China to share Covid-19 vaccine with world: Xi

In a photo from March 30, 2020, a scientist works in a laboratory on research into Covid-19 antibodies in Beijing.
PHOTO: Reuters

Nation pledges US$2 billion (S$3 billion) to global pandemic response at WHA

China announced on Monday it will provide US$2 billion over two years to help with Covid-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries.

President Xi Jinping made the announcement during a speech at a virtual event opening the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. The pandemic has affected more than 7 billion people and taken more than 310,000 lives globally.

Given that developing countries, particularly African countries, have weaker public health systems, Xi said that helping them build capacity must be the top priority in Covid-19 response. He called on the world to provide more material, technological and personnel support for African countries.

Xi said China will establish a cooperation mechanism for its hospitals to pair with 30 African hospitals and accelerate the building of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters to help the continent ramp up its disease preparedness and control capacity.

Since the outbreak, China has sent a tremendous amount of medical supplies and assistance to over 50 African countries and the African Union, and five Chinese medical expert teams have also been sent to the continent.

Xi also said China is ready to work with the international community to bolster support for the hardest-hit countries under the greatest strain from debt service so that they could be given some help with current difficulties.

The country will work with other Group of 20 members to implement the G20's Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries, he said.

With the virus still raging, the president stressed that the most urgent task is to make all-out efforts in Covid-19 control and treatment.

"We must always put the people first, for nothing in the world is more precious than people's lives," he said, calling for strong steps to be taken in curbing the global spread of the virus and stemming cross-border transmission.

According to Xi, it is also necessary to step up information sharing and exchanges of experience and best practices, and to pursue international cooperation on testing methods, clinical treatment, and vaccine and medicine research and development.

He said that Covid-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good, as China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

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"We also need to continue supporting global research by scientists on the source and transmission routes of the virus," Xi said.

The president said that China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to Covid-19 after it is brought under control to sum up the experience and address deficiencies.

"This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by the WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner," he added.

As it may not be the last time there is a major health emergency, Xi announced that China will work with the United Nations to set up a global humanitarian response depot and hub in China, ensure the operation of anti-epidemic supply chains and foster "green corridors" for fast-track transportation and customs clearance.

Xi said solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons for defeating the virus as that is the key lesson the world has learned from fighting previous major epidemics such as Ebola and H1N1 influenza.

With the Covid-19 outbreak, China released the genome sequence at the earliest possible time and shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation to support and assist countries in need.

"At this crucial juncture, to support the WHO is to support international cooperation and the battle for saving lives as well," he said, calling on the international community to increase political and financial support for the WHO so as to mobilise resources worldwide to defeat the virus.

While working on an ongoing basis to contain the virus, Xi proposed that countries where conditions permit reopen businesses and schools in an orderly fashion in observance of the WHO's professional recommendations.

International macroeconomic policy coordination should be stepped up and global industrial and supply chains be kept stable and unclogged in order to restore growth to the world economy, he said.

Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Ma Zhaoxu said the measures that Xi announced target the priorities and difficulties faced in global efforts to fight Covid-19 now and in the future.

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"It shows that China has adhered to the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. By doing so, China is not only responsible for the lives and health of its own people, but also is undertaking responsibility for global public health as a major country," Ma said.

The series of proposals made by Xi bear both realistic and far-reaching significance for boosting global confidence in combating the virus, pushing forward international anti-epidemic cooperation as well as planning for future global governance systems, he added.

This is the second time that Xi has taken part in and delivered a speech at a major multilateral occasion since the outbreak. In March, he attended the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit and called for solidarity and cooperation from the global community to fight the virus.

During the opening event of the WHA, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Covid-19 must be a wake-up call.

"We heard a lot of expressions about solidarity, but we haven't seen a lot of unity in our response to Covid-19," Guterres said.

He said that "countries have implemented different strategies, sometimes contradictory strategies that all of us are now paying a price for", adding that many countries also ignored the recommendations of the WHO.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic has brought out the best and worst of humanity. Tedros said the WHO has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with countries in these darkest hours. "Every country and every organization must examine its response and learn from its experience," he said.

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