UN Says Covid-19 Pandemic Has Unleashed ‘Tsunami of Hate and Xenophobia’

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UN chief Antonio Guterres

The UN chief António Guterres stressed that Covid-19 “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction.” He appealed “for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally”

UNITED NATIONS ( Agencies) — United Nations chief António Guterres has said the Coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a “tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering”, and appealed for an all-out effort “to end hate speech globally.”

The UN chief said “anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and Covid-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred”.

Guterres said migrants and refugees “have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment”.

“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”

Guterres appealed “for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally”.

The secretary-general called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on “digital literacy” at a time when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences”.

He called on the media, especially social media, to “remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content”, on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as “models of mutual respect”.

“And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said.

The secretary-general stressed that Covid-19 “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction”.

His comments came as China said it was “always open to cooperate” with World Health Organisation (WHO) investigations into the origins of the Coronavirus, as Donald Trump repeated claims that the outbreak originated in a Wuhan laboratory.

Trump’s claims, for which the US is yet to provide evidence, have fuelled tension between the two superpowers and placed a crucial trade deal between the two countries in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) top emergency health expert said on Friday that world countries must return to “basic principles” of public health surveillance if they are to bring the Coronavirus outbreak under control.

“We seem…to be avoiding the uncomfortable reality that we need to get back to public health surveillance,” Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said during a media briefing.

“We need to go back to where we should have been months ago – finding cases, tracking cases, testing cases, isolating people who are tested positive, doing quarantine for contacts.

The global death toll from the Coronavirus outbreak passed 269,500 on Friday and the WHO warned that deaths in Africa could reach 190,000.

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