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Covid-19 presages crises to come, warns UN Secretary General

In his centerpiece address to the historic and unprecedented 75th session of the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday appealed for global solidarity to overcome the COVID-19, and again call for a global ceasefire during the pandemic, by the end of the year.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, Sep 22 : Addressing the largely empty General Assembly Hall in New York, Mr. Guterres characterized the pandemic from the podium as “not only a wake-up call” but “a dress rehearsal” for challenges to come. 

“In an interconnected world, it is high time to recognize a simple truth: solidarity is self-interest.  If we fail to grasp that fact, everyone loses”, he said, delivering his annual report on the work of the Organization.   

The Secretary-General underscored the need for solidarity at this moment, particularly as countries least capable to address COVID-19 have received far too little assistance. He urged the UN’s 193 Member States to move forward in humility and unity in the face of the disease. 

“And we must be guided by science and tethered to reality”, he added. “Populism and nationalism have failed. Those approaches to contain the virus have often made things manifestly worse.”   

A world turned upside-down 

Due to COVID-19, most world leaders will not attend the annual gathering at UN Headquarters, known as the General Debate.  Instead, many have pre-recorded their speeches on video, although they have the right to deliver them in person – from their seat in the Hall, not from the podium.  

“In a world turned upside down, this General Assembly Hall is among the strangest sights of all”, Mr. Guterres remarked at the outset. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our annual meeting beyond recognition.  But it has made it more important than ever.”   

He said the pandemic has exposed fragilities and inequalities across the globe.  It has generated “an epochal health crisis”, the biggest economic and job losses since the Great Depression, and dangerous new threats to human rights, among other challenges.   As of Tuesday, there were more than 31 million cases of the coronavirus disease worldwide, with over 962,000 deaths. 

Clock ticking on global ceasefire 

Mr. Guterres also used the occasion to repeat his call for a global ceasefire during the pandemic. The Secretary-General had initially issued the appeal back in March, when he urged warring parties to “end the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world”.  

Some 180 Member States have endorsed the appeal, as have religious leaders, regional partners and civil society networks. Several armed movements also responded, some of whom announced ceasefires, though they were not sustained.  

Mr. Guterres saw several reasons to be hopeful now, with the peace agreement in Sudan, and peace talks in Afghanistan, as just two examples. However, he feared terrorist and violent extremist groups will exploit the pandemic. 

“Now is the time for a collective new push for peace and reconciliation”, he charged. “I appeal for a stepped-up international effort – led by the Security Council – to achieve a global ceasefire by the end of this year. We have 100 days.  The clock is ticking.” 

Threats to peace, gender equality 

The ceasefire is not only critical to stop “hot” conflicts, he stressed, pointing to the need to avert a new Cold War. 

 “We are moving in a very dangerous direction.  Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities”, the Secretary-General warned. 

“A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide.  We must avoid this at all costs.” 

COVID-19 could also see progress on gender equality pushed back by decades, he continued, as women and girls are overwhelmingly affected by the social and economic fallout, including in areas such as employment and education. 

“We must also stamp out the horrifying increase in violence against women and girls during the pandemic, from domestic violence to sexual abuse, online harassment and femicide”, said Mr. Guterres. 

“This is a hidden war on women. Preventing and ending it requires the same commitment and resources that we devote to other forms of warfare.” 

UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeSecretary-General António Guterres presents his annual report on the UN’s work ahead of the opening of the General Assembly’s 75th General Debate.

New Social Contract  

For the Secretary-General, recovering from COVID-19 must lead to a better future for all, anchored by inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies.    

He emphasized the need for what he labelled a New Social Contract, at the national level, and a New Global Deal, applicable internationally. 

Mr. Guterres explained that the New Social Contract has several components, such as ending exclusion, discrimination and racism, and establishing Universal Health Coverage and even a possible Universal Basic Income.  

It also entails having fairer tax systems, providing education for all, harnessing digital technology, and ensuring human rights as well as opportunities for women and girls. 

Take climate action, address historical injustice 

Speaking in French, Mr. Guterres said a sustainable New Social Contract means transitioning towards renewable energy to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, highlighting a longstanding message of his tenure. 

As part of their COVID-19 recovery, the Secretary-General encouraged countries to consider six climate-positive actions, ranging from green jobs and ending fossil fuel subsidies, to aligning any industry bailouts with international goals to limit global warming. 

