United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for an "immediate global ceasefire" in all corners of the world, emphasising that it is time to put armed conflict in lockdown and focus on the fight against the rapidly-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
His appeal came as the total number of deaths due to coronavirus crossed 15,000 globally. Over 341,300 cases have been registered in 174 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.
Addressing UN correspondents in a virtual briefing, Guterres said: "Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19. The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly".
He voiced concern that as coronavirus spreads across the world, armed conflict rages on around the world and the most vulnerable -- women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalised and the displaced -- pay the highest price.
Noting that these people are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19, he said that health systems have collapsed in war-ravaged countries.
"The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives," the UN chief said.
Guterres called on the warring parties to pull back from hostilities, put aside mistrust and animosity and silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.
"This is crucial... to help create corridors for life-saving aid. To open precious windows for diplomacy. To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19," he said.
Guterres said while it is inspiring to watch coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties to enable joint approaches to COVID-19, he said there is a need for much more.
"End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever," he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has sickened more than 341,500 people and as of Monday morning, at least 15,187 people have died. There have been 39 cases of coronavirus in the UN system so far.
Guterres said he will be sending a message to the G-20 leaders and intends to have a virtual conference with all of them.
When asked how he is feeling in the current situation, Guterres said: "I'm feeling strongly determined. This is the moment in which the UN must be active, the UN must fully assume its responsibilities in doing what we have to do - our peacekeeping operations, our humanitarian agencies, our support to the different bodies of the international community, the Security Council, the General Assembly".
"But at the same time, this is a moment in which the UN must be able to address the peoples of the world and appeal for a massive mobilisation and for a massive pressure on governments to make sure that we are able to respond to this crisis, not to mitigate it, but to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic economic and social impacts of the disease.
"And we can only do it if we do it together, if we do it in a coordinated way, if we do it with intense solidarity and cooperation," the UN chief added.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)