U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday stressed the importance of worldwide access to vaccines against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, saying it is the only way to stop the pandemic.
Welcoming recent progress in the development of vaccines which "offer a ray of hope," Guterres told a press conference, "But that ray of hope needs to reach everyone. That means ensuring that vaccines are treated as a global public good -- accessible and affordable to everyone, everywhere."
He made the remarks ahead of a two-day Group of 20 summit to be held online from Saturday. Measures for fighting the coronavirus pandemic and keeping the global economy on track are expected to be among the key topics discussed by leaders from the advanced and emerging economies during the videoconference.
"It is the only way to stop the pandemic dead in its tracks," the U.N. head added, and called for solidarity and cooperation.
He also asked for international support for poor countries to combat the coronavirus outbreak as COVID-19 continues to rage not just in the United States and Europe but also in emerging and developing countries including in Latin America.
"Developed countries can afford to provide enormous relief for their own societies -- and they are doing so. But the developing world is on the precipice of financial ruin and escalating poverty, hunger and untold suffering," Guterres said.
The U.N. chief called G-20 economies' October decision to extend their debt relief program for poor countries for six months beyond the end of the year a "welcome step," but said more action needs to be taken to help ease the burdens of developing countries.
"I am pushing for a further extension through the end of 2021 and, critically, to expand the scope of these initiatives to all developing and middle-income countries in need," he said.
The Debt Service Suspension Initiative was launched in May by the G-20 and Paris Club traditional creditor nations amid the pandemic, which has left vulnerable countries facing higher financing costs.
The G-20 groups Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.