UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
File Photo

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 (APP): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for worldwide solidarity in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic — “the greatest crisis of our age” — and urged developed countries to support health systems in countries that are short of resources.

The UN chief was speaking by video-link to the World Health Summit in Berlin at which the coronavirus pandemic was the overarching theme.

Several leaders and experts who spoke at the opening session on Sunday also stressed the need to cooperate across borders.

The Berlin-based summit is backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), involving 100 countries, and around 2,500 participants, geared towards improving health worldwide and respond to global health challenges, according to a UN press release.

In his message, the secretary-general ran through the many disruptive effects of the coronavirus pandemic beyond the loss of more than 1,147,000 lives as of Sunday, and 42.5 million cases.

Around 500 million jobs have disappeared, with a monthly loss to the global economy of around $375 billion. Gender-based violence has skyrocketed, and mental illness “is a crisis within a crisis”. Some 24 million children could drop out of school, “with lifelong impact.”

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“COVID-19 is driving us even farther off-course from achieving the vision and promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, said the UN chief, who said the first hard lesson of the crisis was that “we were not prepared.”

“Global health and emergency response systems have been tested and found wanting. Access to health is a human right denied to billions of people around the world. Universal Health Coverage is the path to high-quality, equitable, affordable healthcare. Strong public health systems and emergency preparedness are essential steps to greater resilience.”

He added that “if we follow the science, and demonstrate unity and solidarity, we can overcome the pandemic. Public health measures including masks, physical distancing and hand washing, are proven means of keeping the virus at bay.”

Protecting the vulnerable is key, and staying away from events that simply spread the virus. Governments need to work with communities everywhere to share reliable information and build trust.

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“Third, we need global solidarity every step of the way. Developed countries must support health systems in countries that are short of resources”, said Guterres, prioritizing the development of vaccines for everyone, everyone, as a public good.

“Vaccines, tests and therapies are more than lifesavers. They are economy savers and society savers”, he said. “Relief will come not through one single step, but through smartly combining cutting-edge research with basic public health.”

The fourth lesson, he told delegates, was that misinformation and disinformation are “deadly allies of the virus. They are contributing to deaths and infections, and to social tensions that have led to violence.

“Unless we counter rumours, conspiracy theories and lies, they will negate our other efforts.”

He highlighted the UN’s Verified campaign, to ensure people have access to accurate advice that protects and promotes health.

“Let us use this opportunity to confront the COVID-19 crisis together, with the urgency and integrity it requires”, the Secretary-General added.