Rolling Stones to appear on show supporting health workers

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New York (AFP)

The Rolling Stones will feature in a star-studded special event including Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish set to broadcast globally Saturday in support of health care workers combatting coronavirus.

The event put on by the international advocacy organization Global Citizen in collaboration with the World Health Organization and superstar Lady Gaga intends to "provide a moment of global unity in the fight to end COVID-19," said its CEO Hugh Evans.

A-listers including Celine Dion, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder are all set to participate.

A six-hour streamed event will precede the prime time televised broadcast, with a laundry list of celebrities set to appear including Christine and the Queens, actors Don Cheadle and Samuel L Jackson, and football star Megan Rapinoe.

In addition to celebrating health care workers, Global Citizen intends the event as a "rallying cry" to support action for charities on a local level.

It also will urge philanthropists and governments to support the WHO in its coronavirus response efforts, saying its already raised $35 million for the international health body.

- 'All in this together' -

"This is really an important age that we live in, where people are grappling with -- do they become more isolationist or do they become global citizens?" CEO Evans told AFP.

"Can I just close my borders, or do I actually need to care about the health systems of people on the other side of the planet?" he continued.

"I think if COVID-19 has taught us anything it said a disease anywhere can mean a disease everywhere."

Global Citizen has not yet announced the specifics of each artist's appearance.

Chris Martin of Coldplay kicked off the concept last month, when he played an Instagram live show as part of the international body's "Together, At Home" series.

Over 107 artists are scheduled to participate in Saturday's event, said Evans, who added that many of the performers -- including the Stones -- had heard of the effort and contacted Global Citizen wanting to take part.

Evans said he "honestly couldn't believe it" when the British rockers reached out.

"Music provides this moment for us to pause to reflect to unite as one humanity," he said, to "come back together and say you know what, we truly -- it's not just hyperbole -- we truly are all in this together."

The global concert in support of the WHO would appear particularly symbolic considering US President Donald Trump's announcement that he would halt payments to the UN body, accusing it of "mismanaging" the COVID-19 crisis that has left more than 140,000 people dead worldwide.

Without directly referencing the US leader, Evans said now is the time to support the WHO, "not to walk away."

"Multilateralism is the only way to fight pandemics," he said. "You can't fight a global pandemic one nation at a time."