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.