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Iran Press TV

UN chief: If not controlled, coronavirus pandemic could kill 'millions' worldwide

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 19 March 2020 6:27 PM

The United Nations secretary general warns that the new coronavirus pandemic could end up killing "millions" of people worldwide if allowed to spread unchecked.

"If we let the virus spread like wildfire -- especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world -- it would kill millions of people," Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.

"Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone's interests," he added.

The UN chief asserted, "We need to immediately move away from a situation where each country is undertaking its own health strategies to one that ensures, in full transparency, a coordinated global response, including helping countries that are less prepared to tackle the crisis."

He urged governments to give "the strongest support to the multilateral effort to fight the virus, led by the World Health Organization, whose appeals must be fully met."

Guterres said that financial facilities are needed to support countries in difficulty, adding that the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international institutions have a key role to play.

Since emerging in central China late last year, the respiratory infection has claimed the lives of more than 9,800 people and infected above 236,000 around the world.

EU, Russia trade barbs

A day before the world body urged global solidarity and transparency in the face of the plight, the European Union accused Russia of putting lives at risk by mounting, what it vaguely said was, a "significant campaign" of misinformation about the pandemic.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded by condemning Brussels' "immoral" behavior and its seeking to mask its own problems by attacking Moscow.

"This is an immoral attempt to mask one's problems in the fight against the novel infection with the help of unfounded allegations," Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.

"This is already not the first time that the EU tries to blame Moscow's scheming for certain problems they face," she said, adding, "If there are accusations there should also be proof. If there is no proof then accusations could not be leveled especially in order to make such an aggressive attack."

An internal EU document seen by AFP warned that pro-Kremlin media outlets were promoting disinformation about COVID-19 in order to make the crisis worse in the West by undermining trust in healthcare systems.

Global criminal schemes

Also on Thursday, Interpol said criminals around the world were "cashing in" on the pandemic by offering fake or sub-standard medical products.

"The outbreak of the coronavirus disease has offered an opportunity for fast cash, as criminals take advantage of the high market demand for personal protection and hygiene products," Interpol said.

It added that law enforcement agencies found 2,000 internet links advertising items related to COVID-19, with counterfeit surgical masks the most popular online, accounting for about 600 cases during the week of action.

"The seizure of more than 34,000 counterfeit and substandard masks, 'corona spray', 'coronavirus packages' or 'coronavirus medicine' reveals only the tip of the iceberg regarding this new trend in counterfeiting," Interpol said.

The world body added that a global operation to crack down on the practice had resulted in 121 arrests and the seizure of potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals worth more than $14 million.

Juergen Stock, Interpol's Secretary General, commented: "The illicit trade in such counterfeit medical items during a public health crisis shows their total disregard for people's wellbeing, or their lives."

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