Millions of people could die and $3.4 trillion could be lost due coronavirus across the World, warns UN Chief
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 19 (APP):UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday that millions of people could die if the coronavirus kept spreading, and called for a coordinated global response to combat the pandemic.
“If we let the virus spread like wildfire, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world, it would kill millions of people,” he said, urging G-20 countries to support those countries whose healthcare systems are weaker.
“We must recognize that the poorest countries and most vulnerable — especially women — will be the hardest hit,” the United Nations chief told reporters from the UN Headquarters in New York.
“Solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone’s interests,” he added.
“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives,” Guterres said.
He urged governments to give “the strongest support to the multilateral effort to fight the virus, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose appeals must be fully met.” “The health catastrophe makes clear that we are only as strong as the weakest health system.”
Warning that a global recession of record dimensions is “a near certainty”, Guterres cited International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that workers around the world could lose as much as USD 3.4 trillion in income by the end of this year.
“It has been proven that the virus can be contained. It must be contained. If we let the virus spread like wildfire – especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world — it would kill millions of people,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has sickened more than 210,300 people in at least 145 countries and as of Wednesday evening, at least 8,809 people have died, more than half of them outside China, where the epidemic first began in the city of Wuhan.
Guterres stressed that current responses at the country level would not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis and called for a coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies.
Welcoming the decision by G20 leaders to convene an emergency summit next week to respond to the epic challenges posed by the pandemic, he said the world is in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.
“We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale. Our world faces a common enemy. We are at war with a virus,” he said.
Guterres, however, noted that if the coordinated global action is done right, “we can steer the recovery toward a more sustainable and inclusive path. But poorly coordinated policies risk locking in — or even worsening — already unsustainable inequalities, reversing hard-won development gains and poverty reduction.”
Calling on world leaders to come together and offer an urgent and coordinated response to this global crisis, Guterres underlined three critical areas for action — tackling the health emergency, focus on the social impact and economic response and recovery and refrain from the temptation of resorting to protectionism.
He said there was an immediate need to move away from a situation where each country was undertaking its own health strategies to one that ensures, in full transparency, a coordinated global response, including helping countries that were less prepared to tackle the crisis.
“Governments must give the strongest support to the multilateral effort to fight the virus, led by the World Health Organisation, whose appeals must be fully met,” he said. Emphasizing that the coronavirus pandemic is unlike the 2008 financial crisis and injecting capital in the financial sector alone will not be the answer, Guterres said, “This is not a banking crisis – indeed banks must be part of the solution. And it is not an ordinary shock in supply and demand; it is a shock to society as a whole.”
He said it was essentially a human crisis and called for wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss.
“We need to get resources directly in the hands of people. A number of countries are taking up social protection initiatives such as cash transfers and universal income,” the UN chief said.
He said children were also paying a heavy price.
More than 800 million children are out of school right now and many of them rely on schools to provide their only meal. “We must ensure that all children have access to food and equal access to learning – bridging the digital divide and reducing the costs of connectivity. We must ensure that lessons are learned and that this crisis provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st century public services and the effective delivery of global public goods,” Guterres said.