UNITED Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a letter to G-20 countries called for rolling back international sanctions on countries amid the outbreak of coronavirus global pandemic.

He said that sanctions jeopardize health risks for millions of people and weaken the global effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, Foreign Policy reported.

The appeal reflects mounting concerns that sanctions may be impeding efforts in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe to battle the coronavirus, and enhancing the prospects of the pathogen’s spread to other countries.

It comes as China and Russia, which is subject to US and European sanctions for its invasion of Crimea, have also stepped up calls for an easing of sanctions.

“I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in a letter to the G-20 economic powers.

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world.”

The statement noted that more than 1,800 Iranians, including 50 medics, have died since the first cases appeared there five weeks ago, and that human rights reports have indicated that sanctions have impeded the access to “essential medicines and medical equipment—including respirators and protective equipment for health-care workers.”

“The epidemic in Iran is also spreading to neighbouring countries which will strain health services in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the statement reads.

However, US President Donald Trump in a reaction to international requests has opposed lifting sanctions imposed against Iran.

-Zimvoice

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