By Margaret Besheer | Voice of America

NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called Monday for a global ceasefire as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Guterres told journalists via a video press conference.

As of Monday, there were more than 350,000 confirmed cases worldwide of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 15,000 people have died.

Guterres urged warring parties to silence their guns, end airstrikes, create humanitarian corridors, and open windows for diplomacy.

“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” Guterres said. “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.”

As the pandemic has spread across the world in recent weeks, the war in Syria entered its 10th year and the Yemen crisis started its sixth. Conflicts in Africa continue, including in Libya. In South Sudan, the United Nations has expressed concern recently about the escalation of inter-communal violence in parts of the country. Meanwhile, tens of millions of people are internally displaced and refugees from violence across the globe.

The UN remains open in the face of the pandemic. Guterres has sent all but the most essential staff from the organization’s New York headquarters home to work.

The secretary-general has been meeting virtually with senior staff from around the UN system, in order to keep humanitarian, peacekeeping, and COVID-19 response operations going while protecting staff and the people they are assisting.

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UN Chief Calls for Global Ceasefire Amid Coronavirus Pandemic