Coronavirus ‘menacing the whole of humanity', warns UN secretary general

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

The US secretary general has warned that the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe is “menacing the whole of humanity”.

As the COVID-19 global death toll reached more than 21,000, Antonio Guterres issued the stark message – and said that “humanity must fight back” against the disease.

Yellow cabs line an empty 42nd Street in New York as the number of people taken to hospital with COVID-19 rose faster than expected. (AP)

His warning came as global coronavirus infections were set to top half a million people and Italy and the US appeared poised to surpass China, where the pandemic began.

Guterres announced a $2bn (£1.7bn) “humanitarian response plan” to fund the fight against coronavirus in the world’s most fragile countries – and called for an immediate global ceasefire to focus the fight on COVID-19.

Healthcare systems in Europe and New York have been buckling under the weight of caring for seriously ill victims of COVID-19.

Spain has converted hotels into makeshift hospitals and turned an ice rink in Madrid into a temporary mortuary. The curve of infections has not slowed in the Mediterranean country, which now has more than 3,600 deaths, second only to Italy’s death toll of 7,503.

In Italy, doctors and nurses have been begging the government to provide more protective equipment and urged the public to understand how important social distancing measures are.

Global cases of coronavirus since the outbreak begun. (PA)

Global figures

There has now been nearly 480,000 cases of COVID-19 across the globe, with more than 21,000 deaths and 115,000 recoveries.

Wednesday saw Spain overtake China’s death toll, while Italy has seen over 7,500 deaths since the outbreak began – making it the worst-affected country in the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned this week of the rapid spread of the pandemic.

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At least 1.5 billion people are now under severe travel restrictions.

But the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has criticised world leaders for wasting time in the fight against the virus that has also left millions out of work and ravaged the world economy.

He said: “The time to act was actually more than a month ago or two months ago. We squandered the first window of opportunity … this is a second opportunity, which we should not squander and do everything to suppress and control this virus.”

Virtual G20 meeting

Leaders of the world's most powerful economies are set to convene for a virtual meeting to co-ordinate a response to coronavirus.

The meeting for the Group of 20 nations (G20) will be chaired by Saudi Arabia's King Salman.

The kingdom, which is presiding over the G20 this year, said it organised the extraordinary meeting to advance global efforts to tackle the pandemic and its economic implications as people lose their incomes amid closures, curfews and lockdowns.

The meeting comes amid criticism that the world's wealthiest countries have not taken cohesive action to combat the virus or its economic impact on people around the world.

Meanwhile, EU leaders are convening for their third summit in three weeks as they battle to contain the spread of coronavirus and manage the havoc the disease is wreaking on their 27 economies.

Jon Makay, of Harlem, wears an octopus hat to fend off coronavirus in New York's Times Square. (AP)

US Senate passes rescue package

Faced with the exponential spread of the pandemic, the US Senate has passed a $2.2trn dollar economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and healthcare systems.

Millions of Americans hoped the measure would give them a lifeline as they lost jobs, income and childcare due to the social-distancing rules needed to slow the spread of the virus.

The final vote of 96-0 shows passage of the $2.2trn economic rescue package in response to coronavirus pandemic passed by the US Senate. (Senate Television via AP)

New York ‘hot spot’

New York authorities moved to avert a public health disaster in the city on Wednesday as its emergence as America’s biggest coronavirus hot spot sent warnings to the rest of the country.

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris warned that New York “does have that potential” to become the centre of the pandemic.

A makeshift morgue has been set up outside Bellevue Hospital in case of a further spike in deaths, and the city’s police were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.

Refrigerated trailers are seen parked at the site of a makeshift morgue being built in New York. (AP)
People make their way inside a near-empty Grand Central Terminal in New York. (AP)

Public health officials in the state sought beds and medical equipment and issued calls for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick will explode the next few weeks, overwhelming hospitals as has happened in Italy and Spain.

New York University offered to let its medical students graduate early so they could join the battle.

Governor Andrew Cuomo attributed the cluster to the city’s role as a gateway to international travellers and the sheer density of its population, with 8.6 million people sharing subways, apartment buildings and offices.

He said: “Our closeness makes us vulnerable. But it’s true that your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength. And our closeness is what makes us who we are. That is what New York is.”

The order to stay at home in New York State did not go into effect until Sunday evening and New York City’s 1.1 million-student school system was not closed until 15 March – well after other districts had shut down.

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