Most massive public health effort in history needed to overcome COVID-19 pandemic – UN Boss

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

The most massive public health effort in history is needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, while addressing an online European Union pledging conference in Brussels.

In a strongly worded personal message, the UN chief welcomed donor countries’ contributions to a more than 8-billion-U.S.-dollar fund, to speed up the production of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to end the novel coronavirus threat.

But he said that five times that amount will likely be needed on a path to a world free of the disease.

To date, COVID-19 has “spread to every corner of the world, infecting more than 3 million people and claiming more than 220,000 lives,” Guterres said. His comments followed a warning in recent days about the lack of sufficient solidarity with developing countries, both in equipping them to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which risks spreading like wildfire, and in addressing its dramatic economic and social impacts.

Worse is yet to come, the UN chief warned, as the virus is likely to strike many countries with ill-equipped health systems.

“In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe,” said Guterres.

The UN chief pointed to the launch last month of the landmark effort initiated by the World Health Organization and a range of leading countries to speed up the scientific breakthroughs needed to get the coronavirus under control, known as the ACT Accelerator.

“These new tools can help us to fully control the pandemic, and must be treated as global public goods available and affordable for all. This is the only path to a world free of COVID-19,” he said.

The UN chief described the long-term pledging conference started on Monday as “taking the next step: mobilizing resources for this vital endeavor.” He welcomed the generous contributions being announced Monday toward the initial goal of 7.5 billion euros (around 8.2 billion U.S. dollars). These funds are a kind of a down payment for developing the new tools at the speed needed.

Aside from the European Commission which organized Monday’s event on behalf of the EU, countries involved in the overall effort include South Africa, Rwanda, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Finland and Costa Rica.

“We have a common vision,” said the UN chief. “Let us now put people first everywhere.” Enditem

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