The UN Secretary-General has urged developed countries, particularly the G20, to step in and assist more vulnerable nations to stop the likely spread of the coronavirus in their territories, particularly in Africa. He was speaking during a virtual press conference from United Nations headquarters in New York.
Antonio Guterres warned that the world is facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the organisation, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives.
He warned of a global recession being a near certainty and called for help to the developing world to avoid millions dying.
“Our teams in Africa are working very hard with the government to support them, but my very strong appeal to the G20 is to have a particular concern with African countries and other countries in the developing world. We must absolutely be strong in supporting them because the virus is coming to them and their health systems are extremely weak – so they need very strong support from the developed world and if that support is denied, we will have catastrophic consequences.”
“If the virus is not contained because countries don’t have the capacity to contain it, it can spread like wildfire as I mentioned and we could have, even with low rates of mortality, we could have millions of people dying and this is absolutely unacceptable,” says the UN Chief.
Below is an infographic of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide:
COVID-19 could financially cripple workers
The Secretary-General believes the current responses at country level will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis, quoting the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that workers around the world could lose as much as 3.4-trillion dollars in income by the end of 2020.
“This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies. We must recognise that the poorest countries and most vulnerable – especially women, will be the hardest hit.”
Guterres welcomes the convening of an emergency G20 summit next week, striking a tone of optimism that done right, they could steer the recovery towards a more sustainable and inclusive path, arguing that two priorities were key: first tackling the health emergency by up-scaling health spending for testing, facilities and protecting healthcare workers and then focusing on the social impact and economic response and recovery.
“Most fundamentally, we need to focus on people – the most vulnerable, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises. That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss. That also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it.”
He is urging nations to ensure that lessons are learned from the current crisis, which provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st Century public services and the effective delivery of global public goods.
“More than ever before, we need solidarity, hope, and the political will to see this crisis through together.”
In the videos below, UN’s Antonio Guterres briefs the media on COVID-19: