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News in Brief 16 April 2020

News in Brief 16 April 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

UN chief expresses solidarity for Africa as continent ‘braces’ for pandemic

African nations need more than $200 billion to withstand the immediate impacts of COVID-19 and to “recover better”, UN chief Antonio Guterres has announced.

At a meeting with African Union senior representatives via videoconference on Wednesday, Mr. Guterres repeated his call for greater help from the International Monetary Fund and others in issuing credit for developing countries.

Debt relief for countries that are unable to pay their international creditors must also be an important part of the response, the UN Secretary-General said.

He also noted that that a separate global appeal to help over 100 million people in humanitarian emergencies had so far raised around $400 million.

Such assistance was essential in Africa “as we brace for the expected spread of the pandemic”, Mr. Guterres said.

The disease was “in no way of Africa’s making. But as with the climate crisis, the African continent could end up suffering the greatest impacts”, he explained.

Highlighting the urgent need for a safe and effective vaccine, Mr. Guterres said that it may be the only way to return the world to a sense of normality.

Europeans remain in midst of storm, warns region’s UN health chief

To Europe now, where UN health experts said on Thursday that the pandemic is far from over, despite early promising signs of falling infection rates in some countries.

Dr Hans Kluge, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe, urged countries to only consider relaxing lock-down measures if they were sure that they could monitor any new disease transmission, and that their health workers could cope:

“Make no mistake, despite the spring weather we remain in the midst of a storm; several countries are yet to feel its full impact, while others are experiencing a dip as numbers of new cases of COVID-19 are falling. It is imperative that we do not let down our guard.”

Latest data from the WHO shows nearly two million cases of new coronavirus globally with more than 123,000 deaths.

Europe has around half of all cases and around two in three fatalities, and Dr Kluge noted that the virus had the ability to overwhelm even the strongest health services in rich industrialised countries.

After early “optimistic signs” of falling infection rates in 10 European nations including Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland, the WHO official expressed concern about rising pockets of cases in the UK, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation.

“The next few weeks will be critical for Europe,” he said.

‘No evidence’ polio vaccine prevents COVID-19

Finally, and staying with the World Health Organization (WHO), it has said that the oral poliovirus vaccine should not be given to people to protect them against new coronavirus, at least for the moment.

In response to news that a clinical trial testing the polio vaccine’s efficacy against COVID-19 is to begin in the United States, WHO said that it would assess the results when they are available.

For the time being, and in the absence of any evidence, WHO maintained that it does not recommend using the oral vaccine other than for essential global polio eradication efforts.

But it said that clinical studies could begin immediately on the possible protective effects of live vaccines such as polio and the BCG inoculation against tuberculosis, because of their excellent safety record.

These studies are in addition to other tests under way elsewhere using various drugs licensed for use against other diseases, such as the antiviral medication, remdesivir and the anti-malarial, chloroquine.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • UN chief expresses solidarity for Africa as continent ‘braces’ for pandemic

  • Europeans remain in midst of storm, warns region’s UN health chief

  • ‘No evidence’ polio vaccine prevents COVID-19

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Daniel Johnson, UN News, Geneva
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