Coronavirus: South-east Asia

DPM Heng calls for greater global cooperation on vaccines

A volunteer is injected with an experimental Chinese coronavirus vaccine.
A volunteer is injected with an experimental Chinese coronavirus vaccine.PHOTO: REUTERS

International cooperation must be strengthened to ensure affordable, fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at a high-level United Nations meeting yesterday.

In a pre-recorded video message, Mr Heng added that Singapore supports vaccine multilateralism and the role of the UN, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and international organisations in the fight against the coronavirus.

Every country is doing its best to contain the spread of the virus, he said, and to cushion the impact of the pandemic on businesses, workers and households.

"But no place can truly be safe, until every place is safe. Countries must therefore work together to fight this pandemic. This is our only way to overcome the crisis."

The virtual event, titled "Accelerating the end of the Covid-19 pandemic: taking new solutions to scale and making them equitably accessible to save lives, protect health systems and restart the global economy", was streamed live online, as most UN meetings have been due to global travel restrictions.

It was hosted by the WHO, the United Kingdom, South Africa and the UN Secretary-General, and aims to build stronger political consensus for a coordinated global response to Covid-19.

Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Finance Minister, was reiterating Singapore's call for international cooperation as the world crossed the grim milestone of one million deaths caused by the coronavirus earlier this week.

In his speech, he said that the 75th anniversary of the UN this year marked an extraordinary year, with Covid-19 turning into a global pandemic raging across many parts of the world, and underlining the need for countries to work together.

Singapore is an early supporter of various forms of multilateral cooperation. These include the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate development, production and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines that was launched in April.

Singapore also co-chairs the Friends of the Covax Facility with Switzerland, said Mr Heng.

"We also look forward to representing the Forum of Small States, and working with friends and partners on the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council," he added.


"We encourage more countries to join these efforts and support vaccine multilateralism to better fight Covid-19."

Mr Heng said that the world was at a turning point, and actions in the coming years will determine the future of countries and humanity. "Our collective effort will enable us to overcome this crisis."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2020, with the headline 'DPM Heng calls for greater global cooperation on vaccines'. Subscribe