The devastating economic toll the coronavirus crisis is taking around the world could spark huge waves of fresh migration once borders reopen, the head of the Red Cross warned in an interview.
Jagan Chapagain, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told AFP he was deeply concerned about the secondary effects of the pandemic.
"Increasingly we are seeing in many countries the impacts on the livelihoods and the food situation," he said in an interview at IFRC's headquarters in Geneva on Thursday.
The pandemic and the lockdowns and border closures imposed to halt the spread of the virus have been destroying livelihoods around the planet and are expected to drive many millions more into poverty.
Many people are already faced with the choice of risking exposure to the novel coronavirus or going hungry, Chapagain said, warning that the desperation being generated could have far-reaching consequences.
"What we hear is that many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move," he said.
"We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years."
More migration forced on people by desperate circumstances, he said, will result in numerous "tragedies along the way", including more deaths at sea, human trafficking and exploitation.
Chapagain also called for urgent support to help "relieve that desperation", stressing that in addition to a moral imperative to help people in need, there is a clear economic argument for helping avoid forced migration.
The pandemic has killed more than 634,000 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, with more than 15.5 million people infected.
The number of cases in the United States surpassed four million on Thursday. The country added one million new cases in just over two weeks, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Having recorded more than 144,000 total fatalities, the US has seen a coronavirus surge, particularly in southern and western states, as Texas, California, Alabama, Idaho and Florida all announced record one-day death tolls.
Nevertheless, the rate of new cases is now showing signs of easing off in some of the worst-hit zones.
Against a backdrop of mass unemployment and sagging approval ratings, President Donald Trump announced he was scrapping next month's Republican nominating convention in Florida, stating that it was not the right time to hold a "big, crowded" event.
INDIA SEES RECORD NEW CASES
The European chapter of the World Health Organization yesterday expressed concern over the resurgence of new cases on the continent, saying countries should impose tighter restrictions if necessary.
The number of infections in Europe crossed three million on Thursday, a fifth of the world's more than 15 million cases. It remains the hardest hit in terms of deaths, with 206,633 out of 627,307 worldwide.
With 335 new cases for 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks, Kyrgyzstan is the worst affected country in the sprawling zone covered by WHO's European chapter.
India overtook France yesterday as the number of deaths linked to coronavirus passed 30,000 and nearly 50,000 new cases were reported overnight, official data showed.
The number of cases in the country neared 1.3 million. Local authorities scrambled to procure generic versions of remdesivir, the drug that has shown promise in clinical trials in treating severely-ill patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
"Demand is huge as cases are rising rapidly in the state," said a senior drug regulatory official in the western state of Maharashtra. "Supplies of the drug are limited, but companies have assured us they will provide more in a week."
In Belgium, a three-year-old girl has become the country's youngest known victim of the coronavirus.
"It's true that it's rare that a young person dies of Covid-19, but it's clear that no-one is immune," Health spokesman Boudewijn Catry warns, after the number of new infections per week in Belgium jumped by 89 percent.
BOLIVIA POSTPONES ELECTION
Bolivia postponed its general elections for a second time because of the pandemic, putting it off until October 18.
The latest postponement comes just two weeks after interim president Jeanine Anet tested positive for the Covid-19. Four cabinet members have also contracted the virus.
South African President Cyril Theraphosa said yesterday public schools will close again for a month from July 27 to limit the spread of coronavirus as the country grapples with surging infections.
A Brazilian study published in the New England Journal of Medicine said that the drug hydroxychloroquine "does not improve" the condition of patients with mild to moderate cases of Covid-19, the latest blow to President Jair Bolsonaro's push for its widespread use.
The study, carried out on 667 patients, also found those on hydroxychloroquine developed clinical markers that increased their risk for heart and liver problems.