Divided world is failing COVID-19 test, says frustrated U.N. chief

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FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

October 17, 2020

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – A divided world has failed to rise to the challenge of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday and warned concerted action was needed to prevent millions of people being pushed into poverty and hunger.

The former Portuguese prime minister said far more could have been done if countries had worked together to combat the disease, which has killed more than one million people.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a major global challenge for the entire international community, for multilateralism and for me, as secretary-general of the United Nations,” Guterres told Portuguese news agency Lusa.

“Unfortunately it is a test that, so far, the international community is failing.”

He said that if coordinated measures were not taken, “a microscopic virus could push millions of people into poverty and hunger, with devastating economic effects in the years to come”.

Guterres also criticised countries for a lack of unity in trying to solve other global challenges including the conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.

“It is a source of enormous frustration,” he said.

More than 39 million people have been infected by COVID-19, according to a Reuters tally based on official disclosures.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Additional reporting Graham Keeley; Editing by Pravin Char)

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