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AFP
July 2, 2020

UN calls for halt to pandemic-related conflicts

World

AFP
July 2, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a halt to conflicts to facilitate the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, after more than three months of painstaking negotiations, diplomats said. The resolution, drafted by France and Tunisia, calls for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations” on the Security Council’s agenda. It is the Security Council’s first statement on the pandemic and its first real action since the outbreak started. Tunisia’s ambassador to the UN, Kais Kabtani, hailed it as a “historic achievement” but experts questioned whether the text would have any impact and say the paralysis undermined the Council’s credibility. Repeatedly blocked by China and the United States, which opposed a reference in the text to the World Health Organization (WHO), the resolution aims to support an appeal in March by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire. It “calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance.

WHO says Mideast at ‘critical threshold’ of virus: The World Health Organization warned Wednesday the Middle East faces a “critical threshold” amid a relaxation of coronavirus measures, following a surge in cases in the region. “We are at a critical threshold in our region,” the WHO’s Middle East head, Ahmed al-Mandhari, said in an online press conference. The global health body confirmed on Sunday there were more than one million cases of the COVID-19 disease across the 22 countries that the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region covers, stretching from Morocco to Pakistan.

Over 80 percent of all deaths in the region were reported in five countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, according to the WHO. Mandhari said it was a “concerning milestone”. “The number of cases reported in June alone is higher than the total number of cases reported during the four months following the first reported case in the Region on 29 January,” he said.

Over 160,000 coronavirus cases reported every day in past week: WHO: The global coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, pointing out that June saw more than half of all cases reported since the start of the pandemic. “For the past week, the number of the new cases has exceeded 160,000 on every single day,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing. “Sixty percent of all cases so far have been reported just in the past month,” he said. With over 511,000 deaths and more than 10.5 million known infections worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic is “not even close to being over”, the WHO warned earlier this week. Tedros reiterated that taking a “comprehensive approach” was the best way to rein in the virus. Countries that have implemented a wide range of measures, including contact tracing, isolation, physical distancing and mask wearing “have suppressed transmission and saved lives”, he said. The UN health agency was therefore very concerned, he said, to see that a number of countries “have not used all the tools at their disposal and have taken a fragmented approach. “These countries face a long, hard road ahead,” he said. He stressed that while the pandemic posed a scientific challenge, “it’s also a test of character”.