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Coronavirus: World Treating Symptoms, Not Cause of Pandemics, Says UN

Ongoing destruction of nature will result in stream of animal diseases jumping to humans, says report

The world is treating the health and economic symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic but not the environmental cause, according to the authors of a UN report. As a result, a steady stream of diseases can be expected to jump from animals to humans in coming years, they say.

The number of such “zoonotic” epidemics is rising, from Ebola to Sars to West Nile virus and Rift Valley fever, with the root cause being the destruction of nature by humans and the growing demand for meat, the report says.

Even before Covid-19, 2 million people died from zoonotic diseases every year, mostly in poorer countries. The coronavirus outbreak was highly predictable, the experts said. “[Covid-19] may be the worst, but it is not the first,” said the UN environment chief, Inger Andersen.

The biggest economic costs fall on rich nations – $9tn (£7.2tn) for Covid-19 over two years, according to the IMF’s chief economist. This makes a very good case for investment in the countries where diseases emerge, the authors say.

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