Coronavirus: UN chief asks for wartime plan for COVID-19 as global death toll crosses 23,000

"We are at war with a virus - and not winning it," Guterres told a virtual summit of G20 leaders.

Coronavirus: UN chief asks for wartime plan for COVID-19 as global death toll crosses 23,000

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Group of 20 (G20) largest economies of the world for a "wartime plan" to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as the global death due to the deadly coronavirus crossed 23,000 on Friday (March 27, 2020). "We are at war with a virus - and not winning it," Guterres told a virtual summit of G20 leaders. "This war needs a wartime plan to fight it."

It took the world three months to reach 100,000 confirmed cases of infection. The next 100,000 happened in just 12 days. The third took four days. The fourth, just one and a half, he said on Thursday, Xinhua reported. "This is exponential growth and only the tip of the iceberg."

Solidarity is essential - among the G20 and with the developing world, including countries in conflict, he said.

He asked for a coordinated G20 response mechanism; efforts to minimize the social and economic impact, including stimulus packages; and a vision for sustainable development to ensure a healthier recovery of the world economy.

To suppress the transmission of COVID-19 as quickly as possible must be a common strategy, said Guterres. "It requires a coordinated G20 response mechanism guided by the WHO (World Health Organization)."

All countries must be able to combine systematic testing, tracing, quarantining and treatment with restrictions on movement and contact, aiming to suppress the transmission of the virus. And they have to coordinate the exit strategy to keep it suppressed until a vaccine becomes available, he said.

"At the same time, we need massive support to increase the response capacity of developing countries," he told G20 leaders.

"The G20 came of age in the 2008 financial crisis. The challenges before us dwarf those of 2008," he said.

"While the liquidity of the financial system must be assured, our emphasis must be on the human dimension. We need to concentrate on people, keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, able to protect jobs. This will require a global response reaching double-digit percentages of the global economy."

Guterres welcomed infusions of liquidity and social and economic support in developed countries -- with direct transfer of resources to people and businesses. But he also asked for a stimulus package to help developing countries with the same objectives.

Guterres asked for more resources for the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions, a meaningful emission of Special Drawing Rights, coordinated swaps between central banks, and steps to alleviate debt, such as a waiver of interest payments.
He also appealed for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries` capacity to respond to the pandemic.

Guterres asked G20 leaders to work together to set the stage for a recovery that builds a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy, guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide reached 529,591 as of Friday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University in the US. 

The fresh figure reached 529,591 cases with 23,970 deaths.

Outside China, the countries that reported over 10,000 cases included Italy, the US, Spain, Germany, Iran, France and Switzerland. Italy suffered the most deaths from the disease, which stood at 8,165, according to the CSSE, Xinhua reported.

It took around two days for the total number to jump from 400,000 to 500,000. Over 170 countries and regions have reported COVID-19 cases so far, the CSSE said.