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Urgent Action Must Strengthen Weak Health-Care Systems Grappling with COVID-19, Secretary-General Tells Ministerial Meeting on Universal Coverage

Following is the text of UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ video message to the ministerial meeting on universal health coverage:  “Measuring Progress, Challenges and Opportunities in the Context of COVID-19”, in Japan today:

I send my warmest greetings to this ministerial meeting and my thanks to the co‑hosts.

A year ago, I warned that half the world’s people were not able to access affordable, high quality health care.  Today, the COVID‑19 pandemic has shown that our health systems are inadequate.

Weak health systems and unequal access to health care are major reasons why COVID‑19 has killed 1 million people and infected more than 30 million around the world.  Underinvestment in health is having a devastating impact on societies and economies, undermining progress on all the Sustainable Development Goals.  COVID‑19 has made the need for universal health coverage, outlined in the strong political declaration that emerged from last year’s meeting, more urgent than ever.

Achieving universal health coverage is a major recommendation in our latest policy brief.  Other recommendations include strengthening public health measures, coordinating the global response to the pandemic, and protecting other health services during the pandemic, including mental health and sexual and reproductive health programmes.  We also call for funding for the ground‑breaking ACT‑accelerator initiative to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to future COVID‑19 vaccines, tests and treatment, which should be seen as a global public good.

Universal health coverage is not only essential to end the pandemic.  It will also drive progress across all health‑related SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], while strengthening the primary health systems that are fundamental to tackling non‑communicable diseases.  And it is the only way to prepare for future health crises we know will come.

I hope today’s meeting will build momentum for urgent action to transform policies and systems and deliver health and human security for all.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.