SINGAPORE: A concerted global effort is needed to overcome global pandemics like COVID-19, with the World Health Organization (WHO) having a central role to play, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (May 21).
"The repeated waves of COVID-19 clearly show that no country is safe in a pandemic until everyone else is safe," Mr Lee said in his intervention at the virtual G20 Global Health Summit.
Close international and multilateral cooperation is therefore essential, he added.
Mr Lee noted that countries have worked together to restore supply chains, share tests and medical supplies, as well as support initiatives like COVAX so that the lesser developed countries would have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
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International scientific cooperation continued as they developed treatments and produced effective vaccines “in record time”, he added.
“Overcoming global pandemics demands a concerted global effort,” said Mr Lee.
“The WHO has a central role to play, to direct and coordinate international health responses, disease surveillance and preparedness.”
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Singapore supports recommendations to strengthen the authority and financing of the WHO so that it can continue to operate impartially, said Mr Lee.
“Singapore will also play our part to work with all countries to strengthen collective resilience against future pandemics,” he told the summit.
Mr Lee also said Singapore "fully supports" the Rome Declaration of principles to strengthen the global health architecture, which lays out countries' individual commitments to fight COVID-19.
"We must strengthen our respective national healthcare systems and capabilities", said the Prime Minister, highlighting testing, contact tracing and vaccination.
"Not just putting plans on paper, but also being able to execute them well," Mr Lee said.
“Such preparations should be sustained during peacetime to break the vicious cycle of ‘panic-and-neglect’.”
The one-day event, hosted by G20 president Italy and the European Commission, is billed as the first major summit to focus on ways to overcome the COVID-19 health crisis and prevent future such disasters.
In his opening speech, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: "As we prepare for the next pandemic, our priority must be to ensure that we all overcome the current one together. We must vaccinate the world, and do it fast.”