International Community Must Heed Harsh Lessons of COVID-19, Make Bold Investments in Pandemic Preparedness, Response, Secretary-General Observance Message Urges

Following is United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, observed on 27 December:

Three years ago this month, the virus that causes COVID-19 was first detected.  The costs have been catastrophic.  Millions of lives have been lost, and hundreds of millions of people have fallen ill.  Economies were shattered, health systems were stretched and trillions of dollars were lost.  Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals has been thrown off track.  And developing countries were often left to fend for themselves, shamefully denied the vaccines, tests or treatments they needed to protect their people.

COVID-19 will not be the last epidemic or pandemic humanity faces.  As a global community, we must heed the harsh lessons of COVID-19 and make bold investments in pandemic preparedness, prevention and response.

We need better surveillance to detect and monitor viruses with epidemic potential.  We need more resilient health systems supported by universal health coverage.  And we need a health workforce that is well-trained, well-equipped and well-paid.  We also need equitable access to vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and life-saving technology for all countries.

And we must fight the scourge of misinformation and pseudoscience with science and fact-based information.  A pandemic cannot be fought country by country.  The world must come together.  COVID-19 was a wake-up call.

On this International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, I urge all countries to stand with our efforts to ensure the world is equipped and ready to take on the health challenges to come.

For information media. Not an official record.