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15 May, 2020 02:12

‘Interests of elites v human rights’? UN warns against hasty lockdown lifting as global death toll tops 300,000

‘Interests of elites v human rights’? UN warns against hasty lockdown lifting as global death toll tops 300,000

The global death toll in the Covid-19 pandemic has crossed 300,000, hitting another dark milestone as the United Nations voiced concerns that lockdown measures are being lifted too quickly, warning of a “second wave” of the virus.

Surpassing a total of 300,000 fatalities and nearing 4.5 million cases globally on Thursday, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University, the worldwide viral outbreak continues to expand across some 188 nations, infecting tens of thousands every day. The latest figures came on the heels of a new warning from the UN’s Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who said countries that repeal containment policies too fast risk a resurgence of the virus.

“If an affected country comes out of lockdown too hastily, there is a danger that a second wave, costing many more lives, will be triggered sooner and more destructively than would otherwise be the case,” Bachelet said.

If the re-opening of societies is mishandled, all the huge sacrifices made during the initial lockdown will have been for nothing.

Calling for the protection of “less privileged or marginalized communities,” the commissioner also said the virus will “rebound on everyone” if national responses are driven by “the interests of a particular elite,” adding that “politics or economics” should not be put ahead of human rights.

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Leading the world in both deaths and infections, the US offers an emblematic case of the tension Bachelet described, as lockdown measures imposed across dozens of states exact a major economic toll, prompting thousands of angry residents and business owners to take to the streets in protest.

The lockdowns have put over 36 million Americans out of work – compared to 15 million during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The stock market, too, has suffered amid the pandemic, seeing a precipitous fall from which it might take years to recover. But even as dozens of states move ahead with plans to reopen, some health experts have warned they are doing so prematurely, while politicians capitalize on blaming President Donald Trump for pushing states too hard.

A number of other major Covid-19 hotspots are also cautiously lifting their own quarantine measures – including France, Italy and Spain, some of Europe’s hardest-hit countries. India’s lockdown, covering the majority of its population of 1.3 billion, is also set to expire on May 17, barring another extension. While each nation faces the same virus, conditions vary dramatically from country to country, suggesting there is no one-size-fits-all answer to reopening.

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