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News in Brief 28 February 2020

News in Brief 28 February 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

COVID-19 risk increased to ‘very high’ but it can be contained - UN

Countries must act quickly and robustly to contain the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, the World Health Organization said on Friday, as it raised the global risk assessment of the infection to “very high”.

Speaking to reporters, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in the past 24 hours, China had recorded its lowest number of cases in more than a month.

In the rest of the world, there have been 4,351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths.

Tedros said that although the increase in the number of cases and affected countries in recent days was concerning, there was no evidence of the virus spreading freely in communities.

In Nigeria, where the first case of infection has been confirmed and isolated, the UN agency said it had “great confidence” that the country could contain the virus.
This was largely thanks to the fact that the country has had plenty of success in dealing with other disease outbreaks, such as Lassa fever and measles, WHO’s Dr Mike Ryan said.

‘Mayhem’ in Syria’s Idlib amid ongoing violence pushing displaced towards Turkish border

Rapidly escalating conflict in northwest Syria has created health care “mayhem”, amid reports of displaced people moving closer to the Turkish border in search of shelter.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that since 1 December - when Syrian Government forces stepped up their campaign against opposition armed groups - 11 healthcare facilities have been attacked, causing 10 deaths and 37 injuries.

Earlier this week, it transported 55 tonnes of medical and surgical supplies to the embattled region.

Here’s WHO spokesperson, Christian Lindmeier speaking in Geneva:

“As of today, 84 health facilities have been forced to suspend operations since 1 December last year, out of those 84, 31 have been able to relocate and provide services where people have sought refuge from bombardments…Health workers the World Health Organization has been speaking to describe mayhem in their health facilities.”

UN aid coordination wing OCHA estimates that more than 950,000 people have been displaced in the region since December.

It has described conditions as “absolutely horrifying” but insisted that a massive cross-border aid operation will continue from Turkey to help displaced families.

Libya talks threatened by new truce violation

Finally, renewed violence in the Libyan capital Tripoli risks derailing peace talks in Geneva, UN negotiator Ghassan Salamé has warned.

Deadly shelling began on Thursday morning and has continued on Friday, he told journalists.

“The country in past 24 hours has witnessed a very serious violation of the truce; in fact, it could have been almost the breakdown of that truce, with many areas being hit by shelling, the airport of Tripoli was hit at 7 o’clock in the morning. Yesterday at 5pm in the afternoon, one single family lost five of its members in a shell, and today, many areas of the capital have also been shelled.”

The UN envoy has been holding discussions in Geneva between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord, and the self-styled Libyan National Army, which moved to take Tripoli last April.

He said that it was crucial to respect the truce they agreed in January and insisted that talks on Libya’s economic, political and military future will continue “despite everything”.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • COVID-19: Risk now 'very high', but containment still possible
  • 'Mayhem' in Idlib as Turkey-Syria tensions escalate
  • New truce violation threatens Libya talks
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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