Describing the coronavirus as the number one "global security threat" facing the world today, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that nations need to come together to provide vital treatment to suppress transmission and save lives over the next year.
"This is also the moment when the international community needs to come together to defeat the virus. Many pin their hopes on a vaccine—but let’s be clear: There is no panacea in a pandemic. A vaccine alone cannot solve this crisis; certainly not in the near term,” Guterres said at a press conference on Wednesday.
He said nations need to massively expand new and existing tools that can respond to new cases and provide vital treatment to suppress transmission and save lives, especially over the next 12 months.
Guterres voiced concern that the outbreak is out of control and the world will soon pass "the grimmest of milestones” with one million lives lost to the virus.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis unlike any in our lifetimes, and so this year’s General Assembly session will be unlike any other, too,” he said.
"In this 75th anniversary year, we face our own 1945 moment. We must meet that moment,” he said, calling for solidarity and unity “like never before” to overcome today’s emergency, get the world moving and working and prospering again.
Guterres underscored the importance of making a coronavirus vaccine affordable and available to all while also calling for combating misinformation and mistrust about a vaccine that may hinder its wide dissemination.
"Starting now, a vaccine must be seen as a global public good, because COVID-19 respects no borders. We need a vaccine to be affordable and available to all—a people’s vaccine,” he said, adding that this means a quantum leap in funding for the ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX Facility.
Guterres stressed that for any vaccine to work, people across the globe need to be willing to take it.
"But with the spread of the virus, we are also seeing a proliferation of misinformation about a future vaccine. This is fuelling vaccine hesitancy and igniting wild conspiracy theories. Mistrust in vaccines is on the rise around the world,” he said.
Guterres noted with concern the alarming reports of large segments of the population in some countries indicating their reluctance or even refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine. “In the face of this lethal disease, we must do our utmost to halt deadly misinformation,” he said.
The 75th session of the UN General Assembly commenced on Tuesday and for the first time in the history of the world organisation, world leaders will not be travelling to New York to address the annual high-level session and summits due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, nations will send in pre-recorded video statements of their heads of state and government that will be played in the General Assembly hall, beginning with the General Debate that begins on September 22.
Guterres said in his speech to the 193-member organisation on the opening day of the General Debate, he will make an appeal to the international community to mobilise all efforts for the global ceasefire to become a reality by the end of the year, calling on nations to make a new collective push for peace.