The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the entire human race, the United Nations warned Wednesday as it launched a humanitarian response plan featuring a $2 billon appeal for the world’s poorest people.
‘COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity — and the whole of humanity must fight back. Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough,’ secretary general Antonio Guterres said in announcing the initiative.
Just last week, as the pandemic spread to more and more countries, killing thousands and infecting many more, Guterres warned that unless the world came together to fight the virus, millions of people could die.
‘This COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan aims to enable us to fight the virus in the world’s poorest countries, and address the needs of the most vulnerable people, especially women and children, older people, and those with disabilities or chronic illness,’ said Guterres.
‘We cannot afford to lose the gains we have made through investments in humanitarian action and in the Sustainable Development Goals,’ he added.
The amount of money sought by the plan is small compared to the $2 trillion that the US Congress is poised to approve as a rescue effort for devastated American consumers, companies and hospitals as the US economy grinds to a sudden halt.
The UN plan is designed to last from April to December — suggesting the UN does not see the crisis ending any time soon.
The exact total of $2.012 billion is supposed to come from appeals that various UN agencies have already made, such as the World Health Organisation and the World Food Programme.
The number of deaths around the world from the novel coronavirus cases stood at 19,246, according to a tally compiled by AFP on Wednesday from official sources.
More than 427,940 declared cases have been registered in 181 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.
Italy, which recorded its first coronavirus death in February, has to date declared 6,820 fatalities, with 69,176 infections and 8,326 people recovered.
Like Italy, Spain now has more fatalities than China with 3,434, as well as having 47,610 infections and 5,367 recoveries.
China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 3,281 deaths and 81,218 cases. The other worst-hit countries are Iran with 2,077 fatalities and 27,017 cases, France with 1,100 deaths and 22,302 cases, and the United States with 600 deaths and 55,225 cases.
Since 1900 GMT Tuesday, Cameroon and Niger have announced their first deaths while Libya, Laos, Belize, Grenada, Mali and Dominica reported their first cases.
By continent, Europe has listed 226,340 cases and 12,719 deaths to date, Asia 99,805 cases and 3,593 deaths, the US and Canada together 57,304 cases with 624 deaths, the Middle East 32,118 cases and 2,119 deaths, Latin America and the Caribbean 7,337 cases with 118 deaths, Oceania 2,656 cases with nine deaths and Africa 2,382 cases with 64 deaths.
More than one billion Indians went into lockdown Wednesday, leaving a third of the planet now under orders to stay at home, as the United States vowed to spend $2 trillion to counter the economic harm of the coronavirus.
Europe remains at the heart of the epidemic, with first Italy and now Spain’s death toll overtaking that of China, while Britain’s Prince Charles became the latest prominent figure to test positive for the COVID-19 disease.
The economic damage of the virus — and associated lockdowns — could also be devastating, with fears of a worldwide recession worse than the financial meltdown that occurred over a decade ago.
President Donald Trump has voiced hope that the United States will be ‘raring to go’ by mid-April, but his optimism appeared to stand almost alone among world leaders, who were ratcheting up the movement restrictions in a bid to stifle the spread of the disease.
India ordered its 1.3 billion people — the world’s second-biggest population — to stay at home for three weeks.
In China, where the new virus emerged last year, authorities loosened tough rules on the 50 million people in Hubei province on Wednesday after a months-long lockdown as the country reported no new domestic cases.
The provincial capital Wuhan — the ground zero of the outbreak after it was initially detected at a market that sold wild animals for human consumption — will allow residents to leave from April 8.
The medical situation is still critical in Europe, where Spain joined hardest-hit Italy in surpassing even China’s toll after 738 people died over the past 24 hours, bringing deaths in the country to 3,434.
Iran’s president warned that mandatory movement restrictions could be introduced as soon as Wednesday evening in the country.
Meanwhile, nearly 130 million Americans, or 40 per cent of the population, are under or will soon come under some lockdown order, including in the largest state of California.
Many governments are listening to health experts who warn the only way to slow the epidemic — and save the lives of the elderly and vulnerable — is by imposing ‘social isolation’ measures.
But Trump is not convinced the move is worth the enormous economic cost of a closure extending beyond April 12.
‘Our country — it’s not built to shut down,’ he told Fox News. ‘You can destroy a country this way by closing it down.’
Global markets finally started to recoup some of the losses they have logged over a tumultuous few weeks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 11.3 per cent on Tuesday, its biggest rally since 1933 during the Great Depression, and was followed by huge jumps on Wednesday on Asian markets and a more mixed response in Europe.
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