UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a global "wake-up call" on the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, which is observed annually on December 27.
"The world must come together. Covid-19 was a wake-up call," Guterres said in his message for the international day, Xinhua news agency reported.
"The costs have been catastrophic," he said, noting that since the pandemic struck, millions of lives have been lost, and hundreds of millions fallen ill; economies have been shattered, health systems stretched, and trillions of dollars lost.
Moreover, progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals has been "thrown off track," the top UN official said.
"Developing countries were often left to fend for themselves, shamefully denied the vaccines, tests or treatments they needed to protect their people," he said.
Covid-19 will not be the last epidemic or pandemic humanity faces, he warned.
"As a global community, we must heed the harsh lessons of Covid-19 and make bold investments in pandemic preparedness, prevention and response," said the UN chief.
Guterres underscored the need for better surveillance "to detect and monitor viruses with epidemic potential;" resilient health systems supported by universal health coverage; and a "well-trained, well-equipped and well-paid" health workforce.
"We also need equitable access to vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and life-saving technology for all countries," Guterres added.
He highlighted the need to "fight the scourge" of misinformation and pseudoscience with science and fact-based information, reminding that a pandemic cannot be fought country by country.
"On this International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, I urge all countries to stand with our efforts to ensure the world is equipped and ready to take on the health challenges to come," he said.
The first International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, marked on December 27, 2020, was called for by the UN General Assembly to advocate the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for and partnership against epidemics.