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World risks food crisis in wake of coronavirus

  • Published at 09:52 pm April 1st, 2020
Coronavirus: Food crisis worldwide
People walk past a message on a billboard in West London, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) continues, London, Britain on April 1, 2020 Reuters

FAO, WHO and WTO warn of the risk of a worldwide food shortage if authorities fail to manage the crisis properly

The world risks facing a food shortage if authorities fail to manage the continuing coronavirus outbreak properly, the heads of three global agencies have warned.

As governments around the world are trying to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus by putting their populations in lockdown, international trade and food supply chains suffered a severe slowdown.

Panic-buying by people going into confinement has already demonstrated the fragility of supply chains as supermarket shelves emptied in many countries.

"Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market," said the joint text signed yesterday by Qu Dongyu, head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Roberto Azevedo, director of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"In the midst of the Covid-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, specially to avoid food shortages" from developing, they said in the statement.

They also stressed the need to protect employees engaged in food production, processing and distribution, both for their own health and that of others, as well as to maintain food supply chains.

More than 43,000 dead 

More than 865,970 cases of infection have been recorded in 186 countries and territories since the epidemic started in China in December, according to an AFP tally compiled towards 1200 GMT yesterday based on official sources.

At least 43,082 deaths have been recorded.

Italy has 12,428 deaths, Spain 9,053, the United States 4,081, and France 3,523. These four countries all have death tolls above that of mainland China, which has recorded 3,312 deaths. Iran has 3,036 deaths.

Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead

US President Donald Trump warns of a "very, very painful two weeks" as the United States registers its deadliest 24 hours.

The country should be ready for between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the coming months, members of Trump's coronavirus taskforce say.

Without social distancing measures, the president says projections run as high as 2.2 million deaths.

Putin works remotely

Russian leader Vladimir Putin decides to handle his duties remotely, the Kremlin says, after the head of the country's main coronavirus hospital tests positive following a meeting with the president.

Hajj preparations on hold

Saudi Arabia's Hajj minister asks Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage, which is scheduled for July and last year attracted 2.5 million people.

Sick stranded at sea

US authorities finalize a plan to allow a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship to dock in Florida. Its operator, Holland America Line, warns more passengers may die if it is left out at sea. Four people have died so far.

Teenager dies in Britain

A 13-year-old British boy died on Monday, days after testing positive for Covid-19, the hospital where he died announces Tuesday. Relatives say he had no underlying illnesses.

Tunisia extends confinement

Tunisia's government announces an extension of its lockdown, originally scheduled to end April 4, for a further 15 days.

In the Netherlands, which has not imposed a general lockdown, authorities extend to April 28 the closure of schools, restaurants and bars.

First death in Senegal

Senegal reports its first virus death, Pape Diouf, a 68-year-old former president of the French football club, Olympique Marseille.

Burundi reports its first two cases.