Coronavirus update: new WHO fund, Guterres calls for ‘prudence, not panic’

In a video message recorded on Friday afternoon, UN chief António Guterres assured the world that the COVID-19 virus will peak, and the global economy will recover but, until then, “we must act together to slow the spread of the virus and look after each other”.

In the face of a health crisis unlike any other in our lifetimes, said the Secretary-General, it is natural to feel anxious, worried and confused. The most vulnerable in society are also the most affected, and the social and economic fallout will affect most of us for months to come.

However, “this is a time for prudence, not panic. Science, not stigma. Facts, not fear”, counselled Mr. Guterres.

No country can do it alone 

The pandemic can still be controlled, preventing infections and saving lives, but it will take “unprecedented personal, national and international action”, he added.

This will involve putting effective containment strategies into place; activating and enhancing emergency response systems; dramatically increasing testing capacity and care for patients; readying hospitals, and developing life-saving medical interventions.

The crisis, said Mr. Guterres, has shown the importance of international cooperation, with governments working together to revitalize economies, expand public investment and ensure support for the most vulnerable.

WHO launches solidarity fund 

And in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the launch on Friday of a first-of-its-kind COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, to make it easier for private individuals, corporations and institutions anywhere in the world to come together to directly contribute to fighting the pandemic.

“We are at a critical point in the global response to COVID-19. We need everyone to get involved in this massive effort to keep the world safe”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Funds will go towards supporting actions outlined in the WHO’s COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, to enable all countries – particularly those most vulnerable and at-risk, and with the weakest health systems – to prepare for and respond to the crisis.

These actions include the rapid detection of cases, stopping the transmission of the virus, and caring for those affected.

The funds will also go towards financing the purchase of protective equipment for frontline health workers; equipping diagnostic laboratories; improving surveillance and data collection; and other critical steps that need to be taken.

‘A space for people everywhere to fight this virus’

“We can’t ignore the fact that this is a truly global problem, one that requires truly global solutions”, said Elizabeth Cousens, President and CEO of the UN Foundation, which created the fund, along with the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation and WHO.

“The case for global cooperation could not be clearer”, she continued. “Communities everywhere are affected, and people want to contribute. This new fund will create space for people everywhere, together, to fight this virus”.

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