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UN Chief Urges Immediate Global Ceasefire to Fight COVID-19

UN Chief Urges Immediate Global Ceasefire to Fight COVID-19

Monday, 23 March, 2020 - 18:30
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Monday for an immediate ceasefire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.


“It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” he demanded.


Guterres said the world faces “a common enemy — COVID-19” which does not care “about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.”


He said people caught in armed conflicts, which are raging around the world, are among the most vulnerable and “are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.”


It is time to silence guns, stop artillery, end airstrikes and create corridors for life-saving aid and diplomacy, he said.


Guterres spoke as the Syrian conflict has entered its 10th year, the conflict in Yemen is in its fifth year and Libya's rival governments have been fighting for nearly a year. Africa also faces unrest from Somalia and South Sudan to Congo, Mali and Burkina Faso.


Guterres urged warring parties to “put aside mistrust and animosity” and take inspiration from efforts to get rivals to tackle the coronavirus together, but he stressed that much more was needed.


“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” the secretary-general said. “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.”


Moreover, Guterres said the UN wants $2 billion to help poor countries combat coronavirus and warned that a massive, coordinated package would also be needed to deal with the pandemic's social and economic impact around the world.


"The package needs to make households be afloat, make businesses be afloat, keep societies being afloat," he added.


"This will require a double-digit of GDP (gross domestic product) support in the developed world and creating the conditions through the IMF (International Monetary Fund), through the swaps among central banks, through the creation of new facilities," he said.


So far more than 351,00 people have been infected and over 15,330 have died, according to a Reuters tally.


The spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus has drawn comparisons with devastating periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu.


"We need a much stronger coordination," said Guterres, adding that he had written to the world's 20 largest economies (G20) and would join their virtual meeting later this week.


"Coordination in making sure that not only the developed countries can respond effectively to the disease, but that there is massive support to the developing world not to let the disease spread like wildfire," he said.


Guterres said he would launch a $2 billion humanitarian appeal on Wednesday.


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