Guterres urges greater solidarity as global Covid deaths reach 2mn

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, Maria Amelia, right, hugs her niece Flaviana Silva through a plastic barrier during a visit to the Casa Clara home for the elderly in Brasilia, Brazil. The global death toll from COVID-19 has topped 2 million. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, Maria Amelia, right, hugs her niece Flaviana Silva through a plastic barrier during a visit to the Casa Clara home for the elderly in Brasilia, Brazil. The global death toll from COVID-19 has topped 2 million. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

United Nations, January 16 (IANS): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged "far greater solidarity" as the number of global coronavirus deaths has surpassed the 2 million mark.

In its latest update on Saturday morning, the he Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload and death toll stood at 93,787,372 and 2,006,987, respectively.

"In the memory of those two million souls, the world must act with far greater solidarity. Now is the time," the UN chief said in a video message on Friday, highlighting the fact that "our world has reached a heart-wrenching milestone: the Covid-19 pandemic has now claimed two million lives", Xinhua news agency reported.

"Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one," the Secretary-General said.

"Sadly, the deadly impact of the pandemic has been made worse by the absence of a global coordinated effort."

Guterres stressed that safe, effective Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out and the UN is supporting countries to mobilise the largest global immunisation effort in history.

"We are committed to making sure that vaccines are seen as global public goods -- people's vaccines.

"That requires full funding for the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator and its COVAX facility -- which is dedicated to making vaccines available and affordable to all," he said.

Noting that the world's leading economies "have a special responsibility", the UN chief said that "yet today we are seeing a vaccine vacuum".

"Vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world's poorest have none at all. Science is succeeding -- but solidarity is failing," warned the Secretary-General.

"Some countries are pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need."

The top UN official said that governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, but "vaccinationalism" is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery.

"Covid-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time. We need manufacturers to step up their commitment to work with the COVAX facility and countries around the world to ensure enough supply and fair distribution.

"We need countries to commit now to sharing excess doses of vaccines. This would help vaccinate all health care workers around the world on an urgent basis and protect health systems from collapse. Others on the frontline, including humanitarian workers and high-risk populations, must be prioritized.

"To gain public trust, we must boost vaccine confidence and knowledge with effective communication grounded in facts.

"As the science continues to blaze new trails of hope, let's also remember the simple and proven steps we can all take to keep each other safe: wearing masks, physically distancing and avoiding crowds," he added.

The Secretary-General underscored that "our world can only get ahead of this virus one way -- together".

"Global solidarity will save lives, protect people and help defeat this vicious virus," Guterres noted.