$23bn would end the pandemic as an emergency, says WHO

10 Feb 22

Covid-19 could stop being a global emergency as early as this year if countries donated $23bn towards access to tests, treatments, vaccines and personal protective equipment, according to the World Health Organisation.

The branch of the United Nations, which has taken a leading role in organising the global fight against the virus, said its ACT-Accelerator programme, which provides these supplies to developing countries, has a $16bn funding gap and faces $6.8bn of in-country delivery costs.

So far of the 4.7 billion Covid-19 tests that have been administered around the world, just 22 million have been in low-income countries, and only 10% of their population on average has received at least one vaccine dose, WHO said.

This inequity costs lives, damages economies and risks new, more dangerous, variants emerging, which could set the global recovery back by months, said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“If higher-income countries pay their fair share of the ACT-Accelerator costs, the partnership can support low and middle-income countries to overcome low Covid-19 vaccination levels, weak testing and medicine shortages,” he said.

“Science gave us the tools to fight Covid-19. If they are shared globally in solidarity, we can end Covid-19 as a global health emergency this year.”

Ghebreyesus said the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in many countries makes the mission “even more urgent”.

According to WHO $16bn would allow the partnership to help expand countries’ capacity to roll out vaccine doses, buy 700 million tests, provide treatment for 120 million patients, protect 1.7 million health workers with PPE and support clinical trials for treatments and vaccines in relation to new variants.

The organisation said it hopes richer countries will donate this money.

The $6.8bn would come from middle-income countries, WHO said, supported by multilateral development banks.

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