A second Global COVID-19 Summit will be held next month, the White House and its partners have announced, in an effort to bolster cooperation to end the coronavirus pandemic and prepare for future health threats.
In a joint statement on Monday, the United States, Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal said the virtual conference on May 12 would focus on getting jabs into arms, deploying tests and treatment, protecting healthcare workers and gathering funds for pandemic preparedness, among other priorities.
“We are calling on world leaders, members of civil society, non-governmental organizations, philanthropists, and the private sector to make new commitments and bring solutions to vaccinate the world, save lives now, and build better health security — for everyone, everywhere,” they said.
“The emergence and spread of new variants, like Omicron, have reinforced the need for a strategy aimed at controlling COVID-19 worldwide.”
This would be the second global coronavirus summit, after US President Joe Biden organised the first in September of last year. While COVID-19 death rates have dropped in many places around the world, the virus continues to spread and governments have been forced to keep restrictions in place or impose fresh lockdowns.
The Chinese city of Shanghai announced on Monday that three people infected with the virus had died the previous day – the first fatalities since authorities imposed a weeks-long lockdown that has drawn rare public protests.
India, which was at the centre of the global COVID-19 crisis this time last year, has seen cases creep up in recent days, after most precautions including the wearing of masks were recently dropped.
Meanwhile, scientists in the US have warned the country may be about to see a wave of cases fuelled by the Omicron subvariant BA.2, which has already peaked across Europe. The US expects to soon become the first nation in the world to surpass the mark of 1 million deaths linked to the coronavirus.
But elsewhere, authorities are seeking to drop restrictions. Brazil’s health minister said on Sunday that the country would in the “coming days” lift public health emergency measures that were imposed when COVID-19 began to spread.
The South American nation has reported more than 662,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data – second only to the US, at over 988,000.
“We have the conditions to announce today the end of the health emergency,” Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on television on Sunday. “This, however, does not mean the end of COVID-19. We will continue to live with the virus.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week that the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa had dropped to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, marking the longest decline yet seen in the disease.
But the agency warned that with winter approaching for southern hemisphere countries, “there is a high risk of another wave of new infections”. The coronavirus spreads more easily in cooler temperatures when people are more likely to gather in larger numbers indoors.
“With the virus still circulating, the risk of new and potentially more deadly variants emerging remains, and the pandemic control measures are pivotal to effective response to a surge in infections,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa director.