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Paralyzing trade over COVID-19 could endanger global food security — UN experts

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Paralyzing trade over COVID-19 could endanger global food security — UN experts
Shoppers queue at a grocery store in Araneta Ave. in Quezon City last March 27, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — International experts in health, trade and food security advised countries affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic to ensure that their respective containment efforts do not hamper trade activity and shortsightedly cause food shortages that could worsen the crisis.

“Millions of people around the world depend on international trade for their food security and livelihoods,” the World Health Organization, World Trade Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said in a joint statement posted Tuesday locally.

“As countries move to enact measures aiming to halt the accelerating COVID-19 pandemic, care must be taken to minimize potential impacts on the food supply or unintended consequences on global trade and food security... countries should ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain.”

Potentially harmful measures which are said to “result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste” include restricting the movement of agricultural and food industry workers, as well as extending border delays for food containers.

RELATED: Frontliners too: 'Healthy' farmers, fishers exempted from quarantine restrictions

“Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market. Such reactions can alter the balance between food supply and demand, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility,” read the joint statement.

RELATED: All cargoes now allowed to pass through checkpoints to ensure adequate food supply amid lockdown

“We learned from previous crises that such measures are particularly damaging for low-income, food-deficit countries and to the efforts of humanitarian organizations to procure food for those in desperate need.”

The WHO, WTO and FAO recommended the guaranteeing of free trade, protection of food producers and workers at processing and retail levels, and making sure that food is accessible for consumers within their communities under strict safety requirements.

They also suggested providing real-time information on food-related trade measures, levels of food production, consumption and stocks, and food prices.

“This reduces uncertainty and allows producers, consumers and traders to make informed decisions. Above all, it helps contain ‘panic buying’ and the hoarding of food and other essential items,” the statement read.

“Now is the time to show solidarity, act responsibly and adhere to our common goal...We must ensure that our response to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.”

As of Tuesday, the Philippines recorded 2,084 cases of the deadly virus with 88 fatalities and 49 recoveries.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the coronavirus pandemic as the worst global crisis since World War II.

Guterres said the crisis was due to "a disease that represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past."

A total of 40,057 deaths have been recorded across the world, including 29,305 in Europe, with Italy registering 12,428, followed by Spain with 8,189 and China with 3,305.

Since the virus emerged in China in December, 803,645 global infections have been confirmed, more than half of them in Europe, which has 440,928. — with Agence France-Presse

 

FAO

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS

WHO

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION

WTO

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 25, 2022 - 4:46pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

June 25, 2022 - 4:46pm

China reports zero new COVID-19 infections in Shanghai for the first time since March on Saturday, as the country's latest outbreak subsides after months of virus-spurred lockdowns and restrictions.

China is the last major economy still committed to a zero-Covid strategy, stamping out new cases with a combination of targeted lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.

The economic hub of Shanghai was forced into a months-long lockdown during a Covid surge this spring driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, while the capital Beijing shuttered schools and offices for weeks over a separate outbreak. — AFP

June 13, 2022 - 4:20pm

Beijing starts a new round of mass testing in its most populous downtown district after a rapidly spreading outbreak linked to a bar saw Covid rules tightened again in the capital.

A night of partying by one Beijing resident last week threw the city's tentative reopening into chaos, leading authorities to shutter nightlife venues in the downtown district of Chaoyang days after they reopened last Monday. 

The resident, who did not get tested for 14 days, went to several bars and nightlife venues in Chaoyang in the days before and after developing a fever.

The outbreak stemming from the Heaven Supermarket bar has infected at least 183 people in 15 districts so far. — Agence France Presse

June 9, 2022 - 1:04pm

City authorities say that Shanghai will lock down a district of 2.7 million people on Saturday to conduct mass coronavirus testing as the Chinese metropolis struggles to fully emerge from punishing curbs.

The city eased many restrictions last week, after confining most of its 25 million residents to their homes since March as China battled its worst COVID-19 outbreak in two years.

But the lockdown was never fully lifted, with hundreds of thousands in China's biggest city still restricted to their homes and multiple residential compounds put under fresh stay-home orders.— AFP

June 5, 2022 - 5:09pm

City officials say Beijing will gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions this week.

After some easing in recent days, the Chinese capital -- which reported 19 new infections Sunday -- announced residents would start returning to work from Monday and schools would reopen from June 13.

China is wedded to a zero-COVID strategy of hard lockdowns, mass testing and long quarantine periods to wipe out clusters as they emerge. — AFP

June 2, 2022 - 7:32am

The World Health Organization laments Wednesday that it had no access to data about North Korea's COVID-19 outbreak, but assumed the crisis was deepening, contrary to Pyongyang's reports of "progress".

North Korea, which announced its first ever coronavirus cases on May 12, said last week its COVID-19 outbreak had been brought under control, with state media reporting falling caseloads.

But WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan questions that claim. — AFP

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