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‘Act on the lessons of COVID-19’, Guterres says on Epidemic Preparedness Day 

The world must prepare for the next pandemic and act on lessons learned from COVID-19, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message on Wednesday to mark the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected hundreds of millions of lives, caused millions of deaths and inflicted devastating impacts on humanity.

After three years of unprecedented global efforts, on 5 May the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to COVID-19 as a public health emergency, stressing however, that it does not mean the disease is no longer a global threat.

“Economic damage inflicted by the pandemic endures. Many healthcare systems are struggling. Millions of children are threatened by disease after missing out on routine childhood vaccinations,” said Mr. Guterres.

Lessons to learn

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The UN chief noted that three years after the first COVID-19 vaccines were developed, billions of people remain unprotected - overwhelmingly in developing countries.

“When the next pandemic arrives, we must do better. But we’re not yet ready. We must prepare and act on the lessons of COVID-19,” he urged.

“We must renounce the moral and medical disaster of rich countries hoarding and controlling pandemic healthcare supplies, and ensure everyone has access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines,” he stressed, adding that WHO’s authority and financing must also be strengthened.

Joint efforts

He said the way forward lies through global cooperation. The world must improve surveillance of viruses, strengthen health systems, and make the promise of Universal Health Coverage a reality.

The Secretary-General said these efforts are making progress. He recalled that the High-level meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response, held in September, concluded with a robust political declaration which complements negotiations underway towards a pandemic accord.

This first-ever global agreement aims to enhance collaboration, cooperation, and equity in responding to pandemics of the future, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his end-of-year message published on Tuesday.

The pandemic accord will help to create a safer and healthier world with a universal system of response to disease eruptions, he added.

Mr. Guterres urged countries to build on this momentum by delivering a strong, comprehensive accord, focused on equity.

“Together, let’s act on the lessons of COVID-19, prepare, and build a fairer, healthier world for all,” he said.

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