Fri, 05 Jun 2020

UN Chief Says Coronavirus 'Threatens African Progress'

Voice of America
20 May 2020, 22:05 GMT+10

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for global solidarity with Africa as an essential part of ending the coronavirus pandemic, saying international action is needed to help strengthen its health care systems and food supply and to avoid a financial crisis.

Guterres said Wednesday he commends African countries and the African Union for acting quickly to enforce quarantines and border closures, and to rely on regional cooperation to try to stop the spread of the virus.

"But the pandemic threatens African progress. It will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease. Already, demand for Africa's commodities, tourism and remittances are declining. The opening of the trade zone has been pushed back - and millions could be pushed into extreme poverty," he said.

In additional to urging international efforts to support education and protect jobs, Guterres also called for African countries to have "equal and affordable access to any eventual vaccine and treatment."

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people. The largest numbers of confirmed cases in Africa are in South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria.

Egypt has announced stay-at-home orders for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and now says starting May 30 that wearing masks will be required in public.

A mandatory mask order goes into effect Thursday in Spain for those over the age of six who are in a public place where it is not possible to stay two meters away from others.

In China, where the outbreak began in December, officials in the northeastern province of Jilin are trying to contain a new cluster of cases, including four new infections reported Wednesday.

Venezuela is also trying to contain an uptick in cases along its border with Brazil and Colombia. Authorities said there were 131 new cases over the course of 24 hours and linked the increase to migrants returning home.

Migrant workers in India will be getting more help in returning to their homes from big cities with Indian Railways announcing that beginning June 1 it will be operating twice as many special trains. Health screenings and wearing masks are mandatory for riders.

June 1 will also bring the opening of bars, restaurants, movie theaters and concert halls in the Netherlands as the country moves to a new phase of its easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The country has seen weeks of declining deaths and new infections, but Prime Minister Mark Rutte said people will need to continue observing social distancing measures as businesses resume operations.

The pandemic has forced organizers of Japan's popular summer high school baseball tournament to cancel this year's event, the first time that has happened since World War II.

The nationally televised 16-day tournament was due to be held in mid-August, but the Japan High School Baseball federation said Wednesday there was too much risk of the virus spreading among players from all over the country gathering together.

Worldwide there are more than 4.9 million confirmed cases and 323,000 deaths from COVID-19.

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