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‘Solidarity, hope’ and coordinated global response needed to tackle COVID-19 pandemic, says UN chief

19 March 2020

Unlike any global health crisis in the 75-year history of the United Nations, the coronavirus pandemic is “spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives”, he added.

Calling for global solidarity, Mr. Guterres said: “Our human family is stressed, and the social fabric is being torn. People are suffering, sick and scared”.

And as country-level responses cannot single-handedly address the global scale and complexity of the crisis, he maintained that “coordinated, decisive and innovative policy action” is needed from the world’s leading economies.

Mr. Guterres said that he looks forward to participating in the G20 leaders’ emergency summit next week to respond to the pandemic’s “epic challenge”.

“My central message is clear”, he spelled out: “We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply”.

Indicating that “we are at war with a virus”, the UN chief stressed that creative responses “must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale”.

And although COVID-19 is killing people and attacking economies, by managing the crisis well, “we can steer the recovery toward a more sustainable and inclusive path”, he said.

“I call on world leaders to come together and offer an urgent and coordinated response to this global crisis,” he said.

Health emergency

The UN chief said that tackling the health emergency was his number one concern and advocated for scaled-up health spending to cover, among other things and “without stigma”, testing, supporting health care workers and ensuring adequate supplies.

“It has been proven that the virus can be contained.  It must be contained”, he said, advising to move from a country-by-country strategy to a “coordinated global response, including helping countries that are less prepared to tackle the crisis”.

“Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone’s interests”, he stated and urged Governments to fully meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) appeals, saying, “we are only as strong as the weakest health system”.

Response and recovery

As the second crisis priority, Mr. Guterres pointed to social impact and the economic response and recovery.

He cited a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report projecting that workers could lose some $3.4 trillion in income by year’s end.

But the world is not experiencing an ordinary shock in supply and demand, “it is a shock to society as a whole”, he said.

“Most fundamentally, we need to focus on people – the most vulnerable, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises” explained the UN chief. “That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss”.

He elaborated that “the recovery must not come on the backs of the poorest – and we cannot create a legion of new poor” and pushed for supporting informal economy workers and countries less able to respond.

Appealing for a global financial commitment, he noted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other international financial institutions would play a key role.

Mr. Guterres encouraged dismantling trade barriers and re-establishing supply chains.

He also spoke of the pandemic’s impact on women, saying that they are “disproportionally carrying the burden at home and in the wider economy” and on children, noting that more than 800 million are currently not in class, “many of whom rely on school to provide their only meal”.

“As people’s lives are disrupted, isolated and upturned, we must prevent this pandemic from turning into a crisis of mental health”, the Secretary-General continued, indicating the need to maintain support programmes for the most vulnerable, underlining that “humanitarian needs must not be sacrificed”.

‘Recover better’

Against this backdrop, Mr. Guterres final point was that we have a responsibility to “recover better”.

“We must ensure that lessons are learned and that this crisis provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st century public services and the effective delivery of global public goods”, he said.

Pointing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he concluded: “We must keep our promises for people and planet”.

WHO Covid-19 Mythbusters

COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates

From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to an area reporting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the new coronavirus.

There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather. The most effective way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is by frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water.

Taking a hot bath does not prevent the new coronavirus disease

Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that coud occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

The new coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites.

To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.

Are hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus?

No. Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV. To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.

Can an ultraviolet disinfection lamp kill the new coronavirus?

UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.

How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new coronavirus?

Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new coronavirus.

However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. This is because it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

Can spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kill the new coronavirus?

No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.

Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?

No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.

The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts.

Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus.

There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.

Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.

The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

However, if you are hospitalized for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?

To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners.

 

 

The Gender Power Gap

By Antonio Guterres

8 March 2020

Gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our age and the biggest human rights challenge we face. But gender equality offers solutions to some of the most intractable problems of our age.

Everywhere, women are worse off than men – simply because they are women. The reality for women from minorities, older women, those with disabilities and women migrants and refugees is even worse.

While we have seen enormous progress on women’s rights over recent decades, from the abolition of discriminatory laws to increased numbers of girls in school, we now face a powerful pushback. Legal protections against rape and domestic abuse are being diluted in some countries while policies that penalize women, from austerity to coercive reproduction, are being introduced in others. Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are under threat from all sides.

All this is because gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. Centuries of discrimination and deep-rooted patriarchy have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems and our corporations. The evidence is everywhere.

Women are still excluded from the top table, from governments to corporate boards to prestigious award ceremonies. Women leaders and public figures face harassment, threats and abuse online and off. The gender pay gap is just a symptom of the gender power gap.

Even the supposedly neutral data that informs decision-making from urban planning to drug testing is often based on a “default male”; men are seen as standard while women are an exception.

Women and girls also contend with centuries of misogyny and the erasure of their achievements. They are ridiculed as hysterical or hormonal; they are routinely judged on their looks; they are subjected to endless myths and taboos about their natural bodily functions; they are confronted by everyday sexism, mansplaining and victim-blaming.

This profoundly affects us all, and is a barrier to solving many of the challenges and threats we face.

Take inequality. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The latest research by the World Economic Forum says it will take 257 years to close this gap. Meanwhile women and girls do some 12 billion hours of unpaid care work every day that simply does not figure in economic decision-making. If we are to achieve a fair globalization that works for everyone, we need to base our policies on statistics that take account of women’s true contributions.

Digital technology is another case in point. The lack of gender balance in the universities, start-ups and Silicon Valleys of our world is deeply worrying. These tech hubs are shaping the societies and economies of the future; we cannot allow them to entrench and exacerbate male dominance.

Or take the wars that are ravaging our world. There is a straight line between violence against women, civil oppression and conflict. How a society treats the female half of its population is a significant indicator of how it will treat others. Even in peaceful societies, many women are in deadly danger in their own homes.

There is even a gender gap in our response to the climate crisis. Initiatives to reduce and recycle are overwhelmingly marketed at women, while men are more likely to put their faith in untested technological fixes. And women economists and parliamentarians are more likely than men to support pro-environmental policies.

Finally, political representation is the clearest evidence of the gender power gap. Women are outnumbered by an average of 3 to 1 in parliaments around the world, but their presence is strongly correlated with innovation and investment in health and education. It is no coincidence that the governments that are redefining economic success to include wellbeing and sustainability are led by women.

This is why one of my first priorities at the United Nations was to bring more women into our leadership. We have now achieved gender parity at the senior level, two years ahead of schedule, and we have a roadmap for parity at all levels in the years to come.

Our world is in trouble, and gender equality is an essential part of the answer. Man-made problems have human-led solutions. Gender equality is a means of redefining and transforming power that will yield benefits for all.

The 21st century must be the century of women’s equality in peace negotiations and trade talks; in board rooms and classrooms; at the G20 and the United Nations.

It is time to stop trying to change women, and to start changing the systems that prevent them from achieving their potential. [Ends]

Antonio Guterres is the secretary-general of the United Nations.