As COVID-19 deaths pass 2mn globally, UN chief warns against self-defeating ‘vaccinationalism'

January 16, 2021
Healthcare workers at a hospital in New York move a patient who died from COVID-19 in the US in April 2020. — Courtesy photo
Healthcare workers at a hospital in New York move a patient who died from COVID-19 in the US in April 2020. — Courtesy photo

NEW YORK — With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives.

In a video statement, the UN secretary-general noted that the absence of a global coordinated effort has worsened the pandemic’s deadly impact.

“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”, Guterres said.

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

Since its discovery at the end of 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 reached the grim milestone of one million only in September.

In addition, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic has been massive, with countless jobs and livelihoods lost globally, and millions pushed into poverty and hunger.

Guterres went on to note that though safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, disparities continue between nations.

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

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

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

At the same time, people must remember and practice “simple and proven” steps to keep each other safe: wearing masks, physically 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. — UN news

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