Red Cross chief warns coronavirus pandemic could spark 'social unrest'

‘This is a social bomb that can explode at any moment’: Red Cross chief warns coronavirus pandemic could spark ‘social unrest’ among poor in the West’s biggest cities

  • 80,000 people have coronavirus in Italy and at least 9,000 have died in Italy
  • France has seen more than 1,800 deaths while Spain has seen upwards of 4,900
  • Francesco Rocca said risk of suicide increasing among vulnerable people
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Social unrest could erupt among the poorest people in Europe’s biggest cities due to a lack of income caused by the coronavirus crisis, a Red Cross chief warned.

More than 80,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Italy and at least 9,000 have died, far more than in any other country.

France has seen more than 1,800 deaths while Spain has seen upwards of 4,900. 

Francesco Rocca (pictured) – head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – warned that social unrest could erupt among the poorest people in Europe’s biggest cities due to a lack of income caused by the coronavirus crisis

Speaking in a UN news briefing, he said: ‘We have a lot of people who are living very marginalised, in the so-called black hole of society… In the most difficult neighbourhoods of the biggest cities I am afraid that in a few weeks we will have social problems.

‘This is a social bomb that can explode at any moment, because they don’t have any way to have an income.’

The Geneva-based IFRC also deploys volunteers in hard-hit Spain and France.

He said the largest Western cities could see these problems emerge ‘in a few weeks’.

More than 80,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Italy and at least 9,000 have died, far more than in any other country. Pictured: Medical staff outside a hospital in Italy

Rocca spoke from Milan, part of the northern epicentre of the country’s outbreak, after visiting Codogno, Bergamo, Brescia and Lodi.

Some people with a family who normally live on odd jobs that earn them 20 to 25 euros a time are often outside social assistance programmes, Rocca said, adding: ‘Think about the Roma camps.’

In Italy, Rocca met mayors and some of the 180,000 Red Cross volunteers who visit elderly people confined to their homes, do their food shopping and get medicines from pharmacies. 

He highlighted a shortage of ventilators in the north and the south.

The IFRC, which has 14 million volunteers in 192 countries, and the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed on Thursday for 800 million Swiss francs (£673 million) to help vulnerable communities worldwide fight coronavirus.  

Mr Rocca said the largest Western cities could see these problems emerge ‘in a few weeks’. Pictured: Healthcare workers in an Italian hospital preparing antiviral drugs

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