NATIONAL NEWS - “We echo President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appeal on behalf of the African Union to G20 countries to support African countries with stimulus packages and debt relief so they can focus on fighting the pandemic.”
This statement was made by Dr Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Minister of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, when G20 health ministers hosted a virtual meeting yesterday to address the impact of Covid-19 on the global health sector and society.
Ramaphosa presented Africa’s case for assistance during a video summit of G20 leaders in March.
That meeting was convened by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the current G20 president.
During yesterday’s meeting Al-Rabiah expressed appreciation to the G20 leaders for their commitment to strengthen the World Health Organisation’s mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic.
“We are encouraged that several G20 countries are now starting to plan how to ease social restrictions.
“It is critical that these measures are a phased process.
“Lifting so-called lockdown restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country.
“It’s just the beginning of the next phase,” Al-Rabiah said.
He encouraged countries to ensure they have the capacity to detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact.
“We are concerned that the virus now appears to be gathering pace in countries that lack the capacity of many G20 countries to respond to it.
“Urgent support is needed.
“WHO has sounded the alarm bell and we continue to fulfil our mandate to coordinate the global response, working with partners to save lives,” he said.
He said one of the biggest challenges faced in Africa and other countries is the critical shortage of supplies and the ability to deliver them because of weak supply chains.
“WHO is working with the International Chamber of Commerce and the B20 group of business leaders from G20 countries to increase the production and equitable distribution of these life-saving tools.
“Through the United Nations Supply Chain Task Force we’re working with the World Food Programme and other partners to distribute personal protective equipment to countries all over the world,” he said.
He requested G20 countries to continue the fight against Covid-19 with determination, guided by science and evidence and continue supporting the global response to the pandemic.
“We will soon publish a second Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan with an estimate of the resources needed for the next phase of the response.
“We echo President Ramaphosa’s appeal to support African countries,” Al-Rabiah said.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as the holder of the G20 Presidency, pledged US$500-million to support global efforts in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.
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