Noting that the pandemic has forced "unprecedented lockdowns, travel suspensions and limited movement across borders, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the Group of 20 (G20) countries to take concerted action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better.
Speaking to an emergency meeting of G20 foreign ministers on the COVID crisis, Guterres said "concerns are growing that some of the current movement restrictions could outlast the immediate crisis,” reports Xinhua.
He flagged "five focus areas" for the discussion, requesting first that they seek agreement on common objective criteria in relation to the removal of travel restrictions, based on scientific evidence.
Second, the UN chief called for "investments on systems and practices that support safe travel - in close coordination with the private sector.
Third, he called for better coordination in preventive measures - "in particular more systematic use of testing and tracing and other proven actions to avoid the spread of the virus and allow for effective control of the potential impacts of increased mobility."
Next, the UN chief highlighted the importance of full respect for international human rights and refugee law, and also called for agreement that future vaccines will be considered a global public good to be available and affordable everywhere, supporting global health, global mobility and global economic recovery.
"All actions must recognize upholding human dignity as the guiding principle for cross-border policies."
He said there is "a long way to go" on two key fronts: "First, in our capacity to fight the pandemic together. We have seen the results when each country pursues its own strategy, with the advice of the World Health Organization being largely disregarded."
"When countries go in different directions, the virus goes in every direction," he noted.
"Second, we still lack effective international solidarity to respond to the economic and social impacts and the underlying fragilities exposed by the pandemic."
The secretary-general said that more than ever, effective international solidarity is key to advancing these priority areas and build a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world for all.