UN Chief on Syria, Coronavirus & other Topics – Media Stakeout (28 February 2020)

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, briefs the press on the situation in Syria and Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Following the recent escalation of the conflict in northwest Syria, Secretary-General António Guterres today (28 Feb) said this was “one of the most alarming moments” in a decade of fighting.

Speaking to journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, Guterres said, “without urgent action, the risk of even greater escalation grows by the hour. And as always, civilians are paying the gravest price.”

He said, “nearly one million people have fled their homes in the past three months. Airstrikes continue to hit schools and medical facilities. Even camps and other sites where displaced families have sought shelter have been struck by shelling. And as the noose keeps tightening, and as the frontlines are moving, they reach more densely populated areas.”

The most pressing need, he said, “is an immediate ceasefire before the situation gets entirely out of control.”

Since 1 December, it is estimated that that nearly a million people have been displaced in the embattled region, while 11 healthcare facilities have been attacked, causing 10 deaths and 37 injuries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO.)

Turning to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Secretary-General noted that “today the World Health Organization raised its risk assessment of COVID-19 to very high at the global level.”

Guterres said, “this not a time for panic – it is time to be prepared – fully prepared,” and added that “now is the time for all governments to step up and do everything possible to contain the disease – and to do so without stigmatization and respecting human rights.”

He said, “we know containment is possible, but the window of opportunity is narrowing.”

According to the WHO, in the past 24 hours, China had recorded its lowest number of cases in more than a month (329), with 78,959 cases in total. More than 36,000 people have also recovered from COVID-19 in China alone.

The rest of the world, however, has continued to show an uptick in infections, with 4,351 cases confirmed in 49 countries and 67 deaths as of 6am in Geneva.