Covid-19 ‘vaccinationalism’ self-defeating; will delay global recovery: UN Secretary

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 16, 2021

‘Vaccines reaching high-income countries quickly, while poorest have; some countries pursuing side deals, procuring beyond need’

Lamenting on the rising Covid-19 death toll, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday said that the world has crossed a “heart-wrenching milestone” as it marks two million deaths due to the novel virus, as per the official release.

Overwhelmed by the numbers, Guterres said during a media brief, “Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one.”

“In the memory of those two million souls, the world must act with far greater solidarity,” he added.

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Guterres noted further that though safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out, the disparity continues between nations.

“Vaccines are reaching high-income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all. Some countries are pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need,” he said.

The UN chief stated that while governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, “‘vaccinationalism’ is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery.”

“Covid-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time,” he stressed.

He also called on countries to commit now to sharing any excess doses of vaccines, to help urgently vaccinate health workers around the world and prevent health systems from collapsing.

He also reiterated the need to ensure full funding for the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT Accelerator) and its COVAX facility, to make vaccines available and affordable to all.

He further urged people to remember and practice “simple and proven” steps to keep each other safe: wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, avoiding crowds, and hand hygiene.

“Our world can only get ahead of this virus one way – together. Global solidarity will save lives, protect people and help defeat this vicious virus,” added Guterres.

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During the media brief, the president of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, announced that he and Guterres would both take the vaccine shot very soon. The UN chief will be given the shot next week, and the President of the General Assembly on February 2, as per media reports.

Since its inception in December 2019, Covid-19 has now spread to all corners of the world, with cases in 191 countries and regions. Deaths due to the disease crossed one million in September 2020.

Additionally, it has also ravaged the global economy, with countless jobs and livelihoods lost, and millions pushed into poverty and hunger. It has also put a massive burden on the healthcare sector, which has to sideline other diseases to prioritise Covid-19 patients.

Published on January 16, 2021

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