UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “all-out effort” to end the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia” sparked by the novel coronavirus pandemic on Friday, without naming specific countries. “The pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering,” Guterres said in a statement.

The statement comes as the total number of coronavirus deaths across the world reached at least 268,999, according to Johns Hopkins University with 3,846,949 confirmed cases.

“Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”

According to Guterres, migrants and refugees have been “vilified as a source of the virus, and then denied access to medical treatment.”

Meanwhile, “contemptible memes have emerged suggesting” that older people, some of the most vulnerable to the virus, “are also the most expendable,” he said.

Additionally, “journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs,” Guterres said.

Guterres also called on “the media, especially social media companies, to do much more to flag and… remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content.”

The UN chief appealed for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally,” and singled out educational institutions to help teach “digital literacy” to young people, whom he called “captive and potentially despairing audiences.” He called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.

Meanwhile, a study by World Health Organization has said up to 190,000 people could die of COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail. The study was based on prediction modelling and analysing 47 countries in the region. The organisation also warned that the virus could ‘smoulder’ on the continent for years.