COVID-19: UN needs $2b to help poorer countries, says official

•Countries urged to use lock-down to attack coronavirus
•Spain second nation to register more deaths than China
•EU council calls for Europe-wide pandemic crisis centre
•Trump, U.S. Senate agree $1.8trn stimulus package

UNITED Nations (UN) emergency aid coordinator Mark Lowcock has claimed that poorer countries need $2 billion of international humanitarian aid to tackle the coronavirus (COVID 19).

Lowcock said this as the UN launched a major donation appeal in New York yesterday.

Around 19,000 people have died from coronavirus across the planet since it emerged in China’s Wuhan province in January. More than 425,000 infections have been confirmed.

“Even though developed countries are taking expensive measures to protect their own economies from the pandemic, they will also benefit if they help less developed countries,” Lowcock said.

Lowcock warned, while the aid plan was being presented in New York, that the virus would continue to pose a threat to the entire world if it were not fought everywhere.

“Nobody is safe until everybody is safe,’’ Lowcock said.

He also warned that the virus had the potential to destabilise countries, which could in turn boost migration.

“There is a risk of the effects of this virus tipping regions into chaos,’’ Lowcock said.

WHO: countries must use lock-down to attack coronavirus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday urged countries, which have locked down their populations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, need to use the time to find and attack the virus.

“Asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement is buying time, and reducing pressure on health systems. On their own, these measures won’t extinguish epidemics,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We call on all countries to use this time to attack the virus,” Tedros told a press conference.

Countries need to expand, train and deploy their health care and public health workforces, as well as implementing systems to find every suspected case, and ramping up testing, he said.


EU council calls for Europe-wide crisis centre

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EU heads of state and government have called for the establishment of a Europe-wide crisis management centre in the light of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, a draft statement of the European Council seen by Euroactiv.

“While the urgency is presently on fighting the Coronavirus pandemic and its immediate consequences, we should start to prepare the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of our societies.

“Also to sustainable growth we have to draw all lessons from the crisis,’’ the council said.

According to the council, this will require an exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment.

“The time has come to put into place a more ambitious and wide-ranging crisis management system within the EU, including, for instance, a true European Crisis Management Centre,’’ it added.

EU leaders are expected to hold a conference call today to discuss a joint response to the pandemic, including issues related to the economy, health care systems and the impact of COVID-19 on people.

Europe is currently the epicentre of the deadly epidemic, with Italy and Spain being the worst-hit countries.

Spain second nation to register more deaths than China

Official figures showed that Spain has become the second country after Italy to register more deaths from coronavirus than China.

According to figures released by the country’s Health Ministry yesterday, Spain confirmed 3,434 virus-related deaths.

In China, where the coronavirus originated, the officially confirmed death toll stands at 3,150, though the veracity of that figure remains hard to determine.

The Spanish capital Madrid remained the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, with the city’s death toll soaring by 300 within the past day to 1,800, more than half the country’s total.

The total number of infections rose to 47,600 yesterday, an increase of 8,000 within the past 24 hours.

Authorities said that it hopes  that Spain will reach the peak of the outbreak this week and that strict measures to contain its spread will begin to be reflected in the numbers.

Fernando Simon, head of Spain’s Health Alert and Emergency Coordination Centre (CCAES), said the numbers showed Spain was close to the peak.

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“The number of deaths is rising, but the percentage increase has stabilised,’’ he told dpa.

Many hospitals, especially those in Madrid, are already at their limit, causing authorities to requisition the city’s Ifema exhibition centre for use as a makeshift field hospital.

The high death rate has forced the city to use its ice rink as an overflow morgue.

Yesterday afternoon Spanish parliament was due to vote on a motion to extend the national state of emergency until April 11.


Trump, U.S. Senate agrees $1.8trn stimulus package

A stimulus package worth more than $1.8 trillion (£1.5tn) has been agreed by United States (U.S.) Senate leaders and the White House to ease the impact of coronavirus.

It reportedly includes payments of $1,200 to most American adults and aid to help small businesses pay workers.

Full details of the deal, which Congress is expected to pass, are not known.

Financial markets around the world rose on news of the deal.

President Donald Trump has said he hopes the US will shake off coronavirus within less than three weeks.

But the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, warned that “you have to be very flexible” about a timeframe for ending the crisis.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the illness was spreading faster than “a bullet train” in his state, which is at the centre of the pandemic in the US.

After 802 deaths and 55,225 confirmed infections, America is more than midway through a 15-day attempt to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing.

Southern Europe is now at the centre of the pandemic, with Italy and Spain recording hundreds of new deaths every day.

Governments around the world have responded by locking down societies in the hope of slowing the spread of the virus.

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