Odishatv Bureau

Geneva: Praising India for eradicating two silent killers - Smallpox & Polio, World Health Organization (WHO) has backed India to take aggressive action against the global pandemic coronavirus or COVID-19 that has claimed over 16,000 lives across the globe so far.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Michael J. Ryan, WHO Executive Director said the future of this pandemic will largely depend on what densely populated countries like India and China do to tackle this unprecedented health crisis.

"India is a hugely populous country. The future of this pandemic to a great extent will be determined to what happens to densely populated countries. It's really important that India continues to take aggressive action at the public health level, and at the level of society to control, suppress this disease and save lives," Ryan said.

"India led the world in eradicating two silent killers -- small pox... India, through targeted public health interaction, ended that disease and gave a great gift to the world... India also eliminated polio, another silent killer and did a tremendous job. India has tremendous capacities," he said.

Ryan's remarks assume significance as they have come at a time when India imposed strict lockdown measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Thirty states and union territories announced complete lockdown in their entire areas covering as many as 548 districts, the government said on Monday. The unprecedented decision was taken in the wake of the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

Also Read: COVID-19 Treatment: ICMR Recommends Hydroxychloroquine For Patient Carers, Healthcare Workers

The 30 states imposing complete lockdown include capital Delhi, Maharashtra, Bihar, Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka among others.

Apart from the 30 states or UTs facing complete lockdown, three states or UTs have imposed partial lockdown in certain areas. Total 58 districts will be affected due to this. They are Uttar Pradesh -- India's most populous state, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. Moreover, another union territory -- Lakshwadweep has imposed closure of some activities in its area.

So far, Sikkim and Mizoram are the only two states who haven't imposed any restrictions.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India stands at 415, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Nine people have succumbed to the virus till now.

UN chief Guterres calls for 'global ceasefire' to unite against COVID-19

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made an emotional plea to put all "armed conflicts on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives" against coronavirus.

Calling for a "global ceasefire," he said at a news conference on Monday, "The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world."

He was overcome by emotions as he started to speak and broke off and gathered himself to start again to speak to a world where conflicts rage even as it is engulfed by coronavirus.

In keeping with the UN headquarters directives and New York City regulations against gatherings, Guterres held the news conference via interactive teleconferencing.

Also Read: World Bank Increases COVID-19 Response Fund To USD 14 Billion

He said, "To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, end the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now."

Guterres also appealed for a coordinated international response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We need much stronger coordination, coordination in the suppression of the disease, coordination in making sure that not only the developed countries can respond effectively to the disease but that there is a massive support to the developing world not to let the disease spread like wildfire in the developing world," he said.

A "huge package" was also needed "to respond to the economic and social consequences," he said.

But it should not be like the bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis which focused on financial centres and it should instead "make households be afloat, make businesses be afloat, keep societies afloat." he said.

"A double-digit GDP (gross domestic product) support" is needed for the developing nations and the world has to "make sure that, when we recover, we recover in a more sustainable and a more inclusive economy," he added.

The most serious conflict in the world using aircraft and sophisticated weapons is at the moment in Syria involving the government of Bashar al-Assad and Russia, which backs it; other rebels and Turkey, which supports them, and the Islamic State.

The UN has failed to stop the fighting there mainly because the Security Council faces vetoes from Russia or even China.

Yemen is yet another long-standing battleground where the Houthis backed by Iran are locked in a conflict with those backed by a Saudi-led coalition that is also backed by the West.

Libya is also facing civil war conditions with several factions confronting each other.

Also Read: COVID-19: China To Assist India In Handling Coronavirus Outbreak

There are scattered hostilities of varying intensities in Africa in places like South Sudan, Cameroun and the Central African Republic.

Guterres said that his special envoys were working with parties in the conflicts to "make sure that this global appeal is not only listened to but leads to concrete action, leads to a pause in fighting, creating the conditions for the response to COVID-19 to be much more effective."