Tag Archives: covid-19

All hands on deck to fight a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic

By António Guterres

Only by coming together will the world be able to face down the COVID-19 pandemic and its shattering consequences. At an emergency virtual meeting last Thursday, G20 leaders took

UNSG Antonio Guterres

steps in the right direction. But we are still far away from having a coordinated, articulated global response that meets the unprecedented magnitude of what we are facing.

Far from flattening the curve of infection, we are still well behind it. The disease initially took 67 days to infect 100,000 people; soon, 100,000 people and more will be infected daily. Without concerted and courageous action, the number of new cases will almost certainly escalate into the millions, pushing health systems to the breaking point, economies into a nosedive and people into despair, with the poorest hit hardest.

We must prepare for the worst and do everything to avoid it. Here is a three-point call to action — based on science, solidarity and smart policies — for doing just that.

First, suppress transmission of the coronavirus.

That requires aggressive and early testing and contact tracing, complemented by quarantines, treatment, and measures to keep first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact. Such steps, despite the disruptions they cause, must be sustained until therapies and a vaccine emerge.

Crucially, this robust and cooperative effort should be guided by the World Health Organization, a member of the United Nations family; countries acting on their own – as they must for their people – will not get the job done for all.

Second, tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis.

The virus is spreading like wildfire, and is likely to move swiftly into the Global South, where health systems face constraints, people are more vulnerable, and millions live in densely populated slums or crowded settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons. Fuelled by such conditions, the virus could devastate the developing world and then re-emerge where it was previously suppressed. In our interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health systems.

Clearly, we must fight the virus for all of humanity, with a focus on people, especially the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups.

The United Nations has just issued reports documenting how the viral contagion has become an economic contagion, and setting out the financing needed to address the shocks. The International Monetary Fund has declared that we have entered a recession as bad as or worse than in 2009.

We need a comprehensive multilateral response amounting to a double-digit percentage of global Gross Domestic Product.

Developed countries can do it by themselves, and some are indeed doing it. But we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the IMF, namely through the issuance of special drawing rights, and of the other international financial institutions so that they can rapidly inject resources into the countries that need them. I know this is difficult as nations find themselves increasing domestic spending by record amounts. But that spending will be in vain if we don’t control the virus.

Coordinated swaps among central banks can also bring liquidity to emerging economies. Debt alleviation must also be a priority – including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020.

Third, recover better.

We simply cannot return to where we were before COVID-19 struck, with societies unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis. The pandemic has reminded us, in the starkest way possible, of the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services. It has underscored and exacerbated inequalities, above all gender inequity, laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of invisible and unpaid care labour. It has highlighted ongoing human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The recovery must lead to a different economy. Our roadmap remains the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations system is fully mobilized: supporting country responses, placing our supply chains at the world’s disposal, and advocating for a global cease-fire.

Ending the pandemic everywhere is both a moral imperative and a matter of enlightened self-interest. At this unusual moment, we cannot resort to the usual tools. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. We face a colossal test which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, for all.

The article first appeared in The Guardian.

The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations

United Nations Secretary-General launches plan to address the potentially devastating socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 Establishes global fund to support low- and middle-income countries

PRESS RELEASE

NEW YORK, 31 MARCH 2020—The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods. The potential longer-term effects on the global economy and those of individual countries are dire.

In a new report, Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic

UNSG Antonio Guterres

impacts of COVID-19, the United Nations Secretary-General calls on everyone to act together to address this impact and lessen the blow to people.

The report describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of COVID-19, which has so far claimed the lives of 33 257 people, with 697 244 confirmed cases in 204 countries, areas and territories.

“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

The report comes after the IMF has announced that the world has entered into a recession as bad or worse than in 2009. The report calls for a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global GDP.

The United Nations system—and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, will support all governments and partners through the response and recovery.

To that end, the Secretary-General has established a dedicated COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries. Its approach underpins the reformed UN with a coordinated multi-agency, multi-sectoral response for priority national and local actions to address the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. It will count on the country leadership of Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams in swiftly supporting and enabling governments in this crisis, and recovery.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The shared responsibility and global solidarity roadmap calls for:
• Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic.
• Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods.
• Learning from this human crisis to build back better.

Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic

The report warns that there is no time to lose in mounting the most robust and cooperative health response the world has ever seen. The strongest support must be provided to the multilateral effort to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic, led by the World Health Organization. At the same time there is great need for scientific collaboration in the search for a vaccine and effective therapeutics. This must be matched with assurances of universal access to vaccines and treatment. Throughout the report a people-centred approach is promoted that calls for engaging communities affected by COVID-19, respect for human rights and inclusion, gender equality and dignity for all.

Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods

Recognizing that epidemics can expose and exacerbate existing inequalities in society, the road map shows it will be crucial to cushion the knock-on effects on people’s lives, their livelihoods and the economy. The report highlights examples of actions countries could take, such as direct provision of resources to support workers and households, provision of health and unemployment insurance, scaling-up of social protection, and support to businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job loss. The report strongly recognizes that women and girls must have a face in the response; and opportunities for young people, seriously affected, need to be preserved.

Learn from this crisis to build back better

The world will be faced with a choice in its recovery. Go back to the world we knew before or deal decisively with those issues that make everyone unnecessarily vulnerable to this and future crises. From stronger health systems and fewer people living in extreme poverty to achieving gender equality and taking climate action for a healthy planet, the report gives hope that lessons from this human crisis can build more just and resilient societies and deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Partnerships for progress

No single country or entity will win alone against the pandemic. A successful response and recovery will require international cooperation and partnerships at every level — governments taking action in lock step with communities; private sector engagement to find pathways out of this crisis. Partnerships based on solidarity will be the cornerstone for progress. Civil Society, women and grassroots organizations, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations will play a vital role. In assisting the most vulnerable populations, these networks are active in bringing economic and livelihood opportunities and adapting responses to the community context. These organizations, in many locations in the world, are the first, or only, point of reference for individuals and families as they seek to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 and for the recovery ahead.

Call to action

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a defining moment for modern society, and history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family.

The United Nations and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, supported by established coordination mechanisms, will work with partners to ensure first and foremost that lives are saved, livelihoods are restored, and that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis.
The 129 UN Resident Coordinators and the UN Country Teams will provide comprehensive policy and operational support at the national level in support of a whole of society approach in countries. With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the beginning of a new type of global and societal cooperation.

Recommended measures to cope with the impacts of COVID-19:

1. Global measures to match the magnitude of the crisis
• Advocate and support implementation of a human-centered, innovative and coordinated stimulus package reaching double-digit percentage points of the world’s gross domestic product.
• Resist the temptation to resort to protectionist measures.
• Take explicit measures to boost the economies of developing countries.

2. Regional mobilization
A coordinated regional approach will enable collective examination of impacts, coordination of monetary, fiscal and social measures, and sharing best practices and the lessons learned. • Adopt DO NO HARM trade policies, preserve connectivity, and ensure regional monetary-fiscal coordination. • Engage with private financial sector to support businesses. • Address structural challenges and strengthen normative frameworks to deal with transboundary risks.

3. National solidarity is crucial to leave no one behind
The pandemic is hitting an already weak and fragile world economy. Global growth in 2019 was already the slowest since the global financial crisis of 2008/2009. According to ILO estimates, the world could lose between 5 million and 25 million jobs.
• Undertake fiscal stimulus and support for the most vulnerable.
• Protect Human Rights and focus on inclusion.
• Support to Small and Medium sized Enterprises.
• Support decent work.
• Support education.
• Prioritize social cohesion measures.

COVID-19 socio-economic estimates for 2020 as of March 2020
5 – 25 million jobs lost (ILO)

US$ 860 billion – US$ 3.4 trillion losses in labor income (ILO)

30% — 40% downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows (UNCTAD)

20% – 30% decline in international arrivals (UNWTO)

3.6 billion people offline (ITU)

1.5 billion students out of school (UNESCO)

 

UN stands with Zambia as the country confirms 16 COVID-19 cases

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lusaka, 27 March 2020: Following the announcement that Zambia has now confirmed 16 cases

Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Resident Coordinator Zambia.

of COVID-19, the United Nations family in Zambia under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator stands in solidarity with the Government and people of Zambia as they respond to the global pandemic.

