UN concerned as global coronavirus deaths doubles in a week

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) state they are deeply concerned about the near-exponential escalation of the new coronavirus pandemic, with the number of deaths doubling in a week.

The WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that the world is approaching a new milestone as new cases reached almost every country and territory across the world.

"The number of deaths has more than doubled in the last week. In the next few days we will reach one million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths," he said at a news conference on Wednesday (1 April).

While Europe and the USA are facing the threat of the potential collapse of their health systems, there are rising concerns about the impact of the arrival of the virus in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean.The social, economic and political consequences of coronavirus in these regions could be devastating. 

"It is essential to ensure that these countries are well equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat cases and identify contacts. I am encouraged to see that this is happening in many countries, despite limited resources," said the WHO chief.

According to the UN, Latin America and the Caribbean will be impacted via five main external channels: the decline of economic activity in principal trading partners, especially China; the fall in prices for commodities; the interruption of global and regional value chains; the steep drop in demand for tourism services ( primarily impacting the Caribbean); and an increase and the worsening of global financial conditions and capital outflows from the region, with the consequent devaluation of their currencies.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the specialised health agency for the Americas, is working with Governments to protect their health personnel, including by providing training on how to avoid infections and access adequate supplies of protective equipment. It is vital that countries make a quick and informed decision on  what social distancing measures need to be implemented and for how long.

Africa has now surpassed the 7,000-case mark, with almost 300 deaths as a result of coronavirus. 

The collateral consequences of confinement have already occurred in several countries: sexual crimes are on the rise in Kenya, for example, as more citizens work from home. 

False news and hoaxes are on the rise and spreading across the continent. African governments are partnering with technology giants like Facebook and WhatsApp to combat misinformation about coronavirus on social networks. South Africa, which currently has more infections than any other country on the continent, has launched a coronavirus information service on WhatsApp. The scientific community is uncertain about whether the other major epidemics - AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis - will be left behind in the wake of the health crisis. 

The WHO, World Bank and International Monetary Fund are calling for debt relief to help developing countries address the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Many countries, developing countries, cannot really support their societies especially during lockdowns, especially those community members who work for their daily bread. That is why we call on the international community to have debt relief to support those countries,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference in Geneva.

The current coronavirus outbreak is the biggest challenge for the world since World War Two, UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned.

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