Repair ugly rifts and unite against common foe, COVID-19, ‘or everyone will lose’: Johnson

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson (on screen) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session. — courtesy UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (on screen) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session. — courtesy UN Photo/Evan Schneider

NEW YORK — COVID-19 has “united humanity as never before”, the United Kingdom prime minister told the UN General Assembly’s annual high-level session on Saturday.

“And yet the crisis has also been an extraordinary force for division,” Boris Johnson said in a pre-recorded video address to the Assembly’s annual debate, being held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the world is “up against the same enemy”, he pointed out that borders have been springing up “between friends and allies” and global supply chains disrupted with “check book wars on airport tarmacs” as nation vie for PPE.

“The very notion of the international community looks, frankly, pretty tattered,” Johnson observed.

“We simply can’t continue in this way,” he stressed, urging the delegates to “unite...against our common foe” lest everyone lose.

Amidst colossal economic suffering and nearly a million people dead the prime minister said, “there is a moral imperative for humanity” to reach a joint understanding of how the pandemic began and how was able to spread to “collectively do our best to prevent a recurrence”.

Bolstering global recovery

The UK prime minister called the World Health Organization (WHO) “the one body that marshals humanity against the legions of disease” and announced a 30 per cent increase in funding over the next four years, amounting to £340 million.

Calling himself a staunch supporter of science, Johnson said, “epidemiologists at Oxford University identified the first treatment for COVID-19” and shared with the world dexamethasone, a cheap medicine that reduces the risk of death by over a third for patients on ventilators, “so that as many as 1.4 million lives could be saved in the next six months”.

And as the biggest donor to Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, he explained that in June, the UK helped to raise almost $9 billion to immunize 300 million children against killer diseases and noted that there are 100 potential vaccines currently trying to clear the hurdles of safety and efficacy.

“But even as we strive for a vaccine, we must never cut corners, slim down the trials or sacrifice safety to speed,” Johnson asserted.

Protecting humanity

The prime minister vowed to use the UK’s presidency of the G20 richest nations to “create a new global approach to health security” based on a five-point plan to “protect humanity against another pandemic”.

The first aim is to “stop a new disease before it starts”, he said, including by forging a global network of zoonotic research hubs, to spot animal pathogens that may cross the species barrier and infect humans.

Secondly is to develop the manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines on hand to stop organisms before they can attack or at least be able to quickly diagnose.

The next objectives are to design a global pandemic early-warning system, based on data collection and analyses, and then to have emergency response protocols should another crisis arise.

Finally, he urged every country to lift export controls wherever possible and cancel tariffs on gloves, protective equipment, thermometers and other critical products.

“Never again must we wage 193 different campaigns against the same enemy,” the British prime minister upheld. — UN News


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