U.S. President Joe Biden has warned nations attending Thursday’s virtual global summit on Covid that “there is still a lot to do” to contain the pandemic, as more than $3 billion in new funding has been pledged.
The veteran Democrat may, however, struggle to spearhead ambitious plans to vaccinate the world and stop the spread of the coronavirus, as Congress has so far refused to authorize billions of dollars in funding.
The United States crossed a grim milestone at the start of the summit, with the White House announcing that more than one million Americans have died from Covid, the highest recorded casualties from the pandemic in the world.
In his remarks at the summit, Biden said that while progress has been made on global vaccinations and the delivery of medical equipment to countries in need, “there is still a lot to be done. This pandemic is not over.”
“We must all do more. We must honor those we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent as many deaths as possible,” the US leader said.
The White House announced that the summit “gained new financial commitments totaling more than $3 billion in new funding… above and beyond pledges made to date in 2022.”
More than $2 billion of that total will go towards the “immediate” response to Covid, while $962 million has been committed to a World Bank fund for pandemic preparedness and global health security.
The United States has pledged another $200 million to this fund, bringing its contribution to $450 million.
“We want to avoid complacency. The pandemic is not over,” a senior US official said of Thursday’s meeting, which follows a first global meeting last September.
So far, the worldwide victims of Covid are more than six million people.
The virtual meeting was co-chaired by the United States, along with the current president of the G7, Germany, president of the G20, Indonesia, president of the African Union, Senegal, and Belize, current president of the CARICOM Caribbean group.
‘Call out loud’ to Congress
Unlike last September, when Biden challenged partners to scale up vaccines worldwide and vaccinate 70% of all countries by September of this year, the US government arrived at Thursday’s session hampered by an inability to guarantee even its own funding.
Biden has requested an additional $22.5 billion in emergency money for Covid, including $5 billion for the government’s international signature program, which has seen nearly 500 million doses of vaccine shipped to more than 100 countries.
After debate, a preliminary agreement was reached in the legislature on spending just $10 billion, with nothing for foreign vaccines.
“You will hear a loud call” to Congress, the US official said. “We know the virus is not waiting for Congress. That’s why we need urgent, urgent action.”
Opponents in Congress are especially concerned about funding foreign vaccines, but the senior official argued that when a new variant of the virus does occur, it is likely to start overseas before it reaches the United States.
“Without additional Covid-19 emergency funding, the United States will not be able to purchase additional life-saving treatments for the American people,” the official said.
“The United States will be less able to prevent the spread of dangerous new variants from around the world and the United States will not be able to continue vaccinating the world against Covid.”
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by the NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)