“As the United Nations, we stand with Zambia and pledge our continued assistance through the Government in ensuring that the pandemic is contained. Under the lead of the World Health Organisation (WHO), we will continue supporting the Government with contingency planning and response, resource mobilisation and Risk Communication and Community Engagement.”

“With support from our cooperating partners, the UN will contribute to ongoing efforts by the Government including training of technical staff and helping strengthen surveillance in communities, procurement of personal protective equipment and essential medicines, promoting Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in health facilities and strengthening infection prevention and control,” said UN Resident Coordinator, Dr Coumba Mar Gadio.

Additional support will go towards strengthening health systems to effectively deliver health services, including supporting human resources for health to provide antenatal care, safe delivery and addressing sexual and Gender-Based Violence, which increases in times of crises.

The UN is also working with the Government on the development of a multisectoral contingency plan, leaving no one behind, and assessment of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic in Zambia.

Members of the public are key in helping respond to COVID-19. Every individual should do their part while avoiding panic and stigmatization to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including regular and correct hand washing with soap and water.

Other measures include coughing or sneezing into a tissue or a bent elbow, being sure to safely dispose of the tissue afterwards, maintaining a distance of at least one meter from one another (also called social distancing) whether or not that person is coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth. It is also important to seek medical attention early if a person develops a fever, cough or difficulty in breathing as well as to stay at home if ill.

Zambia joins over 44 other African countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

###

For more information, please contact:

United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lusaka, Mark Maseko, National Information Officer, P: +260-211-225-494 | M: + 260-955767062 | E: masekom@un.org

UN Secretary-General’s briefing to Member States on the Organization’s Response to COVID-19

New York, 27 March 2020

[as delivered]

I want to start by thanking the Presidents of the General Assembly, Security Council and the ECOSOC for their solidarity and for their determination and patience with which they have been

UNSG Antonio Guterres

facing the enormous practical and technical difficulties in the work of the bodies they preside.

I think what just happened demonstrates how these difficulties can occur and so my gratitude and my appreciation.

And I would like to express to all the distinguished delegates and colleagues and especially to the Permanent Representatives that, like me, are away from their countries – to express my solid solidarity as, like me, you are concerned about your families and friends in your home countries, and about the effect this crisis is having on your communities and nations.

As it was said, I am here together with five members of the Executive Committee. We are working sometimes very far away from each other, but I can tell you we have never worked so closely together in solidarity and coordination. I wanted them to participate in this session exactly to demonstrate that we are all as a team at the disposal of Member States. And so, all of them will be able to answer your questions, probably much better than myself.

And I want to add a note of heartfelt thanks to the courageous and hard-working staff of the United Nations, working in some of the most difficult and dangerous locations.

Excellencies,

We are taking all measures possible to keep staff safe.

I can report that our critical work is continuing largely uninterrupted.

Our business continuity plans are working.

We are able to procure goods and services, pay salaries and vendors, operate our data centres and protect our premises and staff.

Staff are motivated and committed to fulfilling their functions – here in New York and across the globe.

In New York, we have taken significant steps since mid-March to reduce the footprint in the building.

As you know, and always trying to be ahead of the curve in relation to the progression of the pandemic in the city, most of our staff have been working remotely, non-essential travel has been discouraged, guided tours have been suspended and non-mandated meetings and events cancelled.

Following the Executive Order by the Governor of New York last week, we have moved to full telecommuting.

Only those staff whose physical presence is absolutely necessary are coming to the building.

A dedicated website has been developed to keep the public, delegates and UN personnel up to date on the crisis and to provide resources to maintain wellness, including mental health, during this highly challenging time.

We have established a 24-hour hotline for information. and we are monitoring the well-being of directly impacted UN staff in New York and around the world.

