UN chief Antonio Guterres is urging the heads of G20 countries to take joint action to assist developing nations deal with a “global health crisis” amid coronavirus pandemic.
The chief of the United Nations sent an open letter, dated Monday, to G20 leaders ahead of their planned teleconference on the COVID-19 epidemic.
Guterres urged the leaders to adopt a “war-time” plan “in times of human crisis.”
The letter, dated Monday, urged the G20 to take steps including the launch of a coordinated stimulus package worth ‘trillions of dollars’ to help poor countries; a ban on tariffs, quotas or other restraints on trade; and a call to waive sanctions to help certain countries get food and medical supplies.
With Iran and North Korea apparently in mind, Guterres also encouraged the G20 to waive sanctions on countries to ensure their access to food and essential medical supplies.
The UN chief wrote that the G20 accounts for 85 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, and that it has a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.
“We are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world,” Guterres wrote.
At a briefing, a UN spokesperson voiced concern over the risk of the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Africa. He said a local team of the World Health Organization had confirmed more than 600 cases in 34 African nations as of March 19, compared to 147 cases one week ago.
Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 398,000 with more than 17,400 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.