GENEVA, March 24. /TASS/. Sanctions against Iran and other states suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic should be eased or suspended, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement published on Tuesday.
She mentioned Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe and North Korea among the states affected by the sanctions.
"At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended. In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us," she stressed.
"It is vital to avoid the collapse of any country's medical system - given the explosive impact that will have on death, suffering and wider contagion," Bachelet added.
"Humanitarian exemptions to sanctions measures should be given broad and practical effect, with prompt, flexible authorization for essential medical equipment and supplies," the UN human rights chief stated.
In this regard, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights informed that at least 1,800 people had died from COVID-19 in Iran, including 50 medical workers. "Human rights reports have repeatedly emphasized the impact of sectoral sanctions on access to essential medicines and medical equipment - including respirators and protective equipment for health-care workers," the office said.
A variety of sanctions may also impede medical efforts in Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, Bachelet said. "The majority of these states have frail or weak health systems. Progress in upholding human rights is essential to improve those systems - but obstacles to the import of vital medical supplies, including over-compliance with sanctions by banks, will create long-lasting harm to vulnerable communities. The populations in these countries are in no way responsible for the policies being targeted by sanctions, and to varying degrees have already been living in a precarious situation for prolonged periods," she stressed.
"No country can effectively combat this epidemic on its own. We need to act with solidarity, cooperation and care," she concluded.
A pneumonia outbreak caused by the COVID-19 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV) was reported in China’s city of Wuhan, a large trade and industrial center with a population of 12 million, in late December 2019. Cases of the new coronavirus have also been reported in more than 150 countries and territories, among them Russia, which by now has documented 495 cases. According to recent data, novel coronavirus cases across the globe have exceeded 385,000, with about 16,000 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially described the situation with the novel coronavirus as a pandemic.