World leaders launch plan to speed COVID-19 drugs, vaccine; U.S. stays away
World leaders pledged on Friday to accelerate work on tests, drugs and vaccines against COVID-19 and to share them around the globe, but the United States did not take part in the launch of the World Health Organization (WHO) initiative, Trend reports citing Reuters.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa were among those who joined a video conference to launch what the WHO billed as a “landmark collaboration” to fight the pandemic.
The aim is to speed development of safe and effective drugs, tests and vaccines to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19, the lung disease caused be the novel coronavirus - and ensure equal access to treatments for rich and poor.
Leaders from Asia, the Middle East and the Americas also joined the videoconference, but several big countries did not participate, including China, India and Russia.
A spokesman for the U.S. mission in Geneva had earlier told Reuters that the United States would not be involved.
“Although the United States was not in attendance at the meeting in question, there should be no doubt about our continuing determination to lead on global health matters, including the current COVID crisis,” he said by email.
“We remain deeply concerned about the WHO’s effectiveness, given that its gross failures helped fuel the current pandemic,” he later said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has lambasted the WHO as being slow to react to the outbreak and being “China-centric” and announced a suspension of funding.
Tedros has steadfastly defended the WHO’s handling of the pandemic and repeatedly committed to conducting a post-pandemic evaluation, as the agency does with all crises.
Macron, Merkel, Ramaphosa, and Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez were among those voicing strong support to WHO.
Macron urged all G7 and G20 countries to get behind the initiative, adding: “And I hope we’ll manage to reconcile around this joint initiative both China and the U.S., because this is about saying ‘the fight against COVID-19 is a common human good and there should be no division in order to win this battle’.”
Merkel said: “This concerns a global public good, to produce this vaccine and to distribute it in all parts of the world.”
Ramaphosa, chairman of the African Union, warned that the continent - with its generally poor standards of healthcare - was “extremely vulnerable to the ravages of this virus and is in need of support”.