Rich nations urged to keep on fighting virus
Time: Sep 26, 2022
If rich countries think the pandemic is over, they should help lower-income countries reach that point too, said a senior World Health Organization official, as the world logs more than 614 millionCOVID-19cases.

Bruce Aylward, a WHO senior adviser, warned that richer countries must not step back from tackling COVID-19 as a global problem now, before future potential waves of infection, Reuters reported.

In the past few weeks, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the end of the pandemic is in sight, and US President Joe Biden has said the pandemic is over.

"When I hear them say, 'Well, we're so comfortable here', it's like, 'Great, now you can really help us get the rest of the world done'," Reuters quoted Aylward as saying.

By Sunday there were more than 614 millionCOVID-19cases worldwide, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The United States had the most cases at more than 96 million.

Aylward said the group he coordinates, which focuses on equitable access toCOVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests worldwide, is not yet ready to move out of the emergency phase of tackling the pandemic and that countries need to be ready and have treatments in place for any further waves of infection.

"If you go to sleep right now and this wave hits us in three months…god — blood on your hands," he said.

Aylward coordinates the ACT-Accelerator, a partnership between the WHO and other global health bodies to help poorer countries access COVID-19 tools. The effort, which includes the vaccine-focused COVAX, has reached billions of people worldwide, but has been criticized for being slow to act. There had been some speculation that the effort may wind up this autumn, but Aylward said it was simply changing its focus as the pandemic changes.

Vaccine delivery

Over the next six months, the partnership will aim particularly at delivering vaccines to about one-quarter of the world's healthcare workers and elderly who have still not had a shot, as well as improving access totests and treatment, particularly with Pfizer's Paxlovid, Aylward said.

It will also look to the future as COVID-19 is "here to stay". And unless systems are put in place, support will collapse once other industrialized countries also think the pandemic is over, Aylward said.

The initiative has an $11 billion gap in its budget, with most of its available $5.7 billion in funding pledged toward vaccines rather than tests or treatments.

On Friday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for efforts to close three major gaps to end the pandemic: on boosters, on testing and on preparedness.

"Making progress toward closing these gaps is what today is all about," Guterres told a high-level event on ending the pandemic. "It's time to build political momentum to finish the job onCOVID-19. Let's get it done. Let's end this pandemic once and for all."

Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer, said on Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

It is the second time that Bourla has tested positive for COVID-19.

He had not had the updated COVID-19 booster shot yet because he is waiting for three months after his previous COVID-19 infection, CNN reported. Bourla first tested positive for COVID-19 in August.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced last week that his country's border restrictions will be loosened next month, allowing tourists to easily enter for the first time since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Independent tourists, not just those traveling with authorized groups, would again be welcomed from Oct 11, Kishida said.

A cap on the number of tourists granted entry, which has gradually increased this year, will be removed, and visa requirements imposed in response to the pandemic will be rescinded.

Source: Agencies-Xinhua

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