United Nations, May 22 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Group of 20 (G20) countries to take the leading role in ending the Covid-19 pandemic by partnering with the United Nations.
“I urge G20 countries, in collaboration with the United Nations, to assume a strong leadership role in ending this devastating global pandemic,” the UN chief said on Friday at the Global Health Summit, a virtual daylong conference aimed at coordinating worldwide efforts against the Covid-19 pandemic, Xinhua reported.
Speaking about the global effort to contain the virus, the top UN official said that grossly unequal access to vaccines, tests, medicines and supplies, including oxygen, have left poorer countries at the mercy of the virus.
“Recent surges of Covid-19 in India, South America and other regions have left people literally gasping for breath before our eyes,” he said.
“The pandemic is still very much with us, thriving and mutating,” he warned.
Guterres said that vaccinating quickly and thoroughly around the world, together with continued public health measures, are the only way to end the pandemic and prevent more dangerous variants from gaining a foothold.
“But so far, more than 82 per cent of the world’s vaccine doses have gone to affluent countries. Just 0.3 per cent have gone to low-income countries,” he said.
“The G20’s Rome Declaration is a significant step to provide equal access to vaccines. But we need a follow-up mechanism, backed by the political will to translate the declaration into a global vaccination plan,” said the secretary-general.
“We have many initiatives. But we must make sure that they add instead of subtract. We must make sure that there is a coordination at those different initiatives, some of them just announced today,” he added.
“I repeat my call for the G20 to set up a Task Force that brings together all countries with vaccine production capacities, the World Health Organization, the ACT-Accelerator partners and international financial institutions, able to deal with the pharmaceutical companies and other key stakeholders,” he continued.
The Task Force should address equitable global distribution by using the COVAX facility, said the secretary-general. “It should aim to at least double manufacturing capacity by exploring all options, from voluntary licenses and technology transfers to patent pooling and flexibility on intellectual property rights.”
“The G20 Task Force should be co-convened at the highest levels by the major powers who hold most of the global supply and production capacity, together with the multilateral system,” said Guterres.
“We are at war with the virus. And if you are at war with the virus, we need to deal with our weapons with rules of a war economy, and we are not yet there. And this is true for vaccines, and it is true for other components in the fight against the virus,” he added.
According to the UN chief, by now, COVAX should have delivered 170 million doses around the world. But due to vaccine nationalism, limited production capacity and lack of funding, that figure is just 65 million.
“I call on G20 countries to lead by example and contribute their full share of funding,” he said.
“A global coordinated effort on vaccines can end this pandemic,” said the secretary-general. “The world needs political commitment at the highest level to take internationally coordinated, cross-cutting measures and transform global pandemic preparedness.”
“Together, we can, and we must build a healthier, safer, fairer and more sustainable world,” the UN chief stressed.