Whole of humanity at risk

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The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the entire human race, the United Nations warned yesterday 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.

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

The appeal came as more than 1.3 billion Indians went into lockdown yesterday, leaving a third of the planet now under orders to stay at home, as the United States vowed to spend $2 trillion to counter the economic harm of the coronavirus.

Europe remains at the heart of the epidemic, with first Italy and now Spain’s death toll overtaking that of China, while Britain’s Prince Charles became the latest prominent figure to test positive for the COVID-19 disease.

Coronavirus cases are also spreading in the Middle East, where Iran’s death toll topped 2,000 yesterday, and in Africa, where Mali joined all seven of its neighbours in declaring its first cases — two nationals who arrived home recently from France.

Government policies and the capacity for virus testing vary widely around the world, so the true extent of the pandemic is difficult to estimate, but more than 427,940 cases have been declared in 181 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.

What is in less doubt is the number of deaths, with at least 19,246 deaths attributed to the new coronavirus strain since the outbreak began.

The economic damage of the virus — and associated lockdowns — could also be devastating, with fears of a worldwide recession worse than the financial meltdown that occurred over a decade ago.

But financial markets soared as the US Senate and the White House agreed a stimulus package worth roughly 10 percent of the entire American economy, an injection Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said represented a “wartime level of investment”.

India yesterday woke up to a sweeping lockdown of its 1.3 billion people, one of the world’s most ambitious efforts to fight the coronavirus. India has identified 562 confirmed cases of the disease, which has so far killed nine people in the South Asian nation.

Yesterday, Indians crowded grocery stores and chemists in a struggle for essential. People in the key cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru rushed to stock up after Modi decreed the shutdown in a speech televised nationwide, barely four hours before it took effect.

In China, where the new virus emerged last year, authorities loosened tough rules on the 50 million people in Hubei province yesterday after a months-long lockdown as the country reported no new domestic cases. The provincial capital Wuhan — the ground zero of the outbreak — will allow residents to leave from April 8.

The medical situation is still critical in Europe, where Spain joined hardest-hit Italy in surpassing even China’s toll after 738 people died over the past 24 hours, bringing deaths in the country to 3,434.

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