UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for global solidarity in the fight against the pandemic, saying that "Covid-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time". World leaders must urgently step up with a global plan for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments, he said in a video message on Monday to the World Health Assembly, which is underway in Geneva.
"This starts with funding the ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX Facility, to deploy life-saving tools to the poorest countries on a global scale," Xinhua news agency quoted the UN chief as saying.
He repeated his appeal for a G20 task force that brings together all countries with vaccine production capacities, the World Health Organization (WHO), the ACT-Accelerator partners and international financial institutions, and other key stakeholders.
The task force 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, he said.
The G20 task force should address equitable global distribution by using the ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX Facility and it 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, according to the Secretary-General.
"From the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have warned of the dangers of a two-speed global response. Sadly, unless we act now, we face a situation in which rich countries vaccinate the majority of their people and open their economies, while the virus continues to cause deep suffering by circling and mutating in the poorest countries.
"Further spikes and surges could claim hundreds of thousands of lives, and slow the global economic recovery.
"Our efforts to recover from Covid-19 should not come at the cost of other essential health care, from women's reproductive services to children's vaccinations and mental health coverage," said Guterres.
The WHO must be at the heart of global pandemic preparedness, it needs sustainable and predictable resources, and it must be fully empowered to do the job demanded of it, he said.
"The world needs a framework for international cooperation and solidarity fit for the future; new solutions for sustainable and predictable financing; and national capacity for prevention, detection, and responses to disease outbreaks."