The Permanent Missions of Member states are also encouraged to share information with the UN Medical Services.

To support staff, we paid this month’s salaries almost a week earlier than usual, taking into account that many had to make very dramatic adjustments in the way they live.

Answers to frequently asked questions on a host of issues — including telecommuting, cancellation of travel, rest and recuperation, and medical insurance — have been shared with all staff through webinars, video messages, letters and guidance notes and are available on the COVID-19 website.

All conference and related services have now switched into telecommuting mode with the difficulties and glitches that you have obviously have already witnessed, but with the determination to move ahead.

Documentation and publications continue to be processed. They are being distributed electronically and provided on-line for meeting participants. I have been doing everything possible, together with my colleagues, for all the reports that are due to the different bodies to be delivered and to be delivered on time.

Unfortunately, interpretation services are currently not available remotely but we are exploring options to provide this function.

Let me now turn to our work outside New York and in the field.

Over the course of last week, I had video conferences with all duty stations, Regional Economic Commissions, Resident Coordinators and Special Representatives in peacekeeping and and Special Envoys in political missions.

My message was three-fold: take all precautions to protect staff; adapt to ensure that critical functions continue; and work with host governments to support their efforts.

In early February, we activated a UN Crisis Management Team under the leadership of WHO, and the whole UN system is mobilized to work on critical issues.

Our Resident Coordinators and UN country teams are on the frontlines.

As of last week, 93 per cent of UN Country Teams reported being engaged with national authorities in preparing preparedness and response plans.

The Development Coordination Office is obtaining key data and collaborating with partners to deliver time-sensitive information and communications guidance.

We are holding weekly virtual meetings with the 129 Resident Coordinators to provide policy and operational support.

Many of our economists in Resident Coordinator’s Offices are collaborating with regional economic commissions and United Nations Country Teams to analyze the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.

These analyses will be important in deciding how best the UN can support countries in defining priorities and programming responses, particularly in ensuring that recovery from the pandemic supports and lifts the poorest and the most vulnerable.

We will also be issuing next week a report that will reinforce my calls for shared responsibility and global solidarity with a concrete road map for the UN response, and which will serve equally to empower governments and partners to act urgently. This report will be an absolutely instrument for all our Resident Coordinators and country teams to serve better the governments of the countries we work with.

To assist our peacekeeping operations and special political missions, a Field Support Group is developing solutions to enable missions to address the health crisis while delivering on their critical mandates.

Our medical staff have been assessing the capacities of our host countries and field entities, including the availability of laboratory testing and Personal Protective Equipment.

For countries with limited or no intensive care capacity, WHO has instituted the same MEDEVAC mechanism as for Ebola. We are working together with several Member States trying to create an operational MEDEVAC system that can grant assistance to our colleagues worldwide.

Standard Operating Procedures for the management of suspect cases in the workplace in a non-clinical setting have been disseminated to Resident Coordinators and Heads of Entities, and guidance on how duty stations can manage their first case has been sent out.

The United Nations has a well-established mechanism to coordinate supply chain support to countries, and we stand ready to place the global network of supply chain of the different UN entities at the disposal of Member States for health supplies, medical staff and other needs.

We are also working with Troop Contributing Countries to manage rotations.

Moving troops in and out of countries during a global health pandemic is extremely challenging and we have postponed rotations.

Criteria are being developed to determine when rotations can take place in the current circumstances, and we are in close dialogue with host countries and troop contributing countries and police contributing countries in order to overcome the difficulties that exist today.

Let me now turn to broader UN-wide efforts to address the crisis and its aftermath.

On Monday, I called on warring parties to silence the guns and instead to help create corridors for life-saving aid and open precious windows for diplomacy. All my Special Envoys and Special Representatives are working hard to ensure that this appeal is positively responded and that the positive responses are followed by necessary measures in the form of coordination to allow the ceasefires to be effective.

On Wednesday, we launched a US$2 billion dollar global humanitarian response plan to fund the fight against COVID-19 in the world’s poorest countries.

We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves.

