UN calls for global ceasefire as coronavirus rages on
Marje Pelayo • March 25, 2020 • 444
REUTERS – Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday (March 23) called for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Guterres told a virtual news conference.
So far more than 337,500 people have been infected and over 14,600 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
The spread of the the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness has drawn comparisons with painful periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu.
“The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly. Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world,” Guterres said.
“The most vulnerable – women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced – pay the highest price,” he said. “They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.”
The United Nations has been trying to mediate an end to conflicts in countries including Syria, Yemen and Libya, while also providing humanitarian assistance to millions of civilians.
Guterres warned that in war-torn countries health systems have collapsed and the small number of health professionals left were often targeted in the fighting.
“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he said. “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.” (Production: Dan Fastenberg)
North Korea’s state-run television on Tuesday (July 28) released a video of Pyongyang workers disinfecting the city as the state introduced tougher curbs against the coronavirus, after it locked down the town Kaesong, on the border with the South, to tackle what could be its first publicly confirmed infection.
Strict quarantine measures and the screening of districts were in progress and test kits, protective clothing and medical equipment were being supplied, the North’s KCNA state news agency said.
The measures come after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an emergency on Sunday (July 26) after a person who defected to South Korea three years ago returned across the highly fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ) to Kaesong this month with symptoms of COVID-19, KCNA reported.
Reclusive North Korea had reported testing 1,211 people for the virus as of July 16 with all returning negative results, the World Health Organisation said in a statement sent to Reuters. The report said 696 nationals were under quarantine. (Reuters)
President Donald Trump warned Americans on Tuesday (July 21) that the toll from the novel coronavirus would get worse before it got better, and encouraged Americans to wear a mask if they cannot maintain social distance from people around them.
In his first briefing in months focused on the pandemic, Trump told reporters at the White House that the virus would probably get worse before it gets better, in one of his first recent acknowledgments of how bad the problem has become.
“Some areas of our country are doing very well. Others are doing less well. It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better – something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is,” he said.
In a shift in rhetoric, Trump encouraged Americans to wear masks, and pulled a mask out of his pocket, saying he carries it around.
“I mean I carry the mask,” he said, before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a blue face mask. “And I will use it gladly, no problem with it, and I’ve said that. And I say, if you can, use the mask. When you can, use the mask. If you’re close to each other, if you’re in a group, I would put it on when I’m in a group.”
Trump, who downplayed the virus in its early stages and has been focused on reopening the economy in recent months despite an increase in cases, has been reluctant to wear a mask himself in public. He wore one for the first time in public during a recent visit to a military hospital but has otherwise eschewed putting one on in front of the press.
Mask-wearing has become a partisan issue, with some Trump supporters saying being required to do infringes on their liberties.
As coronavirus cases skyrocket across the country, including in politically important states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona, the president is shifting his tone to try to get the number of cases under control as he fights for re-election against Democrat Joe Biden, who leads in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
He urged young Americans to avoid crowded bars where the virus could spread.
“We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings. Be safe and be smart,” he said.
Trump again argued that the virus would disappear at some point, but most of his comments on Tuesday were largely a sober recognition of how bad the problem has become.
Trump sought to leave some optimism about scientific developments in vaccines and treatments even as he acknowledged the grim statistics at present.
When asked if the U.S. would cooperate with China on a vaccine, Trump, who several times called the virus “the China virus” during the news conference, said Washington would.
“Yeah, we’re willing to work with anybody that’s going to get us a good result. We’re very close to the vaccine. I think we’re going to have some very good results,” he said.
Nearly 142,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. (Reuters)
Coronavirus support to poor countries has been so far “grossly inadequate and that’s dangerously shortsighted,” U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said on Thursday (July 16) as he asked wealthy countries for billions more dollars in assistance.
The United Nations increased its humanitarian appeal by more than a third to $10.3 billion to help 63 states, mainly in Africa and Latin America, tackle the spread and destabilizing effects of the coronavirus. This is up from the world body’s initial $2 billion request in March, then $6.7 billion in May.
So far, Lowcock said, the United Nations has only received $1.7 billion.
“The message to the G20 is step up now or pay the price later,” Lowcock told reporters.
Finance ministers from the Group of 20 major economies will meet virtually on Saturday (July 18).
The coronavirus has infected at least 13.6 million people and there have been more than 584,000 known deaths worldwide, according to a Reuters tally. The United Nations has warned that if action is not taken, the pandemic and associated global recession will trigger an increase in global poverty for the first time since 1990 and push 265 million people to the brink of starvation.
“The response so far of wealthy nations, who’ve rightly thrown out the fiscal and monetary rule books to protect their own people and economies, the response that they’ve made to the situations in other countries has been grossly inadequate and that’s dangerously shortsighted,” Lowcock said.
Lowcock added he had lobbied U.S. lawmakers for funding earlier this week. A House of Representatives committee has proposed $10 billion in international aid. So far, Congress has provided $2.4 billion in emergency foreign aid.
In May, China’s President Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion to help deal with the coronavirus and economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing states.
Lowcock said he would “very much welcome it if some significant proportion of those resources could be used directly to support the global humanitarian response plan.” (Reuters)
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