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'Our Message to All Countries Is Clear: Heed This Warning Now': WHO Calls for Unified Global Effort as Coronavirus Spread Surges

The United Nations agency's warning to world leaders comes as Trump continues to push for loosened restrictions to contain the novel coronavirus.

Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on March 12, 2020.

Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on March 12, 2020. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

While U.S. President Donald Trump openly rejects expert opinion on how to stop the coronavirus, the World Health Organization on Wednesday implored global governments to back a coordinated effort to save lives at risk from the pandemic and show "solidarity in the face of this threat to all of humanity."

"Our message to all countries is clear," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, "heed this warning now, back this plan politically and financially today, and we can save lives and slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The WHO chief's appeal came at a press conference Wednesday kicking off the United Nation's Global Humanitarian Response Plan, an interagency blueprint (pdf) to address the coronavirus that calls for $2 billion in funding and centers the needs of those most vulnerable.

The virus has now spread across the globe—infecting as of Wednesday an estimated 450,000 people, killing 20,000 people, and forcing one-third of the world's inhabitants to be under lockdown—but the health, societal, and economic impacts of COVID-19 are felt unequally and threaten to exacerbate already existing inequalities and injustices.

As Ghebreyesus and Mark Lowcock, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday at the Washington Post:

The coronavirus is now reaching places where people live in war zones, cannot easily get their hands on soap and clean water, and have no hope of a hospital bed if they fall critically ill.

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If countries with strong healthcare systems are buckling under the pressure of coronavirus outbreaks, imagine what will happen in countries beset by deep humanitarian crises caused by war, natural disasters, and climate change.

Such factors underscored the need for the humanitarian plan, which lays out six key action points. The WHO summed them on Twitter:

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, writing in the foreword to the response plan, emphasized the critical need for global cooperation.

"This is a moment for the world to come together to save lives and fight a common threat," he wrote. "The only war we should be waging is the war against COVID-19."

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