID-19 is “with us now permanently – that’s something we’ve got to get used to over a period of years.”

In late February, an official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said COVID-19 could be seasonal, but WHO officials later said they “can’t make that assumption.”

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