Coronavirus: ‘Worst yet to come’ for countries in conflict, says UN chief

Coronavirus: ‘Worst yet to come’ for countries in conflict, says UN chief
Guterres said that the scale of the crisis was due to “a disease that represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past.” (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)
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Updated 03 April 2020

Coronavirus: ‘Worst yet to come’ for countries in conflict, says UN chief

Coronavirus: ‘Worst yet to come’ for countries in conflict, says UN chief
  • Guterres said there had been some progress following his March 23 call for peace, but that fighting still rages in a number of countries
  • Guterres appealed for developed countries and multilateral institutions to do more to aide poorer countries face the pandemic

UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday renewed his call for a global ceasefire, urging all parties to conflict to lay down arms and allow war-torn nations to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
"The worst is yet to come," Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting like Syria, Libya and Yemen.
"The COVID-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict."
Guterres said there had been some progress following his March 23 call for peace, but that fighting still rages in a number of countries, hampering the ability to put into place plans to combat the virus.
"The need is urgent," Guterres said at a UN press conference.
"The virus has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and upend lives."
He said that parties to conflict in a number of countries, including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, have expressed support for his call.
"But there is a huge distance between declarations and deeds -- between translating words into peace on the ground and in the lives of people," Guterres said.
"In many of the most critical situations, we have seen no let-up in fighting -- and some conflicts have even intensified."
While expressing gratitude for support of his earlier call from some 70 countries, NGO groups and religious leaders worldwide including Pope Francis, Guterres said more concrete work was necessary.
"We need robust diplomatic efforts to meet these challenges. To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace," he said.
Guterres did not mention the UN Security Council, where divisions between the United States and China have blocked action.
Since the beginning of the global pandemic, the Security Council has not met once on COVID-19, making no statement or joint resolution.
On Thursday the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for international cooperation and "multilateralism" in addressing the virus, which has infected more than one million worldwide and killed more than 50,000.
Guterres appealed for developed countries and multilateral institutions to do more to aide poorer countries face the pandemic.
"To act early rather than later is essential... This is particularly true with the developing world," he said.
Guterres noted that the ceasefire in Idlib, Syria is holding but said it needs to be expanded to the entire country to allow full efforts to slow the coronavirus spread.
But he noted that expressions of support for a ceasefire by different factions fighting in Libya had not ended the violence.
"This war is now not allowing the response to COVID-19 to take place," he said.
"This is the moment to stop. It's not morally acceptable to continue with this conflict."


Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
Updated 15 January 2021

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
  • Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine
  • There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised

BERLIN: A global coronavirus vaccine rollout suffered a major blow Friday as Pfizer said it would delay shipments of the jabs in the next three to four weeks due to works at its key plant in Belgium.
Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech.
There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised. The European Commission also confirmed that promised doses for the first quarter will arrive within the period.
But European Union nations, which are desperately waiting for more doses to immunize their populations against the virus that has already claimed almost two million lives worldwide, expressed frustration.
Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, voiced regret over the “last minute and unexpected” delay.
It urged the European Commission — which undertook joint procurement for the bloc — to “seek clarity and certainty” for upcoming shipments.
Six northern EU nations also warned in a letter to the Commission that the “unacceptable” situation “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”
The letter signed by ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden further asked the Commission to “demand a public explanation of the situation” from the pharmaceutical companies.
Across the Atlantic, Canada also said it was impacted by the delays, calling it “unfortunate.”
“However, such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” said Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, became the first to be approved for general use by a Western country on December 2 when Britain gave it the go ahead.
After Britain rolled out its immunization drive, the EU followed from December 27.
The latest shipment delay will likely add fuel to anger over the bloc’s vaccination campaign, which has already been criticized for being too slow compared to the United States or former EU member Britain.
The European Commission has also been accused of not securing enough doses early enough.
Just last week, the EU struck a deal to double its supply of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine to 600 million doses.
The urgency of immunizing the population has grown over fears of virus variants first seen in South Africa and Britain, which officials warn are more infectious.
But vaccine makers had repeatedly warned that production capacity was limited.
While Pfizer is augmenting capacity at Puurs, its partner BioNTech on Friday secured authorization to begin production at Germany’s Marburg.
The challenges of getting millions of vaccines around the world are also huge as the BioNTech/Pfizer jabs must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) before being shipped to distribution centers in specially-designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.
Once out of ultra-cold storage, the vaccine must be kept at two Celsius to eight Celsius to remain effective for up to five days.