The New Global Deal seeks to make sure power, wealth and opportunities are fairly shared. He said it must be rooted in fair globalization, while sustainable development principles should be integrated into all decision-making. 

The pact also must address historical injustices in global power structures. 

21st century multilateralism 

The Secretary-General believes that after more than seven decades, multilateral institutions need an upgrade to more equitably represent all the world’s people, rather than giving disproportionate power to some, and limiting the voice of others. 

He laid out a blueprint for this “21st century multilateralism”, saying it must be “networked” — that is, linking global institutions, such as development banks, regional organizations and trade alliances, across sector and geographies. 

Additionally, it, too, must be inclusive, and should draw on the capacities of civil society, academia, businesses and others. 

No going back 

Mr. Guterres made the case for more international cooperation in the face of COVID-19, stressing that there is no “going back to what was or withdrawing into national shells.” 

While the crisis has upended the world, it has also created the space for something new, he said.   

For this anniversary year, the General Assembly has asked the Secretary-General to report on a common agenda for the future, which he will do next year.  

“The pandemic has taught us our choices matter”, said Mr. Guterres.  “As we look to the future, let us make sure we choose wisely.”  

UN response to COVID-19 

Earlier in his speech, the Secretary-General spoke of the UN’s comprehensive response throughout the pandemic.   

The UN system, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), has assisted governments, particularly in the developing world, including through providing personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to more than 130 countries.  

The Organization also launched the ‘Verified’ campaign to fight the “toxic virus” of misinformation surrounding COVID-19. It is also supporting efforts to develop a fair and equitable vaccine against the actual coronavirus, as well as treatments and therapies. 

‘Vaccinationalism’  

However, Mr. Guterres warned against what he called “vaccinationalism”, as countries are reportedly making “side deals” for their own populations.  He underlined that “None of us is safe, until all of us are safe.” 

The UN has also pushed for a “massive” rescue package, equivalent to roughly 10 per cent of global economic output, to get economies back up and running.  Developed countries can afford it, he said. 

“But we need to ensure that the developing world does not fall into financial ruin, escalating poverty and debt crises,” he stated. “We need a collective commitment to avoid a downward spiral.” 

To this end, the Secretary-General will convene world leaders for a meeting next Tuesday to find solutions to finance development in the COVID-19 era and beyond. 

Disaster

Coronaviurs: Total recoveries of COVID-19 cross 70 lakh in country

Currently, India’s Case Fatality Rate is 1.51 per cent, which is one of the lowest globally.

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Coronavirus India

The Health Ministry today said more than 70 lakh people have recovered from COVID-19 infection in the country. In the last 24 hours, more than 67 thousand have recovered.

The Ministry said, ten States and Union Territories are contributing 81 per cent of the high number of daily Recoveries. The country’s COVID-19 recovery rate has now reached 89.78 per cent. The actual caseload currently comprises only 8.71 per cent of the total positive cases.

Presently, the total number of active cases in the country is over six lakh 80 thousand. In the last 24 hours, 53 thousand 370 new cases have been reported taking the total number of positive cases in the country to over 78 lakh. In the same period, 650 deaths were reported taking the toll to one lakh 17 thousand 956.

Currently, India’s Case Fatality Rate is 1.51 per cent, which is one of the lowest globally.

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Telangana employees donate one day’s salary for flood relief

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Tungabhadra river floods

Hyderabad: Telangana government employees have decided to donate their one day’s salary to support the relief measures launched by the state government for the victims of recent heavy rains and floods.

Leaders of employees’ unions on Friday submitted a consent letter to Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao in this regard on Friday. The employees, through their one day salary, will be donating Rs 33 crore.

Telangana’s gazetted officers, non-gazetted officers, class IV employees and drivers will be donating one day salary.

The Asian Institute of Gastroenterology has also donated Rs 50 lakh for flood relief measures. Hospital MD, Dr Nageshwar Reddy said that the financial assistance is extended to support measures taken by the government for the relief and rehabilitation of the people in affected areas.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister directed the officials concerned to complete the relief and rehabilitation measures in flood-hit areas of Hyderabad on a war footing. He reviewed the relief and rehabilitation measures taking place in the city.

