The global death toll from coronavirus could reach as high as 15 million even in the best-case pandemic scenario, a new study says.
The research by the Australian National University also found that global GDP could shrink by as much as $2.3trillion even in what they call a ‘low-end’ pandemic.
In the most disastrous scenario, the death toll could reach a staggering 68 million.
In that worst-case pandemic, some countries’ economies would shrink by as much as eight percent in a global meltdown.
The two researchers who published the paper, Warwick McKibbon and Roshen Fernando, warn that ‘even a contained outbreak could significantly impact the global economy in the short run’.
In the so-called ‘low-severity’ case, the death rate in China is estimated at around two per cent and adjusted for other countries.
The global death rate has been drifting higher than that in recent weeks, currently hovering around 3.4 per cent.
In that ‘low-end’ pandemic, the study estimates that more than 15 million people would die within the first year of the outbreak, which started in China last December.
The estimates suggest that India and China would each lose millions of people, with more than 230,000 people killed in the United States.
‘These estimated deaths from COVID-19 can be compared to a regular influenza season in the United States, where around 55,000 people die each year,’ researchers point out.
Britain could expect to see 64,000 fatalities, with 79,000 in Germany and 60,000 in France.
The global economy would take a $2.3billion hit, the researchers estimate, with Australia and Germany also forecast to slide into severe recessions.
In that scenario, Britain’s GDP would drop by around 1.5 per cent, with America’s economy shrinking by 2.0 per cent.
In the ‘high-severity’ forecast, the coronavirus outbreak would cause a catastrophic death toll of more than 68 million people around the world, researchers say.
The dead would include more than 12 million people in China alone, as well as 1.1million in the United States. Britain’s death toll would be a catastrophic 290,000, with Germany and France likewise losing hundreds of thousands of people.
Russia’s fatality count would also be approaching a million in that scenario, the researchers’ data shows.
In that disastrous outcome, the global economy would take a $9.2 trillion hit with many countries facing very deep recessions.
The British economy would shrink by 6.0 per cent in 2020 in that scenario – worse than the 4.2 per cent drop it suffered at the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009.
Meanwhile the U.S. economy would suffer an 8.4 per cent drop in a recession which would reverberate around the world.
There is also a ‘mid-severity’ estimate, in which the global death toll would be around 38 million and the global economic hit around $5.3 trillion.
Researchers say that the probability of any of their projected outcomes are ‘highly uncertain’.
‘The goal is not to be definitive about the virus outbreak but to provide important information about a range of possible economic costs of the disease,’ they say.
They add: ‘Amidst the slowing down of the Chinese economy with interruptions to production, the functioning of global supply chains has been disrupted.’
‘Companies across the world, irrespective of size, dependent upon inputs from China have started experiencing contractions in production.
‘Transport being limited and even restricted among countries has further slowed down global economic activities.
‘Most importantly, some panic among consumers and firms has distorted usual consumption patterns and created market anomalies.
‘Global financial markets have also been responsive to the changes and global stock indices have plunged.
‘Amidst the global turbulence, in an initial assessment, the International Monetary Fund expects China to slow down by 0.4 percentage points compared to its initial growth target to 5.6 percent, also slowing down global growth by 0.1 percentage points.’
The researchers say that a ‘range of policy responses will be required’ to prevent disaster.