UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed on Monday for an “immediate global ceasefire” to protect vulnerable civilians in conflict zones from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a brief speech at the UN headquarters in New York, Guterres said, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war”.

“That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world”, he added.

According to the report, Syria has reported its first case of the COVID-19 virus, in a country already torn by 10 years of war, and other cases have emerged in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.

“If the fighting goes on, we might have an absolutely devastating spreading of the epidemic”, the UN chief added.

After Guterres’ call last week for a global response to the pandemic, which he said has put “millions” of lives at risk, the United Nations is expected to unveil on Wednesday a detailed worldwide plan for humanitarian relief, with the creation of a fund dedicated to the international fight against the coronavirus.

On Thursday, Guterres said that millions of people could die from the deadly virus particularly in poor countries, if it is allowed to spread unchecked.

Guterres stressed the need for a coordinated global response to contain a “health catastrophe” that already has claimed the lives of more than 9,000 people and infected more than 217,500 around the world.

Among the most affected economies are the European Union ($15.6 billion), the United States ($5.8 billion), Japan ($5.2 billion), South Korea ($3.8 billion), Taiwan Province of China ($2.6 billion) and Vietnam ($2.3 billion). The trade impact for Indonesia is $312 million.

In terms of support for the global economy, Guterres said the focus should be on helping the most vulnerable: low income workers and small and medium-sized businesses.

The COVID-19 disease has killed 16,557 people worldwide out of 381,499 confirmed cases. A total of 101,794 people have recovered.