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WHO: Coronavirus Battle Must Focus on Protecting Lives and Livelihoods

A man wearing a face mask cries in Wuhan, Hubei province, as China holds a national mourning for those who died of COVID-19 on the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival April 4, 2020.

The World Health Organization and International Monetary Fund are joining forces to protect the world against the dual health and economic crises triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than a million people around the world and killed more than 50,000. Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this is more than a health crisis. He siad it is also a social and economic crisis.

He said the restrictive measures nations are taking to try to stem the spread of this disease are taking a heavy toll on the income of individuals and families, as well as the economies of communities and nations.

Tedros said drastic measures must be implemented to protect both lives and livelihoods. He said countries must aggressively tackle the coronavirus by finding, testing, isolating and treating every contact to save lives. But he cautioned countries against taking premature action to revive their economies.

A health care worker in Redondo Beach, California, works at a new coronavirus drive-thru  testing site on April 3, 2020.
A health care worker in Redondo Beach, California, works at a new coronavirus drive-thru  testing site on April 3, 2020.

“If countries rush to lift restrictions too quickly, the virus could resurge, and the economic impact could be even more severe and prolonged,” he said. “Financing the health response is therefore an essential investment, not just in saving lives, but in the longer term social and economic recovery.”

Managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, said her organization is joining with WHO to combat this unprecedented health and economic crisis.

She said the world economy is at a standstill and the world is in recession. She considers the current economic situation to be far worse than the 2008 global financial crisis. She said everyone must come together to confront and overcome this dual disaster.

"WHO is there to protect the health of people,” she said. “The IMF is there to protect the health of the world economy. They are both under siege and only united we can do our duties.”

Georgieva said the economies of emerging markets and developing countries are hardest hit by the pandemic. She noted that nearly $90 billion of capital investment has flown out of these countries, much more than during the global financial crisis. She is calling for a moratorium on developing country debt to help them stave off bankruptcies and economic collapse.

She said the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions have a $1 trillion war chest they will use to protect the economies from this searing crisis.