Call for equal access to health coverage

Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa says a vital lesson learnt from the Coronavirus pandemic is the necessity for collective leadership, collaboration, solidarity and innovation among the countries of the world.

“As we prepare for future pandemics, we need to accelerate efforts to realise universal health coverage. We need to ensure that vaccines and other life-saving treatments are considered a public good,” President Ramaphosa said.

Addressing the Friends of Multilateralism’s roundtable on the work of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response on Tuesday, he said while the pandemic has highlighted the value of partnership, it has also demonstrated the damaging effects of unilateral action and unequal access to resources.

“We cannot hope to overcome this pandemic for as long as richer countries have most of the world’s supply of vaccines to the exclusion and the detriment of poorer countries,” President Ramaphosa said.

Earlier this year, the African Union resolved to support the call for a temporary TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation for COVID-19.

“Such a waiver will enable more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments to make them more accessible and affordable for poorer countries.

“This is about saving human lives. Not sometime in the future, but right now. We look forward to engaging further on the recommendations of the panel, which will enable all countries to strengthen pandemic preparedness,” the President said.

The panel was established in July 2020 by the World Health Organisation’s Director General.

It is charged with understanding the chronology of the pandemic, national and international actions and responses to alerts and transmission warnings, distilling lessons, and making evidence-based recommendations.

“Let us now work together, with even greater resolve and focus, to not only prepare for the next pandemic but to build a fairer, healthier and more equitable world,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said Africa’s response to COVID-19 has been guided by working together.

“By working together through the African Union (AU), in March 2020 the countries of the continent developed and began implementing the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak,” the President said.

The AU has also established the COVID-19 Task Forces in each of the continent’s five regions to drive the implementation of the continental strategy.

“The following month, in April 2020, we established an AU COVID-19 Response Fund, which was capitalised by the member states, international partners and the private sector.

“Among other things, this helped to capacitate the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been vital in supporting national and regional responses.

“We also appointed prominent Africans as AU Special Envoys to mobilise funding or the continental response and campaign for debt relief for emerging economies,” President Ramaphosa said.

The AU launched the ground-breaking African Medical Supplies Platform in June 2020 to enable countries to have equitable access to medical supplies, which were in high demand, including the diagnostic tools and therapeutics for COVID-19.

In addition, in August 2020, the AU established the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to secure vaccines for all African countries.

– SAnews.gov.za

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