Coronavirus: ‘Worst yet to come’ for countries in conflict, says UN chief

Guterres said that the scale of the crisis was due to “a disease that represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past.” (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)
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Updated 03 April 2020

Coronavirus: ‘Worst yet to come’ for countries in conflict, says UN chief

  • Guterres said there had been some progress following his March 23 call for peace, but that fighting still rages in a number of countries
  • Guterres appealed for developed countries and multilateral institutions to do more to aide poorer countries face the pandemic

UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday renewed his call for a global ceasefire, urging all parties to conflict to lay down arms and allow war-torn nations to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
"The worst is yet to come," Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting like Syria, Libya and Yemen.
"The COVID-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict."
Guterres said there had been some progress following his March 23 call for peace, but that fighting still rages in a number of countries, hampering the ability to put into place plans to combat the virus.
"The need is urgent," Guterres said at a UN press conference.
"The virus has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and upend lives."
He said that parties to conflict in a number of countries, including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, have expressed support for his call.
"But there is a huge distance between declarations and deeds -- between translating words into peace on the ground and in the lives of people," Guterres said.
"In many of the most critical situations, we have seen no let-up in fighting -- and some conflicts have even intensified."
While expressing gratitude for support of his earlier call from some 70 countries, NGO groups and religious leaders worldwide including Pope Francis, Guterres said more concrete work was necessary.
"We need robust diplomatic efforts to meet these challenges. To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace," he said.
Guterres did not mention the UN Security Council, where divisions between the United States and China have blocked action.
Since the beginning of the global pandemic, the Security Council has not met once on COVID-19, making no statement or joint resolution.
On Thursday the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for international cooperation and "multilateralism" in addressing the virus, which has infected more than one million worldwide and killed more than 50,000.
Guterres appealed for developed countries and multilateral institutions to do more to aide poorer countries face the pandemic.
"To act early rather than later is essential... This is particularly true with the developing world," he said.
Guterres noted that the ceasefire in Idlib, Syria is holding but said it needs to be expanded to the entire country to allow full efforts to slow the coronavirus spread.
But he noted that expressions of support for a ceasefire by different factions fighting in Libya had not ended the violence.
"This war is now not allowing the response to COVID-19 to take place," he said.
"This is the moment to stop. It's not morally acceptable to continue with this conflict."


Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

Updated 25 min 50 sec ago

Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

  • The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get
  • Could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease

LONDON: Scientists have found 27 key proteins in the blood of people infected with COVID-19 which they say could act as predictive biomarkers for how ill a patient could become with the disease.
In research published in the journal Cell Systems on Tuesday, scientists at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute and Germany’s Charite Universitaetsmedizin Berlin found the proteins are present in different levels in COVID-19 patients, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get when infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, they said, and could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 374,000 people worldwide and infected more than 6.7 million.
Doctors and scientists say those infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, respond differently — with some developing no symptoms at all, while others need to be hospitalized and others suffer fatal infection.
“A test to help doctors predict whether a COVID-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable,” said Christoph Messner, an expert in molecular biology at the Crick Institute who co-led the research.
He said such tests would help doctors decide how best manage the disease for each patient, as well as identify those most at risk of needing hospital treatment or intensive care.
Messner’s team used a method called mass spectrometry to rapidly test for the presence and quantity of various proteins in blood plasma from 31 COVID-19 patients at Berlin’s Charite hospital. They then validated their results in 17 other patients with COVID-19 at the same hospital, and in 15 healthy people who acted as controls.
Three of the key proteins identified were linked with interleukin IL-6, a protein known to cause inflammation and also a known marker for severe COVID-19 symptoms.