The global coronavirus death toll approached 200,000 on Saturday as the United Nations launched an international push for a vaccine to defeat the pandemic.
Governments around the world are struggling to limit the economic devastation unleashed by the virus, which has infected nearly 2.8 million people and left half of humanity under some form of lockdown.
The scale of the coronavirus pandemic has forced medical research on the virus to move at unprecedented speed, but effective treatments are still far off and the United Nations chief said the effort will require cooperation on a global scale.
“We face a global public enemy like no other,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a virtual briefing on Friday, asking for international organizations, world leaders and the private sector to join the effort. “A world free of COVID-19 requires the most massive public health effort in history.”
Any vaccine should be safe, affordable and available to all, Guterres said at the meeting, which was also attended by the leaders of Germany and France.
But notably absent were the leaders of China, where the virus first emerged late last year, and the United States, which has accused the UN’s World Health Organization of not warning quickly enough about the original outbreak.
The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, is increasing other medical risks as well with the WHO warning nearly 400,000 more people could die from malaria because of disruption to the supply of mosquito nets and medicines. Saturday marked World Malaria Day, a disease which the WHO said could kill around 770,000 this year, or “twice as much as in 2018”.