NEW YORK, New York - Parties in conflict across the world are being asked to set their guns aside for the time being, and come together in the fight to combat the coronavirus COVID-19.
"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," UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres said Monday.
Now established in 190 countries, COVID-19 has virtually shut down the world, with most airlines grounded, and about a fifth of the world's near-8 billion population ordered to self-isolate at home. The UK joined that club on Tuesday as did most of India, where borders between the states have also closed.
The number of cases worldwide is now approaching 400,000, and the number of deaths 17,000.
Many cities, states and countries are deploying their militaries to enforce restrictions.
The number of people dying, relative to the number of cases is on the increase, particularly in Europe. Of each 100 people being infected by the disease in Italy, more than 9 now are dying. In Indonesia the figure is also above 9, while in Iraq is above eight. On the other end of the spectrum, Australia is averaging less than half-of-one percent in every 100. The U.S. is also low at 1.27. Israel is the least impacted with the death rate at less than one-sixteenth of one percent. The country has had only 1 death in 1,656 cases.
The Republic of San Marino, a small (61 square metres) enclave microstate in Southern Europe surrounded by Italy has been the worst hit with a death rate of 13.25 per one hundred contracting the virus.
As the UN chief pointed out, COVID-19 does not care about nationality or ethnicity, or other differences it, "attacks all, relentlessly," although geographically the epicenter right now appears to be Europe.
In Spain six in every 100 people contracting the disease is ending up dead.
With war still raging in many countries, conflict is utilizing health facilities and other resources vitally needed to address the sweeping coronavirus.
"Silence the guns, stop the artillery, end the airstrikes," Mr Guterres pleaded.
He said a ceasefire was required also "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."
"End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world," he said. "It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever."
The Secretary-General's appeal was broadcast live over the Internet from a virtual press conference held at UN Headquarters in New York, where most staff are now working from home to help curb further the spread of COVID-19.
The UN chief said his Special Envoys will work with warring parties to make sure his call for a ceasefire leads to action.
"The UN must fully assume its responsibilities first 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, it's a moment in which the UN must be able to address the peoples of the world and appeal for a massive mobilization 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 it, to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic economic and social impacts of the disease," he said.
"And we can only do it if we do it together, if we do in a coordinated way, if we do it with intense solidarity and cooperation, and that is the raison d'etre of the United Nations itself."
(Photo credit: Banaras Khan | Getty Images).