Guterres calls for global ceasefire as part of COVID-19 battle

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants warring parties across the world to lay down weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19: the common enemy now threatening all humankind.

“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. That is why I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.  It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” he said earlier this week.

The ceasefire would allow humanitarian workers to reach populations most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19, which first emerged in Wuhan, China in December and is now reported in over 180 countries.

To date there are 300 000 cases worldwide and more than 12 700 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The UN chief pointed out COVID-19 does not care about nationality or ethnicity or other differences between people and “attacks all, relentlessly even in war.

The most vulnerable – women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalised, displaced and refugees – who pay the highest price during conflict and who are most at risk of suffering “devastating losses” from the disease.

Health systems in war ravaged countries often reach of total collapse, while the few health workers remaining are seen as targets.

The UN chief called on warring parties to pull back from hostilities put aside mistrust and animosity and “silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes”.

This is crucial, he said, “to help create corridors for lifesaving aid. To open windows for diplomacy. To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Inspired by new rapprochement and dialogue between combatants to enable joint approaches to push back the disease, Guterres said more needs to be done.

“End the sickness of war and fight the disease ravaging our world. It starts by stopping fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs now more than ever.”

The Secretary-General’s appeal was broadcast live from a virtual press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, where most staff are now working from home to help curb further spread of COVID-19.

The UN chief said his Special Envoys will work with warring parties to ensure the ceasefire appeal leads to action.

“The UN must assume all its responsibilities first doing what we have to do in our peacekeeping operations, our humanitarian agencies, our support to different bodies in the international community, the Security Council and the General Assembly. At the same time, it’s a moment in which the UN must be able to address the people of the world and appeal for massive mobilisation and massive pressure on governments to make sure we are able to respond to this crisis, not mitigate but suppress it, suppress the disease and address its dramatic economic and social impacts,” he said.