And yesterday, the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide called for people to stand up against the increase in hate crimes targeting individuals and groups perceived to be associated with the coronavirus.

I ask you all to support these appeals in whatever way you can.

I have also been advocating for action in three critical areas, including by addressing yesterday’s G20 summit:

First, to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 in a coordinated way as quickly as possible.

That must be our common strategy.

And that implies we need massive support to increase the response capacity of developing countries and those in the most fragile contexts.

Second, we must work together to minimize the social and economic impact.

While the liquidity of the financial systems must be assured, our overarching emphasis must be on the human dimension. This is a human crisis, not a financial one.

We need to concentrate on people, keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, able to pay their workers.

This will require a package reaching double-digit percentages of global Gross Domestic Product, including a global stimulus package to help developing countries that requires a massive investment by the international community.

We have been in close contact with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions for that purpose.

I also appealed for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic.

Third, and finally, we must set the stage for recovery that builds a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy, guided by our shared promise — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

All our efforts need to be underpinned by a strong commitment to respect for all human rights for everyone, without stigma.

Recovery must address the inequalities, including gender inequalities, that are leaving so many more people vulnerable to social and economic shocks.

And we are not only fighting a pandemic; in the words of Dr. Tedros, we are fighting an “infodemic”. Our common enemy is a virus, but our enemy is also a growing surge of misinformation. So to overcome this virus, we need to urgently promote facts and science. We also need to promote hope and solidarity over despair and division. We are therefore launching a COVID-19 Communications for Solidarity Initiative to rapidly inform the global public and promote and inspire acts of humanity around the world.

Today’s threats – from COVID to climate change – are global and must be addressed through multilateral cooperation.

That is what the United Nations continues to offer, even, and especially, in these trying times.

Thank you.

COVID-19: We Will Come Through This Together

by António Guterres

The upheaval caused by the coronavirus – COVID-19 — is all around us.  And I know many are anxious, worried and confused.  That’s absolutely natural.

UNSG Antonio Guterres

We are facing a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes.

Meanwhile, the virus is spreading, the danger is growing, and our health systems, economies and day-to-day lives are being severely tested.

The most vulnerable are the most affected—particularly our elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, those without access to reliable health care, and those in poverty or living on the edge.

The social and economic fallout from the combination of the pandemic and slowing economies will affect most of us for some months.

But the spread of the virus will peak.  Our economies will recover.

Until then, we must act together to slow the spread of the virus and look after each other.

This is a time for prudence, not panic. Science, not stigma.  Facts, not fear.

Even though the situation has been classified as a pandemic, it is one we can control. We can slow down transmissions, prevent infections and save lives.  But that will take unprecedented personal, national and international action.

COVID-19 is our common enemy.  We must declare war on this virus.  That means countries have a responsibility to gear up, step up and scale up.

How?  By implementing effective containment strategies; by activating and enhancing emergency response systems; by dramatically increasing testing capacity and care for patients; by readying hospitals, ensuring they have the space, supplies and needed personnel; and by developing life-saving medical interventions.

All of us have a responsibility, too — to follow medical advice and take simple, practical steps recommended by health authorities.

In addition to being a public health crisis, the virus is infecting the global economy.

Financial markets have been hard hit by the uncertainty.  Global supply chains have been disrupted.  Investment and consumer demand have plunged — with a real and rising risk of a global recession.

United Nations economists estimate that the virus could cost the global economy at least $1 trillion this year – and perhaps far more.

No country can do it alone. More than ever, governments must cooperate to revitalize economies, expand public investment, boost trade, and ensure targeted support for the people and communities most affected by the disease or more vulnerable to the negative economic impacts – including women who often shoulder a disproportionate burden of care work.

A pandemic drives home the essential interconnectedness of our human family.  Preventing the further spread of COVID-19 is a shared responsibility for us all.

The United Nations – including the World Health Organization — is fully mobilized.

As part of our human family, we are working 24/7 with governments, providing international guidance, helping the world take on this threat.

We are in this together – and we will get through this, together.

António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations.