BRUSSELS, Belgium – The “most massive public health effort in history” is needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN chief said on Monday, addressing a European Union pledging conference in Brussels.
In a strongly-worded personal message, UN secretary-general António Guterres welcomed donor countries’ contributions to a more than $8 billion fund, to speed up the production of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines to end the new coronavirus threat. But he said that five times that amount will likely be needed to put us all 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 three million people and claiming more than 220,000 lives”, Guterres said, his comments following 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 to address its dramatic economic and social impacts.
Worse is yet to come, he 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”, the UN secretary-general insisted.
The UN chief pointed to the launch last month of the landmark effort initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) 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.”
Guterres described the longterm pledging conference begun on Monday as “taking the next step: mobilizing resources for this vital endeavour. I welcome the generous contributions being announced today towards the initial goal of 7.5 billion Euros (around $8.2 billion). 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.
Neither of the two largest economies, the United States or China, have so far joined the ACT Accelerator drive.
“We have a common vision”, said the UN chief. “Let us now put people first everywhere.”