Coronavirus outbreak is the world’s worst crisis since Second World War: UN chief

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country, one that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”

There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict,” the U.N. chief said at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.

Guterres called for a much stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing.

He stressed that this will only be possible “if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake.”

“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people’s lives,” the report said. “But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core.”

The secretary-general told reporters: “The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis — large-scale, co-ordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization.”

He stressed that “we are still very far from where we need to be to effectively fight the COVID-19 worldwide and to be able to tackle the negative impacts on the global economy and the global societies.”

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First, he said, many countries are not respecting WHO guidelines, with each tending to go its own way in dealing with the pandemic.

Guterres announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries, with the aim of swiftly enabling governments to tackle the crisis and promote recovery.

He expressed hope that there will be “a positive response” from the international community to help vulnerable people including the tens of millions of refugees and internally displaced people, those in the slums of big cities in the global south, and poor people in middle-income countries who are more numerous than in the least developed countries.

The secretary-general said developed countries must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the IMF to issue special drawing rights, and enabling other international financial institutions to rapidly inject resources into countries that need them.

Guterres said he strongly supports an idea from French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at last week’s summit of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations that there should be a G20 initiative to help Africa.

“But, again, we must act quickly to make it happen,” he said. “If not, the African continent will have enormous difficulties in facing this challenge.”

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