UN says ‘whole of humanity’ at risk from pandemic as death toll tops 20,000
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UN says ‘whole of humanity’ at risk from pandemic as death toll tops 20,000

Some 3 billion people under lockdown worldwide; New York expects 120,000 to flood hospitals, which only have 50,000 beds

Police personnel in India stand guard at a traffic light during the first day of a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Amritsar on March 25, 2020. (Narinder Nanu/AFP)
Police personnel in India stand guard at a traffic light during the first day of a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Amritsar on March 25, 2020. (Narinder Nanu/AFP)

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the entire human race, the United Nations warned Wednesday as it launched a humanitarian response plan featuring a $2 billon appeal for the world’s poorest people.

“COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity — and the whole of humanity must fight back. Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in announcing the initiative.

Just last week, as the pandemic spread to more and more countries, killing thousands and infecting many more, Guterres warned that unless the world came together to fight the virus, millions of people could die.

At least 440,000 people worldwide have been infected and the number of dead has leaped past 20,000, according to the running count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Overall, more than 100,000 have recovered.

A picture taken on March 25, 2020 shows a homeless person resting on a bench in Cannes, south-eastern France, as the country is under lockdown to stop the spread of the Covid-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. (VALERY HACHE / AFP)

More than three billion people have been asked to stay home in almost 70 countries and territories as governments battle the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, according to an AFP tally on Wednesday.

Most of the countries concerned, including Argentina, Britain, France, India and Italy as well as many US states, have imposed mandatory lockdown measures. Others have introduced curfews, quarantines and other social distancing recommendations.

“This COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan aims to enable us to fight the virus in the world’s poorest countries, and address the needs of the most vulnerable people, especially women and children, older people, and those with disabilities or chronic illness,” said Guterres.

“We cannot afford to lose the gains we have made through investments in humanitarian action and in the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

A municipal worker wears a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, as she sweeps the streets in the historic center of Quito, Ecuador, on March 25, 2020. (Rodrigo Buendia  AFP)

The amount of money sought by the plan is small compared to the $2 trillion that the US Congress is poised to approve as a rescue effort for devastated American consumers, companies and hospitals as the US economy grinds to a sudden halt.

The UN plan is designed to last from April to December — suggesting the UN does not see the crisis ending any time soon.

The exact total of $2.012 billion is supposed to come from appeals that various UN agencies have already made, such as the World Health Organization and the World Food Program.

The US Senate was poised to pass a massive relief package on Wednesday for Americans and businesses ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as New York hospitals braced for a wave of virus patients.

The United States, with over 55,000 confirmed cases, has the third-highest number globally, behind China and Italy, and about half of them are in New York, the epicenter of the US outbreak.

“We still have the trajectory going up,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, adding that about 12 percent of the people who test positive require hospitalization.

An empty New York Subway car is seen on March 23, 2020 in New York City. (Angela Weiss / AFP)

Cuomo said health officials anticipate about 120,000 coronavirus cases coming into New York’s hospitals and hospital capacity is only 50,000 beds.

The current figure is around 30,000 cases, he added, with 285 deaths.

The coronavirus outbreak hit home Wednesday among the well-born and the desperately poor alike as Britain’s Prince Charles tested positive and India’s 1.3 billion people, or one-sixth of the Earth’s population, found themselves under lockdown.

And in Spain, the death toll eclipsed that of China, where the outbreak began. Spain is now second only to Italy in the number of dead, with over 3,400.

This picture taken on March 25, 2020 shows Manneken-Pis statue that wears a protective mask support of medical workers in Brussels, Belgium, 25 March 2020, as a strict lockdown comes into effect to stop the spread of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (Aris Oikonomou / AFP)

Italy has been the hardest-hit nation in Europe with more than 69,000 infections and 6,800 deaths. Authorities are investigating if a hotly contested Champions League soccer game in Milan in February poured rocket fuel on the crisis that is overwhelming Italian hospitals. Italian doctors are being forced to choose who will receive desperately needed ventilators and who won’t.

Germany’s parliament approved a series of measures to allow the government to offer business aid totaling more than 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) for the country of 83 million people.

There are signs that drastic measures to keep people away from one another can push back the spread of the illness and flatten the infection curve. In China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak was first spotted late last year, started lifting its lockdown.

Some train stations and bus services reopened in Hubei and people who passed a health check were allowed to travel for the first time since January. A similar easing in the hard-hit epicenter of Wuhan is planned for April 8.

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