KCR, as Rao is popularly known, said that due to the heavy rains and floods, water entered into the houses and damaged everything including the essential commodities.

“People were not in a position to even cook their meal. Hence we have decided to extend Rs 10,000 each family as an immediate financial assistance to them. This programme should be done actively. If the poor get this assistance before the festival it will be good for them. Ensure that every day one lakh people get this assistance,” he told the officials

Southern Power Distribution Company Ltd (SPDCL) CMD Raghuma Reddy informed the Chief Minister that due to heavy rains and floods, 33/11 KV Sub Stations were damaged at 15 places but all of them have been repaired and restored.

“At 1,080 places, 11 KV feeders were damaged and we have also restored them. 1,215 transformers were damaged in Greater Hyderabad. We have repaired and restored 1,207. The remaining eight transformers could not be repaired as they were submerged in water,” he said.

The officials said due to floods in Musi River, 1,145 transformers of the farm sector in the rural areas were damaged and 386 of them were repaired. Of this, 586 transformers were submerged in Musi water in Nalgonda, Bhongir, and Suryapet.

The heavy rains and floods also damaged 1,299 electric poles in Greater Hyderabad and all of them were repaired. Due to Musi floods, 5,335 poles were damaged in the rural areas and of this, 3,249 poles were repaired.

Since it is dangerous to restore power supply to the areas submerged in water, the Chief Minister instructed the officials to restore power to the places after draining out the water.

Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar, Principal Secretary (MAUD) Arvind Kumar, GHMC Commissioner Lokesh Kumar, MAUD Commissioner Satyanarayana Reddy, Water Works ED Satyanarayana and other officials participated in the meeting.

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Disaster

Covid cases shatter record in US, Trump and Fauci haven’t met for ‘months’

In recent days, Trump has called Fauci and his ilk “idiots” and claimed that Americans are tired of “Covid, Covid, Covid” all the time.

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Fauci over Trump

New York, Oct 24 : US president Donald Trump and his top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci have not met in “several months” and White House virus task force meetings have been reduced to once a week, according to new revelations into the inner workings of a disastrous coronavirus response in the world’s wealthiest country.

The US recorded 71,671 new cases Thursday, with several states setting records across the Midwest and West. This is the single highest daily tally since the pandemic began. Texas leads with maximum new cases. The seven-day rolling average for new daily Covid-19 cases in the US was 44,647 two weeks ago.

The virus has killed more than 223,000 people in the US and sickened more than 8 million.

Less than 24 hours after the final presidential debate on October 22, US President Donald Trump was back at the White House holding a mini superspreader event while the country’s top infectious diseases expert is urging the government to see the logic of a “golden mean” that factors common sense public health guidelines to reopen the economy. Trump had 30 people huddled around him in the Oval Office on Friday and only one woman in that group was wearing a mask.

“Every time I talk about these things, people get concerned about shutting down. We’re not talking about shutting down, but we’re talking about doubling down on some of the fundamental public health measures that we need to adhere to – the universal wearing of masks,” Fauci said during a television interview on Friday.

During the same interview, Fauci revealed that Trump hasn’t attended a coronavirus task force meeting for months.

Days ahead of the US 2020 election, the coronavirus pandemic continues to haunt incumbent Donald Trump both in debates and his poll numbers. He trails Biden in both national and battleground polling.

In recent days, Trump has called Fauci and his ilk “idiots” and claimed that Americans are tired of “Covid, Covid, Covid” all the time.

Trump has mocked Biden for wearing masks and for adhering to public health guidance. “We can’t live like that,” Trump has said often, and continues to hold superspreader rallies and aggressively push the idea of herd immunity.

Fauci has pinned America’s failure to contain the virus on the lack of a uniform guidance from the top, without mentioning Trump. “I’ve always felt that uniformity of response and consistency of response is always a good thing. People know where they stand, know what they need to do and it was certain fundamental things that have not been adhered to consistently,” he said on Friday.

In the US, at least 5 vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 trials. The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is among several leading candidates in final testing. Two studies which started trials on July 27 are fully enrolled and ready to start collecting data.

Fauci said we’ll likely know about vaccine efficacy and safety latest by early December and that vaccine doses will be made and ready to go by the end of the year for frontline workers and the most vulnerable. The vaccine will be available widely only by the summer of 2021, according to US public health officials.

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