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UN Security Council to discuss COVID-19 pandemic in closed session today

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United Nations, Apr 08: The United Nations Security Council will hold a closed session on Thursday to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, the first time the powerful UN organ is holding a meeting on coronavirus that has killed more than 74,000 people and infected over 1.3 million globally.

UN Security Council to discuss COVID-19 pandemic in closed session today

Council President for the month of April, the Dominican Republic, said it has formally scheduled a closed video-teleconferencing (VTC) "regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the issues that fall under the UNSC mandate".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will participate in the session on Thursday afternoon as a briefer. It remains to be seen whether any press statement on the COVID-19 situation is issued after the meeting.

Last week, Special Envoy from Dominican Republic to UN Ambassador Jose Singer and President of Security Council for April said that a Council meeting on the coronavirus situation had been requested by five or six ambassadors and the Dominican Republic was working to schedule the discussion.

The Dominican Republic assumed the rotating presidency of the 15-nation Council for the month of April, taking the baton from permanent and veto-welding member China.

When asked by PTI if any resolution on COVID-19 is excepted when the Council meets to discuss the issue, Singer had said last week "we have not discussed the issue of a resolution... We are first expecting to hold that meeting, and then we'll see how events play out".

In the four months since the outbreak originated in China, efforts to discuss the coronavirus situation in the Security Council have stalled mainly due to the bitter stalemate between Washington and Beijing.

The Council's two veto-wielding permanent members are divided over the origin of the pandemic.

An NBC News report had said that talks among Security Council nations over a joint declaration or resolution on coronavirus remain in stalemate over Washington's insistence that such a resolution should explicitly state that the virus originated in Wuhan, China, as well as exactly when it started there.

Beijing's diplomats "are enraged" at this and even want to put their own language into the statement praising China's efforts to contain the virus.

Last week, the 193-member UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations including India, on COVID-19, calling for intensified international cooperation to defeat the pandemic and stressing that racism and xenophobia have no place in the response to the pandemic.

The resolution titled 'Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)' was the first such document on the global pandemic to be adopted by the world organisation.

Even as confirmed coronavirus cases across the the world grew exponentially, the Council under the presidency of China last month did not hold any discussions on the pandemic.

China's Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun, as he took over the presidency of the Council in March, was asked whether China plans to discuss the coronavirus emergency. He had said there is no need to panic over the coronavirus epidemic and Beijing does not plan to discuss the situation in the Council during its presidency, even adding that the world is not far from the defeat of COVID-19 "with the coming of spring".

He added that the issue of coronavirus falls within the concept of global public health while the Security Council's primary responsibility is dealing with the geo-political security and peace matters.

"So, the public health security issue is not in the scope of the mandate of the Security Council in a narrow concept. But what we do think is important is that the Security Council will also watch the situation very closely. At this moment, we do not have any plan to have a specific discussion on this issue," Zhang had said.

According to estimates by the Johns Hopkins University, there are over 1.34 million confirmed coronavirus cases across the world and over 74,000 people have died of it. The US has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world at 364,723, followed by Spain (136,675), Italy (132,547), Germany (102,453). More than 10,000 people have died in the US because of COVID-19.

(with PTI inputs)

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