Nations back UN push for wide rollout of COVID-19 response

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Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization speaks during a news conference on the COVID-2019 situation in Geneva, Switzerland. (Reuters file photo)
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French President Emmanuel Macron, right, assisted by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian, speaks with World Health Organization and other world leaders about the coronavirus outbreak during a video conference at the Elysee Palace on Friday in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, (Pool)
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Updated 25 April 2020

Nations back UN push for wide rollout of COVID-19 response

JEDDAH: World leaders rallied around the UN on Friday for an initiative to help the most vulnerable countries gain access to vaccines, diagnostics and treatment tools for the coronavirus as soon as they emerge.

The show of unity for the UN and the World Health Organization to speed up development and deployment of tools against the pandemic comes as the Trump administration has criticized the WHO’s response to the outbreak, and vowed to cut generous US funding for it.

“This is a landmark collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for COVID-19,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, hosting a parade of leaders by video conference.

“Our shared commitment is to ensure all people have access to all the tools to defeat COVID-19," he said.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said Italy was “grateful” to the WHO, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa praised Tedros’ “leadership” and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin of Malaysia hailed the UN as among the “most powerful modalities” to meet challenges posed by the pandemic.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 2.7 million people and led to the deaths of more than 193,000 as of April 24, 2020. 

A total of 1,172 new cases were recorded in the Kingdom on Friday — 25 percent Saudis and 75 percent expats — bringing the total number of cases to 15,102. There are now 12,926 active cases, 93 of which are critical.

A total of 124 new recovered cases took the total number of recoveries to 2,049.  Six new deaths — two Saudis,  four expats from Jeddah and Makkah — were reported, raising the death toll to 127. They were aged between 35 and 65 and had chronic diseases.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the effort to rid the world of COVID-19 “requires the most massive public health effort in history.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed to an 8 billion euro funding gap for the COVID-19 vaccine program, and urged countries and the private sector to help close that.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that “it’s only through coming together and collective solutions that we’ll be able to defeat this virus ... That’s why the UK is proud to support the WHO call to action.”

Even as the confirmed US death toll rose past 50,000, salons, spas and barbershops reopened in Georgia and Oklahoma with the green light from their Republican governors, who eased lockdown orders despite health experts’ warnings.

President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the pandemic — the latest federal effort to help keep businesses afloat.


Italy considers extending COVID-19 emergency until Jan. 31

Updated 17 min 11 sec ago

Italy considers extending COVID-19 emergency until Jan. 31

  • The emergency, set to expire in mid-October, gives the government greater powers

ROME: Italy is considering extending until Jan. 31 next year its state of emergency over the COVID-19 crisis, two national newspapers said on Thursday.
The emergency, set to expire in mid-October, gives the government greater powers, allowing officials to more easily bypass the bureaucracy that smothers much decision-making in Italy.
Dailies Il Messagero and Corriere della Sera said a cabinet meeting discussed the issue late on Wednesday.
“It is not official yet.. while at first (the government) talked about pushing it back to Dec. 31, during the meeting (the government) considered going beyond the end of the year, given that the cohabitation with the virus is destined to go on for a long time still,” Il Messaggero said.