Help cushion suffering caused by COVID-19, UN chief tells business leaders

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, on Thursday appealed to business leaders to help cushion the suffering caused by COVID-19 and for equitable vaccine distribution worldwide.

Guterres told a virtual roundtable event that COVID-19 pandemic had brought “a tsunami of suffering”, taken over 3.4 million lives and 500 million jobs, while wiping trillions of dollars from global balance sheets.

“This is indeed much more than a health crisis. Its a social crisis and an economic crisis, with dramatic long-term consequences for livelihoods, businesses and for economies,’’ he said.

The virtual roundtable event is part of the UN’s global campaign, #OnlyTogether – hosted jointly with the IKEA Foundation and Purpose – the social mobilisation organisation which partners with the Department of Global Communications leading the UN Verified initiative, to combat misinformation.

The UN chief recognised the many lives that have been saved: “To have you leading this meeting is a guarantee of success because what our partnership has always represented is indeed the very symbol of the values we represent.”

However, in spite  of WHO authorisation for 13 vaccines and the incredible success of rollouts in more than 170 countries, Guterres bemoaned “a large and growing vaccine gap between rich and poor countries”.

“Just 10 countries have administered more than 75 per cent of all vaccine doses.

“In poorer countries, even health workers and people with underlying conditions cannot access them; this is not only unjust, it’s self-defeating and dangerous – to everyone.

“Fast, equitable vaccination is the only way to prevent new and more dangerous variants from emerging and wreaking further havoc, in rich and poor countries alike,’’ he said.

The UN chief said that a global vaccination plan was needed, beginning with a G20 Task Force comprised of countries with vaccine production and manufacturing capacities, the WHO and Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) partners, as well as international financial institutions.

“I am ready to mobilise the entire United Nations System to support this effort, but we need political will to move forward,’’ he said.

To this end, Guterres highlighted that the private sector could leverage its influence and expertise, use its communication channels to share accurate information and donate its services and resources, to encourage innoculation.

While this sector has been central to every breakthrough throughout the pandemic, he reminded that it achieved this by collaborating with countries, communities and the public sectors.

“By working together, we can vaccinate the world, end the pandemic, and kick-start a strong recovery,” the Secretary-General said. (NAN)

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