By Associated Press
Ghana’s Akufo-Addo said people everywhere have learned not to shake hands or hug loved ones, not to sing in groups because it’s become “a dangerous activity” and to worry about the safety of sending children to school.
And “for many people, the most difficult thing to deal with in these uncertain and unsettling times has been the silence forced on churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship,” he said.
COVID-19’s economic impact has been felt around the world, even in the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau that has remained coronavirus-free. President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said the pandemic is affecting the archipelago’s economy and has put the country of about 18,000 “into a level of isolation we have not known for many, many years.”
Palau is struggling with disrupted supply chains for food and medicine, getting life-saving treatments for patients who used to travel to larger countries as well as keeping families united, college students in school and people working.
“Private sector unemployment is approaching 50%, and it will take years to recover what we have lost in months,” Remengesau said.
The Palau leader, who said he will soon return to life as a fisherman, recalled attending the General Assembly’s high-level meeting in 2001, two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He called then for the unity and cooperation it inspired to be nurtured.
“We do not see human evil in this pandemic in the way we did in the perpetrators of 9/11,” he said. “But the challenge of our response is not so different ... to unite in the face of a shared crisis in a way that might have seemed unlikely a year or two ago.”
The pandemic also “has shone a crude light on inequality in the world,” said Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, a COVID-19 survivor.
Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga, one of the few women leaders to speak, said the pandemic “has caused untold suffering in the world,” with the most vulnerable hit hardest.
“If every crisis is a suffering, it is also a moment of change that allows us to reinvent ourselves,” she said. “So let’s reinvent ourselves.”
Some nations, like Iraq, called for more assistance to flow to countries that have less than others.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, in the first address to the U.N. by a Saudi monarch since his father’s in 1957, said that as chairman of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations, the kingdom held a summit of its leaders in March and pledged $500 million “to combat this pandemic and curb its humanitarian and economic impacts.”
Reflecting a wish of all leaders, Iraqi President Barham Saleh said, “We pray to the almighty God that the next meeting can be held in a pandemic-free world.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former actor who won the presidency in 2019, spoke of closed borders, the Summer Olympics postponed and the current high-level meeting happening online.
“A year ago, we would have said that this was the script of an apocalyptic blockbuster, and not the reality of 2020,” Zelensky said.