Antonio Gutterus. File
With at least 109,300 people dying worldwide from the coronavirus in 193 countries and territories, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on nations and joint global combat measures remain the only way forward.
The coronavirus disease, as UN Secretary-General António Gutteres points out, has ushered in a strange, surreal world. Streets are silent, storefronts are shuttered and places of worship are empty in efforts to contain its spread.
This is also certainly time to remember the most vulnerable of the vulnerable around the world: people in war zones, refugee camps, slums and other areas least equipped to fight the virus.
Several worrisome factors remain, prime among them being a resurge in the cases of novel Coronavirus cases in countries such as China, Japan and South Korea.
At least 20,608 people in the United States have died, making the US the hardest-hit country. It also has the highest number of reported infections (530,006), according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Southern Europe and the United States have been the recent focal points of the pandemic. But coronavirus hot spots have been shifting constantly and new concerns are rising in Japan, Turkey, the US Midwest and Britain.
In India, coronavirus cases in Mumbai’s densely populated Dharavi slum — one of Asia’s biggest — have risen to 43 including four deaths, and that adds to the distress.
Since the first virus death in early April, Indian authorities have stepped up measures to close off areas where cases have emerged in Dharavi, which is home to around a million people.
Experts have warned that COVID-19 could spread like wildfire in slums where social distancing and self-isolation are all but impossible.
Dharavi’s population density is thought to be 270,000 people per square kilometre, according to the World Economic Forum.
Some countries are reporting that more than 10 per cent of their health workers have been infected by the new coronavirus, indicative of what World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has described as “an alarming trend”.
Evidence from China, Italy, Singapore, Spain and the United States shows that some infections are occurring outside health facilities, so at home or in communities.
Factors for infection in health settings include late recognition of COVID-19 and lack of training or experience in dealing with respiratory pathogens. Many health workers are also being exposed to large numbers of patients during long shifts with inadequate rest periods.
In Japan, health care facilities are getting stretched thin and masks and surgical gowns are said to be running short amid a surge in coronavirus patients.
While there has been a welcome slowing of COVID-19 cases in European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as Spain and Italy, the virus is spreading to rural areas in Africa.
On the economic front, the World Bank has made it clear that South Asia is on course for its worst economic performance in 40 years, with decades of progress in the battle against poverty at risk.
It has slashed its growth forecast for the region this year to 1.8-2.8 per cent from its pre-pandemic projection of 6.3 per cent, with at least half the countries falling into “deep recession”.
The world has to stand together to defeat the virus — with cooperation and solidarity.
Those brave people on the frontlines working relentlessly to help the victims battle the invisible enemy of humanity deserve a big salute and gratitude.
The policy report released on Thursday said other critical missions for the region's governments should be bridging the digital divide and upholding human rights and good governance practices.
The last council meeting in the headquarters complex was on March 12, when a resolution was adopted extending the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan and welcoming "encouraging developments” toward peace.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the pandemic is revealing the extent to which people are marginalized and is intensifying the inequalities that people with disabilities already face, such as poverty and higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.
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