Coronavirus pandemic: Security Council warned of violent conflict

Millions of jobs have been lost and extremists and authoritarian regimes are taking advantage of instability, said Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
SYRIA-CONFLICT-HEALTH-VIRUS-IDLIB
A member of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the "White Helmets", disinfects a tent in the Kafr Lusin camp for the displaced by the border with Turkey, in Syria's rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, on March 24, 2020, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.Aaref Watad / AFP via Getty Images

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By Linda Givetash

The United Nations Security Council was warned that the coronavirus pandemic could trigger violent unrest, undermining efforts to fight the disease that has killed close to 100,000 worldwide.

Meanwhile, New York, the epicenter of the American crisis, saw a record number of deaths for the third consecutive day Thursday with 799 people killed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to bring in more funeral directors to the state to help with the high number of deaths.

The Security Council, the U.N.'s most powerful body, met virtually for the first time to discuss the pandemic with an appeal from Secretary General Antonio Guterres for international unity amid "the fight of a generation."

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He described the challenge the world faced in stark terms.

"We are all struggling to absorb the unfolding shock," he said. "The jobs that have disappeared and businesses that have suffered; the fundamental and drastic shift to our daily lives, and the fear that the worst is still yet to come, especially in the developing world and countries already battered by armed conflict.

The council issued a statement of “support for all efforts of the secretary-general concerning the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to conflict-affected countries and recalled the need for unity and solidarity with all those affected.”

The number of people infected with COVIC-19 worldwide has surpassed 1.6 million, claiming 95,745 lives as of 4:30 am ET, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the U.S., the death toll reached 16,657 as of 3:30 am ET Friday, second only to Italy, according to NBC News' tracking. At least 467,277 cases have been reported.

Gov. Cuomo, meanwhile, offered a glimmer of hope as hospitalization rates appear to be stabilizing

"Our efforts to reduce the spread of the virus through social distancing are working better than we expected," he said.

New York City Department of Correction said the number of burials at the Hart Island cemetery has increased to an average of 24 per day from 25 per week as a result of the pandemic.

Across the country, the pandemic has cost another 6.6 million American their jobs, leading to a flood of unemployment claims.

European nations attempting to mitigate the economic downturn agreed on a relief package that could provide $550 billion for companies, workers and health systems in the eurozone.

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Mario Centeno, who heads the finance ministers’ group from euro countries, on Thursday called the package "totally unprecedented," adding that it shows the union of nations can support each other.

The funds will quickly be made available to Italy and Spain that have been the hardest hit by the virus.

Faithful attend a Holy Thursday Mass held by Father Fabio Vassallo in a nearly empty church in Catania, Italy.ANTONIO PARRINELLO / Reuters

Italy's death toll has reached 18,279, including 105 doctors. Its nationwide lockdown in place since March 9 is likely to be extended to May 3 as the country continues to grapple with the virus.

At the Vatican, the lockdown has meant all services related to Holy Week, including Good Friday and Easter, will take place in an empty basilica. On Palm Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged Catholic followers in a broadcasted sermon to turn to god in the tragedy of the pandemic and support those who are suffering.

Spain, which has seen at least 15,447 lives lost, is also extending its lockdown until April 26 as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez the country was "getting the fire under control."

Matthew Johnson and Kurt Chirbas contributed.