UN Chief calls for more pandemic debt relief | Daily News

UN Chief calls for more pandemic debt relief

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UN: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Monday for greater debt relief and new creative financing to help poorer nations deal with the pandemic and prevent their economic recoveries from falling behind.

A "new debt mechanism" to provide more options -- including debt swaps, buy-backs and cancellations -- is needed, he said, as many nations have been reluctant to add debt during the global health crisis, fearing a hit to their credit ratings.

Guterres also called on G20 nations to extend the suspension of debtors' loan payments into 2022, and expand the Common Framework for Debt Treatments to include middle-income countries that request it.

“We need to change the rules,” the UN chief said. “We are on the verge of a debt crisis,” he said, calling for "urgent action.”

Six nations have already defaulted on loans, and one-third of emerging market economies are at “high risk of fiscal crisis,” he said, as more than 120 million people were plunged into extreme poverty over the past year.

“The global community must urgently provide the necessary support to all developing countries in need,” Guterres said.

Otherwise, Guterres warned, “we are in danger of emerging from COVID-19 with a two-speed world.”

BioNTech raises vaccine output goal to 2.5 bn doses

German firm BioNTech said Tuesday it was on track to manufacture 2.5 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year with US partner Pfizer, 25 percent more than expected.

The higher output was driven by the recent launch of a new production site in the German city of Marburg, which is now one of the world's largest mRNA vaccine manufacturing plants, it said.

The plant will eventually produce up to one billion COVID jabs a year, once fully operational. BioNTech said it had delivered more than 200 million doses to "more than 65 countries and regions" by March 23. Two doses are required for optimal protection.- AFP

WHO COVID-19 origins probe only 'first step': EU

A WHO report into the origins of COVID-19 is a “helpful first step” but more work is needed to understand how it started and how it jumped to humans, the EU said Tuesday.

The reaction came as the World Health Organization (WHO) released a much-delayed report into the origins of the pandemic, obtained by AFP ahead of publication.

“While regretting the late start of the study, the delayed deployment of the experts and the limited availability of early samples and related data, we consider the work carried out to date and the report released today as a helpful first step,” the EU said in a statement.

The 27 European Union member states highlighted “the need for further work to study the origins of the virus and its route of introduction to the human population”

Spain tightens virus face mask rules

Spain on Tuesday tightened face masks rules, making them mandatory outdoors and in all public places.

Face masks have been obligatory since May 2020 but only in places where it was not possible to maintain at least two metres (6.5 feet) of social distancing.

Spain has been hard-hit by the pandemic, having so far recorded over 75,000 deaths from nearly 3.3 million cases.

The Government has vowed to vaccinate 70 percent of Spain's population by the end of summer.

So far some 2.6 million people in the nation of around 47 million people have been fully vaccinated, mainly residents and workers in nursing homes who were given priority.

China donates COVID-19 shots to Palestinians, Nepal

The Palestinian Authority (PA) received 100,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm jab on Monday, the largest single batch of coronavirus vaccines yet to reach the Palestinian territories.

The latest jabs "represent a commitment to the promise China made to put vaccines at the service of the world," Chinese Ambassador to the PA, Guo Wei, told reporters in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Since the start of the pandemic, the West Bank has recorded almost 175,000 coronavirus cases and 1,995 deaths, while 604 people have died in Gaza, out of 63,742 infections.

Meanwhile, Nepal was set to restart COVID-19 inoculations after receiving a donation of doses from China, resuming a campaign that was put on hold because India slowed vaccine exports.

The Nepali Health Ministry said Tuesday that the drive would resume after 800,000 doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine arrived on Monday.

Nepal, home to 28 million people, has recorded more than 275,000 coronavirus infections and over 3,000 deaths so far. - AFP