Billions of cheap vaccines for poor as IMF proposes $50 bn pandemic plan

AFP
May 22, 2021

Total deaths from COVID-19 are at least two to three times higher than officially reported, says WHO

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In this file photo taken on April 15, 2020 a sign is seen outside the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC. The IMF on May 21, 2021 proposed $50 billion plan to end the Covid-19 pandemic, with a target of vaccinating at least 40 percent of the world´s population by the end of 2021. -AFP


ROME: The IMF on Friday proposed a $50 billion plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to expand global immunisation drives, while vaccine firms pledged to supply billions of doses to poorer nations by the end of next year.

The pledges came as Spain said it would open its borders to all vaccinated travellers next month, offering hope Europe’s tourism season will rebound after last year’s battering.

But in Latin America, the coronavirus continued to wreak havoc as the continent’s death toll climbed toward the grim one million milestone.

And the World Health Organization (WHO) said the real number of dead from the pandemic could be two to three times higher than official statistics suggest.

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In Washington, the International Monetary Fund proposed a $50 billion recovery plan with the aim of having at least 60% of the world’s population vaccinated by the end of 2022.

The amount pales in comparison to the massive stimulus rolled out by rich nations, including the latest $1.9 trillion US package.

"One of the key messages of this proposal is that the amount that’s needed is not very big," said IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath.

In Rome, the Global Health Summit -- part of the G20 talks -- saw the leading COVID vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson promise 3.5 billion doses at cost or discount to middle and low income countries this year and next.

"It is a very clear ‘no’ to health nationalism," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told the G20 after the EU pledged 100 million doses and to invest in manufacturing hubs in Africa to reduce reliance on imports.

Germany chipped in later Friday, donating 30 million doses to poorer countries this year.

Read more: Canada extends India, Pakistan flight ban over COVID-19

- ‘All vaccinated welcome’

Vaccines are offering hope that nations can finally emerge from the pandemic that has ravaged the global economy and killed more than 3.4 million people since the end of 2019.

In Europe, the tourism sector looked on track to start a cautious resumption as Spain said it would open its borders to all immunised travellers from June 7.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also said that all British travellers would be welcomed in for holidays -- without even needing to prevent a negative COVID test.

In sharp contrast, however, Germany said that Britain would be from Sunday declared a zone of "variants mutation" due to the presence of different strains, meaning travel restrictions including a quarantine for those arriving from the UK.

Germany on Friday opened beer gardens, terraces and pools in some parts of the country for the first time in months.

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It was a welcome change for Berliner Sonja Gellfart, who was already in the outdoor pool at the Sommerbad am Insulaner at 7:30 am.

"It’s the feeling of freedom because one can get in here and be outdoors, and without a mask," she told AFP as swimmers splashed past.

- Total deaths 2-3 times higher -

But as European nations looked to the future, the WHO warned that the devastation of COVID-19 may be worse than feared.

In a new global health statistics report, the UN agency said far more people died than generally acknowledged.

"Total deaths are at least two to three times higher than officially reported," Samira Asma, the WHO assistant director-general in charge of data, told reporters.

Latin America alone is set to hit one million coronavirus-related fatalities in the coming days as many countries in the region struggle to secure enough vaccines.

Brazil has the continent’s highest death with 450,000, a figure second globally only to the United States.

The Senate last month officially launched a probe into why the virus exploded so horribly in the country.

The investigation has particularly focused on far-right populist President Jair Bolsonaro’s unorthodox decisions concerning the outbreak, including opposing stay-at-home measures and masks.


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