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U.N. chief calls on G20 nations to boost resources to aid coronavirus pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Antonio Guterres, United Nations (UN) Secretary General, speaks at a news conference at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.N. chief Antonio Guterres, in a letter to the Group of 20 (G20) major economies seen by Reuters, on Tuesday called for more resources to help keep the global coronavirus pandemic from reaching “apocalyptic proportions.”

The letter, dated Monday, urged the G20 to take steps including the launch of a coordinated stimulus package worth ‘trillions of dollars’ to help poor countries; a ban on tariffs, quotas or other restraints on trade; and a call to waive sanctions to help certain countries get food and medical supplies.

It said the resources available to the International Monetary Fund are insufficient and should be steadily increased, that the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust should get greater financial support and that debt restructuring must become a priority.

“We are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world,” Guterres wrote.

“We must create the conditions and mobilize the resources necessary to ensure that developing countries have equal opportunities to respond to this crisis ... anything short of this commitment would lead to a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions affecting us all.”

On Monday, Guterres told a virtual news conference the United Nations wanted $2 billion to help poor countries combat the coronavirus.

Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 398,000 with more than 17,400 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bill Berkrot