“Let’s quarantine COVID-19 politics” – WHO Chief
Harare, (New Ziana) – Current tensions among major powers are deflecting world attention from uniting in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic to the detriment of humanity, World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Dr Ghebreyesus Tedros said on Wednesday.
Addressing an extraordinary intercessional virtual summit of the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), Dr Tedros said global solidarity was key in defeating the outbreak which has infected over six million people and killed over 371 000 others across the globe.
“We have to quarantine Covid19 politics and work together. If we do not have effective solidarity globally, the virus will stay with us for a very long period and will continue to wreck havoc,” he said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa also participated in the summit, which ran under the theme, “Transcending the Covid-19 pandemic, building resilience through global solidarity.”
Major tensions between the United States and China over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak have resulted in Washington, a major donor, cutting funding to WHO, which President Donald Trump accused of siding with Beijing.
Dr Tedros said of the 79 OACPS countries, 12 have not reported any Covid-19 cases and 38 have reported under 500 cases.
“We must not let down our guard, we still have a long way to go and many risks remain,” he warmed the grouping.
“Covid19 is a brutal reminder of the need to ready ourselves for outbreaks and other health emergencies before the crisis hits.”
The OACPS was established in 1975 with the aim of promoting sustainable development and eradicating poverty within its member states, as well as pushing greater integration into the world economy.
OACPS chairman, Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta said member states had taken a huge hit from the pandemic, which had seriously undermined economic performance.
“It is a challenging time for all of us but together we will overcome,” he said.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major economic and social disruptions across the entire globe and has caused serious health challenges and slowed down economic activity.”
At the end of May, the OACPS region had 112 243 infections and 3 026 deaths.
As a result of the pandemic, Africa’s economic growth is this year projected to decline from 2.4 percent in 2019 to between -2.1 and -5.1 percent while the Pacific region is expected to slow down to 1 percent from a high of 5.5 percent in 2019.
The Caribbean region is expected to register a one percent drop in economic growth.
Besides the Covid-19 outbreak, OACPS countries were already battling with other challenges such as the invasion of locusts and floods, rising ocean water, the impact of climate change and a heavy debt burden, Kenyatta said.
“All ACP countries will require US$50 to $60 billion in 2020 to meet their international debt obligations,” he said.
Leaders representing different groups making up the OACPS including African Union chairman, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Amor Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Kausea Tuvalu, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu also participated in the meeting.