GENEVA - World leaders attending the first-ever virtual World Health Assembly have called on nations to unite to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the first cases of the deadly disease were declared in China in December, the WHO has reported more than 4.7 million infections around the world, including more than 315,000 deaths.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened this virtual assemblage of world leaders with a stark warning. He said nations were likely to face a future of fear and insecurity unless the spread of the deadly ailment was stopped everywhere. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.
So far, COVID-19 has largely created social and economic havoc in the world's richer countries. But Guterres said the virus was now moving into the global South, where its impact could be even more devastating. He urged international support for the World Health Organization, saying its role in leading the global fight against the pandemic was irreplaceable. He said the WHO needs more funds to support developing countries, which he considered to be of greatest concern.
"We are as strong as the weakest health systems. Protecting the developing world is not a matter of charity or generosity but a question of enlightened self-interest. The global North cannot defeat COVID-19 unless the global South defeats it at the same time."
The WHO has been under fire from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump for its management of the coronavirus crisis. The United States suspended funding to the agency in April, accusing it of deferring to China.
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