UN chief: Only vaccine will end Covid-19 pandemic

Friday, April 17th, 2020 00:00 |
A pride of lions sprawled out across a road in a deserted Kruger National Park in South Africa, yesterday. With a national lockdown and flights suspension the normally busy park is registering few tourists. Photo/BBC

New York, Thursday

A coronavirus vaccine may be the only thing that can bring back “normalcy” in the world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday, hoping for just the vaccine before the end of the year. 

“A safe and effective vaccine may be the only tool that can return the world to a sense of ‘normalcy,’ saving millions of lives and countless trillions of dollars,” he added during a video conference with the 50 or so African countries that are members of the UN.

He called for accelerated development  of a vaccine and accessibility to all, adding it must have a “universal global benefit” and “allow us to control the pandemic.” 

His remarks came as arts of Europe moved cautiously to reopen their streets and economies on Thursday  while the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the continent was still in the “eye of the storm”.

Since emerging late last year, the virus has turned the world upside down, killing tens of thousands, forcing half of humanity indoors and raising the spectre of a second Great Depression. 

By last evening the global coronavirus stood at 2,076,015, with 138,101 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Hope that its spread has peaked in Europe and the US has seen some countries take tentative steps to ease restrictions, with US President Donald Trump last evening expected to unveil plans on for lifting lockdowns. 

But with global cases and deaths still growing­—and fears of a second wave of infections in previously hit countries—officials are warning that life will not return to normal until a vaccine is available. 

“We remain in the eye of the storm,” the WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said in an online news conference from Copenhagen.

Swift guidelines

Positive signs in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland were overshadowed by sustained or increased levels of infections in other countries, such as Britain, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia.

“It is imperative that we do not let down our guard,” said Kluge.

Of the more than 138, 000 deaths,  over 90,000 occurred in Europe. 

Trump promised swift guidelines on reopening parts of the US, saying his “aggressive strategy” against the virus was working and that “the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases”. “We’ll be the comeback kids.”

In the developing world, there are growing fears of a collapse in social order as food becomes scarce . 

And in South Africa a pride of lions sprawled out across a deserted road usually packed with tourist vans in the Kruger National Park as people remained confined in their homes.  -AFP

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