LONDON (Reuters) – A leading global health fund has called on businesses and international governments to provide $ 8 billion to support the development and production of COVID-19 tests, drugs and vaccines.
PHOTO PHOTO: Scientist Linqi Zhang shows work in his laboratory where he investigates new coronavirus (COVID-19) antibodies for possible use in drugs at the Tsinghua University Health Research Center in Beijing, China, March 30, 2020. REUTERS / Thomas Peter
The UK-based Wellcome Trust said the initiative, dubbed COVID-Zero, was aimed at the private sector and urged chief executives of multinational companies to join the coalition and save lives.
An initial $ 8 billion at the end of April – a small portion of what has been injected by rich governments into a troubled economy – will be enough to develop COVID-19 tests, new drugs and vaccines and to start increasing production, the fund said.
“This is a global problem that will continue to disrupt the world and business for months, if not years, to come,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome.
“We want business leaders to give a small portion of the money they dedicate to resolving this crisis to resolve it. We hope the government will follow their example. ”
Wellcome said that the $ 2 billion of the initial $ 8 billion needed would be used to help poorer and more vulnerable countries to build masses of masks, medicines and other defenses against future outbreaks.
The COVID-19 disease pandemic has triggered a sharp decline in the already slowing global economy and triggered a loss on the financial markets, removing about $ 15 trillion from the stock market alone.
More than 1.32 million people have been reported infected by novel coronaviruses and 74,087 have died.
A short poll from Reuters of 50 economists in North America, Europe and Asia on April 1-3 showed that the global economy is expected to contract by 1.2% this year, compared with an estimated 1.6% expansion in a poll three weeks ago .
Scientists around the world are working to develop vaccines and test existing drugs that could be a potential treatment for COVID-19 while also trying to improve diagnostic tests.
But Farrar warned that these teams were in danger of running out of funds, without which new treatments might never come out of the laboratory to reach clinical trials and, ultimately, the people who needed them.
“Drugs, vaccines, and rapid diagnoses are the only way we have to save lives, end this pandemic and prevent it from re-emerging,” Farrar said.
“This is the only exit strategy, but we don’t have the funds we need.”
Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by David Goodman
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