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Pandemic turning into human rights crisis: UN chief

ANKARA: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Thursday said the coronavirus pandemic is evolving from a humanitarian crisis to a human rights crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency — but it is far more. It is an economic crisis. A social crisis. And a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis,” the UN chief said in a video message.

Sharing details of his new report — We are all in this Together: Human Rights and COVID-19 Response and Recovery — Guterres said: “The message is clear: People — and their rights — must be front and centre.”

The UN chief stressed that rise of hate speech spurred by ethno-nationalism, authoritarianism and populism, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and heavy-handed security responses are undermining the health response to the pandemic. He added that certain communities were affected disproportionately.

“…and a pushback against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic. This is unacceptable,” he warned.

Guterres urged world governments to be more “transparent, responsive and accountable” in tackling the pandemic and drew attention to the importance of civic space and press freedom.

“The virus threatens everyone. Human rights uplift everyone,” he added.

The novel coronavirus has spread to 185 countries since emerging in Wuhan, China last December, with the U.S. and Europe now the hardest-hit areas.

There are over 2.63 million virus cases worldwide with over 183,500 deaths. More than 715,000 people have recovered, according to data compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University. (Agency)

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