U.N. chief calls for global solidarity in fight against COVID-19

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at a UN meeting. /Xinhua

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for global solidarity in the fight against COVID-19, urging countries to rely on science in their responses to the pandemic.

The U.N. chief made the remarks in his centerpiece address to 75th session of the UN General Assembly, being held mostly virtually.

“We must be guided by science and tethered to reality,” he said. “Populism and nationalism have failed. Those approaches to contain the virus have often made things manifestly worse.”

Guterres’ remarks came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally surpassed the 31.36 million mark, with a death toll exceeding 965,000, according to data from the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

He noted that the 2020 UNGA was forced to revert to virtual sessions in efforts to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

“In a world turned upside down, this General Assembly Hall is among the strangest sights of all,” Guterres remarked at the outset. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our annual meeting beyond recognition.  But it has made it more important than ever.”

Guterres said the pandemic has exposed fragilities and inequalities across the globe, adding that it has generated “an epochal health crisis”, the biggest economic and job losses since the Great Depression, and dangerous new threats to human rights, among other challenges.