0411 GMT June 21, 2021
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decried the “tsunami of suffering” sparked by the coronavirus crisis, AFP reported.
Addressing the opening of the World Health Organization’s main annual assembly of member states, he pointed out that more than 3.4 million people have died and some 500 million jobs had disappeared since the disease first surfaced in China in late 2019.
“The most vulnerable are suffering most, and I fear this is far from over,” Guterres said, stressing the ongoing 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,” he said.
“Further spikes and surges could claim hundreds of thousands of lives, and slow the global economic recovery,” he said, insisting that “COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time.”
Guterres urged recognition of the fact that “we are at war with a virus.”
“We need the logic and urgency of a war economy, to boost the capacity of our weapons,” he said.
Vaccination in poor countries
The World Health Organization and others have created COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing program, but it remains severely underfunded and has faced significant supply shortages, delaying efforts to roll out jabs in poorer countries.
To date, only 0.3 percent of COVID vaccine doses have been administered in the world’s poorest countries, which are home to nearly 10 percent of the global population.
On Monday, India’s COVID-19 death toll topped 300,000 as it tried to contain its huge outbreak, while Japan opened its first mass vaccination centers just two months before the start of the Olympics.
Deadly outbreaks in India, Brazil and elsewhere have pushed global coronavirus fatalities past 3.4 million, even as many wealthy countries such as the United States and Britain have eased restrictions.
The number of new daily infections has fallen in India’s big cities, but cases and deaths have been breaking records in recent weeks with shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and critical drugs.
Many experts also believe India’s real toll is much higher, particularly as the disease spreads into rural areas where the majority of the 1.3 billion population lives and where health facilities and record-keeping is poor.
India has administered close to 200 million shots but experts say the program needs to be ramped up significantly to effectively fight the virus.
Another Asian country that has faced criticism over a slow inoculation rate is Japan, where the first mass vaccination centers opened on Monday.
Japanese authorities are trying to speed up their vaccination drive with just two months until postponed Tokyo Olympics begin.
Just two percent of Japan’s 125 million population has been fully vaccinated, compared with around 40 percent in the United States and 15 percent in France.
More than 130 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, and restrictions are being steadily eased in many parts of the country that has the highest number of known deaths and cases in the world.
In sharp contrast, the rollout remains painfully slow in Brazil, one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.