While many countries struggle to contain COVID-19 transmission, reports have emerged in transnational media recently about allegations against the US of redirecting 200,000 Germany-bound masks for its own use, a move that has been condemned as "modern piracy”.
Last week, there was a report about the U.S. government taking over Chinese supplies of medical equipment ordered by Brazil to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The US Government, however, has denied the two reports.
The reports of the US “hijacking” medical supplies indicate that even the superpower is struggling to stem the spread of infections on its own and is depending on assistance from others.
Over the last 100 days, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in wealthy nations, and it is likely to devastate poorer and more vulnerable countries, socially and economically, by disrupting the global supply chain.
“Without help and action now, poor countries and vulnerable communities could suffer massive devastation,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, said on April 9, 2020.
During a virtual extraordinary summit of G20 leaders, chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on March 26, 2020, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) called for collaboration on coronavirus control and prevention.
He asked world leaders to facilitate trade of vaccines as well as other medical equipment by easing tariffs on their import and export.
"The G20 must actively lead efforts to find the anti-virus and medication for COVID-19, of course, hand in hand with the WHO," he advised.
Jokowi also asked world leaders to ensure the safety of health workers, as currently, many countries are struggling to provide protective gear such as masks and gloves, as well as medical equipment, including ventilators.
Governments must ensure health workers have safe access to medicines and protective gear that meet WHO standards, Jokowi remarked.
Many doctors, nurses and, other healthcare workers in the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 have died due to lack of proper protective gear.
In Indonesia, as many as 25 doctors have died while treating patients as of April 8, 2020.
During the G20 summit, Jokowi also encouraged member countries to synergize economic policies and instruments to fight the global slowdown due to the pandemic.
"We must prevent a global economic recession through coordinated fiscal and monetary policies, and expand and strengthen social safety nets, especially for MSMEs," Jokowi said.
The IMF has estimated that COVID-19 can have potential adverse impact akin to the 2008 global economic crisis.
The G20 leaders have committed to contributing at least US$4 billion to expedite COVID-19 vaccine and anti-virus development, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani said following the summit.
G20 leaders have agreed to collaborate with the WHO and GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations) as most of the funds would be allocated for funding research and development.
The G20 meeting also called for solidarity, mainly among least developed countries who have been direly affected by the pandemic.
"The secretary general of the United Nations (Antonio Guterres) said developing countries and least developed countries have a capacity gap in handling the health crisis,” Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said.
"The final output of the meeting is a leaders' statement that covers the four issues involving efforts against the pandemic, safeguarding global economy, addressing trade disruption, and strengthening global partnership," she explained.
In the meantime, Indonesia has applauded the United Nations General Assembly for passing a resolution on global solidarity in the fight against COVID-19, initiated by Indonesia, together with Ghana, Liechtenstein, Norway, Singapore, and Switzerland, and co-sponsored by 188 countries.
The resolution, titled “Global Solidarity to Fight COVID-19”, was passed by the UN General Assembly by acclamation on April 2 in New York and is the first UN resolution on COVID-19 since the WHO declared it a pandemic on March 11.
“In a worrying situation like this, we need unity, solidarity and international cooperation for a fast and collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Retno Marsudi said.
The resolution sent a strong message to international communities that the UN, as a “universal organization”, has a pivotal role in coordinating a global response.
The UN must be able to communicate to global communities that without cooperation, solidarity, and effective policies, no country will be able to survive the global health crisis.
It has also mentioned the importance of good governance in countries handling the crisis and emphasized the leadership of the WHO in coordinating with international communities.
Indonesia has also drawn attention to the significance of international cooperation in meeting the demand for medical supplies during the COVID-19 International Coordination Group (ICG) Teleconference, held on April 7, 2020. Initiated by Canada, the ICG Forum aims to serve as a coordination platform for foreign ministers of various countries for handling the COVID-19 crisis.
During the meeting, Retno Marsudi shared Indonesia's experiences in procuring medical supplies under a joint production agreement with South Korea.
"Production cooperation between producers and owners of raw materials should be increased to ensure the availability of personal protection gear," Marsudi had noted.
The minister reiterated the importance of partnerships and synergies to ensure safe human movement between countries and supply chains, especially drugs and medical devices.
The foreign minister underlined the need for a joint protocol or procedure for returning people to their countries of origin, with the observance of health procedures.
This would be crucial to break the chain of transmission and prevent imported COVID-19 cases. (INE)
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