U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres warned that a global recession, “perhaps of record dimensions”, was a near certainty, UN chief posted his press briefing to address the global Covid-19 crisis on 19 March 2020.
“This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies,” Guterres told reporters via a video conference. “We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.”
Indicating that “we are at war with a virus”, the UN chief stressed that creative responses “must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale”.
And although COVID-19 is killing people and attacking economies, by managing the crisis well, “we can steer the recovery toward a more sustainable and inclusive path”, he said.
“I call on world leaders to come together and offer an urgent and coordinated response to this global crisis,” he said.
Antonio Guterres stressed the need for a coordinated global response to contain a 'health catastrophe'.
The UN chief said that tackling the health emergency was his number one concern and advocated for scaled-up health spending to cover, among other things and “without stigma”, testing, supporting health care workers and ensuring adequate supplies.
“It has been proven that the virus can be contained. It must be contained”, he said, advising to move from a country-by-country strategy to a “coordinated global response, including helping countries that are less prepared to tackle the crisis”.
“Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, but it is also in everyone’s interests”, he stated and urged Governments to fully meet the World Health Organization’s appeals, saying, “we are only as strong as the weakest health system”.
As the second crisis priority, Mr. Guterres pointed to social impact and the economic response and recovery.
He cited a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report projecting that workers could lose some $3.4 trillion in income by year’s end.
But the world is not experiencing an ordinary shock in supply and demand, “it is a shock to society as a whole”, he said.
“Most fundamentally, we need to focus on people – the most vulnerable, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises” explained the UN chief. “That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss”.
Against this backdrop, Mr. Guterres final point was that we have a responsibility to “recover better”.
“We must ensure that lessons are learned and that this crisis provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st-century public services and the effective delivery of global public goods”, he said.
Pointing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he concluded: “We must keep our promises for people and planet”.
With over 242,000 infections and nearly 10,000 deaths, the epidemic has stunned the world and drawn comparisons with painful periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu.