UN launches COVID-19 global humanitarian response plan

The new coronavirus is "menacing the whole of humanity" as it continues its march across the globe, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday while launching a $2 billion plan to combat the pandemic. 

"The whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough," Guterres said at the UN's New York headquarters, appealing to governments to lend support that he called a "moral imperative" and a "necessity for global health security."

The new interagency plan to combat COVID-19 combines existing appeals from the World Health Organisation and other UN organisations, and identifies new needs.

"Properly funded, it will save many lives and arm humanitarian agencies and NGOs with laboratory supplies for testing, and with medical equipment to treat the sick while protecting health care workers," he said.

There are nearly 439,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide with the death toll rapidly nearing 20,000, according to a tally being compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

As the virus spreads, Guterres emphasise the importance of propping up countries already in the midst of humanitarian crises, noting that even developed nations with robust health systems "are buckling under the pressure."

"We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves," the UN chief said. "This is a matter of basic human solidarity."