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WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 25 September 2020

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  • Today, WHO and our partners are publishing a detailed strategic plan and investment case for the urgent scale-up phase of the ACT Accelerator, building on the success of the start-up phase.

  • By the end of next year, the ACT Accelerator aims to deliver 2 billion doses of vaccine; 245 million courses of treatment; and 500 million diagnostic tests to low- and middle-income countries.

  • The number of countries joining the COVAX facility grows every day. As of today, 67 high-income countries have formally joined and another 34 are expected to sign, joining 92 lower-income countries who are eligible for financial support through Gavi.

  • The current financing gap for the ACT Accelerator stands at 35 billion dollars. Of the 35 billion dollars, 15 billion dollars is needed immediately to exploit the ACT-A progress to fund research and development, scale up manufacturing, secure procurement and strengthen delivery systems.

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

With the northern hemisphere flu season approaching, and with cases and hospitalizations increasing, many countries find themselves struggling to strike the right balance between protecting public health, protecting personal liberty and protecting their economies.

So-called lockdowns and the impact on global travel and trade have already taken such a heavy toll.

The global economy is expected to contract by trillions of US dollars this year.

Many countries have poured money into domestic stimulus packages. But these investments will not on their own address the root cause of the economic crisis – which is the disease that paralyses health systems, disrupts economies and drives fear and uncertainty.

We continue to urge countries to focus on four essential priorities.

First, prevent amplifying events.

Second, protect the vulnerable.

Third, educate, empower and enable communities to protect themselves and others, using every tool at their disposal.

And fourth, get the basics right: find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine their contacts.

This is what works.

Effective vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics will also be vital for ending the pandemic and accelerating the global recovery.

But these life-saving tools will only be effective if they are available for the most vulnerable equitably and simultaneously in all countries.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator is the best bet for speeding up the development of the tools we need to save lives as fast as possible, and to make them available for as many as possible, as equitably as possible.

Today, WHO and our partners are publishing a detailed strategic plan and investment case for the urgent scale-up phase of the ACT Accelerator, building on the success of the start-up phase.

The investment case illustrates some of the considerable economic benefits from accelerating the development and deployment of tools to rapidly reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 disease globally.

By the end of next year, the ACT Accelerator aims to deliver 2 billion doses of vaccine; 245 million courses of treatment; and 500 million diagnostic tests to low- and middle-income countries.

Today’s status report shows that in just 5 months, the ACT Accelerator has made remarkable progress.

The diagnostics pillar is evaluating more than 50 tests, including rapid and accurate diagnostics, and we expect to have more news on that next week.

The therapeutics pillar is analysing more than 1,700 clinical trials for promising treatments, and has secured courses of dexamethasone for up to 4.5 million patients in lower-income countries – the only medicine shown to reduce the risk of death so far.

And COVAX – the largest and most varied portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines globally – is supporting the development of 9 vaccines, with several more in the pipeline.

The number of countries joining the COVAX Facility grows every day. As of today, 67 high-income economies have formally joined and another 34 are expected to sign, joining 92 lower-income countries who are eligible for financial support through Gavi.

Investing in COVAX increases the probability of being able to access the best vaccine and hedges the risk that countries that have entered into bilateral agreements end up with products that are not viable.

The ACT Accelerator is an unprecedented global effort.

Of course, realizing its vision needs investment.

The current financing gap for the ACT Accelerator stands at US$35 billion.

US$35 billion is a lot of money. But in the context of arresting a global pandemic and supporting the global economic recovery, it’s a bargain.

To put it in perspective, US$35 billion is less than 1% of what G20 governments have already committed to domestic economic stimulus packages.

Or to put it another way, it’s roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every 2 weeks.

Of the US$35 billion, US$15 billion is needed immediately to fund research and development, scale up manufacturing, secure procurement and strengthen delivery systems.

Normally these steps are done sequentially. We’re doing them all at the same time, so that as soon as a product is ready to go, we can get it to the people who need it immediately.

We are not asking for an act of charity. We are asking for an investment in the global recovery.

The economic benefits from restoring international travel and trade alone would repay this investment very quickly.

Next Wednesday, world leaders will meet virtually for a high-level side event during the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the work of the ACT Accelerator, and to call for the financial commitments to realize its promise.

The window of opportunity is now. We must act now, and act together to end COVID-19.

I thank you.