Thursday 23 September 2021
Prime Minister Hon. James Marape says COVID-19 presents the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of Pacific peoples and the world in over a century.
He said this when addressing a virtual Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting with UN Secretary General, H.E Antonio Guterres, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City today.
“COVID-19 presents the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of Pacific Peoples and indeed, the world, in over a century,” Mr Marape said.
“Never before, has the full Forum Membership simultaneously been in a crisis wherein Members face significant challenges to prepare, respond and mitigate the immediate and associated threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we convene this session, there are 191,617 confirmed cases in the Forum membership with 2446 deaths.
“Six Forum members remain COVID free.”
Mr Marape said a unified collective regional approach to address COVID-19 through the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway had ensured that countries relatively remained unscathed from the health impacts of COVID-19, with six countries still COVID free.
“The emergence of the more transmissible strains of the virus is concerning, with clear evidence that the coping capacity of some of our Members’ health systems is struggling to keep up with the rapid spread of the virus,” he said.
“There are some assurances provided through vaccine powered recovery, however, in places where vaccines are not yet widely available, or in communities where people have not been vaccinated despite availability, the virus could still spread rapidly.
“When Forum Leaders met last month, we re-emphasised the importance of ensuring the distribution of safe and effective vaccines in the Pacific region and reiterated our call to global leaders to support the equitable and affordable distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to all Pacific peoples, facilitate early economic recovery and to call for a WTO TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines.
“We also committed to collectively ensure comprehensive vaccination coverage is achieved for our Pacific peoples by setting a target of 80 per cent of the eligible population for the Pacific region subject to country readiness by the first quarter of 2022,” Mr Marape added.