COVID-19 is the twenty-first century's Chernobyl moment -- a catastrophe so significant it must force us to wake up and rethink our priorities, according to an opinion piece recently published by a pan-European think tank.
Lip service and inaction of some countries have "exacerbated inequalities and undermined the effectiveness of the pandemic response," David McNair, executive director for global policy at the ONE campaign, a movement of millions of people fighting to end extreme poverty, commented in the article published on the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
"And yet, throughout the crisis, the piecemeal nature of the United States' and the European Union's engagement with the rest of the world has fallen far short of the commitment now needed," he warned.
McNair explained that throughout 2020, the U.S.-chaired Group of 7 was largely missing in action, the Donald Trump administration actively blocked international economic support in the form of International Monetary Fund special drawing rights, and Britain dismantled its highly reputable Department for International Development and drastically cut aid.
While the United States has vaccinated half its population and is considering calling up children for their shot, in Africa frontline health workers and the elderly and infirm may have to wait until 2022, he wrote.
ONE's COVID-19 Africa tracker data shows that rich countries have hoarded 1.3 billion doses more than they need, with 80 percent of doses having been administered in high-income and upper-middle-income countries, compared to just 0.4 percent in low-income countries.
As a result, there could be a worsening situation with twice as many total deaths from COVID-19 due to a monopoly of first doses of vaccines by rich countries, he wrote.
Economically, the IMF has warned of a "great divergence." High-income countries will recover to 4.3 percent growth in 2021 while in many African countries a return to 2019 economic growth levels will not occur until 2022-24, he added.
The director mentioned China's efforts in the global pandemic fight. "China has exported more vaccines than all other countries put together; the Chinese foreign ministry announced recently that the country is providing free vaccines to 69 countries and is selling them to 28 more."
He urged the United States, the European Union and Britain to "commit now to share surplus doses and fully fund the WHO's Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and COVAX," and called for "a major economic stimulus package" worldwide.