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COVID-19 costing global economy $375bn monthly – UN

By Oluwaseun Sonde

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The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has said that COVID-19 pandemic is costing the global economy $375 billion each month as over 500 million jobs have been lost so far, while human development is going into reverse, for the first time since 1990.

In his video message, while launching policy brief on COVID-19 and Universal Health Coverage on Wednesday, he said the virus has claimed more than one million lives and infected more than 30 million people in 190 countries while Infections are rising and there are troubling signs of new waves.

According to him, “Much about the virus remains unknown. But one basic fact is clear: the world was not prepared. The pandemic has revealed utterly inadequate health systems, yawning gaps in social protection, and major structural inequalities within and between countries.

“One of those lessons is that under-investment in health can have a devastating impact on societies and economies. The pandemic is costing the global economy $375 billion a month. Some 500 million jobs have been lost so far. Human development is going into reverse, for the first time since we started measuring it in 1990”, he said.

He noted that COVID-19 has shown that Universal Health Coverage, strong public health systems and emergency preparedness are essential to communities, to economies, to everyone. “That is the backdrop to the Policy Brief we are launching today.

“At least half the world’s people do not have access to the health services they need. Some 100 million people are driven into poverty each year by catastrophic healthcare costs. This huge gap in health coverage is one reason why COVID-19 has caused so much pain and suffering”, he said.

He added that Universal Health Coverage requires governments to step up investment in common goods for health, including surveillance and risk communication, so that the world never faces such a situation again. “It also requires public health programmes to be inclusive and equitable, without financial barriers. Health treatment should not depend on financial status.

“All countries have agreed to work towards Universal Health Coverage as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But we cannot wait 10 years. We need Universal Health Coverage, including mental health coverage, now, to strengthen efforts against the pandemic and prepare for future crises.

“That is just one of the five major recommendations in this policy brief. The second is to control further transmission of COVID-19 through proven public health measures and a coordinated global response. The third recommendation is to protect delivery of other health services during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is indirectly killing people with heart disease and cancer, as well as those it infects. And access to mental health services and sexual and reproductive health programmes cannot be compromised. Fourth, we need to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to future COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatment.

“Funding the groundbreaking ACT-Accelerator is the fastest way to end the pandemic. And fifth, we must strengthen preparedness. That means involving all sectors of society, and investing in alert systems that trigger action by health authorities”, he said.

He stressed that pandemic preparedness and response are global public goods that require large-scale investments. “Universal Health Coverage comes at a cost. But the price is cheap, when we consider the alternative”. Urging all to speed up and scale up investment in Universal Health Coverage and in stronger health systems, starting immediately. 

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