NEW YORK - The U.N. Secretary-General warned Wednesday the coronavirus pandemic is “out of control,” and he called for global solidarity in making a future vaccine affordable and available to all.
“The virus is the No. 1 global security threat in our world today,” Antonio Guterres told reporters.
There have been nearly 30 million confirmed cases worldwide of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 936,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks global data on the virus.
Guterres spoke ahead of Tuesday’s start of the U.N. General Assembly annual debate, which typically draws more than a hundred presidents, prime ministers and other senior officials to New York each year. But due to the pandemic, leaders will send pre-recorded video messages, and side meetings will be held virtually.
The U.N. chief said he will appeal next week for full implementation of his March 23 call for a global cease-fire by the end of this year so all attention could be focused on defeating the virus.
As scientists around the globe race to find an effective COVID-19 vaccine, Guterres cautioned that “there is no panacea” for the pandemic.
“A vaccine alone cannot solve this crisis, certainly not in the near term,” he said. “We need to massively expand new and existing tools that can respond to new cases and provide vital treatment to suppress transmission and save lives, especially over the next 12 months.”
He emphasized that a vaccine must be affordable and available to all, saying it must be seen as a “global public good.” He expressed concern that conspiracy theories and misinformation are spreading about a future vaccine, which could deter vast numbers of people from being inoculated.
The U.N. chief has been a vocal advocate for climate action.He said the global economic recovery from COVID-19 should be aligned with mitigating climate change and achieving development goals.
“The world is burning,” Guterres said of the warming planet. “Recovery is our chance to get on track and tame the flames.”
The United Nations marks its 75th anniversary this year. It was created in 1945in the aftermath of World War II to prevent another global conflict.
“In this 75th anniversary year, we face our own 1945 moment,” Guterres reflected. “We must meet that moment.”