Only a Covid-19 vaccine will allow return to 'normalcy': UN chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN has been able to equip 47 African countries with Covid-19 tests through the WHO. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - A Covid-19 vaccine may be the only thing that can bring back "normalcy", UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday (April 15), hoping for just that 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 United Nations.

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

"We need an ambitious effort to ensure that international stakeholders operate through a harmonised, integrated and leveraged approach to maximise the speed and scale needed for the universal deployment of such a vaccine by the end of 2020," he insisted.

Mr Guterres said his appeal on March 25 for US$2 billion (S$2.85 billion) in donations for a comprehensive UN humanitarian response to the pandemic had so far raised about 20 per cent of that amount.

Through the World Health Organisation, the United Nations has been able to equip 47 African countries with Covid-19 tests, he said.

The UN chief also praised the efforts of several African governments to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic.

He cited Uganda, which has given businesses more time to file their tax returns; Namibia, which provides emergency income for workers who have lost their jobs; Cape Verde, which provides food aid; and Egypt, which has reduced taxation on industries.

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