United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic is the “fight of a generation”, AFP reported. “A signal of unity and resolve from the council would count for a lot at this anxious time,” Guterres told the Security Council, which held its first meeting, via videoconferencing, since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Calling for the Security Council to work together, Guterres added: “This is the fight of a generation – and the raison d’être [most important purpose] of the United Nations itself.”

Guterres added that the Covid-19 pandemic has provided a window to how a bio-terrorism attack might affect the world, PTI reported. He added that in the present scenario, terrorist organisations may make hay while the attention of governments is focused on combating the virus. “Non-state groups could gain access to virulent strains that could pose similar devastation to societies around the globe,” Guterres said.

The United Nations chief said that the pandemic will have far-reaching implications for international peace and security, which it might threaten. “This could lead to an escalation of violence and possibly devastating miscalculations, which could further entrench ongoing wars and complicate efforts to fight the pandemic,” he warned. Last month, Guterres had called for an immediate ceasefire in armed conflicts still impacting the globe, such as the war in Yemen and the crisis in Syria.

On Thursday, the United Nations secretary general also expressed concern that hate speech, stigmatisation and discrimination in providing access to health services were on the rise. He said white supremacists and other extremists were seeking to exploit the situation.

“Every country is now grappling with or poised to suffer devastating consequences of the pandemic, tens of thousands of lost lives, broken families, overwhelmed hospitals and overworked essential workers,” Guterres said according to ANI. Guterres added that this is most serious crisis facing the United Nations since its founding in 1945.

The United Nations chief also said that the pandemic could “reverse the limited but important progress” that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights.

The virtual meeting was hosted by Germany and took place after nine of the council’s 10 non-permanent members called for it. Following Guterres’ speech and the meeting, the members of the Security Council issued a statement supporting all efforts the secretary general makes to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on conflict-affected countries, and recalled the need for unity and solidarity with those affected.

Over 16 lakh people around the world have so far tested positive for Covid-19, of which more than 95,000 have died and over 3,55,000 have recovered, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University.

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