The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a “tsunami of hate, xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering” internationally, according to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The pandemic has seen anti-Semitic conspiracy theories spread and Islamophobic attacks linked to the virus take place, the UN chief explained.
“We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate,” he said, as anti-foreigner sentiment has been on the rise as Covid-19 has spread around the globe.
His comments came as China said it was “always open to cooperate” with World Health Organisation (WHO) investigations into the origins of the coronavirus while President Donald Trump repeated claims that the outbreak originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
Trump’s claims, for which the US is yet to provide evidence, have fuelled tension between the two superpowers and placed a crucial trade deal between the two countries in jeopardy.
The global death toll from the outbreak passed 269,500 on Friday and the WHO warned that deaths in Africa could reach 190,000. Mexico recorded its highest daily toll of 1,982.
As speculation swirled about where the virus originated, Guterres said migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus and then denied access to medical treatment.
“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable, “he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”
Guterres called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.
He called on the media, especially social media, to remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content, on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as models of mutual respect.
“And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said.
The secretary-general stressed that Covid-19 “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction”.
His global appeal to address and counter COVID-19-related hate speech follows his April 23 message calling the coronavirus pandemic a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis. (Source: The Guardian)