UN Chief Antonio Guterres urges declaring war on coronavirus

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Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomes U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres prior an update on the situation regarding the COVID-19 (previously named novel coronavirus) at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 24, 2020. Salvatore Di Nolfi/Pool via REUTERS

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged world leaders to declare war on COVID-19, two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the situation as a pandemic.

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomes U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres prior an update on the situation regarding the COVID-19 (previously named novel coronavirus) at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 24, 2020. Salvatore Di Nolfi/Pool via REUTERS

“We must declare war on this virus,” said Guterres in a video message.

“That means countries have a responsibility to gear up, step up and scale up – by implementing effective containment strategies, by activating and enhancing emergency response systems, by dramatically increasing testing capacity and care for patients, by readying hospitals … and by developing life-saving medical interventions,” he said.

In addition to being a public health crisis, the virus is also affecting the global economy, he said, as financial markets have been hard-hit by the uncertainty; global supply chains have been disrupted; investment and consumer demand have plunged, with a real and rising risk of a global recession.

UN economists estimated that the coronavirus crisis could cost the global economy at least one trillion U.S. dollars this year, or more, Guterres said, but warned against panic.

Meanwhile, the UN chief demanded all staff to telecommute and work remotely from March 16 to April 12, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the UN headquarters in New York.

“I have therefore decided that from Monday, March 16 to Sunday, April 12, 2020, all staff will be required to telecommute and work remotely, unless their physical presence in the building is needed to carry out our essential work in New York and around the world,” Guterres said in a letter sent to all UN staff.

He noted it was essential to reduce social contact to a minimum and follow the clear instructions of WHO to minimize the risks of transmitting the infection.

The WHO on Friday said that Europe, which has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, is now fully mobilized in hammering out extraordinary measures to curb the spreading of the novel coronavirus.

“Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of world combined apart from China,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted at a daily briefing in Geneva.

As of Friday morning, 28,297 cases have been reported in the European Union/European Economic Area, among whom 1,191 people lost their lives, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention (ECDP).

European countries in the epicenter started to hammer out extraordinary measures including school closure, gathering ban, election delay and border closure in some places.

As China sees the light at the end of the tunnel in its fight against COVID-19, it is lending a hand to European countries, several which had come to China’s assistance at the early stage of the outbreak.

On Thursday night, a chartered flight carrying a nine-member Chinese aid team, along with tonnes of medical supplies, arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, in part of China’s efforts to help Italy contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The team took with them more than 700 pieces of equipment and goods including ventilators, monitors and defibrillators.

On Friday night, a plane carrying Chinese medical supplies for Europe landed in Liege, Belgium. In addition to medical supplies, China is also sharing its experience in fighting COVID-19.

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