Coronavirus News Asia

Developing world at major risk from pandemic

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a major virtual news conference on March 25 to ask the world to raise US$2 billion for developing nations in Africa, Asia and South America, called the Global Humanitarian Response Plan. The money he called “a drop in the ocean” is for the next nine months, indicating a belief the virus won’t disappear before then.

Interviewing specialists, The Wall Street Journal said the coronavirus is “now taking off in the world’s poorest countries.”

“From Venezuela to Pakistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo – and nearly every developing country between – confirmed cases have started to spike in recent days, a sign the contagion is advancing exponentially, disease-control experts say,” the Journal wrote.

Missing from the UN and other recent projects was Central America, the migrants leaving violent homelands and the prisoners on the US side of the border.

UN Headquarters grows quiet

At the United Nations, meetings have been canceled or handled remotely. But senior staff are seen in the building at conference tables during virtual news conferences, including the heads of major bodies as well as some undersecretaries general. Guterres is in his office most days, telephoning world leaders.

Among the many conferences postponed or canceled is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s crucial five-year review. The new date is supposed to be no later than April 2021.

Then on March 28, Guterres met with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to hand over 250,000 face masks the UN had in storage. He said he hoped that the protective equipment would “play some small role in saving lives.” Many of the world body’s more than 4,000 staff live in New York. The mayor called the donation and other positive moments “grains of light.”

Some 86 UN staff members have contracted the virus, most of them in Europe, said chief UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at his daily briefing on March 27. And the UN Security Council is holding closed meetings by videoconference, including one on Libya and Sudan. But it has not agreed on coronavirus resolutions, with the US and China arguing with each other.

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