We are at war with a virus that threatens to tear us apart and must confront it, WHO Director-General tells G20 leaders

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Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, told G20 leaders on Thursday “we are at war with a virus that threatens to tear us apart – if we let it.“

Addressing Heads of State at an extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit that focused on COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Dr. Ghebreyesus told the world’s most powerful leaders, including President Donald Trump: “you have come together to confront the defining health crisis of our time”.

He welcomed the G20‘s initiative to find joint solutions and work together, and urged them to fight and unite against the coronavirus.

Right Now: The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world with more than 500, 000 infections recorded so far, and over 22,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University virus tracker. These numbers were changing rapidly.

What then?: Dr Tedros’ call was clear, WHO said. “First, he urged leaders to fight without excuses, without regrets – thanking countries who have already taken steps and urgently asking that they do more.

“Second, he encouraged them to unite, stressing that no country can fight this alone, and calling on all countries to build on the solidarity already sparked by the crisis.

“Third, he exhorted them to ignite a global movement to ensure this never happens again”. 

He welcomed G20 leaders‘ commitment “to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic” to protect lives and livelihoods, as well as restore confidence and shore up stability currently threatened in trade and other sectors, and to commit to take all necessary health measures and seek to ensure adequate financing to contain the pandemic and protect people, especially the most vulnerable.“

In a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C., WHO said the G20 committed to support and further strengthen its mandate in coordinating the response, and called for full funding of WHO‘s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

They also pledged to work together to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, strengthen international scientific cooperation, and leverage digital technologies.

“In turn, they tasked WHO and other relevant organizations with assessing gaps in pandemic preparedness and report the findings of this assessment to the G20 Finance and Health Ministers, in order to establish a global initiative on pandemic preparedness and response together,” the statement by WHO read.

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