Economy Will Never Recover without Controlling Coronavirus: UN Chief

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)

A massive and combined effort by all countries is needed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday (May 18).

Addressing World Health Organization (WHO) Member States attending the foreshortened and virtual World Health Assembly in Geneva via videoconference, the UN chief pointed out that despite “some solidarity,” there had been “very little unity” in the global response to the new coronavirus so far.

Because of this, “a microscopic virus has brought us to our knees,” he said, before reiterating his support for the “irreplaceable” WHO.

Mr Guterres lamented that many countries have ignored the WHO recommendations because of which the virus has spread across the world and is now moving into the Global South, where its impact may be even more devastating, and now further spikes and waves are expected.

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“Unless we control the spread of the virus, the economy will never recover,” Mr Guterres warned, reiterating his call for the G20 group of nations to consider launching a stimulus package equivalent to a double-digit percentage of global GDP.

He also called for greater support through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, and other international financial institutions.

Acknowledging calls by some countries for an inquiry into how the new coronavirus threat spread so rapidly, the UN chief insisted that it was too early to do so.

“The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future,” he said. “But now is not that time. Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”

After paying tribute to frontline health workers, Mr. Guterres also reiterated his support for the WHO, describing the organization as “irreplaceable” and one that needed more resources to support at-risk developing countries. “Either we get through this pandemic together, or we fail,” he said.

As of today (May 20), there are nearly 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the world and more than 300,000 people have died at the current level of testing which is on average roughly 2 percent of the population.

If adequate testing is done on a larger population, at-home deaths are properly counted, and the cause of deaths is truthfully reported on death certificates of the deceased, the actual number of coronavirus cases and deaths are significantly higher than what is being reported.

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Rakesh Raman