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Coronavirus worst crisis since WWII, UN chief says, as deaths surge

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WASHINGTON: The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen yesterday despite unprecedented lockdowns, as the head of the United Nations sounded the alarm on what he said was humanity's worst crisis since World War II.

Around half of the planet's population is under some form of lockdown as governments struggle to halt the spread of a disease that has now infected more than 840,000 people.

More than 40,000 have died, half of them in Italy and Spain, and the death toll continues to rise.

The extraordinary economic and political upheaval spurred by the virus presents a real danger to the relative peace the world has seen over the last few decades, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday.

The "disease... 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".

He added: "The combination of the two facts and the risk that it contributes to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict are things that make us believe that this is the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War."


In virtual talks on Tuesday, finance ministers and central bankers from the world's 20 major economies pledged to address the debt burden of low-income countries and deliver aid to emerging markets.

Last week, G20 leaders said they were injecting US$5 trillion (S$7.17 trillion) into the global economy.

The economic pain of lockdowns is especially acute in the developing world. In Tunisia, several hundred protested a week-old lockdown that has disproportionately impacted the poor.

"Never mind coronavirus, we're going to die anyway! Let us work!" shouted one protester in a demonstration on the outskirts of the capital Tunis.

Africa's biggest city Lagos was set for its second full day of lockdown yesterday - but with some of the world's biggest slums, home to millions who live hand-to-mouth, containment will be difficult.

"There is no money for the citizens," said engineer Ogun Nubi Victor, 60.

"People are just sitting at home, with nothing to eat." - AFP